Java House Africa
Darling, Life is an interview ~ Wangari Mwangi
The other day a friend of mine came to see me at home. She needed help with preparing for an interview she had the following week. My close friends come to me for advise on first meetings. Dates, interviews, you name it. I pay attention to detail so I point out on the little things that would often be missed. I was very awkward in social settings growing up. I did not enjoy interactions with humans much. My preference being to play with my set of color pencils and paints. You could say I was an artist. But as a young adult, it became clear that I needed to learn the ways of human interaction. At the age of 13, I still hadn’t figured out a way to make the humans that always asked me questions disappear. Even though it was clear I wasn’t keen on answering them. So I read every book I found that revolved on humans. Which is every other book anyway. Back to the topic.
A few seconds into my conversation with my friend, I was shocked to discover she had no idea what the company initials stood for. Let alone what line of business they were in. I can’t stress on how important it is that you have knowledge of the company. The name and meaning and what they sell. Having this knowledge already rids you of the characteristic of being ignorant.
In the past, interviews were always done in a formal setting such as a boardroom. But times have changed. Bars and coffee shops like in the photo above, are now being used increasingly. Normally the interview that will win you the official boardroom meeting to close will happen outside the office. This brings me to the first point of personal grooming.
Put an effort to always look your best especially when stepping out of the house. A social meet up with friends may have you meeting the HR director of a company you have been eyeing to work for. I know this because it happened to me recently when I went out for a drink with friends. As the night progressed, I found out the lady I had been chatting to for most of the night, would be part of the panel I would meet if my resume passed the filter stage of a recruitment software. I will dive deeper into the software later in this piece. My hair and makeup well in place, I felt confident to introduce myself to new people on our table. Style and length varies, but do not compromise on clean and fresh smelling hair. Ladies, you would rather a natural look neatly done than wigs that look greasy and smell horrible. Gents, invest in a barber that gets the job done. If you start to notice bumps and pimples forming where the hair was shaved, it may mean a skin irritation from products your barber is using or poor hygiene practiced with the shared equipment among different clients. Stay away from strong scents that may irritate the next person. Attire that does not fit well should be avoided. Too tight screams desperate for attention while too baggy shows a lack of care in your appearance. Your shoes always being clean speaks volumes.
Etiquette and Interpersonal skills
Both qualities are vital to successfully win people over and get them to like you. Always introduce yourself by greeting the people you meet sat together and asking what their names are. This is very important as it shows you are not rude or arrogant. No one is attracted to either characteristic. Interpersonal skills are best mastered through the ability to listen more and speak less. Only speak when what you have to say is better than keeping quiet. It is often perceived that only the interviewers should ask questions during an interview, but dare to challenge the norm. To set yourself apart from the other candidates, prepare a number of questions about the company you can ask towards the end of the interview.
Bonus – Ask the interviewers what their advise to you would be to help you excel in your new role, if you were to join the company.
No one is you. And that is your power.
In a very competitive job market where most are over qualified, your papers may not make the cut. It doesn’t help that you have no idea who you are up against, so no way of knowing how to gain an advantage over their qualifications. Well it shouldn’t be about them. Focus on your strong holds and start to believe that you are the best candidate for the job. My favorite story is one of Les Brown, where he narrates about an interview that would change his life. He was going to meet a big client in the hope to win a huge contract with them. They had met all other teams and it was now down to him and another pair waiting for their turn. He overheard one of them saying to the other “That guy does not have the qualifications we do. Between you and I we have two PHDs and a masters in business. He is no match for us.” The words hit him hard. He had to get up and walk to the gents to compose himself. The words were harsh but accurate. He could not match their papers and they were more qualified. So he chose a battlefield that favored him most. His current struggle and the reality that he had everything to lose by not winning this contract. Les looked into the bathroom mirror and started talking to his reflection “Les what do you know about PHDs.. you have five mouths to feed, bills that are overdue to pay and another child on the way! You must win this.” And when his turn came to go in to meet the stakeholders, he said he walked into the room with a strong confidence as if each person’s purpose of being born was to have this very meeting. He won the contract. Having the right papers is great but self doubt will keep you from achieving anything worthwhile. Especially in interviews.
The company, just like a baby, has a birth story. It’s founders being it’s parents. Know who they are. Understand the merger that came to give life to what may be your source of living for the next few years… Until someone younger and more energetic that is cheaper to the company takes your job.
“A good servant conforms to the ways of his master’s liking” ~ Wangari Mwangi
You can get an idea of the company values from their website. Is it a high performing organization? If so, you will have to highlight your skill to work best under pressure to deliver. A competitive attitude is encouraged as such a company needs highly driven individuals. However, the best source of insight to the company culture would be an employee. Either current or previous. Understand how they interact with each other internally and with external environment. How do they engage in business. Are they brutal with competitors, or very proud to boast on their achievements in the media. It will help to align such detail with the conversation during the interview. This will assure the interviewers that you will be a perfect fit in their team.
Company values and beliefs
This is normally communicated under ‘about us’ and ‘company history’ page on the company website. Understanding how the company was founded and grown in size will help understand what they have achieved and stuck to through the years.
Unemployment is running rampant in our country. Whether we know it or not, most of us are unsuccessful in securing an invite for a face to face interview, because we are still using yesterday’s tricks to trap today’s advanced scientific mouse. My dad always said let yesterday be the past, today the reality and tomorrow…well that will take care of itself.
I work for a business management software company. That is how I discovered about recruitment systems. In case you are not familiar with this, this is a tool used to filter out bad CVs from the worthy ones. The number of qualified people has drastically multiplied. This has resulted to stiff competition in the job market. Here are a few reasons why top companies choose this model of recruitment;
- It’s a smart and efficient way of selecting qualified candidates
- Saves time spent manually going through thousands of CVs. We all know time is too valuable to waste.
- Saves funds that would have been used in lengthy recruitment processes.
- The system saves data fed into it so you’re able to retrieve details on candidates, that may not have been successful the first time. This is especially useful to businesses with high employee turnover. A good example is the hospitality industry.
- Manages third party checks; criminal, credit and qualifications
- Automated response to applicants. So they don’t have to spend resources manually responding to successful applicants and unsuccessful ones.
If some companies do not have the recruitment system in place, the recruitment agency hired get candidates to fill vacancies use it. So there is no way of escaping this.
We don’t all have friends in high places, so the luxury of shortcuts when getting a job is not at your disposal. I want to help increase your chance at getting a call-back for that face to face interview. The rest of the points have you prepared for it. If you are not getting call backs after submitting your resume multiple times, here are some of the things you may be doing wrong;
- As advantageous as systems are, they have shortcomings. One of them being they are guided by a strict rule. A rule that is set by the administrator when creating a job position in the system. So where manual evaluation would have been able to tell your cv may have been submitted for the wrong position as you have qualifications for a role other than the one you applied, a system won’t. That is why you can’t afford to make mistakes during the application process.
The system is a smart tool so it has an option to screen a pool of CVs submitted. This will include the ones applied for on the wrong role. So you may be lucky. There is a catch to it. This brings me to the second point
• Utilizing Keys words for your job role.
The administrator will use filters to give a score when creating the Job. So the system will detect key words present in the submitted resumes. Filters can be Optional or Required. Optional will result in the system accepting the application of the candidates and scoring based on the amount of filters the candidates meets. Required will result in the candidate being displayed automatically in the ‘Unqualified applicants grid’ should they not meet the filter requirement.
To increase your chances of qualifying at this level, make sure you understand the job description well. The words used to describe the role requirements are the words you should use to describe your skills and qualifications. As a fatter of fact, use them as often as you possibly can throughout the resume. You won’t be penalized for this.
Make sure to edit your CV for every job application and update any new qualifications achieved.
Psychology of Colors
If you do not already know this, colors can affect your mood or give different impressions. It is no surprise that marketing and brands use this technique to communicate different messages and get your attention. You can use this knowledge when picking out what to wear for your interview. Here are a few examples on how to apply this;
- Orange – associated with cosy, flavorful, communicative, active, excited among others. You will find that pictures of food have an orange color as it boosts your appetite and as a result makes you want to keep eating.
- Blue – associated with authority, calm, peace, educated, cold, clean among others. This is a a good choice of color for an interview because you want to communicate the above about yourself.
- Yellow – associated to fun, young, bright, cheerful, playful, curious, nutritious among others. (No wonder school buses are painted yellow. Now I know!)This is a nice color to wear when interviewing for a creative role or work with children.
- Green – associated to patient, natural, adventure, relaxed, luck, safe, balance among others. You will see that most vacation adverts have this color to illustrate a relaxed environment, which is what we look for when going away for some downtime.
- Purple – associated to royal, aloof, artistic, intelligent, vain, solemn, melancholic among others. It speaks of a person who likes to stand out and is clear on their stand. May not be favorable for a role that is dependent on team work.
- Red – associated to vital, romantic, commanding, rebellious, visible, hot, among others. So if you want to draw attention to yourself, this shade is a good choice. It is also a good way to show confidence and power since most people keep it neutral and shy away from this color. You will notice that apps choose red for notifications on new messages and alerts. This is meant to create a sense of urgency and make you stop what you are doing to attend to the notification. Pretty smart right?
- White – associated with clarity, de-clutter and neutral, cleanse among others. You have to be extra cautious if you choose this color to avoid any messy accidents. Any evident stains are a no no.
- Grey – associated to wisdom, longevity, sleek. among others. It is neither or, so good if you simply want to fit in.
- Black – associated to strength, authority, power among others. A deep shade of black makes up a classy outfit that is comfortable and may seem to be of high quality.
This is can help guide on what shades to wear for what occasions. The bold colors can be a great way to accessorize with ties and pocket hankies. To simplify it, here is a photo that divides colors into two categories and what they are associated to.
Traffic can throw off your schedule and have you run late for important appointments. However, traffic is predictable so plan ahead factoring in all possible outcomes that may make you run late. Practice on how to answer questions efficiently instead of oversharing and as a result wasting the interviewers’ time. If you can demonstrate respect for other people’s time, it shows you are professional and responsible.
Don’t lie about something you are asked during an interview. Keep your answers short and precise only explaining further when required to. The dishonest trait is a red flag to interviewers. They will assume to never get a straight a answer from you when called upon to. Lying also shows poor moral practice. They may not show it, but they normally pick up on dishonest candidates easily. So don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. But always add that you are very eager to find out more about it. You can even be inquisitive and throw the question back at them. Because if you prepare for an interview effectively, you will know all the relevant information you ought to.
Change your routine to keep your mind alert.
This is a trick known to few. When you go about your usual routine, your mind is on autopilot. But the minute you do something different, your mind is alerted immediately making you attentive. So change up your morning routine to keep your senses alert and responsive. You will pick up more about your environment and keep your conscious mind active and ready to process information faster.
Have a very light breakfast or heavy dinner and black tea or coffee in the morning
Ever notice how lazy you get when you’re stuffed? Makes you only want to sleep. Your mind is barely functional. Well the opposite happens when you haven’t had much to eat. Neurons are regenerated to help you come up with ways to find food. This puts you in a problem solving state. It will help you think fast to answer any questions thrown at you. The honesty rule still stands. If you have ticked off all points above then you should know everything you ought to.
Prepare Questions to ask
This is a bonus. It shows you have a real interest in learning more about the company. It also breaks the norm that is questions are only asked by the interviewers. This is especially true as the feedback I got from my last interview is they picked me among all the candidates that came in because I asked the right questions, turning the interview into a conversation. You may not realize this, but interviewers are also nervous. So if you can find a way to relate to them and get them to like you by being easy to talk to and showing interest in them, you can almost be certain to get a welcome letter!
Everyday, new jobs are created and posted on the site. Your online profile is your automated resume. Maintaining a good image is key. Most profiles are run by the managers and CEOs so you cannot post irrelevant stuff or be involved in an online face-off like the infamous #KOT. Maintain a professional profile and update every achievement you add to your resume. More importantly, the photo you pick as a profile picture should be neutral, preferably with a polite smile. Leave the racy poses to Instagram. So if you do not have a linked profile, create one as matter of urgency.
Your reputation is important. guard it with your life.
Thank you for reading this far, I sincerely hope that this was educative and fun. If you have points that you feel should have made the list, pop them down below on the comments section and keep the conversation going…
Don’t forget to share with that person you know needs to see this!