The interview letter/notification is in your hand: Congratulations! You know that you have overcome the first hurdle of any job search. In the selection process that you may have encountered so far, you would have submitted an application which no doubt measured up to the standards expected by your potential employer; you may also have appeared for a written examination that you have also cleared. So you know now that your approach so far has been correct and you have been found well prepared. At his point you must remind yourself that just as untidy or poorly prepared applications never stand a chance, neither do untidy or poorly prepared candidates.

The interview call means that:

  • The employer is interested and believes that you have the right potential for the Position;
  • There are other contenders and many of them are going to be unsuccessful and you don’t want to be among them; and
  • You need to seriously start your pre-interview planning, which would include working on your personal presentation and also researching the background informat

The Groundwork: In an interview you are selling, yourself, a process you began when you submitted your application form or Curriculum Vitae (CV). It is no longer a matter of just needing the right qualifications or experience, although these aspects will play their part, you now have to demonstrate that you also have the enthusiasm, motivation and commitment the interviewers are looking for. As a means of selection interviews are not without drawbacks but they invariably continue to be popular.

What to take with you for the interview: Even if these are not specifically requested, it is a good idea to take these with you: i) school certificates, ii) record of achievements after school, iii) examples of artwork or technical drawings, projects/published papers, where appropriate.

Take with you anything, which is relevant and supports your application. All this should be chronologically arranged in a file. Let the file be of sober hue and not garishly patterned/coloured.

Preparation: Apart from looking good at the interview you should also be able to show that you are interested not only in the job that is on offer but the firm/company which is offering it. Carry out research to find out about the structure and products and services of the organization; to find out where the job fits into the organizational set-up and to discover as much as possible about the job itself. Thorough background preparation will boost your confidence, it helps concentrate your mind on why you have applied for that particular job/position and it improves your chances of success.

In a standard interview you should be prepared to tackle questions from these area:

i) Family – these help the interviewer to see you as a complete person;

ii) School and college, substantiate with documents;

iii) Hobbies and interests outside school or college – reveal motivational drives or attitude to work; other personality characteristics;

iv) Work experience – such questions reveals motivational drives, enthusiasm towards training, attitude towards work and authority, ability to cope and flourish within the work organization;

v) Goals for you responses you are expected to draw upon your values, interests and top skills.

Personal presentation: If there is a time when first impressions count, then it is undoubtedly when you go for an interview. Yours interviewers sees you before speaking to you and have already formed an impression before the interview starts. Don’t appear with wildly styled hair, or unruly, uncombed hair, latest mirror lenses, bat-breath, garish makeup, dirty or ragged finger nails. Choose formal clothes that are neat, tidy, clean and well fitting. No, designer names or brand names are not important at all. Jeans, T-shirts are out. Let your shoes complement your outfit being both clean and well maintained. Make sure that you feel comfortable and confident in the outfit you have chosen – check out the fit before deciding. Always be practical – take a coat or raincoat and umbrella to keep you warm and dry or both. Jewellery should be kept to the minimum, no digital watches/mobile phone/pager that beep. Clean fabric handkerchief to cope with sneezes. Perfume after-shave to be as unobtrusive as possible and use a less perfumed deodorant.

As you enter: Walk forward confidently, body straight, head up. Smile and be prepared to shake hands briefly but positively if your interviewer offers to shake your, not otherwise. Sit straight, but in a relaxed comfortable position, keep your hands, relaxed, preferably in your lap, Maintain good eye contact with the interviewer as soon as you have settled.

Typical interview Questions: These are some frequently asked questions; you may be asked all, some or possibly only a few of them. Just go through these and prepare in writing the answers you would like to give.

What are your strengths?: Identify areas where you perform best, try to match these with the skills required for the job / professional programme (that you have applied for).

What are your weaknesses?: Stick to minor factual problems which can be remedied by adding a positive rider to your answer. “I suppose I didn’t try hard enough, but I intend to have a good try at it”.

How would you describe yourself?: Concentrate on the description of the person being sought and try to put forward a picture of yourself to match as close to that as possible. But you need to be honest; make the most of your good points but don’t make them unbelievable.

“Do you have plans for additional education:” Here the interviewer is trying to find out whether you see this line of work as part of a long-term commitment as opposed to stop-gap measure. If you do have plans for additional education, be specific about what you want to learn and how an employer could possibly benefit.

What were your favourite subjects and why? : This should be easy. Just make sure that you make your response relevant to the job that you applied for. Also, make some reference to the more broadly based skills that you have, such as problem-solving, communicating or writing effectively.

Why do you want to work for us? / Why do you want this Job?: Your answer must contain genuine, positive reasons backed up by supportive evidence. Your answer could be one of many such as:

  • I enjoy meeting people.
  • I think it might be interesting work.
  • I like tackling a challenge.

On their own these statements lack credibility, their meaningfulness comes when you back them up with something substantial. Give some examples of challenges you have tackled recently.

Other questions that could be asked include.

  • How do you get on with your school friends/teachers?
  • What did you like the most/least about your periods of work experience?
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • Who has been the greatest influence in your life and why?
  • What do you think has been your greatest achievement?
  • What is the greatest hurdle that you have crossed?

In answering questions on any of the above or related areas, remember to concentrate on the positive, if you have experienced difficulties then own up to them, show how you have overcome them, learnt from them, ideally, take advantage of mock interviews to evaluate your preparation. In the absence of a formal mock interview, you can always ask friends or relatives to act as interviewers but this is very much the second-best option since they may feel silly or embarrassed. But you can compensate by developing your powers of self-observation. Consciously practise other ways of standing or speaking by reviewing through a mirror image and tape recorder. Being videoed under mock interview conditions is, of course, an unbeatable learning experience.


At an interview, do not put yourself in a position where you have to lie or say you don’t know or blame someone else for a failure or shrug your shoulders. Even if this is true, don’t say you came for ‘the money’. Try not to put yourself in a bad light without saying something positive to compensate.

Always show: You have valid reasons for your answers. You are honest and open with your replies.

The exit – should be a stunningly good one. The way you leave is just as important as the way you enter.

Steps to an effective exit: gather together the items you brought with you ensure you have a tight grip on them.

  • Stand up and straighten your clothes.
  • Shake hands with your interviewers if this is expected.
  • Thank the interviewers for their time.
  • Smile
  • Make your exit by – stopping at the door, turning, smiling and thanking again, leaving, closing the door quietly behind you.

Remember: A good interviewer will be looking for:

  • Qualifications
  • Experience
  • Motivation
  • Personality
  • Additional or transferable skills

Your interviewer will also be looking for signs that you are interested, attentive, communicative, keen and most important of all, be able to show you have that ‘something’ extra. In the overall analysis of an interview, a good interviewer sums you up on several fronts at once by:

  • Your answers to factual questions;
  • How you answered these questions;
  • How you responded to questions designed to encourage you to ‘sell yourself’:
  • By your overall demeanour:
  • Appearance, awareness, decisiveness, politeness, humor, openness and so on.

Just before: The night before and the day of the interview, close your eyes for a few minutes. Create a picture in your mind of the interview; picture yourself relaxed and confident, responding to questions and asking questions of your own. Sea yourself getting up to leave the interview and the interviewer saying exactly what you want to be said. Literally imagine the words you will hear from the interviewer. Believe me, it works! Make sure you have clear directions to the interview location-the bus-routes/suburban train links, etc. and / or landmarks-and plan to arrive a few minutes early. Use your extra time to assess the atmosphere, talk with a receptionist, check out the publications in the room or go through the day’s newspapers and pick up any background information you can.

I am sure that you can see that preparation is your best ally when handling a standard interview. You can always make things better for yourself by using anytime you have before the interview to do your homework for yourself and the employer’s needs. Even if you are doing a series of interviews on the same theme, prepare for each one as though it were the only one. Whichever way the interview ends, always try to leave a favourable impression behind.How to use the interview Experience: As you leave the interview room, you could be experiencing all sorts of reactions, from exhilaration and excitement to the deepest despair or a sense of anti-climax. Make an effort not to waste the valuable time immediately after your experience. Try to use the experience as a source of learning to perform better in future.

8.      Reasons for you to take stock of what happened as soon as possible after the interview:

  • To help you to fix events, personalities and facts associated with this one firmly in your mind for more interviews.
  • You will be able to come up with the reasons/areas that unexpectedly let you down and need working on or which you handled well and need remembering.
  • To be certain that you have enough information to decide whether to accept the job if it were offered to you.
  • If things went really badly, reviewing what happened helps you to work through your tension, and if done thoroughly and objectively, should provide positive pointers on how to handle the next interview differently and to better effect.

If you thought that to shine at interviews you just turn up in your best outfit, look immaculately groomed, smile, shake hands in a positive manner are enough, you now know better. It is true that initially, interviewers may be impressed by a good turnout, hence your personal presentation as in clothes and appearance are important to make a positive first impression. But this is only part of the story. To raise your chances above the rest, you have to show you have that extra special something. The magic ingredient for this is thorough preparation.

    October 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Very informative and seeming sincere assessment of what interviewers should look for BUT do some of them really have these ideas?. I doubt.

  1. May 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

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