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Simulation & Gaming:
An Interdisciplinary Journal
Successful Job Interviews
The interview is a two way conversation in which you have the opportunity to
sell yourself. It is also an opportunity for the interviewer or the interview
panel to learn about you and for you to learn about the job.
Interviews vary enormously from a 20 minute informal chat to an in depth
interview of 45 minutes or more. There may be screening interview followed by a
second interview. The interview may or may not be trained and experience in the
art of interviewing.
Types of Interviews
Usually unstructured however, the interviewer often prepares points of
discussion based on your background and asks questions designed to reveal more
about you. The interview will proceed according to the leads that your provide
in your responses. It is important for you to be proactive in this process.
In this type of formal interview you are interviewed by one person (eg: manager,
human resource manager, senior executive. These may be structured where the
interviewer will have a fixed set of questions that they will ask each
In this type of interview you are questioned by a number of people (2-5). The
Panel will have an agreed set of questions and will generally have planned who
will ask each question and in what order.
This is where an employer interviews a number of candidates at the same time and
determines how candidates interact with others. Remember that you do not need to
dominate the groups - in fact this can often be a disadvantage for you.
These use past behaviour as a predictor of future performance. This approach is
also referred to as 'targeted selection'. The questions aim to elicit specific
examples of how you have handled things in the past. The interview may be
entirely composed of behavioural questions or they may be used in conjunction
with other types of questions.
- Can you tell us about a time when you had to gain the cooperation of a
group over which you had little or no authority?
- What did you do and how effective were you?
- We all miss deadlines from time to time. Can you give us an example of
when you missed a deadline? What were the causes and how did you deal with
Case interviews are most commonly used for consulting, finance and executive
positions. Case interviews test your ability to analyse and solve problems often
of a business nature. A typical scenario is presented and the candidate is asked
to solve the problem.
A global telecommunications firm is considering entering a new market.
You are to assess whether or not it makes sense. How would you approach this
Smaller organisations, or organisations recruiting staff from a wide
geographical base, may use an initial telephone interview as a screening device
to cut down on the number of applicants for a position. Such an interview can be
quite challenging because there are no visual cues to guide your responses.
Clarity of speech, variation of tone in the voice, and good listening skills are
therefore very important. Have a "sales pitch"-a quick summary about yourself
ready to deliver over the phone if necessary. Good preparation is essential
before you dial!
Interviews via Video Conferencing
Interviews via video links deprive you (and the interviewer) of the opportunity
to fully read body language. Therefore you need to stay on the point but be
concise, as you may not be able to tell if the interviewer is getting bored. A
useful technique to overcome this problem is to ask the interviewer if they
would like more detail. Dress in plain, bright colours-checks and stripes can
blur. Do not watch yourself in the screen and look directly at the camera so the
interviewer feels you are looking directly at him or her. Avoid sudden
movements, which could cause blurring on the received picture. Work to establish
rapport right from the beginning of the interview. Smile! Be certain to know and
use the name of the interviewer. Use a normal volume of voice, directing your
speech to the microphone. Stay seated to say goodbye at the conclusion of the
Preparation for the Interview
There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for the
interview. The nine steps to interview preparation are outlined
- Review the job and person specification
- Look at the Duty Statement and Selection Criteria and think about what
knowledge, skills and experience you have that you could talk about at the
- Think of specific things you've done and specific situations you've
experienced that you could discuss (refer back to your answers to the Job
- Decide if you are qualified to apply for the role
- Know yourself: your strengths, weaknesses, skills, goals, preferences,
personal qualities, etc. and be prepared to talk about them. The more you
know about yourself, the more confident you are likely to appear at the
- Obtain some information about the role
- Do some further research on the University and the job you are applying
for. Find out as much as you can about them either by talking with someone
in the area or with those who have close contact with them, or with someone
working in a similar position in another department. The more you know about
the job, the more positively you'll be able to answer questions and show
that you have an understanding of the needs of the position and the
- Find out details about the University such as its size, main areas of
responsibility, directions, policies, who we deal with. Some of this
information can be researched on the University website.
- Visit your prospective workplace
If possible, try to arrange a visit beforehand to find out more about the
position. See where you would be working if you got the job and try to meet
some of the people with whom you'd be working.
- Think about the interview questions
Consider the kinds of questions you might be asked and think about how you
might answer them. Common questions include the following:
- What prompted you to apply for this position?
- What do you know about the organisation?
- What do you think are your major achievements to date?
- How does your current work experience relate to this job?
- What are your major strengths?
- In your last job, what accomplishments gave you the most satisfaction?
- What are your career plans?
- Why should we give you this job?
- Practise answering some of the questions, especially the
ones you find difficult. You could try talking to yourself or taping yourself.
Better still, practise with someone you know, eg: a friend, colleague or
partner, and get them to ask you both prepared questions that you particularly
want to practise, and 'surprise' questions.
- Think about any questions you might want to ask the
interviewer/s. Write down a few ideas if you think this will help you to
remember. Common questions to ask include:
- What expectations does your company have of employees in first their
first year? How will I be evaluated?
- What opportunities for training /career advancement are there within
- If I am successful, when would you like me to start?
- Why is the position available?
- Do you see the company expanding in the foreseeable future?
- Can I contact you for feedback once the decision has been made?
- Use the STAR method for example based questions.
- Situation - a brief outline of the situation
- Task - what tasks needed to be
- Action - the steps you took to complete the task
- Results - what outcomes were achieved?
- If you're feeling particularly nervous or under-confident
about the interview, consider the following techniques:
- Try to imagine that you are at the interview, that you're feeling
relaxed and confident, and that everything's going well (positive
- Talk to yourself positively about the interview. Say things like 'The
interview will go well', 'I know I can do this job', etc (affirmation). The
more positive you are about the interview, the better you will come across.
Presentation for the Interview
- While dress codes vary in different industries, professions and
workplaces, it is generally wise when attending an interview to note the
following advice. Women should wear a smart skirt or trousers and blouse, or a
business suit. For men, smart trousers and a shirt with a collar and tie are
- Dressing on the conservative side is generally advised unless you think
that a more individual style of dress would be appreciated.
- Personal grooming is very important: neat, freshly combed hair, clean
fingers and nails, and clean shoes are recommended.
- Physical appearance is a factor too - get a good rest the night before
your interview so that you look and sound your best.
- Wear something you feel comfortable in that is also professional.
- Avoid strong perfume or aftershave and too much jewellery.
What you should take to the Interview
There are several items you might like to take with you to the interview.
Some of these will be useful for you to refer to; others are for the Appointment
Committee to look at.
- A copy of your written application, in case the Committee ask you for
clarification on things you've stated in the application.
- A copy of the Duty Statement and Selection Criteria for the position.
- Any notes of questions you want to ask your prospective employers.
- Originals of any qualifications/certificates.
- One of two examples of things you've done which are relevant to the
position, eg: a conference paper you've delivered, a report you've written, a
brochure or pamphlet you've produced, a sample of a spreadsheet you've set up
etc. The Appointment Committee may not have time or may not wish to look at
such documents, but bringing them along shows that you are well prepared.
At the Interview
Even though the interviewer/s assess you against each of the Selection
Criteria, your behaviour during the interview will influence judgement.
Make a Good Impression
First impressions are very important. How you present in the first few
minutes of the interview can have a big impact on the Appointment Committee's
- Arrive at the interview a few minutes early. This gives you a chance to
get your thoughts together before the interview starts, and also to get a feel
for the place where you may be working. Arriving late is not only bad manners,
but may give the impression that you are unable to organise yourself well. If
for some unavoidable reason you are going to be late, contact the
interviewer/s to let them know.
- When called in for the interview, greet each person in turn, using their
names if possible. Smile. If you are comfortable doing so, shake hands with
each interviewer - this helps to establish contact and build rapport.
- Wait until being offered a chair before sitting.
- Be yourself/behave naturally. 'Put your best foot forward', without
pretending to be something or someone you're not.
Some things to be aware of that you may find distracting or
disruptive during the interview include:
- telephone calls or other people coming into the office
- a nervous interviewer not used to interviewing
- unclear questions - don't hesitate to seek clarification
- being placed in a seat where you are subject to sun glare.
There are also some general rules for behaviour at job interviews:
- Silence is okay as long as not too long.
- Turn off your mobile phone so it doesn't ring during the interview.
- Speak clearly and remember the four minute rule - do not
speak for any longer than four consecutive minutes or else you will lose the
attention of the listener.
- Never fabricate your achievements or skills - getting a
job where you are called onto use skills you don't have will prove
embarrassing. Employers value honesty in their employees, so you wont get the
job if the Appointment Committee discover you have lied.
- Never criticise your present or former employers - it
- Don't ask about pay and conditions unless an Interviewer
raises it - it may seem like you are more interested in your salary than the
Techniques: Final hurdles
By Paul Cotter
Having made it past all the obstacles in the selection process, you have
managed to secure an interview for that dream job. Your qualifications,
experience and proven track record have got you this far, so how you come across
in interview is of vital importance. Some people "interview better" than others,
but it essentially comes down to two factors: preparation and confidence.
Interviewers are continually amazed by the number of candidates who are not
fully prepared, and who possess little or no knowledge of the company they
supposedly wish to work for. You should at least look at the company's website,
keep abreast of all recent news concerning both the firm and the industry, and
obtain a copy of their brochure.
It may seem obvious, but ensure that you know the exact time and location of
your interview, who you are seeing, what their position is within the company,
and how you pronounce their name. First impressions are essential. It is
estimated that 90% of interviewers have formed an opinion of the interviewee
within the first minute of meeting them.
The golden rule with interview questions is never to answer with just "yes"
or "no": always explain your response. There are certain questions which you
will almost certainly be asked in any interview, so be prepared with answers.
Why are you looking for a new job?
If you want to leave your present job for negative reasons, be very careful
in how you express this to an interviewer. Turn it around to sound positive.
Being negative or even rude about your current/previous employer or company can
be seriously detrimental. Mention that you are looking for a new challenge, more
responsibility or a change of environment, but do not speak of remuneration in
connection with your desire for a new job.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Your strengths should always be backed up with examples. Weaknesses should
always be turned into strengths. For example: "I am a perfectionist, which means
I set very high standards. If I am working as part of a team and someone is not
pulling their weight, it will frustrate me. I will handle this by approaching
the individual and discussing with them how it can be resolved, rather than
letting the frustration build up, and losing my temper."
What can you offer our company?
The key to this is not to use clichés. Any company will ultimately be looking
for someone who can help increase their profits, so bear this in mind when
responding. You need to prove you have an exceptional talent, so answers such as
"I love selling", or "I'm a good communicator" will not wash. Back up your
response with quantitative examples.
You will also undoubtedly be subjected to a few "killer questions".
Surprising questions will be put in to give the interviewer an insight into how
you can cope with the unexpected. One of the most feared ones is "Tell me a joke".
This is a real test of your self-confidence, and can really put you on the spot.
There is no hard and fast rule for this one: just avoid anything which could
potentially offend! It is the manner in which you tell it, and not your choice
of joke that will be judged. When faced with hypothetical situation questions,
don't panic. There is nothing wrong with taking your time over them. Indeed,
employers would rather see you reflect on something, rather than rush in and
make it look as if you've rehearsed your speech a thousand times.
Do not underestimate the power of body language. The way in which you present
yourself will tell an employer much more about you than your CV ever could.
Always dress smartly, even if company policy dictates otherwise. Your handshake
should be firm, and you should always maintain eye contact throughout the
interview. Always smile, and show that you are a good listener as well as a good
orator. Acknowledge the interviewer's speech with nods, and if there is more
than one present, switch your glance between them regularly. If you tend to
gesticulate, hold back, as it suggests nervousness. Avoid fidgeting, and keep
good posture, as this communicates so much about your confidence levels. Above
all, be natural. It will be plainly obvious if you are trying too hard.
One area of the interview which is often underestimated is when the ball is
in your court, and you are invited to ask questions about the prospective
employer. The interview is a two-way process, and just as the interviewer will
be assessing your suitability for the company, you will be deciding whether or
not you really want to work for them. You should enquire as to what
opportunities there will be for promotion, but do not lose sight of the actual
job you are going for. Making out you are interested only in promotion is as bad
as showing too much interest in the money. You need to prove that you are
motivated by the job itself. You should also ask about opportunities for
training and development, and show an interest in the company by asking what the
plans are for future growth.
Before leaving, establish what the next step will be. If you are with a
recruitment consultancy, they will normally act as the middle man, but if you
have arranged the interview yourself, make sure you know when you can expect to
hear from them, and what will happen next.
To conclude, interviews are not something to be feared. Be aware of the
common pitfalls, as outlined earlier, and speak confidently, but not arrogantly.
Most importantly of all, be prepared but be yourself.
Joslin Rowe Associates are a financial recruitment consultants within the
Banking, Insurance and Accountancy sectors. In addition to Dublin, they have
offices in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sydney.