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Get Hired: Winning Performance for Job Interviews and Bagging that Non-Traditional TVET Employment

Congratulations! Your resume has passed muster and now you find yourself invited for a job interview at that company you so admire. You have some time before the big day and you find yourself with a mild case of the jitters — is it because you’re about to leave your comfort zone and enter a male- or female-dominated industry? Possibly you’re equal parts anxious and excited, eager and apprehensive, wondering how you can prepare, thinking of ways you can make a great impression on the person who might be your future boss. What to do? 

Before you get yourself all worked up, know this: preparation is key. Even before you step into that office, here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re ready to face that panel and ace that interview. 

Research

The first fundamental task you need to do is to go online and start researching the company that you are applying to. Be purposeful in your research and try to find details that you can use to position yourself as the best candidate for the job. Review their corporate website to see if their direction matches yours. Search news sites or social media to read up on the current activities or programs of the company. Find out about the people who run the business, maybe even determine the employees assigned to application interviews and look for things you may have in common. Go a step further and look into whether the companies you want to apply to have gender-positive initiatives for women and gender-diverse people, especially in male-dominated industries. See if the company managers and bosses advocate for, and participate in, gender equality efforts. We all know that some TVET industries are dominated by men, while some are dominated by women; so what are these companies doing to promote inclusion and diversity for women, men and gender-diverse people? Are there policies in place in their enterprises that will help you, your fellow applicants, and future coworkers to forward their career aspirations, regardless of their gender?

LinkedIn, news websites, and the company primers can be powerful tools for research. Browsing  the company’s social media accounts also allows you to get a feel of the corporate culture. The more you know about the company, the more you’ll have to talk about when meeting the interviewers for the first time and the better your chances for a great first impression. Careersidekick has an excellent resource on how to do your due diligence before your job interview.

Prepare Yourself for Gender Bias (Just in case!)

Despite strides toward gender equality in the workplace and the narrowing of the gender wage gap, the sad reality is that these changes take time and, sadly, we aren’t quite there yet. Gender bias is a real thing, especially when you try to break into an industry that is dominated by the opposite sex. Plum positions in industries like engineering, manufacturing, and software design are typically occupied by men, while positions in hospitality, office administration and caregiving are filled by women. 

Gender bias happens when a company intentionally or unintentionally treats job candidates differently because of their gender. This can happen in even the most woke or self-aware of organizations. These biases run deep and are thus hard to spot and harder even to eliminate.   

You can detect gender bias as early as in the hiring process! When you come across a job alert, which may have gender-biased language written into the job description, you might also have to contend with it during your job interview. Often, it will come in the form of invasive questions and gendered language

Three of the most popular lines of questioning a woman might face during a job interview are in relation to their marital status, pregnancy and/or other familial responsibilities that may impact whether or not they get hired. Sometimes this is just a form of icebreaker or small talk, but nonetheless, it opens the gateway for gender bias. For questions like this, it is best to reiterate one’s commitment to the role you are applying for and to emphasize that you are fully qualified and will not allow your personal life to interfere with your professional life. Another way to respond to these kinds of questions is to re-emphasize your accomplishments and career experiences. Better yet, state the fact: you’re working (or you plan to) in a male-dominated industry. Of course you know what you’re getting yourself into, and have come fully prepared to handle whatever comes your way. With this mindset? Even gendered questions like these would be nothing compared to your potential. 

Right, but what if they interrupt you or talk over you? Guard up, because studies have actually found that women are more likely to be interrupted during interviews and are asked more follow-up questions than their male counterparts. If this happens, relax, gather your thoughts, then answer confidently and deliberately. Don’t rush your answers. Keep in mind that you can’t control what questions will be asked during your interview, but you can control how you respond to them. Always steer a conversation back to your skills and experience to emphasize your suitability for the position. Never lose your zen. Remember to always respond in a respectful, polite and professional manner. Consider Kamala Harris’ response when being talked over at the 2020 US Vice Presidential debate against Mike Pence, smile, politely raise your hand and say “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” Be respectful yet unapologetic; inform the interviewers that you still have more to say on the previous topic.

Don’t forget, gender discrimination against women is expressly prohibited under the Philippine Labor Code and the Magna Carta of Women. To find out more about gender bias and how to address it, check out this article.

Rehearse

When you are scheduled for an interview, you know that it won’t be half an hour of small talk and chit chat. You expect to be asked a series of questions that will help the interviewer determine your suitability and fit in the company. It will help immensely if you make a list of the most commonly asked questions in a job interview, so that you can prepare your answers and rehearse them ahead of time. You can do this in front of a mirror but it’s best to rehearse with a friend you can bounce your answers off of. Speaking your answers aloud will help you not just to remember your answers but also to better understand what you’re saying. That way, you’ll be more comfortable during the actual interview. 

Perhaps the single question that is practically mandatory during a job interview is: Why should we consider hiring you? For this, make sure you prepare an elevator pitch, basically a short 30-second speech you use to introduce yourself and highlight your qualifications and achievements, to spark interest in you. Zety has a helpful guide in how to create a compelling elevator pitch.

Play up

A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences found that both male and female managers are more likely to hire a male applicant over a female one, even when the candidates have similar skill sets. Perhaps a personality difference, but men tend to be more straightforward in the enumeration of their abilities; whereas women downplay theirs, and often describe their achievements as efforts put together by the groups she belonged to at the time. 

It’s best to remember that downplaying your achievements does not equate to humility, and being confident in your abilities does not necessarily mean arrogance. Be as concrete as possible when discussing and enumerating your accomplishments. Do not downplay, but play up!

One way to remedy this would be for women to shift their focus unto using “I”, instead of the noun “we”. It might be difficult to get used to doing so overnight, but this is where rehearsing comes into play! 

Additionally, another remedy would be to describe some contributions at work. When and how did previous managers give you positive feedback, and for what? What have you done at work that you are most proud of? Narrate those instead. Use the STAR method to help you structure your answer. Here is a guide to help you read up on said method, and rehearse about how best to use it.

You can also find multiple resources for job interview simulations or mock interviews online. Follow EMMOTION by Marat on YouTube for this sort of training. It may seem silly at first, but you’ll appreciate these exercises once you’re in the actual interview. Other mock interview resources you can research are: 

Plan Ahead

Don’t wait until the last minute to put together your interview outfit. Prepare what you’ll wear well in advance, starting out with knowing what the company dress standards are. As a rule, it’s better to come overdressed than underdressed. Business casual is a good bet. Also, work out how you’ll get yourself to the interview – you do not want to be late. 

Now, in this time of pandemic, you may be having your interview via Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. It’s best to set up your video chat rig ahead of time to make sure you don’t have any technical issues. Illuminate your face by setting up near a strong light source, such as a window or lamp, and make sure that the camera is positioned at eye level and perfectly perpendicular to the ground for the ideal perspective. The Verge has some great tips for raising your teleconfidence.

That takes care of the pre-game. Now, what do you need to know during the interview process?

Mind Your Body Language

It isn’t only through words that we communicate. We also convey meaning through our body language in what is referred to as non-verbal communication. How we conduct ourselves sends messages to the people evaluating us. Make sure that those messages are overwhelmingly positive. Start with a firm handshake, which exhibits your level of confidence. Make frequent eye contact, but keep it natural. It’s not a staring contest. Above all else, smile. Establish openness and candor, and keep yourself friendly and approachable. When seated, sit up straight. Slouching only makes you look disinterested. Lean slightly forward to display your attentiveness. Avoid crossing your arms or legs because this makes you look defensive, while fidgeting only projects your nervousness. Stop it. 

During conversation, make sure you listen to the person talking and do not interrupt. Nod to show you understand. When replying, keep a calm, even tone but modulate your voice to express excitement or to punctuate a point. 

One technique in establishing rapport is called mirroring, where you mimic the posture and gestures of the person you’re speaking to. Fremont College gives you a cheat sheet on how to interpret body language which you can use in guiding your actions and stance. 

Ask Questions

Do remember that an interview is a conversation, not a one-sided question and answer session. Prepare some insightful questions you can ask during the interview. Rehearse these, too, so you can dish them out during appropriate moments. This will project your interest and curiosity for the company. 

Take this opportunity also to ask probing questions on whether the workplace provides the appropriate environment, opportunities and benefits for women. Ask about female leadership roles in the company, as well as career advancement opportunities in store for you down the line. Knowing these will help you make the decision whether or not this is the right job for you.  

Leave a Lasting Post-Interview Impression

Let’s end this short guide with a crucial step which many job seekers tend to skip: what to do after the interview. It pays in spades to send your interviewer or HR recruiter an email or even a handwritten note thanking them for their time and for the chance to come in and pitch yourself. In the case you get a rejection notice, take the initiative and ask them how you could have done better. This gives you great feedback on how to up your game while giving the recruiter an even better impression of you. It’s keeping a door slightly open for you to enter in the future. Good luck!

 

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