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How to succeed at interviews.


The recruitment or selection interview represents an opportunity to present yourself to a potential employer as someone who has the skills, experience and knowledge to do the job and make a significant contribution to the organisation. Many people face interviews with trepidation, but good interview skills can help you to make a good impression and secure the job or the promotion you seek. Whatever type of interview you face, careful preparation is a key factor in how you perform on the day and the impression you create.


Interviews are formal face to face meetings between existing or potential employers and existing or potential employees. In some circumstances, where a face to face meeting is impossible, interviews may also be conducted by telephone. This checklist focuses on selection interviews which aim to assess (or partly assess) an individual's suitability for a job whether inside or outside their current organisation.

Action checklist

1. Clarify your objectives

Always think through in advance what you want from the interview--a job offer, more information on the job and the organisation, an opportunity to meet the decision makers. If your objective is unclear, it will be obvious to the interviewers--and these people could be significant in your future.

2. Do your research

Find out as much as you can about the interview, the job and the organisation. This will involve some research, especially with regard to the organisation.

The Interview:

Make sure you know:

* how to get there

* who will interview you

* what format the interview will take (group, one to one, tests, presentations).

The Job:

A careful review of any documentation you have been sent, especially copies of the job description and the person specification, if there is one, will help you to establish:

* the extent of duties and reporting relationships

* the history and background to the appointment

* the employer's expectations of the appointee

* the conditions of employment and location of work.

The Organisation:

Discover as much as you can about:

* history, ownership and products

* size, structure and location of sites

* stability, prosperity and financial strength

* reputation, strengths and weaknesses

* competitors.

3. Know yourself

You need to make an impression that will bring attention to you as the candidate for the job rather than just another runner. Review your personal experience, skills, strengths and weaknesses and evaluate what makes you special, how you fit the position, and what you have to offer. Consider how you will convey these messages to the interviewer.

4. Prepare yourself for success

Fear of failure can paralyse interview candidates. Focusing on your shortcomings or possible difficulties will lead to negative feelings which can adversely affect how you present yourself. Careful preparation can help you to think positively and create a good impression. Compare the thoughts: "I'm just here to make up the numbers" with "I've been chosen from a large number of other candidates". It is quite possible that the interviewer or interviewers may be just as nervous as you are. Explore techniques to help you relax mentally and physically and use whichever you find most helpful before the interview begins.

5. Your appearance

First impressions count. An impression is made before you respond to any questions. Ensure that your appearance is professional and smart:

* appropriate clothes are essential

* finer points including hair, nails and shoes, must not be forgotten

* avoid too much scent or after-shave

* avoid extremes of colour or pattern in clothes.

6. Prepare for questioning

Think about the questions you may be asked, and prepare appropriate answers.

Questions may include:

* Self-assessment: What can you do for us that someone else can't? Why should we appoint you? What are your strengths and what limits you? How would you describe your own personality? How do you react to pressure and deal with deadlines?

* Work history and experience: Tell me a little about yourself. Why are you leaving your present position? What have been your successes?

* Organisation: How much do you know about our organisation? How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our organisation? What important trends do you see in our industry?

* Job: Why do you want to work for us? What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive to you? What do you look for in a job?

* Management style: What is your management style? Are you a good manager and why? What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager? If I spoke to your former boss, what would they say were your strengths and weaknesses?

* General interests and knowledge: What was the last book you read, film you saw, sporting event you attended? What do you do to relax?

7. At the interview

Before the interview begins, there are certain steps to take which will help you succeed:

* arrive at your interview with sufficient time to enable you to relax a little beforehand

* when meeting the interviewer(s), smile and use good eye contact

* use good body language (sit upright and lean slightly forward) convey an impression of interested alertness

* don't fidget with your hands or keep crossing and uncrossing your legs etc..

8. Answering questions

Bear in mind that interview questions are designed to find out about you and your suitability for the post. Listen attentively and answer succinctly. Remember, too, that you are interviewing the employer at the same time as they are interviewing you. When replying to questions you should:

* keep to the point

* structure your answer so that it is logical and easily understood

* maintain good, but not excessive, eye contact

* speak out with confidence and ensure you can be heard clearly

* look prepared and have appropriate information to hand

* project interest in the organisation and job, and be interesting in your replies and questions

* be honest: admit to limitations, and don't exaggerate accomplishments.

Answer the questions in a way which demonstrates your qualities. Use statements which:

* are assertive

* begin "I am ...."

* show that you are proud of your achievements.

9. Prepare your own questions

Prepare some questions of your own in advance, relating to the job or the organisation. This helps to demonstrate your interest. Your questions should not relate exclusively to money or conditions of employment.

10. Deal positively with the closing moments of the interview

Last impressions are important. Thank the interviewers for their time, re-affirm your interest in the position and state that you look forward to hearing from them in the near future.

How not to succeed at interview:


* arrive late

* interrupt, argue, overreact or get on your soap box

* let your nervousness spoil the impression you make

* be evasive, speak too quickly or give long, involved answers

* criticise third parties, or former employers

* become over-familiar.

Additional resources


Ultimate interview book: make a great impression and get that job, Lynn Williams

London: Kogan Page 2005

How to pass professional level psychometric tests, 2nd ed, Sam Al-Jajjoka

London: Kogan Page, 2004

Rob Yeungs insider guide to successful interviews, Rob Yeung

Oxford: How to Books, 2002

Tackling interview questions in a week, Mo Shapiro and Alison Straw

London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002

Succeeding at interviews in a week, Alison Straw and Mo Shapiro

London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002

How to succeed at an assessment centre: test taking advice from the experts, Harry Tolley and Robert Wood

London: Kogan Page, 2001

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Related checklist

New joiner: getting the job you thought you did (201)

Internet resources

The Chartered Management Institute Career Development site at offers interview advice for members including guide notes and sample questions and answers.

Many jobsites offer tips on job hunting, including handling interviews. For example:

Jobcentre Plus: Look under "Looking for a Job" for advice on job hunting, including preparing for interview. Look under Career Advice and then select Interviews and Negotiations.

Monster Career Centre: Look under Get the Job and then select Interviews and Assessments.

The Psychological Testing Centre: provides advice for those taking tests from the British Psychological Society.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 033
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Solving problems.
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