Interview Tips and Advice

The cliché is true – you only get one chance to make a first impression. First impressions are powerful. An initial impression has more of an impact than people realise. Employers often use the interview as a way to confirm their first impression of you. You can turn this to your advantage by making a positive first impression, which in turn, sets a favourable tone for what happens during your interview. Your goal is to create the aura of an individual who is confident, self-assured and gracious. The way you dress frames the picture – the way you behave colours the portrait of who you are…

Performance Tips

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes before the established time. Allow for unexpected traffic and/or parking difficulties. Being late can be an unrecoverable position.
  • Show courtesy and respect to everyone you meet. More than one applicant has lost out because of a rude remark or a patronising manner at the front desk.
  • Maintain a warm and friendly demeanour. A natural smile will punctuate your conversation and add to your presentation.
  • Try to select a seat that places you directly opposite the interviewer. Wait to sit down until the interviewer offers you a chair or is seated.
  • Treat the interviewer as a potential colleague and establish a rapport as you would with a peer. Show respect, but do not place the interviewer on a pedestal.
  • Maintain an “open” body position. Lean towards the interviewer a bit to show interest. If you understand mirroring techniques, be subtle but use if practiced at this.
  • Look at the interviewer. Direct eye contact is important.
  • Avoid irritating habits such as pen clicking, pencil tapping, hair twisting, foot swinging and knuckle cracking.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you provide. It is not pertinent to the job and it may be a red flag to the interviewer.
  • Review a business etiquette book to refresh your memory on the manners, introduction protocols and other details of appropriate, professional behaviour.
  • Remember that you have a valuable contribution to make to an organisation.
  • Relax, keep in mind that you are just two human beings meeting with one another in order to get to know each other better. The fate of the universe does not hang in the balance.


The hardest suggestion is often to enjoy the interview. Think of it this way, you did not have the job before the interview, so if you walk out without getting it you are no worse off. In fact you have benefited from another interview experience, and the more interviews you have the more comfortable you will be in this situation. Like public speaking, not many people love interviews, but if you can put yourself in the right mindset you will gain regardless and be better prepared for the next opportunity – which could be the job of your dreams!

Immediately contact your recruitment consultant after your interview to discuss the meeting and to give and receive feedback. He or she can then answer any additional questions the employer might have and may be able to ease the process. Sometimes you will think of something pertinent you did not get to say, but your recruiter can follow up and clarify any points or add extra information that might just be the key to you getting the job.

Your behaviour during the Interview

The following are some key negative behavioral traits to avoid at the interview:

  • Overbearing / aggressive / conceited / ‘superiority complex’ / ‘know-it-all’ attitude.
  • Lack of planning for career – no purpose or goals.
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm – passive and indifferent.
  • Lack of confidence – nervousness. If you are nervous, say so.
  • Over-emphasis on money – interested only in remuneration.
  • Evasive – makes excuses for unfavourable aspects in past record.
  • Lack of tact / maturity / courtesy.
  • Condemnation of past employers. Never belittle a past employer. Our world is now almost 3 degrees of separation, and you just don’t know who knows who.
  • Persistent attitude of “what can you do for me?’
  • Lack of preparation for interview – failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions.
  • Lying. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as to the point as possible.
  • ‘Over answering’ questions. Try not to say more than is necessary.

Nonverbal Communications

I recall many years ago when I joined Toastmasters that only 7% of what we communicate is from the actual words we use. Over 90% is communicated through body language, facial expression, the tone of our voice, inflections, pitch, cadence and more. As an aside, this is partly why there is so much misunderstanding with emails. During an interview, what you convey nonverbally may be as important as what you say. Keep these “body language” clues in mind:

  • Facial Expressions: eyes are a key nonverbal indicator. Looking away indicates shyness, dislike or a lack of interest. Eye contact indicates a desire for communication, feedback and friendliness.
  • Posture: the way you sit or stand can convey energy or fatigue, interest or boredom. Walk and sit with a confident air. Lean toward an interviewer to indicate interest and enthusiasm.
  • Voice and Gestures: a well-modulated voice with a moderate pitch and inflection conveys interest and appropriate excitement. Be aware of gestures, which might convey anxiety and interfere with your message.

Closing the interview

  • Let the interviewer know how interested you are in the position. If they offer you the position and you want it and it is a good fit on all levels, accept on the spot. If you’d like some time to think it over and talk with a spouse or family member, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date when you can provide an answer.
  • Don’t be too discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with their office first or interview more applicants before making a decision.
  • Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of you.


Behavioural Interviewing Strategies for Job-Seekers

Behavioral interviewing is a relatively new mode of job interviewing, going back to the 1990’s where it started to gain interest. Now, because increasing numbers of employers are using behavior-based methods to screen job candidates, understanding how to excel in this interview environment is becoming a crucial job-hunting skill.

In my undergrad Applied Science studies, it was often said that the past is the key to the present. The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.

Behavioral-based interviewing is touted as providing a more objective set of facts to make employment decisions than other interviewing methods. Traditional interview questions ask you general questions such as “Tell me about yourself.” The process of behavioral interviewing is much more probing and works very differently.

In a traditional job-interview, you can usually get away with telling the interviewer what he or she wants to hear, even if you are fudging a bit on the truth. Even if you are asked situational questions that start out “How would you handle XYZ situation?” you have minimal accountability. How does the interviewer know, after all, if you would really react in a given situation the way you say you would? In a behavioral interview it’s much more difficult to give responses that are untrue to your character. When you start to tell a behavioral story, the behavioral interviewer typically will pick it apart to try to get at the specific behavior(s). The interviewer will probe further for more depth or detail such as “What were you thinking at that point?” or “Tell me more about your meeting with that person,” or “Lead me through your decision process.” If you’ve told a story that’s anything but totally honest, your response will not hold up through the barrage of probing questions.

I was told a long time ago that the best question an interview should ask is “Why“. Normally we ask why again and again until we exhaust your knowledge or rational to see how much depth there really is. Asking some behavioral questions and then probing with a series of “why’s” is something most interviewers can/should do these days.

Employers use the behavioral interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success. The interviewer identifies job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills and abilities that the company has decided are desirable in a particular position. For example, some of the characteristics that consulting firms may look for include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Being a self-starter
  • Willingness to learn
  • Self-confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Professionalism

The interviewer then structures pointed questions to elicit detailed responses aimed at determining if the candidate possesses the desired characteristics. Questions, often not even obviously framed as a specific question, typically start out conversationally: “tell me about a time…” or ” describe a situation…” Many interviewers will use a rating scale to assess each candidate against to ensure no bias creeps in and the best candidate is selected.

In the interview, your response needs to be specific and detailed. Candidates who tell the interviewer about particular situations that relate to each question will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms. When answering the first couple of questions it is wise to ask if you are providing the type of answer and to the level they are looking for. Some interviewers (e.g. HR types) like long descriptive answers, while others (e.g. senior executives, technical managers) may just want the executive summary type response and prefer you are concise.

Ideally, you should briefly describe the situation, what specific action you took to have an effect on the situation, and the positive result or outcome. Frame it in a three-step process, usually called a S-T-A-R statement:

  1. Situation (or Task, problem)  2. Action  3. Result or outcome.

It’s difficult to prepare for a behavior-based interview because of the huge number and variety of possible behavioral questions you might be asked. Firstly, you must know yourself. Know your strengths and capabilities; refresh your mind on earlier roles and responsibilities/achievements.  The best way to prepare is to arm yourself with a small arsenal of example stories that can be adapted to many behavioral questions.

Remember that many behavioral questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations; you’ll need to have examples of negative experiences ready, but try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of or — better yet, those that had positive outcomes.

Here’s a good way to prepare for behavior-based interviews:

  • Identify six to eight examples from your past experience where you demonstrated top behaviors and skills that employers typically seek. Think in terms of examples that will exploit your top selling points.
  • Half your examples should be totally positive, such as accomplishments or meeting goals.
  • The other half should be situations that started out negatively but either ended positively or you made the best of the outcome.
  • Vary your examples; don’t take them all from just one area of your life.
  • Use fairly recent examples. Your interviewer will have a copy of your resume, so talk to examples from this they can refer to.
  • Try to describe examples in story form and/or STAR.


To cram for a behavioral interview right before you’re interviewed, review your resume. Seeing your achievements in print will jog your memory.

In the interview, listen carefully to each question, and pull an example out of your bag of tricks that provides an appropriate description of how you demonstrated the desired behavior. With practice, you can learn to tailor a relatively small set of examples to respond to a number of different behavioral questions.

Once you’ve got the job, keep a record of achievements and accomplishments so you’ll be ready with more great examples the next time you go on a behavior interview. This last tip is gold and will save you hours in the future. Every quarter you should review your resume to add new roles, responsibilities and achievements. You never know when you will get tapped on the shoulder or need to look for your next role.

For further job hunting tips –