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A Hijabi's Guide To Nailing An Interview

Posted on Mar 20, 2018
Alina Din

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Job interviews can be so nerve-wracking! But if you do a little prep beforehand, it can actually be an enjoyable and confidence-boosting experience. I know it may not seem possible now, but trust me on this! 

As a hijabi, you might have some concerns about religious discrimination, but rest easy because the law is on your side. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from failing to hire because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 2015, the Supreme Court sided with a Muslim woman who sued Abercrombie & Fitch for refusing to hire her because of her hijab. You are also absolutely within your rights to ask for a break schedule that will permit you to pray your daily prayers.

If you are uncomfortable with shaking hands with the opposite gender, you can notify your interviewer or the recruiter beforehand, stating that you are doing so in accordance with your religious faith. As long as it does not pose an unnecessary or undue hardship, they should be able to grant that for you. Alternatively, you can just put your hand on your heart, and say something like, “Please don’t be offended, but I don’t shake hands with the opposite gender in accordance with my faith.” Be personable about it, and it should be fine. 

Now, onto nailing the interview itself! Acing it is almost formulaic. Just remember the five R’s: Research, Rehearse, Revise, Refresh – and then, Rock it.

Research:

Read up on the company on LinkedIn, Wikipedia, watch videos on Youtube, and read through its own website. Take copious notes, and as you do, relate how your past experiences and skills augment the role you’re applying for there. Come up with an interesting list of questions to ask at the end to show how invested and engaged you are with the company, and make them as specific as you can to the company, because interviewers can usually sniff out the most generic ones instantly. The Muse  has excellent examples of top interview questions and how to answer them appropriately. It’s fine to take a notebook along with you and jot down notes during the interview. At the end of it, you can quickly scan through them as you formulate questions about the company and role.

Rehearse:

Practice interviewing in front of the mirror, then tape yourself doing a mock interview on your smartphone. Center your answers on how you can help the company and team with your skills, rather than just saying, “This job is a good fit for me because of x, y, and z.” As you practice, make sure you’re making good eye contact, are sitting up straight, and are keeping your answers direct and to the point.

Revise:

As you review your mock interview, catch where you tend to ramble or get stumped on a question. Revise your answers from there. Don’t focus on coming across too polished or perfect, because you still want to be genuine in your answers. Make sure your passion and enthusiasm for the role come through.

Refresh:

The night before the interview, look up directions to the location and give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes so you’re not scrambling for parking or getting lost or detoured on the way. Plan your outfit and have it ironed and ready to go for the interview the day before. Wear colors or prints that are flattering and help you feel confident. Print a few copies of your resume and keep them in a professional looking folder to take with you.

Rock it!

Watch this motivating TED talk about an instant posture trick that will boost your confidence immediately. Whether its a quick walk or sincere dua, do what you need to do beforehand to feel pumped and ready to rock your interview! Most importantly, allow yourself to relax! Remind yourself that you’ve done all you can do to best prepare for this interview, and leave the rest to Allah SWT.

As you speak to your interviewer, channel warmth and competence. These are two of the most important qualities of effective leaders. You want to convey your confidence and knowledge, but you don’t want to sacrifice your humanity by coming across too dry or impersonal, either. You want to show your background and preparation, but it is equally as important to show your personality – that which makes you, you. Your personality is your biggest asset you’re bringing to the table. It’s where your passions and values come to light, and is a chance to set yourself apart from a plethora of applicants who are all similar on paper. Own who you are, and your genuineness will shine through. Remember, you need to differentiate yourself from all the other candidates, and the way to do that is not through your resume, it's through what you have to offer the company

Interviews can be intimidating, but as long as you prepare mindfully, you will be ready to conquer your job search!

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