tips to help you ace your interview

How to land that dream job (plus the dream salary)

Looking to land that dream job and catapult yourself upwards the career ladder? You’d need to stand out amongst a sea of interviewees, and nailing the job interview is the best way of doing so. Here are seven questions you should prepare for to ensure you make your mark.

“What do you know about this position?”

What the question is actually asking – if you truly know what you’ve applied for.

Few things ruin an impression more than not being aware of what the company does or what the job requires. Your chance to impress starts before the interview – always prepare yourself by doing research into what the core business of the company is, and what you are applying for. You might be a new entry to the industry or work force, but doing background research helps portray that you know what you are looking for, and that your decision to apply for the position was carefully considered and thought out.

While you might not be privy to the inner workings of the company or of the role, a thoughtful answer will position you as having done your homework and outshine candidates who might not even be able to articulate what the company does. After all, why should a company hire someone who just isn’t very sure about what they’ve applied for?

Takeaway: Prepare, and then prepare some more.

young man rushing for interview

“Did you have problems finding the place?”

What this question is actually asking – (if you were late) “Why were you late?”

Most companies place an emphasis on their new hires checking off basic requirements, and punctuality tends to be a basic company policy. Arriving late for an interview, even with a potentially valid explanation, will leave a less than stellar first impression, and raise doubts in your interviewer’s mind about your ability to adhere to basic company policies. Always be sure to give yourself ample time to arrive at your interview. Assume the worst – anticipate traffic snarl-ups, or being unable to find the office, or simply a tummy ache due to nerves. Arriving at the interview in a flustered state would only waste the effort made preparing for it.

Takeaway: The early, or on time, bird catches the worm.

“Tell me a bit about yourself.”

What this question is actually asking – whether you’ll be a good cultural fit in the company.

Interviewers are often pressed for time when conducting interviews. While some may be from the HR department, you’d oftentimes also meet with your potential direct supervisors. As such, it’s key that you focus on sharing only relevant information that can help you land the job. If you did a gap year after graduation exploring different countries, focus on how you spent a portion of it working for a volunteer organisation or honing your storytelling skills.

While some of us are naturals when it comes to answering questions on the fly, some of us might need a bit more practice. Interviewers are instinctively drawn to past relevant experience – the traits or experience you’ve gained that would contribute positively to the company or job. Most interviewers would also want to ensure a good cultural fit, so be sure to emphasise your go-getter attitude, and how you’ll fit seamlessly into the existing company culture.

Rehearse your answers in order to avoid going off-tangent during the interview. While you want to sound polished when answering such questions, sincerity is key. Allow your personality to shine through to allow your interviewers to get a sense of who you are.

Takeaway: Practice makes perfect.

“How do you think you’d add value to the company?”

What this question is actually asking – whether you have relevant experience that would contribute to the company.

This question can be tricky especially for new entrants to the working world, where a lighter resume could be mistaken as being green behind the ears.

Steer your conversation on how experiences gained during your education or past internships created learning experiences that would help you fulfil the demands of the job you’re applying for. If you have work samples, assemble a neat portfolio to present during your interview, to allow your interviewer to quickly gain context to the work being mentioned.

Takeaway: Walk the talk, and be enthusiastic about the role.

“What is your expected salary range?”

What this question is actually asking – how much do you consider your efforts to be worth?

Typically a delicate question, answering this requires some finesse. Too high, and you might price yourself out of consideration. Too low, and you might find it hard to rise to the market rate in the future. Be sure that what you are asking for is solidly within the market range for candidates with similar levels of experience. And, do provide solid justification as to why you’re worth that amount, instead of just naming a number. Explain why your past experience, or enthusiasm and passion for the role would make you the best candidate to consider.

Takeaway: Know the industry benchmarks for your position prior to your interview.

“Do you have any questions?”

What the question is actually asking – what were your takeaways from the interview, and your thoughts on the role.

Interviewers appreciate questions, and often use it as a gauge to evaluate how well you’ve understood the information that was shared during the interview. Review the job description and prepare questions that you may have about the role, or what the expectations are at the end of the interview.

Knowing what to ask is also key. Questions such as the dress code, or eating places around the office, while on the surface seem harmless, may raise flags in your interviewer’s mind about your ability to see the larger picture and to ask the right questions at the right time.

Takeaway: Ask questions specific to the job or company, and clarify what you’ve understood about the role and expectations.

Follow up quickly

send an email to follow up after your interview

You’ve reached the end of your interview and walked out of the room feeling a mix of nerves and adrenaline. But wait—it’s not over yet. While the formal part of the interview may have concluded, subsequent follow-up is crucial to securing your dream job. A concise email thanking the interviewer for their time, and recapping your key strengths, can help set you apart from other candidates, and further communicate to the company that you are serious about the application.



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