Dos and Don’ts of Interviewing

by | May 10

16 min read

When going for an interview, do you feel stressed? Are you concerned that you are unable to communicate effectively, to get your point across? Are you apprehensive about not meeting the requirements that the panel are looking for?

These are common concerns for most professionals that will be attending interviews. The thing is, you have been invited for the interview because you match the requirements of the role. You must remember that there are other candidates competing for the same position, with similar abilities to you. However, do not let the realisation of the above statement fool you, being spontaneous and not preparing for the interview could negatively affect your chances of getting to the next stage of the interview process. Approach the interview process with an understanding of the interview life cycle, preparing interview questions and practising your answers. This will set you up for a winning interview.

Interview Life Cycle

The interview process starts from the minute you apply for a job. Once you have submitted the job application, preparations should start. The steps of the interview life cycle include Pre interview screening, First interview with the recruiter, and interviews with the company human resources as well as senior management teams, assessments and offer. I must add that even if you do not make it passed the first interview you could be considered for future vacancies within that organisation, so make the interview count. Leave a lasting impression.

Preparing for the interview

The job market is a competitive one and under current circumstances, making sure you stand out from the crowd will assist you in advancing your career. When planning your interview preparation, remember to consider what your audience is looking for in a candidate, in addition to what you are looking for in your next career move.

Yes, you are interviewing the business too. As the interview teams are assessing how your skills and personality will align with the company strategy and culture, you are doing the same. Look out for things that make you excited, and motivated to work with the business. Take note of alarm bells that may make compromise on your own values and consider whether the environment or role is the right thing for you.

To effectively prepare for an interview consider putting a checklist together:

  1. Research the company and the managers you will be reporting into
  2. Look for insider information
  3. Review the job description
  4. Identify your area of strength and barriers (develop solutions to identified barriers)
  5. Go over common interview questions
  6. Prepare questions for the panel
  7. Have a list of references available
  8. Complete a mock interview with a friend, mentor or interview expert
  9. Make sure to confirm the venue, time and prepare your outfit in advance
  10. Send a thank you and follow up mail after the interview
  11. Ask a recruiter to provide feedback, if you were not successful

Common interview questions and how to answer them?

Tell me about yourself.

We could say that past the introductions, this is mostly always the first question that is asked in an interview. It would be important to remember what the interview panel are looking for in a candidate. These could include your skills, how you would add value to the organisation and if you how would fit into the company culture.

Top Tip: Formulate your answer in advance. Write it out and practice the response, making sure it is not lengthy and to the point. Adjust the response to each position that you interview for.

You can start by talking about your interests, keep this brief, leading into sharing about what your current role, its purpose and you contribution to your current business and team success. Follow with how you career developed, mentioning your studies, where and why you started your career and what has influenced you to be successful. Finally mention what your career objectives or goals are.

Hint: Relate your short-term goals to the position you are interviewing for.

Avoid sharing excessive personal information; keep the focus on your experience and the role.

If you are asked about family and hobbies, be sure to avoid topics that may have potential employers question your commitment.

Let us go over your CV, can you explain your career progression?

This question allows an interviewer to assess how you plan and make decisions to achieve goals and objectives, as well as the reasoning behind your career movements.

This is an opportunity for you to select specific aspects of your CV and experience that create a favourable impression of your abilities and thought processes.

Establish achievements and skills in your experience that can be aligned to the position you are being considered for. Include how your contributions positively influenced outcomes in the business, for example, how you implemented strategies that contributed to increased sales revenue, or updated processes that improved operational performance and/or developed a solution to a problem that would otherwise have negative impact on the business.

Top tip: Take a moment to structure your answer in a way that has each role flowing into the other. Explaining your career movements, mentioning what valuable skills you had gained within each position, what excited or motivated you to move from each position. Make sure to keep your response to the point but positive and upbeat.

Avoid being negative about your previous employers, or colleagues. If you have left a position under negative circumstances find a way to suggest that fixing the problem, is far more important than not dealing with the issue.

Tell us about something we do not know, something that is not on your CV?

It is almost impossible to include all your experience and achievements on your CV. Your CV gives facts and displays your experience based on the outputs that are required or you have achieved based on your career.

This question gives the interviewer the chance to establish what you can bring to the table, in addition to your already stellar experience. This is a chance for you to provide information about you can oofer over above what is expected of you.

Top tip: In your response you can touch on topics including sporting achievements, things that you have done for the business over and above your responsibilities, or even touch on any volunteer work that you have committed to. This gives you the chance to demonstrate your commitment to projects and tasks.

What do you think makes you a great business leader?

Strong leaders focus on driving and motivating their teams to achieve their development milestones, ensuring that they meet individual as well as organisational objectives. They are also able to establish which team members are not performing to achieve targets, and how to deal with or create opportunities for these individuals to improve their performance.

Top tip: Provide real examples to the interviewing team including how you have successfully supervised and managed teams to achieve organisational or operational targets, and how you achieved this. Select instances where you have worked with a struggling team member to create resolutions that ensured improved performance. It is ok to mention if you have had to deal with any restructuring or terminations and the process you followed to ensure a favourable outcome for the business.

Potential employers are looking for leaders who are able to demonstrate the ability to develop and drive teams but when required handle challenging situations. Be sure to demonstrate both of these facets in your interview.

Tell me about a time when you had to make a tough business decision?

Great leaders have the ability to make challenging but rational decisions with the ability to stay true to them. As a current manager, you would have had to make decisions that may have a positive or negative impact on the business. Structure your response including a time where you had to commit to making challenging decisions, taking into consideration the impact of staying true to the company objectives or deciding to engage in short-term interests.

Top tip: You want to give the interviewer evidence of your ability to problem solve and create innovative solutions to challenges that an organisation has faced resulting in improvements or changes that positively impact the business and its stakeholders. Reveal your thought process and how executed and rolled the plans out. Potential employers want to see a whether you are willing to take risks and how justify taking those risks for the betterment of the organisation.

Establish areas in your experience that match the requirements of the job profile.

As a leader how would you influence others to buy into your plan and how would you deal with those that would disagree with you?

A leader should be able to convince teams to buy into new strategies, processes or ideas. At some point a leader will have to persuade stakeholders, staff or clients without causing alarm, concern or conflict.

Top tip: Your response should show how you are able to take into account the objections of others and provide effective resolutions to these objections or responses. Review your past roles and identify a time when you had to be persuasive and how you managed to get stakeholder to buy into new ideas and how it impacted stakeholders.

In your experience what has been the most challenging team you have ever managed?

Anyone who has lead or leads a team knows that, is no easy feat managing people. As a senior manager or executive you are going to be dealing with difficult teams and individuals who challenge authority. It would be unbelievable if you said you have never faced this challenge.

Top tip: Put together various examples of where you have had to step in to solve conflicts, performance issues or project failures. You want to demonstrate that you’re able to squash problems before they become big issues.

Avoid giving negative feedback about your executives or team members. Focus on the positive results by showing what processes you followed to resolve negative situations.

What are your greatest strengths and how do you think they will help you succeed?

What attributes do you have that are ensuring you achieve set objectives in your current position? If you are succeeding in your current role what are doing to meet business goals.

It would be important to focus on the significant strengths that would highlight why you could add value to your potential employer.

Top tip: Establish the requirements on the job description that align to your qualifications.

Give examples of why you feel that is strength. Validate why it is a strength by displaying real working examples. Always be prepared to discuss more than one strength, keeping them related to the job you are interviewing for.

What is your greatest weakness?

This can be a tough one to answer, for some. After the below tips, this should no longer be a daunting question to answer. I have seen when conducting interview training or mock interviews, many interviewees are concerned their weaknesses may deter potential employees from hiring them. They would respond with, “I am not sure of my weaknesses” or “that’s a tough one, I would have to think about it”.

Top Tip: The panel are looking for problem solvers and achievers. You want to show them how you can make the improvements that make a positive impact to you or the team. Create solution on how you are improving or fixing your weakness. Provide an example of how you are or would be fixing the problem to better your skills in that area.

Avoid telling the interview panel that you do not have any weaknesses, this would be unbelievable and set alarm bells off for them. Remember they are establishing how you solve a problem or come up with solutions to business issues. If you are not able to identify or improve your weaknesses, how will you be able to do this for the organisation?

Example: In the past I was a challenged with maximising or managing my time effectively. I found it difficult to manage interruptions. I decided to structure my day in way that I had time slots where I would check my emails or meet with the team to discuss important tasks and respond to important correspondence. I also, advised my team and stakeholders that should it be a task that needs to be attended to straight away that they call me. By implementing this structure both, the business unit and I were able to maximise outputs and achieve daily targets.

Why should we hire you?

This is a chance for you to highlight why you are good match for the position. You response should sell your experience focused on what you can strategically offer the business and explaining why you should be an employee.

Top tip: Establish the important requirements of the job, and identify the parts of your current job, education that would demonstrate how you could add value in this role and achieve the outputs required.

Do not restrain your response, but careful of being arrogant.

Be concise and confident in your response.

Why are you considering a new position, or why have you left your current role?

Be honest and truthful, reference checks will be completed and your referees are going to be honest.

Consider your career objectives, making sure you are communicating a clear and consistent message of your career goals throughout the interview stage. Relate your response to the job profile and what can offer the business, as well as what you aim to learn and achieve while working with the business.

Top tip: If you have left or are leaving a company under negative circumstances, structure your response with a positive approach. Avoid communicating negative information about your previous employer, its business, and or management teams.

You want to portray an image that indicates your plan making the best of a challenging situation. A potential employer is not likely to want to hire an individual who may create a negative atmosphere for its employees and business.

Why do you want this job?

Remember that research you did on the company. If you haven’t yet, take the time to identify what products and services they offer, get an understanding of the company culture and establish their vision and mission. You can find this information in online search, company LinkedIn pages, and communicating with trusted individuals that have or may within the company.

The job profile offers you some key information of what he company expects of the professional applying for and eventually taking over this role. It is an introduction of what is required of you. Take some time to go over the profile and establish what excites you about the opportunity and how you can contribute to achieving the objectives indicated in the description of the role.

Consolidating the job profile and company information to formulate a response aligned to the aspects of the profile and business that interest you and how you would be a great match for the position and the organisation.

Top tip: Develop responses utilising experiences and qualifications. Demonstrate how you have driven organisational values and led teams to achieve operational objectives.

Avoid mentioning what you do not like about the organisational structure, culture or job profile. If there are aspects you do not align with your values and goals, this is likely not the right company or job for you.

What question should you ask to establish if the business is a right fit for you?

This is dependent on who is interviewing you. If you were interviewing with a talent specialist or human resources professional, your questions should be geared towards the interview process.

Your questions to the management team would differ and could include:

Is this a new position and what did the previous person in the position accomplish in their role?

This question gives you the opportunity to see what the previous employer accomplished in the role as well as what skills or experience the individual brought to the table. On the other side, it could allow you to assess whether people are promoted within the business or if the organisation has a high staff turnover.

Are their opportunities to attend professional development courses, if not is there a possibility of integrating learning opportunities?

The response will offer insight as to how the organisation views staff learning and development. As a leader you want to show the executive team that motivating your team to achieve professional milestones is as important as developing their skills as well as your own. If this is something, the organisation will not consider you would need to establish if there is no interest at all or just lack of funding to offer their employees this benefit.

Additional question to consider include:

Will there be team management and what would the size of the team be?

What functions would I need to be managing to ensure that I meet organisational targets?

What would you like a potential employer to accomplish within the first 3 months of working with the organisation?

Avoid asking the interviewer questions about:

Salary or employee benefits, unless it brought up by the interviewer.

Work hours or leave days.

What the company does, you should have an idea based on the research you would have conducted.

When you can expect an offer.

Various studies have shown that many interviewers make a decision on whether a candidate really wants the job or not, by the questions they ask. An interviewer will be strategic in the questions that they pose to you and so should you. Preparing and asking questions shows you have interest and that you are enthusiastic about the position.

As the interview comes to a close, make a point to thank the interviewer in person or by e-mail. It is a common courtesy to thank everyone involved in the interview process. Thanking the interview panel in the interview room as well as in a follow up mail the hiring manager, should you have their details.

This would not guarantee you the job, but puts at an advantage over those that would not consider sending an e-mail.

Follow up afteryour interview. This assists in ensuring the team remembers who you are. It could earn you a second or third interview.

Finally, if you do not get a call back, take the opportunity to find out why.

What to take out of this article is to remember to prioritise your interview preparation. No interview or role is the same, so you must make sure to review every job profile and align your responses to your experience and that of the positions requirements. Always keep abreast of industry trends, so that you are able to structure responses based on current information and market trends.