Five non-technical ways to suceed during an interview

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After sending out countless resumes, and networking with various recruiters and peers, you have finally received your callback: the interview. What now?

Leaving aside the obvious fact that you may well have the technical skills the potential employer is looking for, you need to recognise that soft skills are often equally, if not more, crucial. And it is during the interview that these are put to the test. Be mindful that the dynamics of an interview are very similar to a first date, where balance and discretion is crucial. Learn to sell yourself in the best possible manner (but do not lie), be honest (but not blunt), and leave a positive impression (but don't be overbearing). If that sounds a tad much to handle, read on for more tips to navigate this minefield.

1) Wear a suit

Unless it is an overtly casual environment, I would always advise erring on the side of caution and dressing conservatively in a suit. As I have written in the past, doing so undoubtedly conveys a professional and polished demeanour, which is always welcome.

2) Build rapport; avoid controversy

People want to hire people they like and can foresee working well with, so learn to find common ground and build rapport during your interaction, even if you think you may be an odd coupling. The litmus test is often whether you can consider being trapped in a situation with the other person for an extended period of time (e.g. being delayed together in an airport lounge), so if you are not baulking at such a prospect, half the battle may already be won. Broaching controversial topics in your conversation can be tricky, as it is a high-risk manoeuvre that could swing either way. Not everyone holds the same views as you on politics or religion, so proceed with caution.

3) Show you're interested, not desperate

While you may not be expected to know the intimate details of the company, do make an effort to undertake some research beforehand so you are familiar with the context and can demonstrate your interest without appearing too rehearsed or contrived. Equally, do not be overzealous. Desperation reeks from a mile away, so while being enthusiastic and emanating positive energy may get you ahead, trying too hard to be an eager beaver can also backfire. Play it cool, but do not become a wallflower.

4) Look at one eye

Behavioural experts enjoy advocating positive body language (e.g. mirroring techniques, no crossed arms etc), but often the most basic tip is overlooked, namely, maintaining proper eye contact. It is perfectly fine to cast your vision away when deliberating a point, but what people often do not realise is when they look at someone squarely with both eyes, they can appear like a crazed stalker. Instead, learn to focus on only one of the interviewer's eye at any time. Alternating between gazing at the left and right eye softens the glance, and yet maintains an engaged appearance.

5) Don't ask for immediate feedback

It is entirely up to you whether to send a message of thanks post interview. Alarmingly, I have heard of instances where interviewees ambush the interviewers by requesting feedback on their performance before departing. Aside from the awkward nature of the request, interviewers may require time to discuss their assessment internally with other stakeholders, so do not push for it. Instead approach either the HR department or your recruiter (if you are working with one).

The author is a recruiter in Singapore.

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