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  • Writer's pictureNadina

Optimise your Job-hunt Part 5: Interview Tips & Tricks

Congratulations, you have beaten the other applicants and been invited to meet with a company for an interview!

An interview is a two-way process, if they select you, they will be paying you a salary and allowing you to represent their business, but you will be committing 35 to 55 hours per week of your time, aside from your bed that’s the largest commitment you will make to anything!

You are also relying on them for your income that keeps a roof over your head, food in your belly and pays for your life. You should be doing as much due diligence on the business, as they are on you because let’s face it, job hunting sucks.

The information below is not revolutionary or ground-breaking but some useful pointers; you get one chance to impress and one chance to interrogate.

Preparation: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

A cliché but true, the more you put in before the meeting, the easier the interview.

Research the position: ensure you have as much information on the role requirements as possible. If you only have an advert, as the recruiter if you can get a full position description.

Research the company: use their website, LinkedIn page and Google their name, you may find press-releases etc. Look at the background other employees in similar roles using LinkedIn, so you get a feel for the skills and background the business looks for. Make notes of interesting business news or facts and reference them in the course of your meeting

Research the interviewer: it’s a simple as going to Google, Linked-in, even Facebook; knowledge is power and helps build rapport.

Make notes: based on your research, what do you need to know and gain from the meeting? What is important to you about a new job? Make sure you list these things so can ensure you get the answers on the day and its fine to take notes into a meeting with you.

Know your CV and work history: think about the role and how your experience matches, look at synergy, think about your biggest achievements and biggest challenges, your strengths and weaknesses. Revise all the facts and figures relevant to your history as we forget when put on the spot. Think about any tricky questions that your experience may bring up and prepare concise answers.

Plan your journey: make allowances for potential delays and ensure you won’t be late.

Plan your outfit: wear your best business attire, tidy hair, minimal neat make-up is all-important.

Preparing for Behavioural Questions

Interviewers want to assess how you will operate in the workplace. Often interviews will include a range of behavioural questions, these can be challenging if you have not prepared for them. Some tips to plan for these include:

Look at the competencies for the role you are interviewing, typically they will be listed in job adverts you have applied to and make a list.

These will depend on what your profession is but will include hard and soft skills such as project management, leadership, customer services, technical skills, administration, communication, time management, accuracy etc.

Questions will be focused on understanding how you demonstrate these competencies.

Some examples of behavioural questions might be:

  • Tell me about the biggest challenge you have overcome?

  • Tell me about when you have faced conflict and how you have dealt with this?

  • Tell me about a time you had competing priorities and were under pressure to deliver work, how did you meet deadlines?

  • Tell me about the biggest mistake you have made?

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer?

  • Tell me about a time you have improved processes?

  • Tell me about a problem you have overcome?

Reflect on your career and the good things you have achieved, challenges you have overcome and write a series of case studies of these as stories.

Use the STAR technique. Describe the Situation, your Task, your Actions and the Result

If you write a series of these out and learn them, you can be well-prepared for any question, you will find that each scenario could be used for a range of questions.

I will give you a very basic example.


I worked for xxx company and was asked to plan and deliver the xxx project.


As the project manager, I was responsible for developing all management plans, procurement, budget and schedule. I had to lead all external and internal stakeholders to meet client and business goals.


I developed the schedule and procurement plans, we struggled to find a supplier that could deliver on time so I contacted my peers and asked for recommendations, I made some calls and got some more referrals. I spoke with a supplier and negotiated with him on the basis we would place a second order within two months.


The supplier delivered on time and was also 10% cheaper than budget. This directly impacted the margin and also built a new relationship with a supplier.

This example could be used to communicate how you meet deadlines under pressure, problem-solve, use your communication skills to negotiate, improve project outcomes etc. If you write a number of these up, you can be prepared for most curve-ball questions.

The Interview


Be on time: arrive 5 to 10 minutes early, but if you are any earlier than that, hang around the coffee shop next door. If you are going to be even 2 minutes late, call to warn the interviewer.

Make observations and a good first impression: you will likely sit in reception, feel the atmosphere, does it seem like a place you would like to work? Sometimes businesses have awards or magazines with Editorials, use this time to get a feel for the business. Build rapport with the receptionist, it’s not unusual for them to be asked their opinion of a candidate.

Meet and Greet

Use good body language: a firm handshake whilst looking the interviewer in the eye and smiling, is good business practice for meeting anyone, people tend to squirm at weak handshakes. Avoid unpleasant injuries by holding too tight or shaking too enthusiastically.

Always: say yes to a glass of water if offered, all that talking and nervous energy can make you dry.


Never: talk over the interviewer, speak too fast, play with your hair, pick your nails, tap your pen, check your watch or look disinterested.

Always: listen actively wait till the interviewer has finished a question, take a few seconds to digest, take a deep breath and then respond. Ensure that you have understood the question, one of the most common interview errors is that the interviewee provides a great answer, but it does not answer the specific question asked because they have mid-heard or not been actively listening.

Demonstrate: good body language, look alert, interested, engaged, enthusiastic and into their eyes. If there are multiple people in the room, when you respond start talking back to the person that asked the question, but look to the other people as you are talking to make eye contact and include them. This builds rapport and trust and when there are multiple attendees they all need to agree you are the right person for the job.


Always: answer questions with examples; be prepared to quote back your experience to demonstrate your capabilities. Expect the unexpected, Interviewers often pop curve-ball questions into a meeting to see how you react. Be prepared to back up responses with figures when appropriate.

Structuring answers: remember the interviewer is not you and you need to provide answers and examples which they understand. Using the STAR technique to structure your answer is a great way to present information and there is more information on this process on page four. You describe the situation, your task and activity and the result – which should always be a positive one. This ensures you give context to the interviewer and makes it easier for them to understand.

Always: keep your answers concise, the interviewer will have an agenda to cover information they need to assess candidates for the job. If you talk too long and they are not able to complete their questioning to accurately assess you, then you are likely to be rejected.

Never: use the word “We” when describing your experience, unless you are specifically making reference to a team activity, always say “I”.

Confident but humble: never go into a meeting with a cocky “I can do that because I am great attitude” it will kill your chances, confidence in your abilities and self-aware of your areas to develop is what people look for

Strengths and weaknesses: have these prepared, a weakness should be something you are aware of and are tangibly working on improving or the extreme of one of your strengths. For example, your strength could be that you are a manager and your team love you, they go out of their way for the company because you work so well together. A weakness could be sometimes being a bit too personal and close with the team makes it a challenge delivering negative feedback.

Always: ask questions based on your preparation and the information you have gained in the meeting, take notes and make reference to your notes, this demonstrates you have made the effort, you are prepared and interested.

Never: ask remuneration unless you are asked, save that for the second meeting. If you are asked and have a clear idea of the figure they are paying or what you are worth in the market, then communicate that. Ideally, its best to keep your cards to your chest though as if you state a figure and it's higher or lower than their range you are stuck with it. Too high and they likely reject you, too low and you miss out. Try responding with something like this “I am looking for market rate, what is the range you are paying for this job?”


Ask: what is the next stage? When will I hear about the outcome of this interview? How many people are you meeting? When do you expect to make a decision, when do you want someone to start?

Always: thank them for their time.

There are plenty of examples of interview questions on the net if you want to do more detailed research on specific questions.

Avoid Common Errors & Practise the STAR Technique

I have interviewed thousands of people from all industries and levels of seniority.

There are common habits I have witnessed regularly that can ruin a candidate’s chances of getting the job, even though they may be great in the role. Fortunately, although they are easy to make, they are also easy to avoid.

When a recruiter or hiring manager is interviewing, they have specific information they need to gain from the process to assess the candidate’s suitability, and limited time-frame to uncover that information.

The most common mistake (like really common) I have witnessed throughout my career is when you ask a candidate a question, they do a lot of talking but the question is never answered.

Interviews are a pressurised environment and there are common scenarios I have encountered:

The candidate is keen to showcase their achievements and talk about their strengths but ultimately have not provided an answer to the question and the information needed to screen them for the job.

The candidate has not listened to the question properly and provides a good answer but to a different question.

The candidate “sort of” answers the question but not in a concise manner, they go off track with an answer that jumps around or missed key information which makes it hard for the interviewer to understand the scenario.

The candidate provides lengthy answers and the interviewer does not get through all their questions in the allotted time to assess them, so the interview process has failed.

A recruiter may possibly ask the same question twice, a hiring manager typically won’t so you get one chance.

The clock is ticking so if you do get another crack at answering the question or have provided an answer that’s far too long; the time wasted may result in the interviewer not getting through all the questions they need to (hence the phrase “talked themselves out of a job”)

How to avoid these mistakes:

Listen to the question really carefully.

Use active listening techniques and keep eye contact with the interviewer when they ask the question. This engages you with what they are saying and ensures you hear the question accurately.

Don’t be shy about clarifying the question if you need to, it’s better to do this than give the wrong answer.

Answer the question exactly and precisely, the STAR technique is a great way to achieve this.

Don’t go off track, respond to the question and provide the information the interviewer is looking for in a concise manner.

Using the STAR technique, ensures you explain something clearly, in a manner that is easy for someone to understand.

Post Interview

Hopefully, you have established what the next step in the process will be.

The next day following the interview, email the interviewers and thank them for their time. If you have not got their details, then email the recruiter asking they pass on your thanks.

At this point, it’s a waiting game. If you have not heard within 24 hours if the date they provided, then follow up.

If they did not provide a date and you hear nothing after three days, then follow up.

Hopefully, you will move to the next stage but if you are unsuccessful, ask for some frank and honest feedback, this might help you improve, or maybe you interviewed excellently but just got pipped at the post.

As with anything in life, change what you can and accept what you can’t and move on.

Good luck!

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