One of the most thrilling stages of a job application is an interview. Especially if you are going to get a new job or be promoted and you have a lot of competitors applying for the same opening.
Hereby is some advice on how to prepare for an interview and what are the most common questions asked.
Research the company and the assumed job
Prior to the interview, doing your research is important. You need to know as much as you can regarding products, services, customers, even who the competition is, as this will provide an edge in knowledge and being able to address the company requirements. The more knowledge you have about the company, the higher your chances of selling yourself for the position during the interview. Also, knowing the culture of the company will provide great insight into how satisfied you will be with the job.
Get help from others, if necessary
There are some valuable resources that can help you along your way to ask for help:
Find a friend who is also preparing for a job interview. Interview each other so that you get comfortable with the verbal and social aspects of the interview. You can also tell each other your anecdotal stories examples of your strengths, etc. that you're considering for the interview. Ask him or her what each story portrays about you, and use the feedback to choose the ones that best represent the parts of yourself that you want to illustrate and "sell" nicely to the interviewer.
Seek out experts. Find yourself a mentor and/or alumni from your university currently working in your desired career. Talk to them and get an inside scoop. Ask for advice, find out how it works from within and what employers might want to hear.
Practice some questions you might be asked and you might ask the interviewer
Interviews are not always the same format, and they do not have to follow a certain style, but there are certain questions that can be expected. It will help if you practice giving your answer to the more common questions asked in interviews, these regard personal strengths and weaknesses, and why you are the best for the position.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately
First impressions can break or make any relation, including with the interviewer. You will be judged from the moment you arrive at the door. If you reached this point, you have hopefully done company research already and have an understanding of their culture, what they expect, and if they have a dress code. If you under-dress, you can appear to be too relaxed and doesn’t take things seriously. However, overdressing can be perceived as overcompensation. If you were not able to find dress code information, it’s best to dress sharply, but not overdressed.
Make sure that you are well-rested and feel comfortable prior to the interview. It’s much harder to deal with any stressful situation when you are tired.
Make sure that none of your gadgets are going to disturb you during the interview. Turn off your phone’s sound and even vibration.
Remain respectful, professional, and confident
Don't act nervous, tapping fingers, wagging your legs, or wringing your hands (crossing ankles or arms is considered defensive/in a standoff), nor sitting stiffly as a statue, but also not flopping around like you're lazy (silly or too relaxed). If you're asked to answer a case (what if...) question, talk through the process you would use, in such a case. Don't be afraid to ask whether your ideas sound thorough enough—you'll be evaluated on your ability to structure your thinking and to share your thoughts well, not on the number of questions you ask. In fact, talking through your process is a great way to engage the interviewer and turn the interview into more of a give and take discussion. This can give you valuable clues and a guide to what they want to know (so you can show how you can fulfill their needs). If you need anything clarified, don't be afraid to ask. You'll do better if you know exactly what is being asked of you. Don't ask a question every few seconds, or you'll sound confused (you want to show that you have good motivation toward what's good, reasonable, and logical).
Some candidates think using techniques to avoid difficult questions is a good thing, but if you simply don’t believe you have a strong skill, just let the interviewer know rather than answering with examples that do not relate to the position. It appears better to be honest that you may not have that certain skill, but have skills related, and that you would be glad to list them.
If you need anything clarified, don't be afraid to ask.
Think of all the talent you have and how to represent in a short non-bragging manner
You can say you can do something, but being able to provide examples of you doing these things is entirely different. You should “come with your toolbox filled with examples of prior work achievements. You need to be prepared for the recruiter’s questions and to anticipate them based on job position requirements. Consider examples with strong strategies used, and answer with details rather than generalities. For instance, say “Yes, that is something I have done previously. Here is an example.” You may also ask the interviewer “Did that help answer your question?”
SOME MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
1. Tell me about yourself
This is a common question during an interview, possibly the most asked. It is used as an icebreaker, gets you talking about something comfortable, but you need to have something prepared for a response. However, you don’t want it to sound memorized. The fact is, the interviewer isn’t interested in your life story. Unless asked otherwise, focus on education, your career, and present situations. You should work chronologically, starting as far back as possible and working until the present.
My name is John Sailor, I’m from Isle of Man, UK. I have an engineering degree from City Maritime Academy. Since my graduation, I worked as a Duty Engineer on different kinds of ships, including container carriers, cutter suction dredgers, offshore supply vessels. Presently I’m looking for new opportunities with a tanker fleet.
2. What field experience do you have as a Deck Officer / Engineer Officer?
Speak about specifics that relate to the position you are applying for. If you do not have specific experience, get as close as you can.
If you are being asked this question by your employer then you can explain your experience. Tell the employer what responsibilities you were performing during your job. You can tell what ships you were sailing on, which ports and areas you visited and which duties you were performing there.
For the last two years, I have been working for “Good Containers” in the capacity of 3rd Mate on different vessels. My main sailing areas were the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the US West Coast. Onboard I was responsible for a navigational watch, inspections, and maintenance of firefighting equipment and lifesaving appliances. Also, I assisted the Chief Officer with ballast and cargo operations.
3. What have you done to improve your professional skills and knowledge in the last year?
Try to include improvement activities that relate to the job. A wide variety of activities can be mentioned as positive self-improvement. Have some good ones handy to mention.
Employers look for applicants who are goal-oriented. Show a desire for continuous learning by listing the skills you are working on. Regardless of what you choose to showcase, remember that the goal is to prove self-sufficiency, time management, and motivation.
Last year I spent on a DP II class vessel with azimuthal thrusters. I studied more about electrical propulsion, power management, and distribution. Also, I gained some hands-on experience with maneuvering on this kind of vessels. In addition, I started to learn more about the maintenance and troubleshooting of a DP system.
4. Tell me about your ability to work under pressure?
You may say that you thrive under certain types of pressure. Give an example that relates to the type of position applied for.
Mention routine pressure you face, such as dealing with deadlines on a regular basis.
Try not to use an example where you created the pressure yourself, by waiting too long to start something, or by handling a task irresponsibly at the beginning. For example, working under pressure to meet a customer’s deadline could be a good example, but not if you had waited too long to start the project.
The pressure is actually a catalyst for my work. When there is an imperative deadline, I refocus my energy on current goals, which in fact, has helped me to show better results. Last time that happened during vessel preparation for dry-docking and corresponding class and flag audits. I would say that doing a specific job with firm time limits helps me to develop professionally.
5. Why do you believe we should hire you?
This question needs to be carefully answered as it is your opportunity to stick out from the rest of the applicants. You should focus on the skills that you have, including those not yet mentioned. Simply responding “because I’m really good” or “I really need a job” isn’t going to work. You shouldn’t assume the skills of other applicants or their strengths, focus on yourself. Tell the interviewer why you are a good fit for the position, what makes you a good employee and what you can provide the company. Keep it brief while highlighting achievements.
I assume that I have appropriate skills and experience for that position, as I’m familiar with Q-flex systems and different types of LNG vessels. I’m goal-oriented and open to learning. I can work efficiently either as a part of a team or individually. <
6. What knowledge do you have about the company?
You should do your research prior to the interview. Look into the background history of the company, this will help you stick out. Check the latest media news on the company. The interviewer doesn’t expect you to know dates and certain people, but showing that you have enough interest to research the company is a positive impression.
As far as I know, Pineapple Carriers is the second biggest player in the refrigerated cargo marine transportation market. I recently acquired Banana carriers and has a joint fleet of 30 vessels and it continues to grow dynamically. I also was really positively impressed with the safety results published online in the recent annual report. It looks like a good and stable company to work for.
7. Why are you leaving your last job?
Although this would seem like a simple question, it can easily become tricky. You shouldn’t mention salary being a factor at this point. If you’re currently employed, your response can focus on developing and expanding your career and even yourself. If your current employer is downsizing, remain positive and brief. If your employer fired you, prepare a solid reason. Under no circumstance should you discuss any drama or negativity, always remain positive.
I want to widen my expertise with a new company (a new kind of vessels). I see more possibilities to grow professionally with this particular fleet type.
8. What do you consider to be your best strength?
This question allows you to brag on yourself, but keep in mind that the interviewer wants strengths relative to the position. For example, being a problem solver, a motivator, and being able to perform under pressure, positive attitude and loyal. You will also need examples that back your answers up for illustration of the skill.
My best strength, I guess, is an ability to be short and precise on the task, satisfying given time margins and quality demands.
9. What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?
This can be a tricky question to respond to, if you suggest you have no weaknesses you’re going to appear as a lair or egotistical. You should respond realistically by mentioning small work-related weaknesses. Although many try to answer using a positive skill in disguise as a weakness, like “I expect co-workers to have the same commitment” or “I am a perfectionist”. However, it is recommended that there is some honesty and the weaknesses are true, and then emphasize on how you have overcome it or working to improve it. The purpose of this question is to see how you view and evaluate yourself.
I’m a very technical person, I deal with numbers better than with words. Sometimes it is hard for me to hold a public speech or something like that. However, to get over it, I try to act as a speaker during drills and training under the chief mate’s supervision.
10. What do you see yourself doing in five years?
This is another question looking towards job commitment. Some people go through jobs like socks because they don’t have a life plan, and your answer can show insight into this. It can also be used for finding out if you are the type that sets goals at all in life because those that make long-term goals are usually more reliable. Also, your goals can provide insight into your personality too.
You should respond with an answer that shows progression in your career is on track with your route in the company. It’s important to do your research on company prospects, this way you understand what to expect and if it’s in your long-term goal. Interviewers don’t want to set you on a path that won’t provide the results you want, resulting in you resigning.
In five years I see myself as a Chief Officer on a modern vessel with a well-developed company.
11. What are your salary expectations?
This question is like a loaded gun, tricky and dangerous if you’re not sure what you are doing. It’s not uncommon for people to end up talking salary before really selling their skills, but knowledge is power as this is a negotiation after all. Again, this is an area where doing your research will be helpful as you will have an understanding of the average salary.
One approach is asking the interviewer about the salary range, but to avoid the question entirely, you can respond that money isn’t a key factor and you’re goal is to advance in your career. However, if you have a minimum figure in mind and you believe you’re able to get it, you may find it worth trying.
12. Do you have any questions?
It is common for this question to be asked every time, and you should have questions ready. By asking questions you are able to show that you have enough interest to do some research and that you want to learn all that you can. You should limit the questions to no more than three or four.
You can try asking questions that focus on areas where you can be an asset.
If I accepted for the job, what kind of specific training I might need to take prior to joining the vessel, and what is a new personnel familiarization routine in the company?