Your application has been accepted and you are going to meet a recruiter. Now it's time to prepare yourself for a successful interview. Your success depends on your preparation beforehand, your performance on the big day and the follow-up afterwards.
The ABC's of an interview
Don't change or postpone the meeting time (unless absolutely necessary).
Be on time (ideally, 5 minutes early).
Make sure your personal appearance is neat. Choose your outfit beforehand. Comply with the dress code of your profession. In the tertiary sector, a suit and tie or else a skirt/trouser suit always makes a good impression.
Adopt a positive attitude and smile.
Prepare yourself for the recruiter's usual questions
Practice presenting yourself in a few short minutes. (Choose the aspects of your training and work record that show that you are THE ideal candidate for the position and that you would be able to function right away.)
Be discreet about your former jobs (i.e. comply with any confidentiality clauses).
Never criticize a former employer.
Don't try to read the recruiter's notes.
Listen to the questions and ask for them to be repeated if you don't fully understand.
Focus on your professional record.
Carefully check over your CV in order to have your work record clearly in your mind (you will certainly be asked to comment on it point by point). You may also want to re-read any work certificates that are particularly positive. Also revise the job description as well as your cover letter. Memorize all the information that you are sure to be asked at the interview.
Prepare yourself to answer any questions on any gaps in your CV or any sections that may be unclear.
Prepare examples that will allow you to demonstrate your skills, your know-how and your ability to manage multiple tasks.
Gather information on the company (e.g. turnover, number of employees, market position, name of the founder, country in which the head office is located, name of the CEO, etc.). Based on this information, prepare a few questions about the job or the company, the work methods, the organization, etc. and write these down.
Carefully prepare your materials the night before.
On your writing pad, put the name and number of the person whom you are meeting, along with the company's address.
Find a salary scale for your profession in order to be able to indicate your salary expectations. (salary calculator in French, German or Italian)
It is better to indicate a salary range rather than a precise amount.
The gross salary is what is usually discussed.
Some companies refer to an annual salary, others to a monthly one; calculate both and jot them down on your writing pad so you won't be caught off guard.
Always keep in mind the minimum amount you wish to get. But think it through if you are offered a lower amount. Sometimes it's worth considering a company's employment benefits and downgrading one's salary expectations (for instance, if your health insurance as well as your family's are covered by the company, if there is free child care, etc.)
A phone call can give a serious boost to your application. However, it has to be prepared just as carefully as a face-to-face interview.
There are two types of situation in which a phone call can be useful:
You are calling the company before sending in your application. In this case you can mention the phone conversation in your cover letter.
You are calling the company about ten days after sending in your application file.
A phone call aims at the same result as a cover letter: obtaining an interview. Therefore, make sure to put the odds in your favor by preparing carefully, for example following a guiding thread of questions you want to ask and information you need to get.
The phone call should be rather short. The person you are talking to shouldn't feel like they are wasting their time talking to you. Get straight to the point, namely getting an interview.
Your CV (with relevant information highlighted)
The job ad
A piece of paper and a pen
A copy of your cover letter or email (if you have already sent it)
Speak with composure and slowly.
If possible, slightly drop your chin to prevent your voice from rising up.
Remain calm and polite.
Smile! (communication experts know very well that a smile can be heard though the phone.)
Vacations and other benefits offered by the company, even if they are publicly known.
Don't get too personal. For example, avoid talking about hobbies, even if you have found out while googling their name that the person you are talking to is a water-ski champion.
Avoid commonplace topics (such as weather, traveling, sports, etc.) that are not related to the interview and will give the impression that you are not serious or that you are wasting the interviewer's time.
Take three deep breaths before entering the offices; this helps to relieve stress.
Throw away your chewing gum.
Turn off your mobile phone or set it to silent.
Be kind and treat the people you meet with respect (including the receptionist in charge of announcing your arrival).
Smile as you enter.
Look the person in the eye when you shake their hand. (Use a firm handshake but don't crush the other person's hand.)
Wait until you are told to be seated.
Take out your documents and keep them on your lap.
Ask if it is ok to take notes.
Let the recruiter speak first, since he/she is conducting the meeting.
Don't look around too much; try to maintain visual contact with the interviewer.
If the telephone rings and the person answers, stay seated and pretend not to hear anything.
Answer the recruiter's questions. Accept responsibility for your failures, don't criticize former employers or colleagues, express yourself in positive terms, avoid being indiscreet and watch out for verbal tics.
Just answer the questions; don't add anything.
Wait until you are asked before raising any questions you may have.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer.
Our tip: Print out the interview checklist pdf