Everything you wish you knew about job interviews | 9Lives
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I think we all can agree – interviews are terrifying! From sending out your CV to dressing correctly, to arriving on time and sounding knowledgeable; it is all very intimidating. The very nature of interviews has also changed in such a way that it is not just in-person interviews anymore, making way for phone and Skype interviews that are rising in popularity. I’ve only been to one interview in my entire life, so I decided to rather pass the torch on to two people who know a bit more than me.

Daniël, the interviewer

The first is Daniël, start-up owner and well-known hardass when it comes to interviews. I’ve sat through many interviews on the interviewer side of the table with him and he can often come across as abrasive, but I do believe there needs to be just a little bit of pressure on the person being interviewed, just to see how they’d react. Here’s the 5 things Daniël wish you knew before pitching for your interview:

In the many years I have been on the interviewer side of the table there have only been a handful of people that have been able to carry themselves well through an interview.

That being said, very few of the people that have been good at being interviewed were good at their jobs, ironically. Because of this fact, I now prefer to have a short interview, followed by a few weeks of probation where we work together, and then review after this session. But where this is not an option, the interview process is extremely important, and I wish everyone I interviewed knew the following;

Most of the people who we interview are for jobs on the lower end of the company scale, which means they do not walk into the room with a lot of experience. This is understandable and expected. However, the person being interviewed is often not aware of this reality. This means I have to spend quite a bit of time teasing this fact out of them. The conversation goes something like this; “So, I see you have 2 years experience in digital marketing, tell me more” at which point the candidate will explain how he/she worked very hard at some company, part-time, while studying. I will then have to ask; “What, exactly, did you do in your role at this company?” There will then be much flustering and generalisations where teams and groups are discussed. Eventually, I will then have to state; “so you did not really work for 2 years and you did not really do the work yourself, and in reality, you don’t really know how to do the work?” The candidate will then, being caught out, sigh, resigning themselves to the fact that the interview is now over. I will then, finally, be able to say; “since we both now know that you do not have the experience, tell me why you want to work here and what you aim to achieve.” This dialogue wastes a lot of time.

Candidates that are 100% honest and upfront fare much better than those that have walls up and attempt to make themselves into something they are not. Be you, not who you think you should be.

It is crazy how many people send their CV’s to companies they know nothing about. When we are going through a hiring stint, I spend a lot of time calling people who have sent their CV to find out the basics; why did you apply, what is your salary expectations, do you have a car, etc. This means we don’t have to spend an entire interview’s time to find out what you are walking in with. When I phone these candidates, I am more often than not surprised at how unprepared they are. If you are sending out your CV, you need to know what you want to earn, and why. Saying that you read online that you should ask RXX is ridiculous. You have to know what company you applied for and what job you want. If you don’t know these basic things, then I am not going to hire you. And you have to be eager. I phoned a guy once who, when I asked him if he can come in for an interview, said that he will be in my area in about two weeks time. Seriously. Call me back when you actually want a job and stop wasting my time.

Every interview is going to have a part where you, the person applying for the job, needs to explain why you are applying and where you come from. This question is done to establish common ground and to give the interviewer some time to look at how you present, which words you use and get a general feeling for who you are. This is also something that you can 100% prepare for. When I am interviewing a candidate who needs to work with other people, and they can not give me a coherent view on who they are, where they come from, what they did for the last 20 – 30 years of their lives then I become very worried. This should be the easiest part of the conversation. If I have to drag information out of you then I am not going to hire you. Just think how hard it is going to be to get feedback from you when it comes to more abstract concepts.

We work in an office that has a median age of about 25. This means that the people who work here are all typical millennials; some have tattoos, some don’t. Some have beards, some don’t. Some wear shoes, some don’t.

We/they are diverse. I love that about our generation. I love the fact that people who come in to work here are themselves. Don’t change. Be you, be bold, be brave.

My final piece of advice, and something I have very often had to say to the many, many people I have interviewed, “take a deep breath, relax, talk slowly and tell me the story. I am here to get to know you, and I really, really want to get to know you, so tell me your story. Please.” For some weird reason people think an interview should be a dreaded and stressful event. This means you are defensive and cold. I get that it is stressful, but you should do yourself a favour and take a step back, realise that the company needs you just as much as you need them. Then, lean forward, and engage.

Marié, the interviewee

Next up is Marié. A new addition to our office, Marié was actually subjected to a phone interview and since she was not actively seeking a job at that moment, she was caught quite off-guard. I remember her being very quirky and being able to carry a conversation easily. While she was also a bit flustered, she made an impression. Let’s take a look at the five things Marié wish she knew before her first interview:

First things first, let me give you a little background on my first job interview. Still in my last semester at university, I was on my sister’s bed one Sunday when this ad for a job in the agricultural industry came up. I immediately applied for the job, and a few days after I had sent my application through, I received a call for an interview. And the rest is history! (Literally history, because I went through my second interview and I am now the new-girl-on-the-block at my second job.)

So here is what I wish I knew before I crossed the threshold from student life to working life.

What to wear is an important question to ask when your first interview is approaching.

You want your personality to be showcased, but you also want to look formal. Do some research about the company before you decide what to wear and what not to wear. I’ve got a weirdly unique style, so my blazer with floral print wasn’t the best option for a conservative corporate company. If I had known what the vibe of the company was beforehand, I would’ve covered my tattoos and left the flower prints at home. But lessons were learned that day and my new job has a hate-to-love relationship with my floral blazers!

I like to put a face to a name, so when I received the detailed email about my interview, I opened all my social media platforms to stalk the people attending my interview. I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing to stalk them and I’m pretty sure they did the same, but I wish I had realised that when you stalk someone on LinkedIn, they will know and they will ask you what their profile looks like. So, for your first interview, stick to Facebook and Instagram.

I was very formal when the interview started out, because of the intimidating farmer that sat in front of me. But then all of a sudden, he started to ask me about the university I studied at because he was an old Puk student as well. And suddenly, I became more relaxed while we shared stories of our days at the Puk. Something to remember is that it’s nice to get that common ground between yourself and the person that is interviewing you. It immediately puts you at ease, and then it just feels like two people talking, instead of you blabbing out random words because of stress.

Don’t lie! People may look oblivious or dumb to you, but they will know!

The one thing I will take from the intimidating farmer that was my boss for a year is that you can speak the truth if you are unsure. He respected me more when I told him I couldn’t do something, instead of lying and then doing a shitty job, and helped me out when I needed it.

I tend to ramble when someone asks me a question, I just spit out words without getting to the point. For example, when asked about my salary expectations, I wish I had known at that moment that all my ramblings wouldn’t benefit me in what I actually wanted as a salary. Instead, he offered me what he wanted because I couldn’t be straightforward about my expectations.

Now when I look back at my first interview, I blush a bit at all the things that went wrong. But one thing that stood out is that that intimidating farmer saw potential between all the rambling nervous laughter and floral prints, and it was all because I was just myself. So, be yourself; someone out there will like you and give you the chance you deserve!

There you have it! Do you have any tips to contribute? Let us know below.


Free State-girl, living in Stellenbosch. Love to explore small towns, read in Afrikaans and everything pop-culture. My favourite yoga move is 'The Pigeon' and one day I'd like to own my own vintage cinema.

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