Interview tips will help you get the job
With the unemployment rate above 10%, the job market in Tanzania is incredibly competitive and landing a job you really want is a great accomplishment. The hardest part of the job hunt is getting your foot in the door of the company, so if you write a great CV and cover letter, and get a call back for an interview – you have already gone through the most challenging hurdle.
A popular Tanzanian proverb is, “how can you eat the whole cow and leave the tail?” Similarly, just because you landed a job interview doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put the same amount of effort to prepare for it, as you did with your application. Remember, it’s a competitive job market and it’s almost guaranteed that your potential employer has another candidate who is just as qualified (if not more) than you are. So you need to prepare as much as possible to prove to your potential employer that you are the best candidate for the position.
In fact, here are 10 things you have to do to make the best impression during your job interview.
Before the interview:
Know the location beforehand
While Tanzanians are infamous for being late, a job interview is one of those moments where you don’t want to fulfill this stereotype. In fact, you should get to the interview at least 10 to 15 minutes before the set time. To ensure that this happens, you need to know the location of the business beforehand and calculate how long it will take you to get there (taking traffic into account). In fact, you should plan on arriving in the general location where the company is early, and wait at a café or restaurant till it’s close to the time of your interview.
Know the dress code
While looking good won’t land you the job (unless it’s for a modeling position or client services), how you present yourself will greatly influence your potential employer’s perception of you. The thing is, you want to dress like you already work there. You want to make it easy for the interviewer to picture you as part of their team, so if you are overdressed or underdressed you’ll make this harder.
So, don’t assume that the company’s dress code is corporate or business casual. Instead, you should call the HR department and ask what their dress code is. However, if they tell you it’s casual, you should still dress in business casual attire (you always want to look sharp).
Also, no matter what the dress code is, avoid:
- Heavily scented perfume or cologne
- Large distracting statement jewellery (unless you are interviewing at a fashion company)
- Heavy make-up
- Showing cleavage
- Dresses or skirts that are too short or tight
- Ripped jeans
Print copies of your CV and prepare portfolio
If possible, find out how many people will be interviewing you, and print the appropriate number of copies of your CV and portfolio (if needed). Present the copies to the interviewers after the introduction, they may already have their own printed copies but the gesture demonstrates that you are serious about the position and think about other people’s needs ahead of time. In short, it paints you as prompt and considerate.
Practice answering questions
It’s obvious that you are going to be asked a lot of questions during your interview, while there is no way of knowing exactly what questions you’ll be asked, you can still make some smart guesses.
First, you should carefully analyse your application materials (CV, cover letter, writing samples, portfolio) from the perspective of an interviewer, and brainstorm potential questions they may have. For instance:
– What did you do in the 3-month gap between your past job and the recent one?
– You don’t work in the same industry as your major, why is that?
– You say that you were tasked with managing a team, what were the challenges you faced?
Once you are comfortable with cross-examining yourself, then it’s time to do some research on the company and the key people that work there. Figure out,
– What are their values?
– What are their biggest goals?
– What problem do they solve? Who is their target audience?
– Why do they need you? How are you an asset?
Understanding the company’s needs will give you direction on how to answer some of the questions they will ask you. For instance, let’s say you are interviewing for a project manager position at a public health non-profit. You analyse their website and realise that they do not have a lot of big donors and thus may be struggling with getting the budget they want to implement all their projects. This should indicate to you that you should spend a significant time in your interview talking about your experiences with writing grants and getting international sponsors and partners. As this is the type of help they need.
And lastly, practice answering the most common and toughest interview questions, these include:
– Tell us about yourself?
– Why do you want to work for us?
– What are your greatest strengths?
– What are your greatest weaknesses?
– Tell us about a time you failed?
– Why did you leave your last job?
– Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
– What do you expect from the experience?
– What base salary do you expect?
– Do you have any questions for us?
Do a prep/mock interview
To help you commit your answers to memory and build up your confidence, do a couple of mock interviews with friends. Don’t give them or use a script, instead provide them with some potential questions to ask but also encourage them to ask anything else that comes to mind that you may not have prepared for.
In addition to answering questions, body language is an important part of communication during interviews, so practice maintaining eye contact with the interviewer and having an assertive body posture – don’t slouch but also don’t be too stiff.
The more you practice, the more in control you’ll feel and this will help minimize nervousness and anxiety on interview day.
During the interview:
Give STAR answers
To avoid rambling and giving long-winded answers, follow this format when answering interview questions:
– Present the Situation or Task you had
– Talk about the Action you took
– Explain the Results you got
So, for instance, if the interviewer asks you, “what is your greatest strength in the workplace?”
A great response would be,
Situation/Task: “In my last job, I was given the uncomfortable responsibility of firing two employees that I had worked with for 2 years.”
Action: “I believed that their low performance was due to the lack of training, so instead of firing them, I proposed a 3-month performance improvement plan that included training sessions, online courses, and frequent performance reviews. My manager approved the plan, and I presented it to the employees. I didn’t tell them that the alternative was to fire them, instead, I presented the benefits of getting on the plan: you’ll hit your KPIs and get a bonus, you’ll be more likely to get promoted – and they agreed.”
Results: “After the program was complete, they both had improved greatly. Initially, they would reach only 20% of their KPIs, after 3 months they were reaching 65% and 80% respectively. I’m happy to say they still work there. And I think this is evidence of my ability to think of innovative and productive solutions to problems.”
What problems can you solve for the company?
As mentioned before, during your interview you need to frame your answers based on what problems you can solve for the company. So using the first example, let’s say an interviewer asks you, “why should we hire you?”
You should talk about how you will help the non-profit gain more sponsors so that they can have the adequate budget to implement all their projects.
“As we all know; money is one of the biggest challenges for non-profits. While our work isn’t driven by it, we need it. Currently, you spend a lot of time chasing after donors and fundraising, rather than on the field doing the important work (which is where you want to be). If you hire me, I will use my contacts and years of experience as a grant writer to get you sponsors and partnerships that share your public health goals and will be happy to help support your work. This is exactly what I did 3 years ago for a struggling non-profit….”
This is a way more effective answer than the generic, “I’m a hard worker and team player” etc.
Tell a compelling story
The previous examples demonstrate how you should always frame your answers as stories. Have a beginning, middle, and end, instead of jumping around from one idea to the next.
Not only will it make it easy for your interviewers to understand you, but it will illustrate to them that you have great communication skills.
After the interview:
Send a thank you email or note
No matter how well the interview goes, and even if you get a job offer right there, always be courteous and send the interviewers individual ‘thank you’ emails after the interview. They may be deliberating between you and another candidate, and that thank you email can be the small coin that tips the scales in your favour.
Write something like,
“Dear Ms. Hassan,
I would just like to express once more that I really enjoyed meeting you today. I appreciated your insights on the non-profit industry, and hope to continue the conversation someday. Also, please extend my thanks to Peter, he made me an excellent cup of coffee.
Thank you for the opportunity,
Ask them for feedback
If you don’t get the job, take the opportunity to send a follow-up email and ask the interviewers for feedback on your application. This will not only shed some insight on what you need to work on, and what your strengths are – but it will impress the interviewer as it will show that you are a motivated to learn and grow. While you might not have gotten that job, they’ll surely remember you if future opportunities arise.
Also, it may help ease the disappointment as you may find out that you were the perfect candidate but they had some other internal reasons not to hire you.
We win some, we lose some
There are few things more disappointing than getting an interview for a job you really wanted, and not getting the offer after. However, as long as you prepared to the best of your ability, don’t let it demotivate you, instead, you need to take what you learned from the experience and apply it to your next interview. Eventually, someone will see your potential and give you the job, and they’ll be incredibly lucky to have you.