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Thursday, September 27, 2012

When a casual talk could turn out to be the actual interview

It is clear. Job seekers have been attending many classes to help them be as sharp and presentable as possible at job interviews. With these sessions, we now do not need to be reminded to dress up in cool conservative colors for interviews nor must we be reminded to be at the interview venue way before the scheduled time. We find time before the interviews to rehearse and get feedback from friends on our performance on various interview components ranging from our eye contact to voice projection.

How would you however react the moment you realize you have just been interviewed without your knowledge? Akinyi has a story to tell. When she received a call from a company she had once sent her resume and application to a while ago, she was expecting a request for a conventional interview. The administrator however was out to check whether she would be available for a chat with the boss that same day in the afternoon at a restaurant in town. Due to the push within her for a job, she answered in the affirmative and with that call, the chat was scheduled for 4.30pm at a coffee shop in the heart of the city.

Good enough, Akinyi had travelled to the city that morning to meet a few people as they were planning for a friend’s wedding. By the time of the meeting in the afternoon, she had sweated herself out and was heavily laden with lots of paper bags from her city purchases.

The representative of the potential employer who turned out for the chat was actually the CEO, a sharp and neat lady in a designer trouser suit. As the two sat down and chatted the afternoon away over tea and coffee, the CEO asked several questions that required Akinyi to have refreshed her memory about. Some of the questions bordered on her past leadership experiences, her management of interpersonal conflicts and her perception of the industry within which the company operates.

From Akinyi’s responses, it was clear that she was out of sync. The following day, Akinyi received a mail from the company as a regret that she had not presented herself as a promise to the company for innovation and creativity. She had failed the interview.

But which interview? It was not scheduled as an interview. It was just a coffee chat between her and the company CEO. The truth is, for all intents and purposes, an interview is an interview, regardless of the form it takes. An interview is simply an opportunity for the potential employer to gather crucial information about the person who could be considered for employment. It could happen through observation, telephone conversation or through an invite to a cocktail.

As a job seeker, it is important to note that any of the opportunities could just be used to gauge you as a potential candidate for a job. It is important to be on the lookout and note that people could actually be watching you either directly or through proxies. An invitation for a chat could actually, just like in Akinyi’s case, be the opportunity to prove your worth as the potential candidate.

Whenever you are invited for a chat by a potential employer, take the opportunity as seriously as you would take a formal invitation to an interview. Seek to dress appropriately and be fresh for the chat. Don’t just appear as Akinyi did wearing her late afternoon sweaty attire and carrying with her heavy paper bags. Be presentable. Keep off extra luggage and switch off your phone. In case your phone is on, consider telling the callers you will get back to them later. This could be a sign of good phone etiquette. Do not put your host on hold as you talk to your friends on phone for minutes without end.

In case you receive the call for the chat for a day and time you realize you will not be at your best, be kind and request for another date to give you time to prepare. You would rather tell the potential employer you are not available on the suggested date and time than appear to the frustration of both parties. If given the chance to propose the meeting place, always go for the conservative venues. Never suggest that you go meet at a bar since the caller may not be a partaker of alcohol and may feel injured by your suggestion. Always pick on restaurants and suggest you could take tea or coffee together.

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