Ingredients for a Successful Interview

The thirty minutes to an hour that you spend with an interview may determine your entire future.

A Successful job interview is an indispensable step toward fulfilment of your ambitions.


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

1. Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer's full name (how to pronounce it) and title.


2. 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.

There are many internet sites providing this kind of information.


3. Prepare the questions you will ask during the interview.

Remember that an interview is a "two-way street".

The interviewer 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.


4. Probing questions you might ask include:

a) Is there a detailed position description available?

b) Why has the position become available?

c) Does the company have an induction and training program?

d) Are there advanced training programs for those who demonstrate outstanding ability?

e) What is the earning potential of those successful people in their third to fifth year?

f) What are the company's growth plans?

g) What is the next step in the selection process?


5. Dress in an acceptable business style (avoid casual clothes unless this is the company culture). Pay attention to all facets of your dress and grooming.


During the Interview.

You are being interviewed because the company wants to hire somebody. There is no intention to trip you up or embarrass you.


Through the interaction which will take place during the interview, your strong and weak points will be drawn out, the interviewer will also be evaluating you and your qualifications, skills and intellectual abilities. Your aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity will also all be assessed.


Some "Do's & Don'ts" concerning the interview:

  • 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 form, DO fill it out neatly and completely. If you have a personal resume, be sure the person to who you release it is actually the 'decision maker' regarding your appointment.
  • Do greet the interviewer by his or her name if you are sure of the pronunciation. If you are not, ask the receptionist to clarify and repeat the name.
  • Do shake hands firmly.
  • Do wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit up in your chair, look alert and interested at all times be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile.
  • Do look the interviewer in the eye during the discussion.
  • Do follow the interviewer's leads but try to get them to describe the position and the duties early in the interview, so you can relate your background and skills to the position.
  • Do show an appropriate level of assertiveness. Shyness or introverted body language are not traits of successful salespeople.
  • 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 a position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.
  • 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. Impress upon the interviewer the benefits you will have to offer the organization.
  • Do be prepared to answer typical questions like:
    a. What kind of job are you looking for?
    b. What are your strengths?
    c. What are your weaknesses?
    d. What do you know about our company?
    e. Why did you choose your particular vocation
    f. What are your qualifications?
  • 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 "to the point" as possible.
  • Don't ever make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers of companies.
  • Don't "over answer" questions. The interviewer may steer the conversation into politics or economics. Since this can be ticklish it is best to answer the questions honestly, trying not to say any more than is necessary.
  • Don't enquire about salary, holidays, bonuses, retirement etc on the initial interview unless you are positive the employer is interested in hiring you. However, you should know your market value and be prepared to specific your required salary range.


Closing the Interview

  • If you are interested in the position, ask for it or ask for the next interview if the situation demands. If the position is offered to you and you want it, accept it on the spot. If you want 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 or her office first or interview more applicants before making a final 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 spending time with you. If you have answered the two questions uppermost in the mind of the interviewer: Why are you interested in the company? What you can offer?

Then you have done all you can.

Negative Factors

During the interview the employer will be evaluating your negative aspects as well as your positive aspects. Listed below are some negative aspects that may be evaluated during your interview. These often lead to you not getting that job.


1. Poor personal appearance, lack of poise.

2. Overbearing - over aggressive - conceited "superiority complex" - "know it all".

3. Inability to express thoughts clearly - poor dictation or grammar.

4. Lack of planning for your career - no ambition or personal goals.

5. Lack of confidence and poise, very nervousness.

6. Over-emphasis on the amount of money you want to earn - interested only in best dollar offer.

7. Evasive - makes excuses for unfavourable factors in record.

8. Lack of tack, immaturity, discourtesy.

9. Criticism of past employers.

10. Failure to make eye contact with the interviewer.

11. A weak handshake.

12. Lack of appreciation of the value of experience.

13. Failure to ask questions about the job.

14. An attitude of "What can you do for me".

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

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

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.


Even if you don't ask any questions during an interview, many employers will ask you if you have any. How you respond will affect their evaluation of you. So be prepared to ask insightful questions about the organisation.


Probing questions you might ask include:

a) Is there a detailed position description available?

b) Why has the position become available?

c) Does the company have an induction and training program?

d) Are there advanced training programmes for those who demonstration outstanding ability?

e) What is the earning potential of those successful people in their third to fifth year?

f) What are the company's growth plans?

g) What is the next step in the selection process?


Generally, it is most unwise to ask about pay or benefits or other similar areas early in the interview process. The reason for this is that it tends to make you seem more interested in what the organisation can do for you instead of the benefits you bring. It is also not a good idea to simply have no questions at all. Doing so makes you appear passive rather than curious and interested.

Be Prepared to answer questions like…

1. Why did you choose this particular vocation?

2. Why would you like to work for our company?

3. What was the size of your last salary increase?

4. What job in our company do you want to work towards?

5. What do you know about our company?

6. What interested you about our product or service?

7. Can you get recommendations from previous employers?

8. What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?

9. What have you done which shows initiative and willingness to work?

10. What is your major weaknesses?

11. What do you think determines a person's progress in a company?

12. Are you willing to relocate?

13. Have you been in a situation where you have had to deal with people in both more or less senior positions? Tell me about it.

14. Why did you leave your last position?

15. What are the qualities do you look for in a manager?


Examples of basic interview questions:

1. Tell me something about yourself?

Keep your answer to one or two minutes; don't ramble. Use your resume summary as a base to start.


2. What do you know about our company?

Do your homework before the interview! Spend some time online or at the library researching the company. Find out as much as you can, including products, size, income, reputation, image, management talent, people, skills, history and philosophy. Project an informed interest; let the interviewer tell you about the company. Download a selection of the company web pages and allow the interviewer to see these. (shows you have invested in learning more about the opportunity)


3. Why do you want to work for us?

Don't talk about what you want; first, talk about their needs: You would like to be part of a specific company project; you would like to solve a company problem; you can make a definite contribution to specific company goals.


4. What would you do for us?

What can you do for us that someone else can't? Relate past experiences that show you've had success in solving previous employer problem(s) that may be similar to those of the prospective employer.


5. What about the job offered do you find the most attractive? Least attractive?

List three or more attractive factors. Do not discuss the least attractive, say you need more insight into the role before you can answer the question, then ask a question about the role.


6. Why should we hire you?

Less than 2 minutes, demonstrate your knowledge, experience, abilities and skills.


7. What do you look for in a job?

Relate your response specifically to the opportunity.


8. Please give me your definition of a .... (the position for which you are being interviewed).

Keep it brief - give an actions- and results-oriented definition.


9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?

This depend on your level of experience. If you are familiar with the role explain your action plan to become profitable. You expect only a brief period of adjustment to the learning curve.


No experience. Ask how long it takes the average new start to become profitable. Follow up with a question relating to what the successful people did and let the interviewer know that you will follow all the guidelines and be ahead of the average.


10. How long would you stay with us?

Similar to, “As long as we both feel I'm contributing, achieving, growing, etc”.


Examples of tough interview questions:

1. How has your personal background (upbringing, schooling) influenced what you are today, your career progression, and your management/people style?


2. How do you define success? How "successful" have you been?


3. What mistakes have you made during your career?


4. What is the most adverse situation you have had to deal with in your personal or professional life? How did you deal with it? What was the outcome?


5. What is the difference between a good position and an excellent one?



Questions relating to your work habits and style

1. If I spoke with your previous boss, what would he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Emphasise skills and willingness. Don't be overly negative about your weaknesses; it's always safer to identify a lack of a skill as an area for improvement rather than a shortcoming.


2. Can you work under pressures, deadlines, etc.?

Yes, it's a way of life in business.


3. How have you changed the nature of your job?

Improved it ... of course.


4. Do you prefer staff or line work? Why?

Depends on the job and its challenges.


5. In your present position, what problems have you identified that had previously been overlooked?

Keep it brief and don't brag.


6. Don't you feel you might be better off in a different size company? Different type of company?

Depends on the role - elaborate slightly about your fit for the role and company..


7. How do you resolve conflict within a team?

First you discuss the issues privately. Confront the conflict and agree a way forward that works for both parties.


8. Tell me about the most difficult decision you ever had to make?

Try to relate your response to the prospective employment situation.


Salary questions

1. How much are you looking for?

Answer with a question, i.e., "What is the salary range for similar jobs in your company?" If they don't answer, then give a range of what you understand you are worth in the marketplace.


2. How much do you expect, if we offer this position to you?

Be careful; the market value of the job may be the key answer, e.g., "My understanding is that a job like the one you're describing may be in the range of $______."


3. What kind of salary do you think you are worth?

Have a specific figure in mind ... don't be hesitant.


Personality questions

1. Do you generally speak to people before they speak to you?

Depends on the circumstances.


2. What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended?

Talk about books, sports or films to show that you have balance in your life.


3. What is the toughest part of a job for you?

Be honest; remember, not everyone can do everything.


4. Are you creative?

Yes. Give examples


5. How would you describe your own personality?



6. Are you a leader?

Yes. Give examples.


7. What are your future goals?

Avoid, "I would like the job you advertised." Instead, give long-range goals that support your application for the role.


8. What are your strong points?

Present at least three and relate them to the company and job you are interviewing for.


9. What are your weak points?

Don't say you have none. Try not to cite personal characteristics as weaknesses but be ready to have one if the interviewer presses. Turn a negative into a positive answer: "I am sometimes intent on completing an assignment and get too deeply involved when we are late."


Your career goals


1. If you could start your career again, what would you do differently?

I would have focused on a sales role sooner but other than that ... I am happy today, so I don't want to change my past.


2. What career options do you have at the moment?

"I see three areas of interest..." Relate those to the position and industry.


3. How would you describe the essence of success? According to your definition of success, how successful have you been so far?

Think carefully about your answer and relate it to your career accomplishments.