This guest post was written by Adam Forrester, a Lecturer at the English Language Centre of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Adam leads the team in the upcoming English at Work in Asia: Job Applications, CVs and Cover Letters, and English at Work in Asia: Preparing for a Job Interview.
You’ve got a job interview! Congratulations! You know you should be preparing, but how will you answer questions that might come up? What do you know about the company? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
More importantly, what are the questions you need to be asking yourself now? Knowing these questions, and being clear with your answers, will allow you to tell your story and make a good impression with your interviewers.
Ask yourself the right questions.
Philip Tsai, Vice-Chairman of Deloitte China, says a good technique for gauging the dress code of a particular company is to go to the lobby of the office during lunchtime to see what the staff are wearing to get a better understanding of the company’s dress code.
Simply asking yourself ‘what should I wear to the interview?’ won’t get you the desired answer as the question is far too ambiguous. Instead, think clearly about what you want to know. So, in the example above, the question ‘how can I find out what current staff wear to work?’ is a much more effective question.
It’s important to know about the company’s overall culture before the interview and even before you start the application process. Many elements of this culture will be relevant to your application and interview. However, simply asking ‘what is the company’s culture?’ is far too broad and unclear. So, again, break it down into different elements. There are a number of different questions you can ask yourself to gain some insight into the company’s culture, each giving you valuable information that helps you in an interview. For example:
- How centralised is the process for hiring new staff?
- Is the person interviewing you responsible for making the final decision?
- How formal / informal is the industry and the company?
- Accounting firms are likely to be more formal than creative advertising companies.
- What kind of office layout does the company have?
- Is it open plan, cubicles, or does everyone have their own private office?
Having information is important, but it is even more important to have the right information. So, knowing the name of the head of the Human Resources department may be useful, but it is more important to know something about who is going to be interviewing you. It is also important to find information about:
- the company
- the department you would be working in
- the type of projects you would be working on
- the contributions the company has made to the industry
You then need to ask yourself, why should this company hire me? To answer this question you need to:
- match your skills, your attributes and your experience to
- the needs of the interviewer
- the needs of the company
Keep in mind that when you learn about the company’s culture it’s helpful to:
- know the direction the company is heading
- understand the needs of the interviewer
- know yourself so you will be able to impress the interviewer
- demonstrate that you are a great match for the position
Remember, be strategic in your approach and plan thoroughly. This will ensure you have the necessary information when you need it, and more importantly, will help to reduce your stress during the interview.
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