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job interviews

interviews tips - for interviewers

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.

interviews tips - for interviewees

1. Research as much as you can about the company - products, services, markets, competitors, trends, current activities, priorities. See the tips about researching before job interviews.

2. Prepare your answers for the type of questions you'll be asked, especially, be able to say why you want the job, what your strengths are, how you'd do the job, what your best achievements are.

3. Prepare good questions to ask at the interview. See the section on questions to ask at job interviews.

4. Related to the above, request a copy of the company's employment terms and conditions or employee handbook before the interview, in order to save time covering routine matters during the interview.

5. Assemble hard evidence (make sure it's clear and concise) of how what you've achieved in the past - proof will put you ahead of those who merely talk about it.

6. Have at least one other interview lined up, or have a recent job offer, or the possibility of receiving one from a recent job interview, and make sure you mention it to the interviewer.

7. Make sure your resume/cv is up to date, looking very good and even if already supplied to the interviewer take three with you (one for the interviewer, one for you and a spare in case the interviewer brings a colleague in to the meeting).

8. Get hold of the following material and read it, and remember the relevant issues, and ask questions about the areas that relate to the organisation and the role. Obtain and research: the company's sales brochures and literature, a trade magazine covering the company's market sector, and a serious newspaper for the few days before the interview so you're informed about world and national news. Also worth getting hold of: company 'in-house' magazines or newsletters, competitor leaflets, local or national newspaper articles featuring the company.

9. Review your personal goals and be able to speak openly and honestly about them and how you plan to achieve them.

10. Ensure you have two or three really good reputable and relevant references, and check they'd each be happy to be contacted.

11. Adopt an enthusiastic, alert, positive mind-set. If yoiu want some help with this try the 'I Am' self-belief page.

12. Particularly think about how to deal positively with any negative aspects - especially from the perspective of telling the truth, instead of evading or distorting facts, which rarely succeeds. See the CV pointers about this - it's very significant.

13. Try to get some experience of personality tests. Discover your personality strengths and weaknesses that would be indicated by a test, and be able to answer questions positively about the results. (Do not be intimidated by personality testing - expose yourself to it and learn about yourself.) To understand more about personality testing and the underpinning theory - and to find out more about yourself in this respect - see the section on personality theories and make time to read and understand it.

14. Think about what to wear. See the guidance about choice of dress, clothes and colours for interviews below.

sample job interviews questions and answers - for interviewers and interviewees

These are samples of questions that interviewers ask interviewees, with suggested ideal answers and reasons and purposes of the questions, to help interviewers and interviewees alike. See also the questions to ask at your job interview for ideas and suggested questions that interviewees should ask the interviewer, which are also extremely important.

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. Therefore, whether you are an interviewer preparing questions to ask, or an interviewee preparing how to give great answers, it is better to read all of this section to help you understand what works best and why, rather than simply select a few 'stock' examples. Having a few 'stock' questions and answers examples will limit your appreciation to just those examples. Instead seek to understand the reasoning that determines successful interviews, and then you will be able to formulate your own questions and answers for any interview situations that you face - whether as an interviewer or an interviewee.

question-answers examples and guidance -question notes

How do you measure talent?


How do you measure talent in an organisation (or company or team)?

and in similar vein:

How do you grow/develop talent in an organisation (or company or team)?-The first thing is to acknowledge the significance and importance of a question like these examples.

By showing that you recognise the potency of the question (for organisations as well as interviewees), you are half way to providing an impressive and effective answer.

(This principle of acknowledging very good questions in this way can be applied to any other question that addresses a serious and deeply significant issue, as this is.)

You can show your recognition with an initial response such as:

"That's a very significant question. Its implications affect the future health of all organisations - probably now more than ever.."

Beyond this, the question might initially seem impossible to answer, especially if you've had no real experience of measuring or growing such an intangible and fundamentally important aspect of performance in people and organisations, but there is actually quite a simple way to answer a question like this, for example:

"The reason why this is such a difficult question for modern organisations to address and resolve, is that while some organisations and leaders know how crucial 'talent' is for their survival and competitive effectiveness, you can't actually measure and grow anything until you can define exactly what it is, which is the real challenge. I believe that you can only begin to measure and develop anything when you can define exactly what it is. Talent is prime example. The concept of 'talent' alone is completely intangible. It means all sorts of different things to different people and organisations. Therefore the key to measuring and growing 'talent' is first to define exactly what 'talent' is - to understand and describe what it means, what it looks like, how it behaves and what it can achieve. And these definitions will be different depending on the organisation. Talent in a bank will have a quite different meaning to talent in an advertising agency, or in a hospital. So that's the first answer to the question: First you need to define it and agree the definition, which is likely to be quite and involved and detailed task, because it's such a deep and serious concept..."

Here's how you can develop this answer:

"Aside from defining what talent is, the organisation needs to acknowledge the importance of talent, (according to the agreed organisational definitions). This requires a commitment from the very top, which must be transparent and visible to all. Then people will begin to value talent more fittingly and preciously. A similar thing happened with the 'total quality' concept, when leaders woke up and realised its significance. But they first had to define it and break it down into measurable manageable elements before they could begin to improve it. Talent is the same."

If you really want to go for broke you could add:

"The same thing will happen with love and spirituality in organisations, as is happening already with ethics and responsibility. These fundamentally crucial concepts can only be assessed, managed and developed when they are given emphatic priority from the top, and defined in a meaningful and manageable way. Then they can be grown just like any other organisational attribute."

A supplementary point is that some leaders simply do not appreciate the really true concept of talent, which unfortunately is a serious obstacle to doing anything useful about talent at all. Where this is the case, the leader must be educated or replaced, because as ever organisations can only do what they leader genuinely understands and commits to achieving. -See general guidelines above if you've not seen them already.

These (apparently) tough questions about 'talent' and how to measure and develop 'talent' are presently confounding many of the world's biggest organisations, many leaders, and organisational development specialists.

These questions about 'talent' reflect widespread modern organisational challenges, and so are useful in interviews, especially for training, HR, management and executive positions.

Interviewees who can answer these questions sensibly and thoughtfully demonstrate considerable perceptiveness and ability.

Answers to these questions are relevant modern indicators as to an interviewee's value and potential in the field of management, leadership and HR.

(Prior to a sales or commercial management interview) Prepare a plan for your first 1/2/3 months in the role and present it at the interview.

This example and guidelines for answers are orientated to a sales or commercial management role, but the same principles apply for many other management positions, and increasingly front-line positions too.

Market forces inevitably tend to require all roles to be increasingly strategic, therefore this interview question could be used for lots of customer-facing roles as well as management job interviews.-The level of detail and precision that you can include in your plan and presentation depends on how well you know the market and the organisation. Beware of assuming too much however - it's important to strike the right balance between the need for assessment and action.

Interviewers want people who will make things happen and introduce positive change, but at the same time who can preserve the good things and avoid problematical fall-out.

A Gantt Chart is a good way to present this sort of plan. See the project management section, but avoid going into the level of detail suggested for major projects.

A clear series of bullet points will also be acceptable for most situations. Be guided by the recruiting organisation as to the technology and media to use, but in any event concentrate on the content rather than the bells and whistles. A good candidate would be able to handle this using just a flip chart.

See also the presentations page for ideas about how to structure the presentation, but again be mindful of the pressure of time: be very compact, impactful, concise and efficient in the way you put your ideas across.

What's required here is essentially a cohesive list of strategic action points, each aimed at producing specific results. Innovation helps provided it's not too off-the-wall.

Typically it's very difficult (and generally unwise) to enter a new organisation and immediately begin making lots of big changes, unless of course the situation is in crisis; a period of assessment and research is normally sensible.

Another crucial aspect is the maturity and performance of the team. Look at the Tannenbaum and Schmidt, and Tuckman theories to understand the significance of the team's capability.

Aim for 5-7 bullet points per section of the plan (for example a 3 month plan could be presented as three 5-7 point sections). Each action point with outcomes and reasoning explained. Financials and example statistics/ratios too if you know them.

Points and areas that could feature in a sales management plan are as follows - either as areas to address, or areas to develop into specific action points, depending on the level of knowledge and experience. These are in no particular order. Priority and mix depends on the situation:

• Immediate review of current and projected performance and factors - identify glaring gaps, weaknesses and opportunities - identify and optimise quick gains where possible

• Pareto (80:20) analysis - products, markets, customers

• People/team assessment - styles, strengths, performance, responsibilities, etc - psychometrics if possible/appropriate

• Costs and spending review - optimise and tighten - improve accountability and freedoms within agreed guidelines

• Customer analysis/visits - protect and consolidate

• Competitor assessment - identify losses and threats, especially from a major accounts/sectors view

• SWOT, PEST analyses

• Sales cycle and selling process review - key ratios and statistics

• Sales proposition, USP's, USB's (see sales section)

• Performance management, measurement and reporting

• ICT and internet - internal communications and systems, and customer interfaces

• Pricing and margins analysis

• Advertising and promotion and enquiry generation - conversion ratios through the sales funnel

• Strategy review - distribution/route(s) to market(s), partnerships - suppliers and sales distribution

• Marketing and sales materials and documentation review, including electronic and online data and systems

• Sales model - alignment of sales people with markets, sectors, verticals and horizontals

• Sales skills and training assessment

• Sales processing and relationships with other departments, CRM (customer relationship management)

• Sales services agencies/suppliers - telemarketing, A&P, etc

• Quality/service assessment - especially identify key performance factors

• Look at/develop inter-functional/departmental communications/cooperation/relationships

• Motivation, morale

• Sales planning, aims, objectives, targets - cascading to individual quotas and responsibilities

• Standards and controls

• Legal and licensing areas if appropriate, contracts and SLA's (service level agreements)

• Philosophy and belief, ethics and integrity

The presentation needs to combine relevant hot-spots from the above list, and to suggest a process of assessment and involvement of people, blended with change, so as to identify and optimise key performance factors within strategy, people/teams, skills and processes. -Asking interviewees to prepare a plan for their first one or two or three months in the role is an increasingly popular way for interviewing organisations to get a real taste and sample of how the job candidate would approach the job.

Seeing lots of fresh ideas is also very helpful in its own right for the recruiting organisation.

A question like this - usually for a management position, but not always so - is a great opportunity for the interviewee to use preparation and research in producing a compelling presentation of your value to the employer.

It's a real chance to show what you can do, in terms of ideas, experience, technical grasp of your subject, and ability to present and enthuse with clarity, logic and passion.

The guidelines and examples here are for a sales or commercial position, but the same principles apply for any role when asked to prepare a plan and present it at an interview.

The interviewer will want to see that the interviewee has a good understanding of the key performance criteria for the function or team or department concerned, and can use experience, research and original thinking in creating and delivering a clear, logical cohesive action-plan presentation.

Thus the interviewer is effectively having to 'pitch' for the job, in the same way that an agency has to pitch for a new account.

Being asked to present a plan at an interview is a wonderful opportunity to shine, especially for people who do not necessarily perform well under pressure when handling some of the more unpredictable questions that can arise in interviews. Instead, being able to prepare a plan and presentation in advance allows interviewer and interviewee's to assess and respond to each others needs in a far more professional and well-organised way.

How do/would you optimise performance and lift standards in a team?


Explain your approach to maintaining high standards and improving poor performance in a team.


(prior to the interview)

Prepare and give a presentation on how to maintain standards and address poor performance in managing a team.-Aside from the sort of poor performance which requires a firm disciplinary response (see the section on performance management), this question is best answered from the viewpoint of improvement and development, rather than discipline and control. The question provides a great opportunity to refer to lots of relevant theory, and to show you know how to apply it.

'Poor performance' is actually not a helpful perspective - it's negative. It's best to interpret this as helping people to become the best that they can be, in ways that enable them to align their natural strengths and preferences with the needs of the organisation and team.

Maslow is certainly relevant - we need to help people self-actualise, which a better angle of approach than 'poor performance'.

Belbin's model of team roles is a useful reference framework (everyone's good at something - so find out what it is and get them playing to their strengths).

Also useful in this respect is Gardner's multiple intelligences, and learning styles, along with the other personality styles theory, although don't go into that depth at the interview - just refer to the main principles.

Aspects of delegation are relevant, within which Tannenbaum and Schmidt, and Tuckman's 'storming, forming..etc' model are also useful reference frameworks.

Adair's Action-Centred Leadership model is a great reference for illustrating the different aspects of teams that need managing and leading.

The role of every good leader is to develop a successor, alongside which is the aim to develop team maturity so that it can self-manage. This approach fosters high standards and great performance because the team is being empowered. Open clear positive two-way communications help to establish team understanding and agreement of aims and direction (and standards). Involve and consult and enable and coach, rather than decide and direct and control. People perform and achieve best when pursuing their own goals and aims, not the ones imposed from outside. The trick therefore is aligning people with work, so it's meaningful and important.

An interview presentation (ensure you know how long the presentation should last) is best structured in three parts, plus the intro and the close. Look at the notes on presentations. Use different ways of communicating your ideas. Physical props demonstrate points powerfully and involve the audience/interviewers if passed around. Referring to case studies and extracts from biographies of high-achievers will help illustrate that high performance is borne of inner drive, not external control. A good manager is an enabler not a controller.-These questions invite candidates at management interviews to demonstrate their management and leadership abilities.

All management interviewees should prepare to answer this sort of question. Even if the interviewer doesn't ask the question, there will be plenty of opportunities to use the answers in dealing with other questions.

Good modern employers will look for positive Y-Theory ideas about managing people.

More traditional and autocratic interviewers will seek a tougher approach, in which case you can incorporate a few examples of firmness and control within your answers, where situations and scenarios warrant such a style.

If you are the interviewee don't just use my words - take what's meaningful and workable for you and make it your own. Understand your own strengths and style and show you know when to adapt and use a different approach.

If you are the interviewer ask this sort of question and look for the candidates to demonstrate that they understand about modern methods of managing, leading and developing teams. You need to recruit managers and leaders who can empower and inspire others, so seek these qualities in people, which will be demonstrated in the answers to this sort of question.

Have you ever dealt with a customer making an unrealistic demand?


Can you give me an example where you've had to deal with a customer who has made an unrealistic or unreasonable demand?


How do you deal with difficult customers?-Obviously if you have a real example with a good positive successful outcome for the customer and supplier then use it (it's a good idea to think about and prepare an example for this type of question in advance). Ideally examples should include the following elements: Central to this process is being able to fully understand the customer's position and feelings, without necessarily agreeing with them. Explaining this difference between understanding and agreeing at the interview helps the interviewee to demonstrate capability to deal with these types of difficult situations. Good sympathetic questioning skills, and a good understanding of the options available to the supplier organisation in solving problems, are also vital for being able to adapt and develop mutually agreeable solutions. An excellent answer or demonstration of excellent capability would include a very positive result in which the customer's satisfaction and loyalty was increased to a higher level than before the complaint or request (which is actually more easy to achieve than most people imagine). To show excellent technical skills in dealing with very difficult and emotional customers interviewees could refer to techniques within Transactional Analysis, Empathy theory, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).-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.

(Any question that invites you to describe/explain/comment on a 'negative' situation, for example, "Why did you leave your last job?, if the reason was that you were being bullied, or that you lost your temper at your boss and were fired)-When asked a question which intentionally or unintentionally exposes a 'negative' situation or experience or reason (for example for having left your last job), you should provide a positive interpretation and reflection of the experience. This means objectively (without emotion or bias) demonstrating understanding of the behaviour (which was directed at you that caused you to leave, or your negative behaviour that caused you to leave). For instance if you were bullied say so, but do not be critical or bitter, and emphasise the positives from the experience (which not least would be that you thought it best to leave rather than continue in a situation that was not doing anyone any good). If you behaved badly then you should ideally explain what you did and why, and how you have learned from it and that you will not make the same mistake again.

In general the approach is the same for most situations when dealing with questions that expose weaknesses or failures or opportunities for bitterness: you can (and should) explain what happened (to lie or distort would be wrong) but do so without bitterness or recrimination, and demonstrate forgiveness, tolerance and self-development achieved from the experience.

If you were the guilty party it helps to show that you had the courage to take some action to make amends, even for 'lost cause'.-The purpose of these questions may be unwitting, that is to say the interviewer has no idea what they might be uncovering. Or the question might be to intentionally put pressure on the interviewee in an area of weakness, or vulnerability, or past failure or mistake.

In any case, interviewers learn a lot about an interviewee's emotional maturity (increasingly a much sought-after attribute) when the interviewee is invited to explain, comment, and show their feelings about a past 'negative experience.

Emotionally mature people are able to talk objectively and honestly about 'negative' experiences, and interpret them into positive experiences.

A good interviewer can confidently form a good impression of any interviewee who displays good emotional maturity.

How would you respond if you were offered the job?-Think before the interview and during the interview: How would you actually respond to this question? If you'd accept the job and you are really happy and free to do so, then say so. You have little to gain from being evasive. If you have other options or commitments that need proper and fair consideration before accepting the job offer then say so (it does not put you in a very good light if you demonstrate that you are prepared to treat an existing employer or another potential employer badly). If you need more information (about package, expectations, responsibilities, etc) then say so. If the interviewer is being aggressive or provocative (as can happen in certain sales interviews particularly) you could say that actually the only way to find out for sure is to make the offer, ie., "...make me the offer and I'll tell you..." (the interviewer will not normally fall for that one of course but at least he/she will see that you can stand up for yourself, which most tough-nuts will respect). -This is not a actually great question to ask (if you are the interviewer) or to be asked (if you are the interviewee) because it suggests that the interviewer might not offer the job to someone who is not certain to accept it.

This is not great indication of a good, confident grown-up high-quality employer (or interviewer).

If you are strong and mature you'll be able to deal with an employer who feels the need to ask this question, otherwise you might not find this type of employer mature enough for you.

What would you do if you had to deal with an angry customer?-Look at the Transactional Analysis, NLP, and Empathy pages - a lot of what you need to know (and will differentiate you from other interviewees) is there, depending on your interview situation. Basically the answer is to empathise, understand, and as quickly as possible obtain the customer's trust in your promise to try to resolve the matter. And then set about finding the facts and resolving it, working within whatever policies and processes are in place for the particular problem. The important thing is to remember the difference between understanding and agreeing - you need to understand without necessarily agreeing or pre-judging the outcome (unless of course you can actually resolve it an agree it there and then). And you need to apologise without pre-judging whatever investigation you need to do or arrange. Finally, take responsibility for seeing the issue through to the finish, when at the end of it hopefully the customer is more delighted than they have ever been, (which is often what happens when you do things properly).-This type of 'scenario' question is good because it enables an interviewee to demonstrate experience, technique, and awareness of why a certain behaviour is appropriate for a given real situation that can arise in the job.

Demonstration of exactly the same experience is not necessary, what matters is the ability to adapt and apply technique and behaviour, which could come from different related experiences, for example dealing with difficult or upset people in any other situations.

The interviewee must demonstrate knowledge and/or experience of appropriate technique, behavioural and emotional awareness and capability, and the ability to match a good technical emotional and constructive response to a particular emotional (and probably process-based) challenge.

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

Imagine what your objectives will be if you were in the role, and orientate your answer towards meeting them, on time, on budget, and with style (especially to improve motivation and morale and to avoid unnecessary disruption and unhelpful side-effects).

Try to focus on the particular priorities and requirements of the role, the targets and aims, (which means you need to ask what they are if your are not told) and also if possible, focus on working style and behaviour attributes that fit the preferences of the interviewer, since most interviewers prefer people like themselves.

For example (assuming that the points illustrated are relevant):

"I can see clearly that quick results are a priority - and that's something I'm good at generating, because I have good abilities and experience to interpret situations, and then a strong focus on activities which will achieve change and results in the necessary areas."

"I'm diplomatic with people too, which means I can generally bring people along with me; if needs be though I can be firm and determined enough to convince people who need a bit of extra encouragement."-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.

Tell me about the culture at your last company/employer.-

If the past culture was good them explain how and why in terms that the interviewee is likely to identify with, for example:

"The culture encouraged people to develop, grow, take responsibility. People were coached and mentored towards quality and productive effort. All of this helped me a great deal because I identify with these values, and respond to these opportunities."

A good answer, in referring to a non-supportive culture would be to express the positive aspects (eg lots of freedom for me to take initiative, responsibility, find new ways to contribute, a free market allowing the good workers to naturally excel and develop reputation and internal working relationships, etc.) -The proper purpose of this tough question is to see how you interpret and explain culture, which provides an opportunity for you as the the interviewee to demonstrate how you feel about and react to whatever culture was in place. It's a potential trap for interviewees who would be negative and critical and apportion blame, eg 'the culture was not supportive and so it didn't help me to perform' (not a good answer). The culture question also invites comments from the interviewee about management style, and again is a trap for negative respondents who criticise their past boss (bad answer), rather than accentuate the positives and demonstrate positive behaviour in negative situations, which is a highly desirable trait.

Tell me about your life at College or University (or even your time in your previous job).-The question is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the qualities that the interviewer is seeking in for the job, so orientate your answer towards these expectations (without distorting the truth obviously).

In your answer, emphasise the positive behaviour, experience and achievements (ideally backed up with examples and evidence) which will impress the interviewer because of its relevance to the role requirements.

The interviewer is looking for the same capabilities and behaviour in your college (or university or previous job) life that they want in the job.

Your emphasis should be on your achievements, and how you achieved them, that are relevant to the job requirements.

Interviewers with special interest in behaviour and personality may also use a question like this to assess your self-awareness and maturity, in the way you consider your answer and relate it to your own experience and development. -A big open question like this in an interviewer is a huge opportunity or huge trap. It can be a tough question if not approached properly.

Interviewees should have the sense to refer to previous experiences that indicate capability and behaviour of the sort that the role requires.

It's a trap for interviewees who look regretfully or negatively on past experiences, criticise or attribute blame, or display 'someone else's fault' attitudes.

College and University are environments which provide lots of opportunity. Good applicants will be able to demonstrate that they have used the opportunity to learn and develop, whether their experiences were all positive and successful or not.

What do you want to be doing in 2/5/10 years time?


Where do you want to be in 2/5/10 years time?-It's not easy to answer this in terms of job expectation - no-one can realistically predict what job will be required in 5-10 years, let alone whether they will be right to do it, so I'd avoid specific job aims or claims, unless you actually have a very clear plan, and are seeking a job and career which clearly offers predictable and structured progression.

For most people and roles, which are largely unpredictable, this question is best and easiest answered in terms of the sort of situation you'd like to be in, which should reinforce all the other good things about yourself, for example:

"Making a more significant contribution to whatever organisation I'm working for. To have developed new skills, abilities, maturity - perhaps a little wisdom even. To have become better qualified in whatever way suits the situation and opportunities I have. To be better regarded by my peers, and respected by my superiors as someone who can continue to increase the value and scale of what I do for the organisation."

"I'd like more responsibility, because that's a result of personal growth and progression, and it's important for my personal satisfaction."

"I have no set aspirations about money and reward - if I contribute and add value to the organisation then generally increased reward follows - you get out what you put in."

"Long term I want to make the most of my abilities - if possible to build a serious career, but in this day and age nothing is certain or guaranteed; things can change. I'll do my best and believe that opportunities will arise which will enable me to keep contributing, increasing my worth, and developing my ability in a way that benefits the organisation and me."

Employers will respond well if they see that you are mature, independent, self-motivated; that you will make a positive and growing contribution, and that you understand that reward (financial, promotion, responsibility, etc) will always be based on the quality and value of your input. -This is a common tough interview question, and it commonly trips people up into making over-ambitious claims about their future potential and worth. It highlights feelings of delusion, and a need for security if they exist.

The question encourages the interviewee to think and express their plans and aspirations, future direction, needs and wishes. Some people find it more difficult to answer than others, depending on their personality.

Some people are able to plan and see clear steps along the way, which would be more commonly exhibited by people whose work involves this approach.

Job roles which require a higher level of adaptability and flexibility are unlikely to attract candidates who are meticulous planners.

The question is a powerful one because it prompts the interviewee to think and visualise about themselves and how they expect and want to change.

Give an example of when you had to settle a dispute between two individuals. -This depends on your relationship to the two people, so seek clarification if this is not clear, but broadly the aim is to first take any heat out of the situation by calming the individuals. Then firmly arrange a three-way discussion later in the day or an early opportunity in the future, in a suitable environment (closed meeting room), at which you can facilitate a proper discussion of the issues, so as to arrive at an agreed positive way of going forward or compromise. It's important to understand each person's standpoint and feelings, without agreeing with them, unless the argument concerns a clear breach of policy or wrong behaviour, in which case the transgressor should be counselled separately, after which the three-way meeting can be held to mend relationships. Arguments come in all shapes and sizes - a more specific answer is possible in response to a more specific scenario. -The interviewer is using this tough question to test the interviewee's experience and ability to diffuse conflict, and also to step back and take an objective view, rather than getting involved and taking sides, which is the natural temptation. Objectivity and facilitation are important skills of a good manager, and this question will identify whether the interviewee possesses them. This question will also put pressure on the interviewee's ability to manage people, because it provides a tricky people-management scenario.

What is your ideal job?-Mindful of the trap possibilities, the interviewee would always do well to qualify the question by asking for a timescale (at what point in my career?) before answering. This shows that some consideration is taking place rather than a knee-jerk, and that the question is producing a serious response rather than a fanciful one.

Aside from this, the best answer to the question, as for any interview question, is to use the opportunity to sell the strengths of the interviewee as a potential asset to the organisation. This would produce an answer that creates a picture of a loyal, results-orientated person, making a significant contribution to the organisation (status and level would depend on timescale). If the answer is poor it will trigger a probing follow up that puts pressure on the interviewee to justify a daft response. If the answer is impressive there probably won't be a follow-up as there's nothing to probe and the interviewer can move on. Wrong answers would include: 'boss of my own company' 'your job' 'the top salesman on half a mill a year' 'CEO of this company' (unless you can justify the claim) a pop star, a railway engine driver, a film star, etc Good answers would include: 'A manager or executive with this organisation in (function relative to experience and skill set) where I have the responsibility and accountability for using my skills and efforts to achieve great results, work alongside great people, and get a fair reward.' 'I'd like to become an expert in my field (state function if relevant), where I'm able to use my skills and abilities to make a real difference to the company's performance.' -This is a good and tough interview question, and the answer would almost always trigger a more specific follow-up question, asking 'why?', and then probing the reasons for the choice. From the interviewer's standpoint, the question is open and vague, which for certain purposes (see the next para re traps) is a good thing. If the question is intended to elicit meaningful information about the interviewee's career plans, then some timescale should be attached (ie 'what would be your ideal job in 3/5/10 years time?')

The question exposes interviewees who seek only personal gratification ('outputs') from a role (money, status, esteem, excitement, glamour, security, etc) rather than seeking opportunities to make best possible use of their effort, skills and experience, in contributing to the performance/quality/results of the organisation for which the role is performed ('inputs').

The question is a potential trap for people who are more concerned with what they get out of a job rather than what they put into it. Employers do not really want to recruit gratification-orientated people. These people are generally not self-starting nor self-motivating.

The question also gives indications as to how realistically the interviewee sees themselves. Some people visualise highly fanciful and unrealistic jobs, which is a warning sign to a potential employer. Others visualise jobs that are clearly remote from the job being applied for, which indicates that some falsification or delusion is present.

Why do you want this job?-Reflect back the qualities required and job priorities as being the things you do best and enjoy. Say why you think the company is good, and that you want to work for an organisation like it.-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?-Prepare a number of relevant examples and explain one (two or three if they're punchy and going down well). Make sure you feature as the instigator, or the factor that made the difference. Examples must lead to significant organisational benefits; making money, saving money/time, improving quality, anticipating or creatively solving problems, winning/keeping customers, improving efficiency.-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?-Identify the two or three main issues and say how you'll deal with them, which shows you can focus on what's important. Likely to be planing and organising, ensuring all the communications and relationships are working well, reviewing and measuring activities and resources against outputs and improving where possible. Emphasise your personal strengths that are very relevant to the role requirements.-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? -Prepare three that are relevant to the requirements of the role. Be able to analyse why and how you are strong in those areas. Mix in some behaviours, knowledge and experience and well as skills, and show that you understand the difference. Style should be quite confidence rather than arrogant or over-confident.-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?-Start by saying that you don't believe you are actually 'weak' in any area. Acknowledge certain areas that you believe you can improve, (and then pick some relatively unimportant or irrelevant areas). If you must state a weakness these are the clever ones that are actually strengths: not suffering fools gladly; sometimes being impatient with other people's sloppy work; being too demanding; refusing to give in when you believe strongly about something; trying to do too much, etc, etc.-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.

What would your references say about you?-Another opportunity to state relevant strengths, skills and behaviours. -Potential trap to draw out weaknesses - don't fall for it.

How do you handle tension/stress?-Say that you tend not to get tense or stressed because you plan and organise properly. Say you look after the other things that can cause stress - health, fitness, diet, lifestyle, etc. Talk about channeling pressure positively - thinking, planning, keeping a balanced approach.-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?-Be honest, as the interviewer might have read it too. There's no shame in admitting to lightweight reading material if that's what you like - put it in context, why you read it, and give a positive result, whatever it is. Be able to give an intelligent reaction to what you've read. Don't be too clever or try to impress as nobody likes a smart arse.-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.

What does/did your father do for a living?


What do your parents do for a living?


Tell me about what your parents do for a living.


What work are your parents involved in?-Tell the truth.

You are you. Your parents are different people.

Your parents have no bearing on how your value should be judged.

Avoid reacting in a defensive, judgemental, ashamed or critical way.

Avoid any suggestion that any parental influence on others has been or could be useful to your own career or success (i.e., references relating to 'old school tie' , or 'it's not what you know it's who you know').

-This question is not appropriate or helpful in most interview situations, but it can arise, and when it does so it can be quite emotive, which is mainly why it's listed here.

The question is designed to expose people who are over-protective or insecure, or who might think that they are somehow entitled to privilege because of who their father is or has achieved.

The question can also expose emotional hang-ups or sensitivities if any exist, with a view to further exploration/discussion.

Interviewers should use this question with great care, if indeed there is a good reason for using the question at all.

Tell me about a big challenge or difficulty you've faced; how did you deal with it?-Avoid anything deeply personal or seriously emotional unless you are in complete control of your feelings about it. Try to prepare an example that's work-related and relevant to the role. -Can expose emotional raw nerves or sensitivities. Opportunity to show proof of being able to achieve results in the face of difficulty. Is this person actually experienced are they just saying they are. (Experto Credite - Trust one who has proved it)

Tell me about something recently that really annoyed you.-Don't get trapped into admitting to a temper or loss of control. Say you tend to get more annoyed with yourself than with other people or other situations. Annoyance isn't very productive, so you tend to try to understand and concentrate on finding a way around a problem or putting things straight.-Exposes hang-ups and style of management and communication. Exposes anyone who believes it's okay or even good to get cross with other people. It ain't.

Give me some examples of how you have adapted your own communicating style to deal with different people and situations.-Prepare this as one of your strengths, as there's not a single job that won't benefit from good adaptive communication skills. Give examples of how you've been detailed and given written confirmation for people who need it. Give examples of how you verbally enthuse and inspire the people who respond to challenge and recognition. Think of other examples of adapting your style to suit the recipients. Give examples when you've had to be task-driven, process driven, people-driven, and how you change your style accordingly. A chance for you to truly shine.-Exposes single-style non-adaptive communicators, who don't understand or adapt to different people and situations.

Can we check your references?-Yes. -Exposes people who are not comfortable about having their references checked, in which case probe. Exposes people who've not had the foresight to organise an important controllable aspect of their job search, which is a bad sign.

What type of people do you get on with most/least?-Say generally you get on with everyone. Say you respond most to genuine, positive, honest people. If pressed as to people you don't get on with, say -Exposes hang-ups and prejudices. May prompt issues to probe, in which ask why.

Excellent answer - now can you give me an example that wasn't so good?-You may be hit with this if you're too contrived or clever, in which case give an example of something that didn't quite go so well, but make sure you present it positively and say what you learned from it. Don't try to stick to your guns and maintain that you're perfect - show a little human weakness. -Will knock a lot of people off guard, and expose any tendencies to confront or argue.

Give me an example of when you've produced some poor work and how you've dealt with it.-Don't admit to having produced poor work ever. Say you've probably made one or two mistakes - everyone does - but that you always do everything you can to put them straight, learn from them and made sure you'll not make the same mistake again.-A trap - don't fall in it.

What do you find difficult in work/life/relationships (etc)?-Pick a relatively irrelevant skill and say that you don't find it as easy as you'd like, so you're working on it (don't just make this up - think about it and be truthful). Don't own up to a weakness in an area that's important to the role. As with the weaknesses question, you can state certain difficulties because they are actually quite acceptable, even commendable, they'd include: suffering fools gladly, giving up an impossible task, tolerating unkind behaviour like bullying, having to accept I can't help certain big problems in the world, etc. -Another trap to expose weaknesses, and an opportunity to show strengths instead if played properly.

How do you plan and organise your work?-Planning and writing a plan is very important. I think how best to do things before I do them, if it's unknown territory I'd take advice, learn from previous examples - why re-invent the wheel? I always prioritise, I manage my time, and I understand the difference between urgent and important. For very complex projects I'd produce quite a detailed schedule and plan review stages. I even plan time-slots for activities that aren't in themselves organised, like thinking time, and being creative, solving problems, etc.-A great opportunity to shine and show management potential. Planning and organising is one of the keys to good work at any level so it's essential to acknowledge this. Exposes unreliable people who take pride in flying by the seat of their pants.

How much are you earning?/do you want to earn?-Be honest about what you've been earning and realistic about what you want to earn. -Exposes unrealistic people. An opportunity to demonstrate you understand the basic principle that everyone needs to justify their cost. Extra pay should be based on extra performance or productivity.

How many hours a week do you work/prefer to work?-It varies according to the situation. I plan and organise well, so unless there's a crisis or unusual demand I try to finish at a sensible time so as to have some time for my family/social life/outside interests. It's important to keep a good balance. I start earlier than most people - you can get a lot done before the phones start ringing. When the pressure's on though I'm happy to work as long as it takes to get the job done. It's not about the number of hours - it's the quality of the work that you do; how productive you are.-Exposes the clock-watchers and those who attach some misplaced macho pride in burning the candle at both ends. Look for a sense of balance, with flexibility to go beyond the call of duty on occasions when really required.

Do you make mistakes?-Be honest. Yes of course on occasions, but I obviously try not to, and I always try to correct them and learn from them.-Anyone who says they don't make mistakes either isn't telling the truth, or never does anything at all. Whatever, a 'no' here is a big warning signal. (Ack. Linda Larkin)

(Follow above question with) - Can you share your mistakes with others?-Absolutely I can - I get the guidance I need, and it may help prevent others from making the same mistake.-Shows whether the person can take responsibility and guidance. A mature, positive approach to learning from mistakes is a great characteristic. (Ack. LL)

How to do measure your own effectiveness?-By the results that I achieve, and that I achieve them in the most positive way. If there isn't an existing measure of this I'll usually create one.-Exposes people who are not results orientated - more concerned with process, relationships, airy-fairy intangibles.

How do you like to be managed /not like to be managed?-Be truthful, but express positively. I'm generally very adaptable to most management styles. In the past I've helped my bosses get the best out of me by talking to them and developing a really good understanding. I work best when I'm given freedom and responsibility to take some of the load off my boss's shoulders - they have enough to deal with. Do not respond to the negative and give any example of how you do not like to be managed.-Indicates ability to cooperate and manage upwards, also how management attention you'll need. Exposes potential awkwardness. Only the most experienced and capable managers will be seeking difficult dominant types, and only then for certain roles requiring a high level of independence and initiative.

What personal goals do you have and how are you going about achieving them?-Prepare for this - be able to state your personal and career goals - keep them reasonable, achievable and balanced. Explain how you see the steps to reaching your aims. An important part of achieving progress is planning how to do it. Be able to demonstrate that you've thought and planned, but also show that you are flexible and adaptable, because it's impossible to predict the future - the important thing is to learn and develop, and take advantage of opportunities as they come along. -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.

How do you balance work and family/social commitments?-Say balance is essential. All work and no play isn't good for anyone, but obviously work must come first if you want to do well and progress. Planning and organising my work well, and getting results, generally means that I have time for my outside interests and there's no conflict.-Can expose those with outside interests that may prevail over work commitments (keen sports-people, etc., who cannot put work first.) Indicates whether the interviewee has balanced approach to life. Obsession with work to the exclusion of most else is not generally a good sign.

Why should we appoint you?-You have a choice here as to how to play this: you can either go for it strongly, re-stating your relevant strengths - behaviour, experience and skills, or you can quietly confidently suggest: I don't know the other applicants, so it would be wrong for me to dismiss their claims. However, I am sure that I have all the main attributes the role requires, which, combined with determination and positive approach, should ensure that I'd be a very good choice. (If management progression/succession is seen as a benefit then you must refer to your willingness to develop and take on greater responsibilities in the future.) -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?-I don't know the other applicants, but generally I excel at . . . (pick your strengths that most fit with what they're seeking). Introduce some behavioural and style strengths as well as skills, and show you know the difference between them. -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.

Tell me about yourself.-You must rehearse this one. Have ready a descriptions of yourself and why you're like it. Don't just spout a lot of standard adjectives, say why you are like you are. Don't ramble on and tail off. make a few clear statements and finish.-Will show whether applicant has self-awareness - a critical skill that not everyone possesses. Will also show if applicant can think and present a complex case clearly and to the point. Also shows confidence and security levels, and 'grown-upness'.

What makes you mad?-Nothing really makes me mad - it's not a good way to deal with anything. Certain things disappoint or upset me - rudeness, arrogance, spitefulness (pick any obvious nasty traits or behaviours, particularly behaviours that you believe your interviewer will personally dislike too.)-Exposes poor self-control or unreasonable aversions, fears, and insecurities. Exposes lack of tolerance and emotional triggers. Clever interviewers may infer or encourage a feeling in the way they ask the question that it's okay to get mad. Don't fall for it.

What do you think of your last boss/employer?-Don't be critical. If possible be generous with praise and say why, giving positive reasons. If there was a conflict don't lie, but describe fairly and objectively without pointing blame.-Exposes back-biting, bitterness, grudges, inability to handle relationships. Exposes people who can't accept the company-line.

If you won a million on the lottery what would you do?-Probably save most of it, give some away, maybe a small treat for myself but nothing excessive. I could handle it I think because I'd always want to work, I'm quite sensible with money, maybe start my own business if I could be really sure to make a success of it.-Exposes the foolhardy, the irresponsible and the dreamers. Opportunity to demonstrate level-headedness, morality, work ethic, intelligence to know that money doesn't buy happiness.

stress and pressure interview questions

When dealing with questions that put pressure on you or create stress, be confident, credible and constructive (accentuate the positive) in your answers. And make sure you prepare. Stress and pressure questions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Three commonly used types of pressure questions are those dealing with weakness and failure; blame; and evidence of ability or experience.

weakness and failure questions

"Tell me about your failures....", or "What are your greatest weaknesses......". are the interviewer's equivalent to "Are you still beating your wife?..".

Don't be intimidated by these questions - you don't have to state a failing or a weakness just because the interviewer invites you to.

"I don't generally fail", or "I really can't think of any", are perfectly acceptable answers. Short and sweet, and then wait smiling for the come-back - you'll have demonstrated that you are no mug and no pushover. If you are pressed (as you probably will be), here's your justification answer, or if you wish to appear a little more self-effacing use this as a first response:

"I almost always succeed because plan and manage accordingly. If something's not going right I'll change it until it works. The important thing is to put the necessary checks and contingencies in place that enable me to see if things aren't going to plan, and to make changes when and if necessary....."


"There are some things I'm not so good at, but I'd never say these are weaknesses as such - a weakness is a vulnerability, and I don't consider myself vulnerable. If there's something I can't do or don't know, then I find someone who can do it or does know."

Do you see the positive orientation? Turn it around into a positive every time.

blame questions

Watch out also for the invitation to rubbish your past job or manager, especially in the form of: "Why did you leave your last job?", or "Why have you had so many jobs?"

The interviewer is not only satisfying curiosity.......... if you say your last boss was an idiot, or all your jobs have been rubbish, you'll be seen as someone who blames others and fails to take responsibility for your own actions and decisions.

Employers want to employ people who take responsibility, have initiative and come up with answers, not problems. Employers do not want to employ people who blame others.

So always express positive reasons and answers when given an opportunity to express the negative. Never blame anyone or anything else.

"I was ready for more challenge", or "Each job offered a better opportunity,

From India, Kochi
Thank you for those wonderful interview guidelines....
I m sure if the interviewees answer these questions sensibly and thoughtfully they will demonstrate considerable perceptiveness and ability.
hey all guys out there, please invest some time in reading the interview tips....

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