After sending in your resume to a prospective company, you get called in for an interview. I cannot stress enough the importance of this stage in the application process. For many, this will be the make-or-break stage when getting hired.


For some companies, this stage may even overshadow others, such as test scores, health states, and even technical skills. So, it is important that applicants understand what employees pay attention to during this process.

This article is targeted at people in the Philippines, but those from other countries can benefit as well. The companies referred to are composed of traditional ones such as banks, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies. A separate section tackles the newer companies, such as those involved in technology and the call center industry.





Interview Stages

Applicants usually have to meet with a series of people during the interview process. The first line of may be the Recruitment Staff. These people will handle the initial interview, often focusing on whether an applicant meets the minimum requirements of a job vacancy or not.

The second interview will normally be handled by the Supervisor or Manager. At this level, the interviewer will want to determine an applicant’s skill levels and whether the person can fit in the group. For the latter, social skills and the ability to tolerate others may be considered.

While not a requirement, a final interview may be conducted by the Division Head. Depending upon the person’s style, this can simply be a formality as the selection process would have been delegated to middle management. At this stage, a Head may be concerned with the overall impact to the division and company.

Though the duration of each stage can be short, the time between interviews can vary. While an interview the Human Resources staff can be done immediately, speaking with middle and upper management may not always be immediate due to sudden meetings or emergencies. A safe thing to do would be to allot a whole day for the entire process.

In addition to this, making sure to eat properly can go a long way to retaining a sharp mind, especially if one’s interview will be at the end of the day, when most applicants are exhausted.


BPOs, Call Centers, and Outsourced Companies

In this day of outsourcing, applicants may have to go through an additional stage. Head Hunters or outsourced companies may conduct initial the screening of applicants before being handed off to a company’s staff.

Just like the Recruitment staff, they will focus on whether an applicant meets the needs of a particular job description.


Interview Durations

An interview can take anywhere between five minutes to several hours. One person conducting an interview behind a desk or over the phone will typically provide the shortest durations.

The positive thing for first-timer applicants is that they don’t have to suffer through a long interview. On the flipside, the lack of time may mean being unable to clarify questions or answers.

Longer durations usually take place when a panel is involved. Composed of three people and above, the scope covered may be much wider. Panels also tend to be more stringent as things missed by a single interviewer may not get past another.

The good thing about a panel interview is that it usually provides more time. Under such a condition, first-timer applicants may have the opportunity to provide supporting details to answers. However, they will also have to suffer much longer and need to pay more attention to their actions.





BPOs, Call Centers, and Outsourced Companies

Majority of the local BPOs, Call Centers, and Outsourced Companies, especially the bigger ones tend to have streamlined their interview process.

Often times, the interview itself will not go over twenty when minutes face-to-face or over the phone. By contrast, waiting in these companies’ lobbies may take up the bulk of an applicant’s the time so carrying a book or some form of item to pass the time away is recommended.


Interview Coverage

Most interviews will focus on two major things, the first will be an applicant’s skill and the second is to ascertain their fitness for a job.


Skills

In the case of first-time applicants, a company will most likely zero in on what the applicant learned from school. For those shifting from other jobs or industries, the interviewer may focus on what skills applicant have picked up from their current or most recent work. In both cases, interviewers will see if a person can be trained for the job.

Unfortunately, many applicants resort to exaggerating their skill and experience. While this action can slip by less experienced Human Resources staff, it very rarely flies with veteran practitioners. Worse still, the same person will most likely fail miserably at the hands of Managers or Supervisors who know their stuff.

My advice for applicants is to stick to the truth. If applicants don’t know anything about the topic, it’s best to admit it. They can add their willingness to learn; just don’t lie about it.

That advice may sound like common sense, but you will be surprised at the number of people caught lying through their teeth. Instead of coming clean after the lie becomes obvious, they pile up more to cover their tracks. By the end of the interview, applicants can be so deep in their lies, it becomes impossible to dig their way out of it.

What applicants may not realize is that most Human Resource practitioners do not bother pointing out the inconsistencies noted in an interview. With so many other applicants to talk to and so little time to do so, it is easier to just fail the applicant.

It may help to know that no one expects fresh graduates or short-term employees to know the secrets of the universe. So this is one situation where honesty is the best policy.

Keep in mind that the Philippines has a six-month evaluation period to determine if new employees are really who they say they are. Since the truth eventually comes out, people who oversell themselves might end up looking for another job.





Fit

There are many different types of personalities in companies. Even small teams of five can have radically different people working together. One can be the no-nonsense leader. One person can be the crazy creative. Another can be the silent follower. Yet another may be the brilliant thinker. While the last may be the person who has to liaise with other groups.

People with a lack of patience, short tempers, or anti-social tendencies are unlikely candidates for teams. However, that does not mean they are have no place in a company. It just means that they need to be assigned to situations where their personalities are not a hindrance.

This is the reason why, again, honesty counts. Often times, an interviewer will probe for likes and dislikes to determine the best fit. If applicants provide answers designed to skew the results just to get hired, they may end up in something they can’t handle.

Now many people think that getting their foot in the door justifies misleading answers. Once inside the organization, they reason that it will be easier to jump to a more suitable job. However, a mismatch often results in very bad ratings. And since companies don’t want to retain poorly performing employees, these people are often shown the door.

Another thing to note is the long line of applicants for companies today. With a large supply of job seekers, Supervisors and Managers may find it more convenient to simply start from scratch for entry-level positions.


BPOs, Call Centers, and Outsourced Companies

In addition to looking at an applicant’s skills and ascertaining the fit, some of the newer companies may conduct interview to gauge one’s communication abilities. Since many BPOs, Call Centers, and Outsourced Companies require people to engage clients from other countries, being able to speak another language, such as English, becomes very important.

One of the biggest mistakes that first-time applicants make is thinking that reading a book or watching English programs a few days before an interview makes a difference. The sad news is that it rarely does. Like many sports, learning to communicate properly requires training and practice, often done at an early age.

Quite a number of applicants proclaim to reading novels, watching news programs, and talking to others in straight English. But in just a few minutes, it becomes clear whether the applicant is deemed unsuitable for hiring, an average speaker good enough to handle written correspondence, or an above average speaker who can take calls.

My advice to people undergoing interviews designed to evaluate communication skills is to relax because the truth will come out anyway. Trying to impress interviewers by enumerating all the English-related actions one has taken hardly works. In the end, the proof is in the pudding, and one simply needs to be able to communicate well to pass this interview.





Other Things to Remember

One of the biggest No-nos is to play the sympathy card with an interviewer. Talking about one’s need for money or the tragedies in one’s life is unprofessional. Apart for being inappropriate, some interviewers see this as the inability to separate one’s work and personal life.

Another thing applicants need to keep in mind is to tone down the religious fervor. Peppering sentences with praise or pointing to the Almighty often makes it look like one is unable to answer questions properly.

Finally, one needs to relax. The more tense applicants are, the higher the chances they will do or say the wrong thing. Often times, mentioning one’s nervousness helps to release some of the tension. It may also signal the interviewer to make adjustments to alleviate any nervousness in order to get the best out of an applicant.





Final Thoughts

While the culture and technology used by companies has changed drastically, some things, like interviews haven’t changed. Just like before, the interview can be considered the most important step applicants have to undergo. And to assist, I have provided a short list of things to keep in mind.

Firstly, applicants need to expect that an interview can take anywhere between five minutes to several hours. Making sure one eats properly will help keep them healthy and sharp enough to answer any questions.

Secondly, interviews tend to come in stages. They start with someone from the Human Resources Department and usually end with one’s Supervisor of Manager. There will be times when the first interview is handled by a Head Hunter and the last by the Division Head. Allotting a whole day is recommended in order to pass through an entire process.

Thirdly, the interview coverage will generally center around an applicant’s skills and whether he will fit in the organization. In order to be placed in the right job, applicants are advised to be honest with their answers. It doesn’t do them any good to get hired then get stuck in the wrong job. A situation like this usually ends badly.

Finally, applicants should avoid playing the sympathy card and tone down the religious zeal. Instead of helping their cause, these actions may actually make things worse. Also, nothing helps more than relaxing during the interview.

Coupled with the Do’s and Don’ts of Resume Creation, I hope that that first-time applicants are able to increase their chances of getting hired after that all-important interview.

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