Interview tips

On your long journey through yourself, you have been successful in writing a CV and called to the interview, but it is of course still to early to celebrate. Do not just lay back and relax - continue preparing. You are still in competition with the other applicants who have also been called to the interview. Do not focus on your competition, but focus on understanding what the interviewer wants to learn from the interview and what you have to offer him.

What does the interviewer want from the interview?

You have written your CV as a pre-interview after very careful reflection and structuring, but you do not know what exactly attracted the company's attention. It is time to sit down and read over your own letter and CV again (yes, AGAIN). Read through your application and try to read it through the recruiter's eyes. What does he want to find out during the interview? And what is the link between the CV you have written and the interview questions he will ask?

Remember that the interview has a variety of purposes: confirming, deepening, and challenging

First the interviewer will want to confirm his first impression about you. He will seek the proof to reinforce, strengthen and assure himself that his first impression was correct. He will want to prove he was right about you, that you have a certain value.

You are of course being interviewed and not the recruiter. So once he was able to confirm the first impression he has of your CV, he is going to probe for information that will provide a more detailed picture of your skills and potential growth. The best strategy to adopt in this situation is to be honest. The interviewer will now seek arguments opposite to his first impression. Stay calm and think about a good structured answer.  The interviewer will seek some "contrary evidence", that is, evidence that challenges his first impression. He knows that nobody is perfect, but these contrary arguments will help him to separate the true individual from the bluffer.

During the interview

At the interview, you will be nervous. Asking questions may help to relax and create an information searching attitude. It is natural for you to ask questions about the company, the progress with the company, the challenges you will face and the opportunities you will have to progress with the company. If you do not know the answer to a question or have never faced a certain situation, admit it and try to learn about it. Go as a problem solver, show your capabilities in solving some situations.

Hypothetical questions

Interviewers often use them. Often these questions are about what you would do in certain situations and it can be about situations you have never faced before. There is no right answer to such questions and they only measure the applicant's cleverness, stay calm and think of a clear and structured answer. The questions can be very broad and you can probably think of thousands of possible questions. Here are a few examples:

  • "What would you do if you caught someone stealing from the company and you knew that he had financial problems?"
  •  "How would you go about trying to change a policy that your boss supported but that you felt was detrimental to the department's operations?"

Importance of the past to predict the future

This information will allow the recruiter to assess the person's skills for specific situations he or she is likely to encounter in the new job. The interviewer is building a case that proves that the applicant is what he or she claims to be. The past events that are scrutinized in such interviewing become evidence (positive or negative) of skills the applicant is offering.

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions are the most commonly used questions in behavioral interviewing techniques and are often launched by a closed-ended question. A very typical example is "Did you enjoy your last job?", followed by the closed-ended question "Why?". The information given in the "Why?" part of the answer is a very important source of information for the recruiter. Almost all open-ended questions aim at gathering information on the past behavior of the applicant, his or her performance and attitudes. The way a person has dealt with instructions, responsibilities, information and people in specific situations provides great insight into what might be expected in the future from the same person.

When confronted with questions about past experiences, the thoughtful applicant will rarely fall silent and will always have an answer ready for the interviewer, because he will have thought about the purposefulness of what he or she had done in the past and will have developed a certain perspective. The unthoughtful applicant will be caught unaware. To the interviewer, this will simply indicate a lack of analysis and commitment to the job.

Penetration technique

The penetration technique is merely a variation of behavioral interviewing, used for probing a certain area in greater depth. It uses layers of open-minded questions pushing the interviewee into more and more details, allowing to zoom in on the skills and personality traits he wants to discover. It typically might go like this:

  • "What was according to you your best contribution to the department in which you last worked?"
  • "Why was it better than the other things you did?"
  • "Did you have any difficulties in getting accepted?"
  • "Why did you?"
  • "How did you overcome those difficulties?"
  • "What did you learn form the experience that might help you if you join our company?"

The Case Interview

The case interview is often used by consulting firms. The interviewee is given a business case like those used in business schools and MBA programs. The case is not very long and the interviewee will be asked to react orally to the questions of the interviewer. Often the candidate will be asked to summarize the problems of the company in question, give an analysis and suggest solutions. He or she will be expected to defend the logic and reasoning behind the proposed solution.