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Tips on how to be Successful at Interview

There is no magic formula on winning an interview, but there are a number of basic skills and do's and don'ts. I say win and it is just that. There are winners and losers - the whole purpose of this is to make sure that you are going to be a winner and have something that will make you stand out from the other candidates.

What is an Interview?

It is a two way process - the potential employer learning about you and vice versa. They will find out a lot from not only the answers given to their questions, but also what kind of questions you ask and opinions you hold.

Therefore, before going for an interview of any kind you have to spend quite a bit of time getting your act together. You have to know why you have chosen the particular job, and find out as much as possible about the employer. Search the Net, and/or go to the library. In today's world of mass communication, there is no excuse for lack of research.

Above all you must go to any interview with the sole intention of being offered a position. Too many candidates during the course of an interview give too much consideration to whether they want the job or whether they are suited to it. Do not give the interviewer the opportunity to exclude you by excluding yourself. Once you have an offer, you can then say yes or no.

Preparing for your Interview

Preparation for you interview is vital. Most interviews are won during the first 3-5 minutes - Chemistry, vibes etc. You can have all the qualifications imaginable, but you must come across at an interview. There are just a few crucial questions that occur again and again at interviews:-

1. "Tell me about yourself"

This is where you have the stage for just three minutes so you have to rehearse your response.

Stage 1 Write down as you did in your C.V. your past history, write it as a story.

Stage 2 Rewrite it several times as though you were actually talking it through and make it last for three minutes no 2.5 or 3.5, but three! Add one line at the end like: "Can I expand anything in more depth for you?" or: "Is there anything in more detail you wish to know?"

Stage 3 Read it aloud to someone else and modify it according to their response, then tape it and learn it. Stage 4 Once you know your script then put some mannerisms and actions into it so the whole thing comes alive - BE YOURSELF. Relax, and smile, add just a little humour into it and remember the last line or something similar, which invites the interviewer back into the interview.

2. "Why did you leave your last job, or why are you looking for another?"

Rehearse your answers so you are not caught out. Remember, do not tell untruths that can be checked. If you state something make sure you know your subject as the interviewer might well have an Olympic Gold Medal in it!

Always be positive, any negative things that may have happened to you - turn them into something positive.

No one can predict the exact questions that an interviewer will ask, but to prepare, think about how you would answer the following questions:

  • Review your past positions, education and other strengths.
  • What do you know about our organisation? If you've done your research correctly, you should have no problem answering this one. Be positive.
  • Why are you interested in this position? Relate how you feel your qualifications really match the requirements of the job. Also, express your desire to work for that company.
  • What are the most significant accomplishments in your career so far? Pick recent accomplishments that relate to this position and its requirements.
  • Describe a situation in which your work was criticised. Focus on how you solved the situation and how you became a better person because of it.
  • How would you describe your personality?
  • How do you perform under pressure?
  • What have you done to improve yourself over the past year?
  • What did you like least about your last position?
  • What is your ideal working environment?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?
  • What do you think of your boss?
  • Have you ever fired anyone? What was the situation and how did you handle it?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What kind of salary are you looking for? What other types of jobs/companies are you considering?
Prepare answers on paper to any possible questions that may come up and by doing this will hopefully lodge in your mind if the question arises. Never be afraid to say 'I don't know'.

General Rules for Interviews

1. Background Information

Do your homework on the Company. Names of top people, director's etc.

Obtain product information and a set of accounts, which will give you the size and feel of the business etc.

Make sure you plan how you will get to the interview - do a dummy run if at all possible. Allow time to go to the loo and freshen yourself up - make sure you arrive for the appointment early, but enter on time.

2. Prepare your Questions

Write on a small card any questions you want answered - make sure you have at least three good questions - at least when you are asked you are well prepared - you have to stand out from the other candidates.

Sample questions could include:
  • Why is this position available?
  • What type of training will be offered to the person in this position?
  • What obstacles must be overcome for the person in this position to succeed?
  • What are your goals for this position?
  • How will my performance be evaluated?
  • What opportunities are there for growth in the next 12 months? Two years? Five years?
  • What growth do you anticipate in the next 12 months?
Do not ask what the salary is, what is the pension, and what holidays do you get.

Your only job at the interview is to win it - they will offer you the position if you are a winner and you then know that they want you and we can negotiate salaries, terms etc.

Take the following along with you, to the interview:
  1. Job specification
  2. Your letter calling you for interview (if appropriate)
  3. Your C.V. (Two copies in case they want another one)
  4. Copy of your application form (if appropriate)
  5. Diary, pen, pencil, small pad or notebook
  6. Newspaper - a good quality one. Make sure that you cannot get caught out, and that it is your regular paper. A newspaper can lead you into any conversation so make the utmost use of it - you can arguer and express yourself against articles in newspapers.
  7. Name of interviewers.
Do not take notes at an, unless you get agreement first and then only note something that is vital.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Relax
  • Arrive 15 minutes early. Late attendance is never excusable. If you are running later, call them, apologise and ask if it will still be convenient for them to see you, offer to come back later if not.
  • Clarify questions. Be sure you answered the questions the employer really asked.
  • Get the interviewer to describe the position and responsibilities early in the conversation, so you can relate your skills and background to the position throughout the interview.
  • Give your qualifications. Stress the accomplishments that are most pertinent to the job.
  • Conduct yourself professionally. Be aware of what your body language is saying. Smile, make eye contact, don't slouch and maintain composure.
  • Anticipate tough questions. Prepare in advance so you can turn apparent weaknesses into strengths.
  • Dress appropriately. Make your first impression a professional one.
  • Ask questions throughout the interview. An interview should be a mutual exchange of information, not a one - sided conversation.
  • Listen. This probably the most important ability of all. By concentrating not only on the employer's words, but also on the tone of voice and body language, you will be able to pick up on the employer's style. Once you understand how a hiring authority thinks, pattern your answers accordingly and you will be able to relate better to him or her.
  • Be positive and alive.
  • Stand up when you are introduced to someone.
  • Be polite.
  • Sit up straight, do not lounge around, but your posture must be relaxed.
  • Talk face to face - eyeball to eyeball with the interviewer.
  • Sort your hands out - practice what you are going to do with them.
  • Try to talk to the receptionist or secretary if at all possible - their opinion is often asked.
  • Remember you are being interviewed as soon as you walk in the door - in the reception, loo, on the stairs, everywhere.
  • Be enthusiastic, not sleepy; speak up so the interviewer can hear your reply to questions. Before leaping in with an answer, just consider it for a moment before replying - DO NOT RUSH.
  • Try to find out as much as possible about the job - where you will fit in etc...
Do not:
  • Answer vague questions. Rather than answering questions you think you hear, get the employer to be more specific and then respond.
  • Never interrupt the employer. If you don't have time to listen, neither does the employer.
  • Don't smoke, chew gum or place anything on the employer's desk.
  • Don't be overly familiar, even if the employer is doing all of these things.
  • Don't wear heavy perfume or cologne.
  • Don't ramble. Long answers often make the speaker sound apologetic or indecisive.
  • On the other hand, don't answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no". Explain whenever possible.
  • Fiddle and fidget around.
  • Keep running your hands through your hair - let the interview see your face.
  • Hesitate when asked 'Tea or Coffee?'. Be positive - 'Coffee please, white 1 sugar' or whatever.
  • Say too much, but say enough!
  • Tell them about any problems - you have none! Be positive. Try to find out their problems and then you can tell them how your experience can help them.
If the interview is running late or is constantly interrupted with 'phone calls', offer to come back at a more convenient time - you must make sure that you get a fair hearing.

Closing the Interview

Too many people second - guess themselves after an interview. By closing strongly and asking the right questions, you can eliminate the post-interview doubts that tend to plague most interviewees.

If you feel that the interview went well and you would like to take the next step, express your interest to the hiring authority and turn the tables a bit. Try something like the following:
  • After hearing more about your company, the position and the responsibilities at hand, I am certain that I possess the qualities that you are looking for in the (title) position. Based on our conversation and my qualifications, are there any issues or concerns that you have that would lead you to believe otherwise?"
You have a right to be assertive. This is a great closing question because it opens the door for the hiring authority to be honest with you about his or her feelings. If concerns do exist, this is a great opportunity to overcome them. You have one final chance to dispel the concerns, well your strengths and end the interview on a positive note.

A few things to remember during the closing process:
  • Don't be discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with the office first, or interview other applicants, before making a decision.
  • Make sure you answer the following two questions: "why are you interested in the company?" and "what can you offer?"
  • Express thanks for the interviewer's time and consideration.
  • Ask for the interviewers business card so you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible.

Immediately after the interview, make notes of anything you may have overlooked and note the questions where you may have struggled with the answers. Think of the qualifications the employer is looking for and match your strengths to them.

Make sure you are fully aware of the next stage after your interview. When and how will they contact you (via me), how many will be shortlisted for another interview, when will that be, what do they see as the first priority, how quickly do they want someone on board etc…

Immediately after the interview, write a follow up letter to the interviewer, thanking them for your meeting, listing the primary job tasks as you understand it and how you can meet those tasks. You would welcome a second interview etc. - not too long - try to make it a page.


As stated previously, most interviewers are won during the first 3-5 minutes. What you have to do, in order to be different and so they remember you out of all the other candidates, is hold their concentration for more than the magic 3-5 minutes. Each minute after is a bonus.

The chemistry between you, the candidate, and the interviewer is most important - you must get on and it is you who has to compromise in order to win the interview.

I hope these notes will give you a few ideas on how to be a winner. The main thing is to rehearse, act out the interviews with your friends, partner, or even the mirror!

Finally, always give me a call at the earliest opportunity after the interview to give me your feedback, and comments about the interview.

Good luck!

40 Interview Questions You Should Be Prepared To Answer These are some typical questions you may be asked in an interview. You should prepare answers, and where possible, short examples of accomplishments to illustrate your answers, and thus your value to a company. You always want to talk about your benefits and features, as if you were a product. After all, you are "selling" your skills and abilities!
  1. What are you looking for in your next position?
  2. Why do you want to leave your present position? / Why did you leave your last position?
  3. Why did you leave the other positions you have held?
  4. Why do you want to work for our company?
  5. What do you know about our company?
  6. What other companies are you/have you interviewing/interviewed with?
  7. Tell me about yourself.
  8. How would you describe your present/last company?
  9. If you had your choice of a job in any company, what type of job and company would you choose?
  10. In your last position, what did you like most, and what did you dislike most? Why?
  11. What would you say are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  12. If you could start your career over, what would you do differently?
  13. Would you say you are a good manager? Why?
  14. What is your management style?
  15. What did you like most/least about your last/recent supervisor/boss?
  16. What are your short/long-range objectives/goals?
  17. Where do you want to be in 5/10 years?
  18. What would you say are the five biggest accomplishments in your career/life? Why?
  19. How do you get along with your co-workers/supervisor?
  20. How would you describe your personality?
  21. How would you benefit our company the most?
  22. Do you know anyone working for our company?
  23. Have you ever prepared/managed a budget? How large?
  24. Have you ever had P&L responsibility? Describe the scope.
  25. How well do you know this industry? What do you know about our industry?
  26. Have you hired anyone? Have you trained anyone? Have you managed/supervised anyone?
  27. What are you looking for in a company?
  28. What are some challenges that you have successfully met? How?
  29. How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
  30. How did you get your previous positions?
  31. What did you learn most from your previous position(s)?
  32. Why did you choose this particular field of work?
  33. What do you think determines a person's progress in a company? How do you meet these criteria?
  34. Do you prefer working by yourself or with others?
  35. What makes you feel successful? Define success.
  36. How do you take criticism/instruction?
  37. How would people who know you describe you? How would your worst enemy describe you?
  38. Tell me about a failure and how you handled it.
  39. How do you approach a problem? How do you handle complaints?
  40. What do you offer this company? Why should I/we hire you?
  41. If you are told they are going to interview other candidates, respond with: "I don't know who else you are interviewing, and I'm sure there are many qualified candidates. However, I can guarantee you that no one else will put forth more effort with more enthusiasm, drive and initiative than I will."

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