Improving Your Job Interview Skills

Posted on October 8, 2011


Rafik Beekun

Alhamdolillah. After sending out many letters, you  have been invited to a job interview. Now as the date looms closer, you begin to experience stress and may even stay up during the night wondering whether you will make it through.  If you are too stressed, please read my blog’s section on stress management.  Please remember that stress can be used to your advantage,  providing you with the extra “kick” you need to sail through your interview.  Here are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that, Insha Allah, you have a successful interview:

1. Research the company

Before you go to your interview, you must invest some time researching the company or organization you are interviewing with. Google its name, and visit its website. If you have time, call it up and ask for some brochures. What is the company about? What is its mission statement? What businesses or services is it involved in? In what countries? Who is its CEO? Look at its annual report. How has it performed during the last five years? What is the state of the industry or industries it is located in? Talk to people who are already employed by this company, and ask them for background information about it.

Also take some time to re-read the position announcement. How do your skills fit in with that job description? Where might you fit it in? You may also spend some time searching the salary range for the position you will be interviewing for taking into account your location, your own previous work experience, economic times, etc.

2. Prepare

  • Make sure ahead of time that you have appropriate (formal) clothing for a job interview. A great book to read on this topic for men is Dress for Success by John Molloy. Men should own at least one complete suit or a combination of sports jacket and dress slacks with some tasteful business ties and dress shoes. They should also have a nice, clean haircut. As for women, dress professionally. While John Molloy has another book tailored to women, please don’t forget you can dress business-like while wearing hijab.
  • Do some mock interviews with your spouse, a friend or even a professor. Videotape yourself during this mock interview, and have others critique your answers and body language. Most interviewers are likely to ask you to describe yourself in terms of strengths and weaknesses, why you are applying, why the firm or organization should hire you, why you want to work for the company or how you handled a challenging situation or work conflict last. Focus on the question and don’t digress. If you are changing jobs, you may be asked why you are doing so. If this is your first job out of college, you may be asked about previous work experience that would relevant for the job you are now interviewing for. If you don’t understand the question, ask the interviewer to please clarify.
  • Secure a list of referees who would be willing to give you a letter of reference or who won’t mind being called by the Human Resource Department of the firm interviewing you.  Don’t choose people with big names, but rather people who know you well and who can speak knowledgeably about you and your capabilities.
  • If you can afford to, spend some money printing up nice (not fancy), but elegant business cards that will include your current address, phone number and email.

3. Dress for the job

Dress professionally. Refer to the books by Molloy that I have mentioned above.   Practice your inteview at least once while you are dressed professionally–so that you become accustomed to wearing a suit if you don’ t do so normally.

4. Make the first impression count

Be early rather than late. I suggest that you drive up to the business or organization a couple of days before to get familiar with the route to get there, to locate where to park and get familiar with the surroundings. On the day of the interview, make wudhu and pray two rakaat asking Allah to help you in your interview. As you leave your house or apartment, please remember this du’a (which you should say every time you leave your house anyway): Wa la hawla wa la quwwata illah billah or There is no might and no power except from Allah.

The first five to thirty seconds of an interview determine the impression you will make on the interviewer. Don’t have a chewing gum in your mouth or a Pepsi can in your hand as you enter the interview room. Don’t slouch and be all tense. Walk into into the interview room with poise and radiating self-confidence. Smile and make eye contact with the interviewer.

When you first meet your interviewer, shake hands with a good, but moderately strong grip and maintain eye contact. Wait for your interviewer to sit down before you do. When you are asked a question, answer the question and don’t digress or beat around the bush. If you don’t understand the question, ask the interviewer to please rephrase his/her question. If the interviewer should be interrupted by a phone call, wait until he/she is done answering his/her caller before continuing your answer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, but add that you would be willing to research the question and get back to the interviewer. Don’t bring up the issue salary unless the interviewer asks you about it. If he/she does, then refer back to the research you made on the topic. Don’t be extravagant in your salary demands. Sometimes, a combination of a salary at or above the mean for the job you are interviewing for combined with other benefits may be worth more than a high salary with no benefits. Before you leave, exchange business cards, inquire about when you are likely to hear back. Thank the interviewer.

5. Make sure to follow up after each interview

After your interview, use the interviewer’s business card to send him/her a short thank-you letter. The letter could briefly touch on the interview, highlight your skills, indicate your interest for the job and provide your contact information. Email or standard mail is acceptable. If you don’t hear from the company after two weeks, send a short, but tactfully phrased query asking about the status of the position for which you interviewed.

No matter what happens as a result of this interview, thank Allah when you make du’a that you had this opportunity. Don’t despair if you don’t get a job right away. Please remember this verse from the Holy Qur’an (12:87): “And never give up hope of Allah’s soothing Mercy: Truly no one despairs of Allah’s soothing Mercy except those who have no faith.”
Additional sources:

1. About Interviewing Skills.

Posted in: Islam