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4 tips for interview success

4 Helpful Tips for Interview Success

By Alexandra Sleater

Today’s labour market remains tough. When the market is competitive, the likelihood that there will be several candidates after a given job is high so it is crucial to differentiate yourself quickly from your competitors. For this reason, I would make the obvious point that preparing well for your interview is essential.

If you do not prepare well enough for your first interview, your recruitment agent may give you some feedback, pointing to some hurdles you absolutely need to clear in the second interview if you want to stay in the running. What if you are told: “They thought you were really quiet” or “They were not able to find out enough about your problem-solving skills” or “They think you can do the job but they are unsure whether you will fit in”: how do you then make sure you prepare for that second interview and get to the next stage?

Would you agree that it may be risky to just “wing” it? Preparation will make you more effective during the interview but it will also build up your confidence about how to navigate it.

The first stage of good interview preparation is to consider what the interviewer will be after.


What Interviewers Look for:


1-      Abilities: does this person really have the experience and skills base to do the job? Did they exaggerate or even lie on their CV? How can I check they can do all these wonderful things?

2-      Fit: will this person be able to understand the complexities or specificities of our business?  Will he/she be able to "figure it out"? Will this person be able to relate to and embrace the style in which we do business? Does he/she share many of the same values?

3-       Results: will this person accomplish what we’re bringing them in for? Will he/she be able to gather the support and cooperation of others in the organisation? Will he/she remain focused? What drives them? Will he/she be willing to go "the extra mile" to make it happen?

4-      Chemistry: will this person be able to fit in and become part of my team or is he/she a lone ranger or a prima donna? Is this an individual that we can rely on? Does this person readilyshare credit with others? Is this someone we will feel comfortable with? Will we enjoy working with this person on a day-to-day basis? Is this someone I and others in my team will be able to communicate with easily and effectively? Do we havesomething in common?

5-      Motivation: how much does this person really want to work with us, or is he/she just job hunting? Is he/she eager to join us? Is he/she asking insightful questions which show genuine interest in working for us or is he/she just going through the motions?


When you think back to past interviews, do you recognise some of these lines of enquiry? Are there areas above with which you feel less comfortable about?



Four Techniques to Interview well:

1-      Build Rapport.

We recruit people we can imagine working with, having a chat with by the water cooler, exchanging jokeswith, telling about our weekends to. When I had two candidates with equal capabilities to choose from or even if I had two candidates and one of them was a little less experienced but I could spot chemistry, then I would offer that person the job.


We all know how crucial first impressions are so a firm hand shake, good eye contact and a friendly and open smileare very important. There are other aspects as well but those are crucial. And if you feel nervous and your hands get clammy, wash your hands in warm water and then wipe them well. For a few minutes after that, your hands will be dry and just warm.

2-      The ‘WIFE’ Mindset.

Here, ‘WIFE’ is an acronym for ‘What’s in It For the Employer.”

Many people are advised to have a few core messages ready for their interview, for example about their top strengths. However, the risk with this type of preparation is that individuals then try desperately to mention these core messages. This attitude risks making you appear overly preoccupied with selling yourself, as opposed to wanting to find out about the job’s requirements and about the firm. Nobody likes a hard sale. So avoid pitching.

Let the interviewer pick the direction in which he/she wants to steer the interview and let them ask the questions and make sure you give the corresponding answers: do not try to slot in your messages under the radar – you will be spotted I assure you. Listen, really listen for the problems which the hiring manager is trying to fix with this recruitment and engage him/her in a discussion on how your profile makes you best suited to help with the solution.

If you really want to steer, do so by using questions such as: ‘What is the skill gap/resource gap you are interested in closing with this recruitment?’ or ‘What are the key things you'd like to learn about my background?’ or ‘What business imperatives are driving the need for this position?’ Then you can rebound by sharing what is called an “experience story”.

3-      The “Experience Story”: How, not What.

Telling an “experience story” is how I recommend you answer the questions of the interviewer. The objective is for you to demonstrate how your knowledge, skills, prior experience are relevant to this particular role and how they will benefit the company.

In that context, whatever you are talking about, give specific details. Rather than say “I’m a fast learner”, explain that “During this project, it was important for me to learn the basics of accountancy fast and I did that by....” Similarly, avoid “I like to work with others” but rather share that “During this project, I worked with people from several departments and I could see the value of diversity because ....” What you are doing is sharing your “experience stories”.

“Experience stories” show how you operate. Your CV should have given the interviewer the information they were looking for about what you can do so now they need to hear about how you do what you do. Show how you practically apply the knowledge you have accumulated. Give them a sense of what your contribution might look like. Going back to my point about rapport, the more the interviewer is able to visualise you as part of the team, working alongside its current members, the likelier you are to get a call back.

Tell them also about experience you have of problem-solving. Many interviewers will ask: “what did you do when” type of questions because they are trying to see what value you can bring from prior experience. Say: “We had a bit of a similar situation at ABC Company and how I helped was XYZ.” It does not need to be exactly the same issue that you dealt with previously but clearly you need to pick an example that is close enough.

The “experience story” gives the interviewer what is called “a future experience today” – that is to say, it shows them today how working with you in the future will be like. Just like you wouldn’t dream of buying a car without road-testing it before, right?

Once you have shared an “experience story”, use it to check how you are doing in the interview. Get them to agree that this kind of experience will be valuable for their firm. Ask if this is the kind of skill they are looking for with this recruitment. Say something like: “Do you think that having this type of experience will help me succeed in this particular position?"


1-      Investigate the Company and Prepare Probing Questions.

Here is why you might want to do some detective work on the company you are interviewing with:

First, to determine whether the company is right for you. You may just find a dislike for a particular industry, happen upon some negative corporate news on the Internet, like poor employee relations. It is also possible you may not like the company’s products or services.

Second, to decide if you are right for the company. Some companies or industries may not be the right fit for your skill set or for your ethics.

Third, to help address the needs of the organization. Knowing why the company needs to hire for a position is key to addressing how you can help the company. Knowing specifically what makes the company tick can turn your answers and choice of “experience stories” into powerful weapons with which to attract interest.

Finally, to show the interviewer you have invested time into researching the company and to apply your thinking skills to formulating relevant questions. This shows another type of competence. Knowing specific industry information or showing advanced product knowledge can get you closer to an offer.


Search the web. Look at the company’s own site of course but make sure to also pull up third party articles in order to get a variety of viewpoints.


If you are bold enough, you might even ask the interviewer, when they are the actual hiring manager, what's the most pressing problem they are dealing with today, and then propose or discuss a solution. Don't just talk about it: use a white board or a piece of paper. Get the interviewer engaged!

There you have it! I hope you will consider these techniques as part of your interview preparation. In my experience both interviewing and being interviewed, I found that they made a difference to how well the interview will go. To your interview success!


© Coaching For Inspiration, 2012

If this article resonated with you, please leave a comment (see below). If you would like to write to Alexandra directly, click here. To see Alexandra’s bio on France in London, go there.


27/09/2012 - hrustin.s said :

Laurie-Anne ChaslesEst-ce que l'on peut payer chaque cours ou il y a un abnenemont annuel comme tous les autres centres???? Je suis int ress e par les cours que vous offrez mais je ne veux pas tre prise avec un tarif mensuel payer avec un contrat!Merci

27/09/2012 - optyk said :

I love this article, some of the quoistens are hilarious (particularly the one about being a blended pencil!), there is also another which has caught the attention of the office You have a birthday cake and have exactly three slices to cut it into eight equal pieces. How do you do it? (Reportedly from Blackrock Portfolio Management)' and I am pleased to report we must be a smart bunch as we've come up with the answer!!If you cut the cake twice across the top, making it into 4 quarters, you then have to slice the cake through the middle in order to make it 8 pieces. It makes a lot more sense when you can draw diagrams!

01/09/2012 - anne said :



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