Job Interview Tips & Techniques

Job interviews are critical to the quality of an organization's people. Good job interviews processes and methods increase the quality of people in an organization. Poor job interviews methods result in poor selection, which undermines organizational capabilities, wastes management time, and increases staff turnover.

Below are samples of interviews questions asked at interviews. Many interviewers and interviewees are keenly interested in 'tough' interview questions and certainly interviewees need to prepare answers for 'tough' questions. However, from the interviewer's perspective asking 'tough' questions is not usually helpful. Interviews should not place undue pressure on interviewees, because people tend to withdraw and become defensive under pressure. We learn more about people when they relax.

It's better therefore to focus on 'good' interview questions rather than 'tough' ones. Good interview questions encourage interviewees to think about themselves and to give the interviewer clear and revealing information as to the interviewee's needs, capabilities, experience, personality, and suitability for the job. The best interview questions are therefore the questions which most help interviewees to reveal their skills, knowledge, attitudes, and feelings to the interviewer.

Interview Tips for the Recruiter

  1. You must makes notes of the questions you intend to ask - otherwise you'll forget.
  2. Decide the essential things you need to learn and prepare questions to probe them.
  3. Plan the environment - privacy, no interruptions, ensure the interviewee is looked after while they wait.
  4. Arrange the seating in an informal relaxed way. Don't sit behind a desk directly facing the interviewee - sit around a coffee table or meeting room table.
  5. Clear your desk, apart from what you need for the interview, so it shows you've prepared and are organised, which shows you respect the situation and the interviewee.
  6. Put the interviewee at ease - it's stressful for them, so don't make it any worse.
  7. Begin by explaining clearly and concisely the general details of the organisation and the role.
  8. Ask open-ended questions - how, why, tell me, what, (and to a lesser extent where, when, which) to get the interviewee talking.
  9. Make sure the interviewee does 90% of the talking.
  10. Use 'How?' and 'What?' questions to prompt examples and get to the real motives and feelings. 'Why?' questions place more pressure on people because they suggest that justification or defence is required. 'Why?' questions asked in succession will probe and drill down to root causes and feelings, but use with care as this is a high-pressure form of questioning and will not allow sensitive or nervous people to show you how good they are. Think about how your questions will make the interviewee feel. Your aim and responsibility as an interviewer is to understand the other person - not to intimidate, which does not facilitate understanding.
  11. High pressure causes people to clam up and rarely exposes hidden issues - calm, relaxed, gentle, clever questions are far more revealing.
  12. Probe the cv/resume/application form to clarify any unclear points.
  13. If possible, and particularly for any position above first-line jobs, use some form of psychometric test, or graphology, and have the results available for the interview, so you can discuss them with the interviewee. Always give people the results of their tests. Position the test as a helpful discussion point, not the deciding factor. Take care when giving the test to explain and reassure. Ensure the test is done on your premises - not sent in the post.
  14. Give interviewees opportunities to ask their own questions. Questions asked by interviewees are usually very revealing. They also help good candidates to demonstrate their worth, especially if the interviewer has not asked great questions or there is a feeling that a person has for any reason not had the chance to show their real capability and potential.

Sample  Interview Questions

These are samples of questions that interviewers ask interviewees and purposes of the questions:

Have you ever dealt with a customer making an unrealistic demand? How did you deal with them?

The interviewer asks these interview questions give the interviewee an opportunity to demonstrate firstly how they decide that what is realistic and what is unrealistic, and secondly how to explain to the customer why the demand cannot be met, and hopefully better still suggest an acceptable alternative course of action, preferably which results in the customer being more satisfied than if the issue had not arisen in the first place.

It is a fact that the greatest customer service challenges also offer the greatest opportunities to delight the customer, and interviewees who demonstrate such a philosophy are generally indicating great potential and value to a prospective employer.

What will you bring to the job/company if we employ you?

This tough interview question is an opportunity for the interviewee to relate their strengths and capabilities to the priorities of the job function, and to the aims and priorities of the organization.

The interviewee must therefore demonstrate an understanding of both sides of the question - the needs of the employer, and how to apply their own skills, capabilities, experience, style and strengths to the situation.

It's a good question, and also a great opportunity to show how good you are, and how you will add positively to the mood and attitude of people you'll work with.

This question invites good specific solutions and suggestions in response to stated organizational requirements.
As such it will quickly show up the candidates who understand what's needed in the role and how to make it happen.

Certain interviewers and situations will also be seeking indications of the candidate's personal style when working with others - notably whether the candidate will be an asset to the team in terms of motivation and morale.

If you are the interviewer make sure you explain earlier in the interview what the situation requires in terms of results, parameters and attitudinal factors.

Why do you want this job?

Opportunity to sell yourself and show you understand what they're looking for in the role. Make sure you hit both of these hot buttons. It's a touch question if you've not prepared the answer.

What did you achieve in your last job?

Another tough question which will expose a lack of preparation or relevant experience. The question and answer show whether any achievements have been made, and what values are placed on work. Shows motive - whether process, results, accuracy, security, social, etc. Shows understanding of cause and effect, pro-active vs passive.

How would you approach this job? How would you do it?

A tough question if the interviewee has not prepared. Shows if you've thought about what job requires and entails. Role and situation needs to have been explained well to enable a good response. Exposes people who can't actually do the job.

What are your strengths?

Shows whether candidate has self-awareness, and can identify what strengths are relevant to role. Shows if candidate has thought and planned. A glaring omission if not planned as this is such an obvious question that everyone should be prepared for. Strengths should obviously relate to the needs of the employer and the role.

What are your weaknesses?

A tough question if answered without proper thought. A trap for the unsuspecting or naive. Will show up those who've not prepared as this is another obvious question to expect. Will also prompt follow-up questions probing what the candidate is doing to improve the weakness, which is worth preparing for also

How do you deal with stress/pressure?

Exposes people who can't deal with pressure or don't recognise that lifestyle issues are important for good working. Exposes the misguided macho approach that stress can be good. It ain't.

What was the last book you read and how did it affect you?

Will provide another perspective of the interviewee's personality that may not otherwise surface. Opportunity to demonstrate skills , aptitudes, special interests, self-development, analytical ability, self-awareness. May expose feelings or issues that can be probed further. 

How to do measure your own effectiveness?

Exposes people who are not results orientated - more concerned with process, relationships, airy-fairy intangibles.

What personal goals do you have and how are you going about achieving them?

Exposes those with little or no initiative. People who don't plan or take steps to achieve their own personal progress will not be pro-active at work either. People who don't think and plan how to progress will tend to be reactive and passive, which is fine if the role calls for no more, but roles increasingly call for planning and action rather than waiting for instructions.

Why should we appoint you?

Pressure question - opportunity for interviewee to clearly and confidently stake their claim. Look again for the interviewee to state relevant strengths in behaviour, experience and skills. Look also for good eye-contact when pledging hard work, loyalty, determination, etc.

What can you do for us that other people cannot?

Pressure question, and one that enables the stars to shine. Look for awareness in the interviewee that they know what their relevant, even special, strengths are, and can link them to benefits that they would bring to the role.

What do you think of your last boss/employer?

Exposes back-biting, bitterness, grudges, inability to handle relationships. Exposes people who can't accept the company-line.

There are very many different questions that can be used in job interviews. This page does not attempt to list them all. Instead it seeks to give you an understanding through the examples below and other tips as to what is effective and why, from the standpoint of the interviewer and the interviewee.

 © alan chapman 1995-2009

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