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Researching the company for which you are interviewing

Background research of your prospective employer will give you a better idea the company environment and corporate culture as well as providing you with intelligent answers and questions to include at interview. E.g. I understand that last year your company merged with Company X.  How do you see this affecting the X department and what will it mean in terms of opportunities for advancement?

Preparing yourself

It is now common practice for interviewers to focus on key competencies – skills or attitudes that are necessary to the role in question.  Most interviews will follow a structure that is designed to bring out those qualities.  The questions should be answered by giving specific examples from your background that highlight the relevant competencies.  Therefore it is important to have ready-made examples that you can use on cue.  Go over your CV and recall your greatest achievements.  What were the skills and attitudes that you used to bring about the achievements?  How did you use them?  What did you learn from the experience?  What would you do differently if faced with the same situation again?

Personal appearance

Within the first 2 minutes of the interview, the interviewer will already have formed a judgement of you and your suitability for the role – make sure it is a positive one.


Research has shown that 50% of communication relies on body language.  Many interviewees shoot themselves in the foot without realising that they are sending out negative signals.  There are several issues to avoid:
Areas to concentrate on include:

    1. Walk in with a confident stride
    2. Smile – show the interviewer that you are open, friendly and confident
    3. Maintain good eye contact
    4. A firm handshake

The main point is to ensure that you are relaxed and confident and the best way to ensure this is thorough preparation.


By looking at the interview from the other side of the desk, it is much easier to understand what the interviewer is looking for, and therefore to tailor your answers to what is needed.
The interviewer will have 3 main considerations:

Ability & suitability

There are plenty of people with the right qualifications and skills to do the job in hand.  On paper, the interviewer may have little to help them differentiate between candidates.  Look at the role that you are applying for and list all the technical skills and personal traits that are vital to the job.  Now pick out specific examples from your past that highlight these qualities.  Make life easy for the interviewer by painting vivid pictures from your past.  Specifics will always win over generalisations as they prove to the interviewer that you have what it takes to do the job well.


You may have the right credentials to do the job but the interviewer needs to know if you are the sort of person who will go the extra mile in order to help the team succeed.  Have examples ready of when you went beyond the call of duty in order to ensure the success of a project or task.

Problem solving

Anyone who is hired is hired for the same reason: the employer has a problem of some kind that needs solving.  Look at the job description and decide what problems will need to be solved by the individual who gets the job.  Again go to your past and prepare examples of when you overcame similar problems.  Pay particular attention to your approach to the problem, your thought process in tackling it, how you went about solving it and the outcome of your actions.


Specific competencies will vary from job to job.  There are a number of common competencies that you will be questioned on, no matter what job you are applying for.  Below are the most common traits that you will need to prove that you possess:


Communication skills


Analytical skills
Listening skills


Money that you have saved your company
Time that you have saved your company



There are many different questions that the interviewer can use to determine whether you possess certain competencies.  However, by matching the above competencies to specific examples from your past in preparation for the interview, you will be able to cover most eventualities.


Below is a list of questions, some of which will come up in the interview, others that may not.  There are no penalties for over-preparation though, so it is important that you have put some thought into how you will answer all of them:

What did you dislike about your old job?
  This is an invitation to put your head in a noose.  Keep answers short and positive: e.g. ‘I really enjoyed my last job but I felt that I wanted a bigger challenge’.  ‘One of the things that appeal to me about working with your company is the fact the individuals are stretched to bring the best out of them’.  ‘I look forward to tackling such a challenge.’

Have you done the best work that you are capable of doing?
  By saying ‘yes’ you give the image of being a spent force.  Say something along the lines of being proud of your work to date, whilst assuring the interviewer that you feel the best is yet to come.

Where do you see yourself in five years time? 
A good response is to throw a question back:  What opportunities are there within this company?  If possible and honest, blend this answer with your prepared answer.

What are your biggest accomplishments?
  A golden opportunity to sell yourself.  It is absolutely crucial that you have several well-prepared stories including facts and figures.  The more vivid your story, the better the interviewer can visualise you not only successfully completing that task, but completing such tasks for their company.  Be conscious of time and don’t ramble – get as much detail into as short a time as possible.

Can you work under pressure? 
A simple ‘yes’ does not separate you from the crowd.  Think of specifics from your past including how you dealt with pressure.  What are your greatest strengths? 

What most interests you about this job?

Describe a difficult problem that you have had to deal with?
  This is a chance to show off your approach to problems. 

Show that you employ a logical thought process by outlining a step-by-step approach to problem solving and then give an example of a problem that you are particularly proud of solving.

What have you done that shows initiative?
  It is best to think of some example that is work related, but use examples from outside professional life if absolutely necessary.

What qualities do you think it needs to be successful in this field?
If you have listened to the interviewer’s preamble at the beginning of the interview, you will know what they want to hear. 

Do you work better on your own or as part of a team?
  By knowing about the role you will have an idea of the balance of work in terms of how much time will be spent working on your own and how much contributing to team efforts.  Answer according to the necessary balance. 

Tell me of a time when you had to communicate with people from different levels.  What problems did you encounter?  What were the results?
  This is not only a question designed to probe your interpersonal skills, but also to determine how you dealt with a problem.  As above, show a logical approach to problem solving.

Give me an example of an event that really challenged you.  How did you overcome the challenge?
  Answer in the same manner as the previous question.  Be sure to portray the challenge in its worst light.  The darker you can paint the problem, the more you will shine.

How have you benefited from your disappointments?
  Resist the temptation to explain specific disappointment in detail.  This is one of those questions where it is better to give a general answer, e.g. ‘I treat disappointments as learning experience.  I looked at what happened, why it happened and how I would deal with things differently if I had the chance.  Having done that, I put the disappointment behind me and look forward to tackling the next problem with a better understanding.’

What is your greatest weakness? 
Keep your answer short and end it on a positive note if possible, e.g. ‘I like to give projects 100% and I sometimes find it frustrating when others in the team do not give the same level of commitment.  I am conscious of this weakness and aim to overcome it by a positive attitude that I hope will catch on.’

What would you do if you were going to miss the deadline?

What has been the biggest decision you have had to make?

When did you last take a risk at work and explain the risk?

What frustrates you at work?

What are your ambitions?

What hours do you normally work / how flexible are you?


The interview will normally close with the interviewer inviting you to ask some questions.  Having researched the company you will be in a great position to really probe and find out if this is the role/company for you, have your prepared questions written down, you will never remember them off the top of your head.

Another thing to remember is that people love to talk about themselves.  Now is the time to find out about the interviewer – after all you are potentially going to be working with this person. 

Good questions include:
Why did you join the company?
What keeps you here?
What are the qualities that you have shown in order to get to where you are?

An excellent question is:  ‘What would my first assignment be?’  This not only gives you an insight into the day-to-day mechanics of the role, but also results in the interviewer picturing you working within the company.

Show enthusiasm for the role, e.g. ‘I understand that you are making a decision on the X.  Do you think I am right for the job?

Egerton Stephens Partners wishes you great success at Interview.

Todays Date 12.12.2017 : 21:27pm