Dear 20 Somethings: Twenty Interview Do’s & Don’ts

By Musonda Kambikambi & Luke Katemba

Dear Twenty Somethings,

Life’s changing!!!

You’re juggling so many things and it seems like all the balls are in the air at the same time. One of the things you’re juggling is probably a career in its infancy or toddler-hood. So you’re probably going to find yourself in a room with people asking you questions about your abilities, behavior & intellect to determine if they should hire you, be it for your first job, or in an attempt to run away from said first job. Either way, here’s twenty interview do’s & don’ts in no particular order from fellow twenty somethings.

  1. Do get a good night’s rest – Interviews are grueling, a good night’s sleep will ensure that you’re alert and focused. It will basically maximize your cognitive performance. Staying up cramming all night is not the best idea: it’s an interview, not a university exam. A clear mind is best.
  2. Do eat – You’re probably thinking you’d be too nervous to eat but there’s nothing worse than thinking about food instead of ‘why you think you’re the best candidate for the job’. Worse off, your stomach growling and alerting every one of the situation. Keep it light though, there’s nothing worse than getting the Itis when your mind should be at its sharpest, we all know how awful the Itis can be.

    Musonda Speaks HR
    the Itis
  3. Do research  on the company – Know about the company and the position you’re interviewing for, what products and services they provide, and what role your potential position plays in all of that. Think about it in the way you take on a potential bae situation, you don’t just dive in: when you’re interested you will do your background research to know them better so you know what you’re getting yourself in to and how you will prove you’re the best for this person. Same thing here, get to know the company like you’re courting them. How will your presence be of benefit to them?
  4. Do plan for the predictable questions – There are certain interview questions that are almost always asked, when these are asked it should be your time to shine!
    • Tell us about yourself? (We all hate this question but it should be the easiest to answer at this point. Keep it simple and tailor it to the situation)
    • Why are you the best candidate for this position? (Refer to 3. You can’t answer this one if you don’t know your conquest.)
    • What are your 3 biggest strengths/weaknesses? (Everyone is ready to admit their strengths but will cringe at the thought of admitting their weaknesses, especially in a setting where you’re ‘selling yourself’, talk about the weaknesses you’ve noticed been working on.)
    • What do you know about this organisation? (right back to 3)
    • What are your salary expectations? (Racks! This can be a scary question, but again, research: research the company and research the general pay grade for people in the role you’re trying to score. We love ambition, but being too ambitious here could cost you.)
    • Why did you leave your last employer/Why do you want to leave your current employer? (Just like it’s very unattractive when people talk smack about their ex, it’s really not a good look to say “I hate my current/former job and I want(ed) out!”. Talk more about how you see more personal growth with this new opportunity than with the last.)
    • Do you have any questions for us? (Asking questions shows you’re interested, so again RESEARCH and in your research you will find talking points. If you ask nothing they could lose interest. Everyone loves someone that can hold conversation. This doesn’t just apply to friends and lovers.)
  5. Don’t go to the interview drunk or high (You snicker, but it happens!) – 20’s are about questionable decision making sometimes, need I really say more?! Just don’t do it.
  6. Don’t brag – Be confident, not arrogant. It’s a really thin line but arrogance is boastful, confidence is humble and speaks for itself.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice – Get someone to ask you potential interview questions, that way you can practice saying your answers out loud as well as your tone of voice and pace of talking. OR do like Issa (RE: #InsecureHBO) and practice in the mirror, it works!

    Dear 20 somethings
    Do it like Issa!
  8. Do dress the part- Err on the side of caution and dress professionally and conservatively unless you’re absolutely sure it’s detrimental for the role you’re applying for or the organisation you’re applying to doesn’t care. And no, 2 inch stiletto nails with a tight pencil skirt paired with a top that shows just the right amount of cleavage paired with 6 inch heels does not count as professional and conservative. The first impression people get of you is largely influenced by what you wear, what do you want to say when you walk into that room?
  9. Do know exactly where you’re going and be on time – Tardiness is really not a good look, call in advance or ask a friend who lives in that area where exactly you’re going so that you can get there ahead of time. Don’t add the stress of being late/lost to everything else.
  10. Do turn off your phone – Your hundreds of twitter followers might moan your hour long absence but I’m sure they’ll understand. Your phone ringing will put you off your game and make you seem unprepared or uncommitted, plus there’s nothing worse than getting that stomach dropping text or seeing something you don’t like on the gram a few seconds before an interview, let’s not risk it.
  11. Don’t cry (yes it happens) – Interviews are stressful, and sometimes the panel will set out to stress you and see if you really “remain calm in stressful situations” like your C.V says. Take a deep breath and don’t get riled up. Tears are healthy, but never in the boardroom.
  12. Do know everything on your C.V and be prepared to qualify it- Imagine being asked about that job you said you had, or that thing you said you could do but not being able to back it up…would you hire you? It shows you learnt nothing from that task or situation.
  13. Don’t be too informal and address anyone as ‘dude’ or worse off cuss! In a time where we punctuate our sentences with ‘fam’, ‘dude’, ‘bro’…you don’t want to be caught off guard addressing your soon-to-be boss as ‘fam’, stay alert and filter the words as they pour out.
  14. Carry your relevant documents with you (originals and photocopies) – C.V, statement of results, certificates, NRC, and drivers license. I know walking around with the brown envelope isn’t the best look but you don’t want to seem unprepared. Also, you could always have a fancier folder or file holder for all your papers so it doesn’t look as lame.
  15. Watch your body language – 55% of communication is based on your body language. So sit up, smile, make eye contact, and don’t fidget.
  16. Don’t mumble – 38% of communication is based on the tone of your voice. Speak clearly and confidently (Practice, Practice, Practice). Again, Issa in the mirror.
  17. Focus on what you can do for your potential employer, and not what they can do for you– Somewhat oxymoronically, all those people asking you questions about you don’t really care about you. They care about them. So all your answers should focus on how you benefit them.
  18. Conceal your tattoos and remove all visible unorthodox body piercings – I know that your friends swear by your tattoo artist and maybe one day so will your boss. But unless you’re absolutely sure that it doesn’t matter, err on the side of caution and plan for a conservative 40 somethings panel.

    Dear 20 somethings
    Conceal your tats
  19. Don’t talk trash about your previous or current organisation – We spoke about this in 4, but it is important as a point on its own, no one likes a trash talker unless you’re auditioning for a spot on a ratchet reality TV show. Keep it professional and always be ‘the bigger person’.
  20. Don’t argue with the interviewer, especially when they are picking an argument with you – They’re probably trying to rile you up, once again take a deep breath and remain calm. Imagine punching them in the throat (I’ve done that, it will help you smile) but then rebut calmly and whatever you do, do not roll your eyes!

We might not have it all figured out, and we shouldn’t (we were 12 about a week ago) but getting your interview skills right is step 1 or 1.1 to the financial freedom we all crave. I hope this helps you get a kick ass start.

 

“Goodluck on ’em 20 somethings”

– SZA

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