How to improve your performance at interviews [Back to Article]  





The short time you spend at a job interview could have a dramatic effect on YOUR career prospects. It is therefore important that you perform well because no matter how good your career record is to-date, the employment interview remains an important step towards fulfillment of your ambitions. These hints, combined with the guidance provided by our consultants, will equip you with valuable information on how to conduct yourself during interviews with prospective employers.

 Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Why did you choose this particular role? What do you really want to do in your next career move?

  • Why would you like to work for our organization?

  • What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now? Why?

  • What was the size of your last salary review/bonus?

  • What style of management gets the best from you?

  • What interests you about our products or services?

  • Can you get recommendations from previous employers? What would they say about you?

  • What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held? Which did you enjoy most? Why?

  • What have you done that shows initiative in your career?

  • What is your major weakness? What have you done about it?

  • What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?

  • Are you willing to relocate?

  • How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?

  • What does “teamwork” mean to you?

  • Have you saved any money? What entrepreneurial activities have you been engaged in?

  • What type of books do you read? What was the last one?

 Negative factors to watch for:

During the course of an interview, the employer will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes. Listed below are negative factors frequently evaluated during the course of an interview and those that most often lead to rejection.

  • Poor personal appearance.

  • Overbearing - aggressive - conceited “superiority complex” - “know-it-all”.

  • Inability to express thoughts clearly - poor diction or grammar.

  • Lack of planning for career - no purpose or goals.

  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm - passive and indifferent.

  • Lack of confidence - nervousness.

  • Over-emphasis on money - interested only in remuneration.

  • Evasive - makes excuses for unfavorable factors in record.

  • Lack of tact/maturity/courtesy.

  • Condemnation of past employers.

  • Failure to look interviewer in the eye.

  • Limp, fishy handshake.

  • Lack of appreciation of the value of experience.

  • Failure to ask good questions about the job and company. This is most important!

  • Persistent attitude of “What can you do for me?”

  • Lack of preparation for interview - failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions.

Preparation for the Interview:

Preparation is the first essential step towards a successful interview. Company interviewers are continually amazed at the number of applicants who drift into their offices without any apparent preparation and only a vague idea of what they are going to say. Thus, it is important to:

  • Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name and title and the correct pronunciation.

  • Find out specific facts about the company - where its plants, offices or stores are located; what its products and services are; what its growth has been; and what its growth potential is for the future. Most companies have information about their corporate history on the internet.

  • All are available in the public library. A brokerage office or your bank may also be able to supply you with pertinent information.

  • Refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your PRESENT/FORMER employer. You will be expected to know a lot about a company that you have previously worked for.

  • Prepare the questions you will ask during the interview. Remember that an interview is a “two-way street”. The employer will try to determine, through questioning, if you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. You must determine, through questioning, whether the company will give you the opportunity for the growth and development you seek.

Probing questions you might ask:

  • A detailed description of the position?

  • Reason the position is available?

  • Culture of company?

  • Anticipated induction and training program?

  • What sort of people have done well?

  • Advance training program available for those who demonstrate outstanding ability?

  • Earnings of those successful people in their third to fifth year?

  • Company growth plans?

  • Best-selling products or services?

  • The next step?

  • Dress conservatively and preferably in darker colors. Pay attention to all facets of your dress and grooming.

The Interview:

You are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody - not because he/she wants to trip you up or embarrass you. Through the interaction which will take place during the interview, he/she will be searching out your strong and weak points, evaluating you on your qualifications, skills and intellectual qualities and he/she will probably probe deeply to determine your attitudes, aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity.

Some “do's” and “don'ts” concerning the interview....

The Do's

  • DO plan to arrive on time or a few minutes early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.

  • If presented with an application, DO fill it out neatly and completely. If you have a personal resume, be sure the person you release it to is the person who will actually do the hiring.

  • DO greet the interviewer by his/her surname if you are sure of the pronunciation. If you are not, ask them to repeat their name.

  • DO shake hands firmly.

  • DO wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair, look alert and interested at all times. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile.

  • DO look a prospective employer in the eye while you talk to him/her.

  • DO follow the interviewer’s leads but try to get the interviewer to describe the position and the duties to you early in the interview so that you can relate your background and skills to the position.

  • DO make sure that your good points get across to the interviewer in a factual, sincere manner. Keep in mind that you alone can sell yourself to an interviewer. Make him/her realize the need for you in his/her organization. Smile.

  • DO be prepared to answer typical questions like:

  • What kind of job are you looking for?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What are you really good at?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • What have you done about addressing them?

  • What do you know about our company?

  • Why did you choose your particular career?

  • What are your qualifications? Smile.

  • DO always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on opportunity. It is better to be in the position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.

The Don'ts

  • DON'T smoke even if the interviewer smokes and offers you a cigarette.

  • DON'T answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Explain whenever possible. Tell those things about yourself which relate to the position.

  • DON'T lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as to the point as possible.

  • DON'T ever make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers or companies.

  • DON'T "over answer" a question. The interviewer may steer the conversation into politics or economics. Since this can be ticklish, it is best to answer the questions honestly, and try not to say more than is necessary.

  • DON'T inquire about SALARY, HOLIDAYS, BONUSES, etc. at the initial interview unless you are positive the employer is interested in hiring you and raises the issue first. However you should know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.

Closing the Interview:

  • If you are interested in the position, ask for it. Ask for the next interview if the situation demands. If he/she offers the position to you, and you want it, accept on the spot. If you wish some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date when you can provide an answer.

  • Don’t be too discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with his/her colleague first or interview more applicants before making a decision.

  • If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and that you have already been rejected, don’t let your discouragement show. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction.

  • Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you. If you have answered the two questions uppermost in his/her mind, i.e.:

- Why are you interested in the job and the company?

- What can you offer and can you do the job?

then you have done all you can. Smile.

After the Interview:

Last, and most important, call the consultant at Executive Connections who referred you to the position immediately after the interview and explain what happened. He/She will want to talk with you before the interviewer calls him/her back. If you are interested in progressing further it will assist if your feelings towards the position are known, together with your perception of what the client’s reaction is likely to be.

It is a good idea to send a note of thanks to the interviewer for the interview opportunity concisely noting what your interest and ability to do the job would be.





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