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Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 21 – Interview preparation

We start this month’s issue with a look at time management.  There are a lot of books on this subject already; the difference with our look at the subject is that we are not advocating the use of Microsoft Outlook or any other product as a way of managing time.  We take a look at the importance of changing your thinking about time.  We will also be looking at Interview Preparation.  This is the last in this particular series; we hope that you have found the information of interest, value and use.  Your comments as always are very welcome. 

You may have noticed that we have issued a follow up to the March edition on electronic archiving this month, so if you have any comments you would like to pass on to your fellow readers on the subject please drop me a line.  Names will be changed to protect the innocent !!

We hope you enjoy reading.  Have a great week.

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In this Issue we will be looking at:
• Time management;
• First things first;
• What will you wear?
• Researching the company;
• On the day of the interview;
• A Thought to ponder.

Time Management
Most people use the major milestones of Christmas and the New Year to talk about time management and goal setting.  But I thought that I would take the opportunity to start this month’s newsletter with a little piece on time management. Actually it’s more to do with how to change our thinking about time, rather than using more calendars or diaries to remind us that we have failed to do something – again. 

We are now into our 5th month of 2004.  How many of you are still working on your “New Year’s Resolutions?” Yes I thought so – not many of you.  And to answer your question – I don’t set “New Years Resolutions” I have a list of things that I would like to achieve in both my personal and professional lives and I spend each day working on how I can achieve those “goals”.  For instance I make a daily appointment with myself to go to the gym on the way home from work.  I make sure my sports bag is packed and in the boot of the car, BEFORE I leave for work.  That way I do not have to go home and get changed, and I don’t get distracted by the things I need to do if I go home first. 

The reason I do this is simple.  It’s easy to do something on a regular basis.  It’s also really easy not to do them.  There are many days when I do not feel like going to the gym – but because my bag is in the boot of the car, I go anyway.  I know that I could have set myself a new years resolution to “Get Fit”, but having a daily goal of simply doing some exercise, I know that I will ultimately reach my goal.  Little things done on a daily basis make a huge difference in the long run.  Most people think that you can break a habit – I’ve found that the best way is not to try and beat it into submission (trying to stop smoking is a good example), but replacing one habit with another, so why not make it a good one.  So instead of having a cigarette why not go for a walk round the block. Not only will you cut down your cigarette consumption, but you will be getting fit at the same time. 

That’s all well and good I can hear you say, but how does that relate to my working and professional life? Well everything that you say and do on a daily basis will have an effect on where you end up at the end of your career.  Some of you may be content to remain doing the same job for your entire working life – and that is fine too – all that you should ask of yourself is to do your job to the best of your ability on a daily basis. 

Time management is more than working out how many hours you have in each day and working out how many of those you will be at work, how many you have for sleeping and the bits that are left over are for other things like family, personal development and leisure time.  Time management is deciding what is the best use of the time that you have to do everything that you need to do.  If you know that you are going to be busy at work – then it is important to make sure that you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.  Don’t be tempted to burn the candle at both ends in the misunderstanding that working longer hours you can get more done.  Research has shown time and time again, that if you take the time to properly refresh your mind and your body, you achieve a lot more when you do work.

It is the same with applying for a job.  Most people make the incorrect assumption that they can spend a few hours dashing off half a dozen applications and then sit back and wait for the job offers to start flowing. Unfortunately this is not likely to happen.  A rushed application is very obvious to the trained observer, and believe me when I say that most people who work in HR are both highly trained and are able to spot a generic application a mile off.  What do we mean by generic? Well it’s another name for standard.  Tailoring your application is vital.  Yes it takes time to do it properly, but those little things that you do to ensure that your application answers all the employers questions will be the ones that get picked, not flicked.

For those of you who have decided that today is the day that you are going to re-vamp your CV, apply for that job and get a start on that career you’ve always wanted, then do it. Don’t put it off. Re-read the newsletters we’ve already sent to you.  If you don’t still have them, then let us know and we will send them to you again, all you have to do is ask. Or you can obtain a copy of our book.  The book gives you a lot more examples, and over a hundred questions that you could face – if and when you get invited to attend an interview.

Yes the chances are that you may not succeed the first time that you try – chances are that Tiger Woods wasn’t the best player in the world, the first time he picked up a golf club and hit the ball either.  The difference between most people and the Tiger Woods of this world is that the Tiger Woods of this world don’t give up.  They work to perfect their technique and they try again.  Practice, practice and more practice. 

Remember, time management is not just about making better use of your calendars and diaries (although there is an element of that in it), it’s making a difference today to make a long term change tomorrow.

First things First
For those of you who have applied for that job, and been asked to attend an interview – congratulations.  You’ve sold yourself on paper.  Now you have to do it in person.  You’re probably feeling very nervous, you are probably wondering:  What clothes do I wear, what do I say, what happens if I stuff up? Where is it? How do I get there? 

Well first and foremost.  Calm down, take a deep breath, grab a paper and pen.  You’ve got some work to do.  But by the end of it, you will have the confidence you need to get there and hopefully the confidence in your abilities to “interview better” than the other candidates.  Ready? OK lets begin.

Do you know where will the interview be held? Do not assume it will be held at the client’s premises.  A friend recently had to attend an interview in a meeting room at a hotel in Perth.  The reason was simple – the client was based in Melbourne, and all work was done from home or “on the road.” Whilst the position of sales rep is not for everyone, consider that you are going to be selling yourself during the interview. Yes you managed to do it on paper, but you will have to do it convincingly in person.

What time will the interview take place? Can you take an extended lunch break or do you need to arrange to have some time off “Chucking a Sickie” is probably not the best option.

Who are you supposed to meet when you get there? Who do you need to ask for? You may also like to find out the person’s job title or department just in case there is more than one “John Smith” in the company.

Do you know how to get there? Don’t leave it until the day of the interview to find out where you need to go.  Especially if you rely on public transport – work out alternative routes and times – just in case.

What will you wear?
Of course you should ensure that you dress appropriately for the position that you are going for – but as a general rule and professionally speaking – conservative is always best.  Avoid loud ties and matching socks.  Ladies – avoid the latest fashion fad and go for the simple elegance of a suit or dress/skirt and jackets. 
Make sure whatever it is you are planning on wearing is clean.
Ladies if you are planning on wearing heels – consider how far you are going to have to walk – especially if using public transport.  It is also important to remember that it takes longer to walk anywhere in heels than it does in “lower” shoes.
Good colours to wear include: Black, Blue – especially Navy, Dark Brown, Charcoal or Grey. Team with classic white, grey or alternative blue.  Or Ladies you could opt for a bright red jacket, which gives the impression of absolute confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Hair should be freshly washed. Please remember that smoke especially cigarette smoke can cling to clothing and hair so avoid smoking before an interview.
Shower before dressing and remember to use an anti-perspirant. You will be nervous, therefore you will perspire more.  Do not try and cover body odour with perfume or aftershave – it doesn’t work.
If you are planning on wearing makeup, make sure you do not over apply it.  Daywear makeup is a lot “lighter” than eveningwear. Lipstick should be freshly applied and nail polish should not be chipped. 
Jewellery should also be understated.
Shoes should be polished.

If this sounds like you are putting on a costume for a “play” that you are about to appear in – then you are absolutely correct.  There are certain rules that should be observed when going for an interview.  Please bear in mind that people can and do make assumptions about you based on the clothes that you wear, and the words that you speak.  A word of advice – If you cannot afford to buy a new suit – then consider borrowing one, alternatively clothing libraries are becoming popular, as well as the use of second hand clothing stores.

A couple of days before the interview, dress in your chosen outfit. Now this is the important bit – go and look at yourself in a full-length mirror. Imagine that you are the interviewer, and someone like you walked into the interview room – ask yourself this question:

Would you employ this person?

If you cannot be objective about your appearance then find someone who can

Researching the Company
Make sure that you know what the company does, how many people it employs, have they made the news recently, find the names of the significant players. The Internet is the best place to look for this information. Most organisations have their own web page these days, and the URL is usually given to you in the job advert.  This is usually where application packages are posted.
Talking of the application package – re-read it.  It contains some wonderful insights into the company that you are hoping to work for. 
Re-read your submission – you did keep a copy of it didn’t you? This is vital as it gives you a good starting point for the questions that they are likely to ask you.  Re-read your answers – and find another example to share with the interview panel.  They do not want to hear the same thing that’s in your application.  By all means use it as a starting point – but be prepared to expand on your answers. 
If you are not a confident speaker, make sure that you practice “answering questions” out loud. 
Get a friend to “interview” you – but make sure that it is someone that you trust, and has some experience in the process and preferably the industry.  Your mentoring group is a great place to find a helping hand.
Always remember that the interviewer is trying to find the right organisational “fit” as well as someone who answers questions well.

On the day of the Interview
Be prepared to be nervous.
Make sure that you eat normally.  The last thing you need is to hear your stomach growl all the way through an interview because you felt too ill to have breakfast.
Do you need to take anything with you? If the interviewer did not ask you to bring a copy of your certificates, CV or anything else then leave them at home, or leave them in the car.  Do not clutter up your mind with things that are not necessary.
Leave five minutes earlier than you had planned – this gives you additional time in case of traffic snarls and no parking spots when you get to where you need to be.
Make sure you have enough change for parking.
Take your mobile phone with you.  Make sure you have the name of the person you are going to be meeting and a contact telephone number in case of emergencies.  If you find out that an accident on the freeway means that you are going to be late – telephone them and let them know – this gives them time to rearrange things if necessary.  But turn it off when you arrive.
Find out where the bathroom is and make use of it. Nervous energy has a rather interesting effect on people’s bladders.  It is also a good time to check make-up (if worn) and wash your hands (regardless of whether you have been to the toilet or not) as these are likely to be “sweaty.”
Remember to be polite at all times, smile and shake hands.  Remember you are being judged from the moment that you enter the building.  It has been known for the interview panel to ask the person on reception for their impression of you.  First impressions count – so make sure you are remembered for the right reasons.

Enjoy the process.  Remember that you may not succeed the first time that you apply for a position.  But always be willing to learn from the process.  

If you do receive “thanks but no thanks” – always ask for feedback.  This is important as it helps you to tailor your application for the next one that you apply for.
Do not rest on your laurels; it may take the interview panel some time to make a decision, so keep your options open and your applications flowing.  You can always withdraw if you find that you were successful.

Do not get discouraged – Remember there is a job out there with your name on it.

There is more information on interview preparation as well as over a hundred questions you are likely to face during an interview in our e-book “The First 4 Minutes”.  For more information please go to our web site – www.iea.com.au.

To your success.

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A Thought to Ponder:
“The secret of success is to know something nobody else knows.”
Aristotle Onassis
(1906-1975)
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