Fast Track: Corporate Strategies - 3. Interview Techniques

The inside track on becoming a consummate professional: No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

The difference between an employment interview and a police interview is this: in a police interview, you endeavour to convince the interviewer that you are fundamentally incapable of carrying out a six-figure bank job. In an employment interview, you endeavour to convince them of precisely the opposite. The police interview is also a good deal less stressful and degrading.

A number of tricks, though, can ease the trauma of RSI (Really Scary Interviews). The first is not to turn up. Since the purpose of an interview is letting the employer know what you'll be like as a worker, this is probably a good reflection of both your promptness and your reliability.

What to wear: Dress as you would for a typical day at work, ie, in three minutes flat, while simultaneously attempting to consume a bowl of Alpen, urinate, remove the cat hairs/vomit from your lapels, switch off the Chris Evans breakfast show and think up a decent excuse for being so late.

A suit is advisable, although not if it is blue in colour, with little arrows and a prominent "HMP Strangeways" motif. The simple but dependable skirt suit, plain white blouse, opaque tights and minimal lip gloss are usually a safe bet. Unless you are a bloke (and not being interviewed for a position in the Church of England).

Above all, wear something you feel comfortable in. Rubber fetishists should ignore this advice.

The handshake: If your hands are shaking violently, decline proffered cups of tea or coffee. Flinging boiling liquid liberally over the interviewer's crotch will not get you the job. Though it may swing things a little in your favour, given that most bosses do display pronounced sadomasochistic tendencies.

The most effective handshake is simple yet firm. Shoulders back, trouser- leg rolled up, left nipple exposed and large buffalo mask on your head.

Relaxation: It is extremely easy to maintain complete relaxation during a job interview. Unfortunately this is only in the case of your bowels.

In all other respects you will have nerves like piano-wire, armpits resembling the steaming swamps of Borneo and a heartbeat thudding out a passable bassline to the Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up". This is just if you are the interviewer: if you're the interviewee you will be twice as nervous.

Some simple strategies will aid self-confidence. Deep breaths are a good wheeze, especially when done down the phone to your prospective employer's private residence - this will at least ensure that he is as paranoid as you are on the day of the interview. You could also try one of the many "self-hypnosis" tapes. These can be discreetly listened to on headphones while engaged in normal day-to-day activities, eg, sitting smoking in the DSS office.

An audio-book edition of Bill Gates reading his exciting autobiography will have a similarly soporific effect.

In the interview room: Always take a seat when asked to do so. An empty one is generally the best bet, though sitting on the interviewer's lap can, depending on the job/ your physical allure, work in your favour.

In the unlikely event that you do make it as far as the Hot Seat (or, in most cases, the Slightly Moist Seat), TAKE OFF YOUR HEADPHONES. Self hypnosis will not help you at this stage - besides, shouting at the top of your voice and not hearing a word in response is, of course, the manager's job.

Try to convey that you are cool, calm, and taking everything in your stride (skateboarding in, with two Dalmatians and wearing a billowing white dress, might convey this, but only if you are in a tampon commercial).

Before speaking, use your saliva for lubrication; for optimum effect, lubrication of the interviewer's posterior.

One of the most underrated interview tricks is to imagine the interviewer naked, unless you are being interviewed for the post of White House intern, in which case imagination is probably unnecessary. (If you feel, though, that you have turned up overdressed for the occasion, imagining your interviewer naked will probably only compound this fear.)

Body language: Learn to interpret simple body language. If the interviewer drums his fingers on the desk, he has probably lost interest in what you are saying. If he holds two of them up in a V formation and makes repeated stabbing gestures, or waves "bye-bye" while shouting, "Next!" then he has definitely lost interest. You can safely assume that you have not got the job, and may skip to the final paragraph ("The exit").

Question time: Certain questions are bound to come up. Have some answers prepared beforehand. For example, when asked why you left your last job early, words such as "ambition" and "dynamism" are excellent. Words like "time off for good behaviour" are not, particularly if your last job involved stitching mailsacks.

Other responses to avoid: Question: "How long did you work for your previous employer?" Do not reply: "About half the time I was employed there."

Question: "What would you expect in your role here at Fartlebum and Fartlebum Plc?" Do not reply - "Egg and prawns with low-cal mayo."

Question: "Do you have any questions you would like to ask me?" Do not reply - "Is that your real hair, sir, or are you wearing a wig for a bet?" OR "Two teams beginning with P have won the World Cup. Name them."

The most important things to remember: your name; your date of birth (as specified on your application form - this may not necessarily be your real date of birth); not to turn up at the interview in your bedroom slippers.

The exit: The importance of the exit slips the mind of many otherwise promising candidates. A few points to bear in mind: do not exit through the window, however depressed you feel about the outcome. Do not leave until asked to do so; tailing off in the middle of an answer and glumly announcing "I'll get me coat" will almost certainly identify you as lacking assertiveness.

Turn smartly on your heel, bid the interviewer goodbye, then step confidently through the door and stride out - beaming broadly, punching the air and declaring, "RE-SULT!" This will scare the living shit out of your fellow candidates, the ultimate objective of any job interviewee.

Next week: `Please Mum, don't kiss me at the gate' ... Your First Day at Work.

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