How to be successful at Interviews


Before the interview:

  1. Draw a line down the centre of a piece of paper. On the left side, make a bulleted list of what the employer is looking for based on the job posting. On the right side, make a bulleted list of the qualities you possess that fit those requirements.

  2. Research the company, the industry and the competition.

  3. Prepare your 60-second personal statement -- your answer to the "tell me about yourself” question. Make this about you, your hobbies, what you enjoy, your family, where you are from. It’s not about your CV – that comes later.

  4. Ensure you have looked at your CV and can talk confidently about dates of education and employment, reasons for leaving, etc.

  5. Write at least five success stories to answer behavioural interview questions ("Tell me about a time when..." or "Give me an example of a time...").

  6. List 3 / 4 questions to ask the interviewer about the job, the company and the industry. Think about questions that aren’t covered in the job spec, perhaps about the team culture, working environment, training, expectations of you after 3 – 6 months, what does the interview like about working for the company etc.

  7. Get permission from your references to use their names.

Employers' Web Sites

Have a look at their annual report, also look for a "press room" or "company news" page that links to recent news releases. Learn About the Company Online.

Do some fast Web research, which will give you something to talk about in addition to the job description. Go to your prospective employer's corporate Web site as this is the best place to see the company as it wants to be seen, or search the Web for information such as:

  • How big is the company in terms of annual sales or employees?

  • What does the company say about its products or services?

  • What recent news (such as a new product, a press release, an interview with the CEO) can you discuss?

  • If the company is public, the boilerplate at the bottom of its press releases will tell you a lot.

  • What charities do they support, what do they say about Corporate Social Responsibility.


Before you go to the interview:

  1. Do you look professional? Check yourself in the mirror; part of your confidence will come from looking good.

  2. Carry these items to the interview:

    • A pad of paper on which to take notes. (Notes are optional)

    • Directions to the interview site.

  3. Make a list of 3/4 questions you will ask to the interviewer when you are asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. This shows that you are prepared and interested in the position/company.

  4. Prepare answers to common interview questions:

    • Tell me about yourself.

    • Why did you leave your last position, or why are you leaving your current position?

    • What do you know about this company?

    • What are your goals?

    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

    • Why do you want to work for this company?

    • What has been your most significant achievement?


Remember to prepare specific examples.

When an interviewer asks for an example of a time when you did something, he is seeking a sample of your past behaviour. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don't answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills.


Which answer would you choose?

1 - a "Well, I'm very self-motivated. I often start projects on my own without direction from others, because I enjoy it. Compared to most people my age, I have more self-discipline and more willingness to try new things."

1 - b "Well, I'm very self-motivated. I know you've probably heard that before, so let me give you an example. For the last couple of years, I've volunteered part-time at my college's computer help desk. I wanted experience helping people with computer-related problems, so I approached the information technology director and asked her if she'd teach me to work on the help desk in exchange for my time and efforts. It's turned out to be great for both of us. She's gotten much-needed help, and I've been able to gain hands-on experience I wouldn't have gotten otherwise."

2 - a "I would try talking with the person first, to see what we could do about our differences. If that didn't work, I guess I'd probably go to my supervisor and see if he could intervene somehow. It would be important to get our conflict resolved."

2 -b "That actually happened to me once in a social psychology course I took. We were doing a group project, and it was clear that one person wasn't doing his share of the work. I talked with other people in the group about it, and they felt the same way I did. So I offered to talk to this person about our concerns. I'm really glad I did. As it turns out, he was stressed out, because his father had been in the hospital for several weeks having tests done. He was having trouble in all of his classes. So I mentioned the fact that our school has a counselling centre and encouraged him to go there. He did, and he got the help he needed. The rest of us then divided up his work."

Upon arrival:

  1. Arrive early -- enter the building 5 minutes before your appointment.

  2. Check your appearance one last time.

  3. Announce yourself to the receptionist in a professional manner.

  4. Stand and greet your interviewer with a hearty -- not bone-crushing -- handshake.

  5. Smile and maintain eye contact.

During the interview:

The interview is very much a two way process. You will also have to bear in mind that interviewers will have their own personal style or technique. The secret at an interview is to be prepared for any style or technique and don't be put off if you encounter a technique that is not familiar to you.

  1. Try to focus on the points you have prepared without sounding rehearsed or stiff.

  2. Relax and enjoy the conversation. Learn what you can about the company.

  3. Ask questions and listen; read between the lines.

  4. At the conclusion, thank the interviewer, and determine the next steps.

After the interview:

  1. As soon as possible, call your consultant to give feedback.

  2. Write down what you are thinking and feeling.

  3. Later in the day, review what you wrote, and assess how you did this might also help you with future interviews if needed.

  4. Decide whether you would like accept the job if offered and let your consultant know of your decision.