Interview Technique - Part One
While you spend as much time as you can on polishing up your resume, the final decider in whether or not you land a job is your interview. Most companies have a standard for personnel interaction which if you meet, then even if you are a bit under qualified for the job you may still be chosen over someone else who doesn't have the same interviewing skills.
How you project yourself in an interview is key to your success. It's like acting out a role in a play or giving a speech. The more comfortable you are with the content, having rehearsed a number of times, the more you can focus on responding to the conscious and subconscious needs of the interviewer. So point number one is practice your interview on your friends and family. Have them conduct some dummy interviews with all types of professional and personal questions. The objective is for you to give measured and pre-considered answers that show you to be confident and knowledgeable, and yet not come on too strong.
Most Western companies are looking for self-motivated and somewhat independent thinkers, and yet someone who understands the importance of team work and is willing to invest time and energy into their team relationships. Of course every company is different, but from my experience, foreign companies don't want to do a lot of interpersonal training, and prefer new staff to become productive within a couple of months - whereas most Japanese companies almost seem to want to "reprogram" the individual to think and act the company way - making those people more predictable. Therefore, for Western companies the personality you need to project is one of a confident (not too confident) individual with experience and with an understanding of how to get results.
How do you this? Well, first of all, gauge the atmosphere of the interviewing room. If it is largely undecorated and/or practical in nature, this often means that the company is very focused on getting results and is still in a growth phase. On the other hand, if the room is highly decorated then the company is more socially sensitive and probably has a high level of political interaction. For the first type of company you would want to show your results and previous experience in a straightforward manner, whereas for the second type of company, you would want to let the interviewer lead the conversation and be more careful about making strong statements.
Next is the interviewer. You have a few seconds to shift gears when you meet this person, to gauge what their personality is like. The first clue is of course whether they are foreign or Japanese. If foreign and from a pioneering nation (US, Australia, Canada), generally you can relax and open up. If foreign and from a historical nation (i.e., many places in Europe) you probably want to be a bit more formal, but make sure that your interview touches on your capabilities and achievements. If the person is Japanese, drop your Western persona completely and remember that there can be strict rules for interaction. Never be over-confident in front of a Japanese interviewer - this will be a sure black mark against you.
So, am I saying that you might have to project two totally different personalities if you're in different interviews? If you're bilingual, absolutely. What if you have a Westerner and Japanese in the same room? Then change gears there and then. An intelligent interviewer will recognize what you are doing and give you high marks for being multicultural.
Lastly, a reminder not to forget the basics for your interview: such as getting there on time, making sure you're dressed well, and packing a handkerchief if you sweat under pressure. These may seem like obvious points, but it is surprising how many people don't observe them.