Congratulations! You wrote a winning cover letter and resume, and performed well on your written exam. You have now made it to the final stage: the face-to-face interview. At this stage you have proven that you have the education, qualifications, and skill base for the job position. What is really being analyzed at this point in the screening process is organizational fit and knowledge. Will you perform within the team that is hiring? Do you know enough about the subject matter(s) that the team is working on? Do you know how much as your cover letter and resume say you do?
Based on my experience in Government of Canada interviews, here are the three most important things that you can do to ace your interview.
- Be cognizant of your non-verbal communication
No one likes to admit it but it’s true: the first few minutes of your interview will determine whether the hiring manager decides you are a good fit to the position or instead filters you out. That being said, here are a few tips to keep you focused:
- Reach on time: There is no bigger sign of disrespect than reaching late for an interview. Not only does it illustrate that you do not have respect for the time of the hiring manager(s), but it also portrays a possibility of you being late for the job position that you are interviewing for.
- Dress appropriately: You should not be wearing anything less than business casual for your interview. Even if your future team wears casual clothes to work it is very likely that the hiring manager will wear business casual to the interview. You should not be undressed as compared to the individuals in the board. Also, be very weary of where you will be doing your interview. Certain departments will expect job candidates to come in a suit. So plan your outfit carefully.
- Grooming: Ensure that you are well-groomed for the interview. Avoid “extreme” looks and aim for an overall well-groomed look. Please double check hanging strings from clothes and ensure that your shoes are clean.
- Handshake: Your handshake should be firm, but not bone crushing.
- Manners: Do not forget your manners: “please”, “thank you”, “can you please repeat”, “could I”, all of these words and phrases will get you further in a world where manners are disappearing.
- Eye contact: Establish comfortable eye contact with each individual on the interview board.
- It’s all about them
Hiring managers have one thing in mind: “How will this individual solve my immediate need”. They are not considered with your salary wishes, your desired work schedule, or if you prefer a window office or an aisle office. That being said, how can you illustrate that you are concerned with solving their problems? Here are a few pointers:
- Understand how your team supports senior management and the Government as a whole: It is important to know how your team and the work they do plays into the “big picture”.
- Have an overall knowledge of how the work the unit does influences policy on a national (and an international level, if necessary): This might not be the case for all jobs (e.g., Information Technology, Translation, etc). However, it is relevant for many. For example: a job candidate in an interview for a position in a labour development team might look at information on Canada’s aging population, labour shortages in Canada, and Foreign Credential Recognition. All of these topics would be correct; however, if this is taken on an international level, one would realize that other factors come into play such as Temporary Foreign Workers, and an overall knowledge of immigration visas for professionals knowing about these last two programs would definitely provide you with an advantage over others.
- Listen carefully and ask questions: During the interview listen carefully to the questions to determine what are the team’s underlining problems. You will be given an opportunity to ask questions during the interview. If you have not been able to obtain the information needed, inquire about the team’s immediate priorities and ensure to reiterate how your skills and education would help them solve the issues and timelines that they are facing.
- How you say something is just as important as what you say
No one wants to be around someone who sounds like a robot. How do you present your ideas in a way that is appealing?
- Express each idea enthusiastically, show you have spent time reading and or doing research on the topic matter.
- Show your interest in the job position and the passion that you have to work in the Government of Canada.
- Speak positively about the present and the past. Even if you had a past employer or job position that was less than desirable, focus on the positive aspects in your interview.
Remember, you have a limited time to sell yourself to the hiring board. They are busy people who have been chosen to select a given number of candidates. Make their job easier and increase your chances of being hired by portraying yourself in the best light.