Success at Work


Job InterviewPreparing for interviews is essential if you want to do well. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing you can do to influence the outcome of an interview other than answer questions honestly.

The more knowledgeable you are about the company the more convincing you will be that you are genuinely interested. If you know nothing about their business or plans, they could perceive you as treating them like a number, nothing special that is. Research the company ahead of time, especially on your likely boss.

  • Be enthusiastic and specific about why you want to work for this company - don't treat them like a number - people want to think that you are genuinely attracted to them.
  • Find out before the interview (or during) what their key current issues are so you can offer potential solutions.
  • Ask what improvements they would like to see in this role.
  • Continually tailor your responses to their current and long term issues.
  • Find and discuss areas of common interest with the interviewer.
  • Avoid arguing - if you must disagree with a point, start by stating areas of agreement - but don't fail to take a firm stand.
  • The more you can find out about the interviewer's issues and views, the more you can avoid shooting in the dark.
  • Mirror the interviewer's style - formal versus informal.
  • Find out what the previous incumbent was like and how he or she was regarded - indirectly getting at what they are looking for.
  • Ask about the company culture to find out what type of person they might be looking for.
  • Write an immediate thank you letter, highlighting key points worth emphasizing after reviewing how the interview went .

Be prepared for competency based interviews where the interview questions will be structured under the employer's competency headings. Try to find these out in advance of the interview if you can.

Then there is situational interviewing. Here you are asked questions pertaining to hypothetical situations. You are told about a problem and asked how you would handle it.

Still, the most common interviews are biographical, where the interviewer asks you questions about why you did the things you did in your life and career to date. Provide examples of achievements.

Use point form in listing achievements, i.e. "In 2008, we saved the company $XXX by taking these actions." "In 2007, ...," etc.

If you detect that the interviewer is a story teller, then it is OK to position achievements within a short story, but if the interviewer is a no-nonense person in a hurry, you need to keep to the point and avoid story telling which can run the risk of being too long-winded. This is where talking in point-form helps a lot.

Situational Interviews

Sample Question

Customer Focus - showing your customer focus

''One of our longest standing, medium sized customers wants a substantial discount on our service to renew their contract. Their business will not be profitable at this rate - especially compared to most of our new business which is highly profitable. You will be meeting this customer to discuss the situation. What would be your approach?''

Answer: negotiate to find a win-win outcome, beginning with a concerted effort to better understand the customer's needs. Stress partnership so you can both meet your needs. Less effective answers would be to drop the business without making this effort first or taking a hard line, win-lose stance.

How to approach situational questions

  • Think about how your answers reflect the competencies.
  • Try to balance several competencies in one answer. For example, results orientation could conflict with customer focus, so how can you demonstrate both?
  • Avoid reactive, hasty or ill-considered responses.
  • Think about wider implications of each issue.
  • Be decisive and to the point rather than rambling or uncertain.
  • Indicate one or two qualifications if necessary but don't prevaricate to the point where your answer is too vague.
  • Use point form rather than long-winded sentences.

Career Management Tips