Interviews and interviewing skills

Wednesday, 2 February 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Few words create the mixed upwelling of emotion, excitement and fear as ‘interview’. Questions about skills, qualifications, and accomplishments are compounded by issues of clothing and etiquette.

The interview is the first step in the process of getting a desired job. Many people feel a bit nervous to face the interviews, especially fresh graduates, school leavers and even a few experienced employees.

Of course, it happens with the majority of people in the beginning of the career since they just come out of colleges by completing their education and searching for a job is completely a new task for them. The sad news is that students tend to practice and perform very well in interviews. They practice so hard at home that even the interviewers get caught to their plan.

Why do employers interview?

Interviewing is the most widely used method for selecting individual employees. In many cases an interview will be the first time an employer meets a candidate face-to-face. The employer usually has between three and five solid candidates who meet the position requirements. Now a decision must be made who to offer the position to.

An employer will make this decision based on the interview. An interview enables an employer to evaluate a candidate’s personality, non-verbal communication skills, punctuality, and general appearance. An interview also enables an employer to ask specific questions and observe a candidate’s responses in a high-stress situation.

Did you know that 98% of people problems come out of poor recruitment? Therefore interviews are very important.

A few essentials when attending a face-to-face interview:

1.Before attending an interview, dress up neatly in formal wear, go within the specified time to the location and enter the interview hall full of confidence and energy levels.

2.Consider that every interview is very important, so fully prepare, practice proactively and attend. It even improves your confidence levels to face the interview.

3.Be relaxed before attending the interview; do not think about your past experiences, personal issues and other activities.

4.Do not concentrate on what is going to happen after the interview, just think about interacting with the interviewer. The person who is taking your interview also initially came from your position. So think about that; your hard work never goes in vain. If you can answer confidently, you would definitely reach your goal.

5.If you are an experienced employee and attending the interview, you need to clearly know about your current job profile since the interviewer will observe how well you can present your current roles and responsibilities. Never say anything negative about the present company, which would create a negative impact in terms of short-listing your resume.

6.Due to any reason if you are not selected in the interview, take it as experience, learn from the experience and try to improve the part which you couldn’t explain as expected.

7.Never give-up attending interviews; every failure is an experience so think in this manner and it shows the way for your success.

Types of interviews

The type of interview and overall selection process will vary from organisation to organisation. The style used by the interviewer will also vary according his or her experience and personality.

Screening interview: A short-term interview designed basically to eliminate unqualified candidates (e.g. college recruiters use screening interviews). Based on these brief interviews, a determination is made to invite the candidate in for a second interview or selection interview.

General interview: Half an hour to one hour in duration, a general interview allows for an exchange of enough information to enable both employer and candidate to determine if further contact is to be made.

Second or selection interview: One hour to an entire day in duration; both employer and candidate engage in a more in-depth discussion of qualifications, responsibilities and other aspects of the position and the organisation. The candidate is seriously being considered for the position and the interviewer must gain as much information as possible to make a final decision. Other members of the staff or selection committee will often participate in this interview session.

Phone: Increasingly, employers are performing general and screening interviews by phone. Phone interviews can be difficult because you receive little non-verbal feedback from the person asking questions. Matters can be made even worse if you are on a speakerphone. In this type of situation make sure that you are in a quiet area and can speak freely and loudly.

Negative interview factors

When asked why an interviewer disliked a particular candidate, common responses included:

  • Poor personal appearance
  • Late for interview
  • Limp handshake
  • Poor eye contact
  • Discourtesy
  • Tactlessness
  • Immaturity
  • Passive or indifferent manner
  • Poor verbal communication

Other common turn-offs include:

  • Lack of initiative
  • Asks no questions about the position or organisation
  • Lack of confidence and poise
  • Lack of career focus/goals
  • Failure to express thanks
  • Indecisiveness
  • Overbearing, conceited tone
  • Narrow interests
  • Strong prejudices
  • Cynical attitude
  • Lack of participation or interest

What employers are looking for:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to speak clearly
  • Teamwork skills
  • Leadership skills.
  • Work related experience
  • Community involvement
  • Company knowledge
  • Flexibility
  • Ambition and motivation
  • People skills
  • Professional appearance
  • Ability to multitask
  • Computer skills
  • Reliability

Inappropriate and illegal questions

In general, questions which seek information that does not relate to the candidate’s ability to perform the functions of the job are considered inappropriate and might be illegal. These include questions about race, religion, national origin, marital status, children, relatives, age, birthplace of applicant or relatives, prior record and labour union activities.

This does not mean that an employer cannot seek this information indirectly. For example, many people will look at your date of graduation to estimate your age.

Employers are required to make all employment decisions in a manner which ensures that discrimination does not occur. It is improper to ask handicapped applicants about their disabling condition. In order to determine whether a handicap will affect a person’s performance, questions should be asked with regard to the person’s ability to do activities that are job related.

Therefore, it would not be appropriate to ask a job applicant if he has impaired vision, but it would be permitted to ask if an applicant has a valid driver’s license (if such is required on the job). Make sure you know whether a question is illegal before you question the interviewer about its appropriateness.

Closing the interview

‘Closing’ is a sales term that means influencing one to agree to take certain action (such as signing a contract or writing a check.) A complex sale involves a number of small closes before the ultimate closing purchase. The interview process is a series of closes leading up to the final job offer.

If you sense the interviewer is trying to close the interview and you are interested in the position, briefly highlight your relevant skills and, if you have any pertinent questions, ask them. Questions concerning benefits or information that can be found in company literature should be avoided. Before you leave, ask what the final selection process will be and what happens next.


Follow up your interview with a thank you note. In this note you should refer to specific issues which were discussed, express your thanks and restate your interest in the position. Also, provide whatever credentials, references or employment applications that may have been requested by the employer. If you do not hear from the employer in the specified period of time, you may wish to contact the employer with a phone call.

In the case of the second interview, it is also appropriate to thank the employer after the interview. Many candidates feel that since they have already sent a thank-you note for the first interview, it isn’t necessary to send a second one.

It is always correct to thank someone for extending a courtesy to you. A second interview usually involves a lot of the interviewer’s time and may also include expense for lunch or dinner. The letter may be simply a brief expression of your thanks for his/her time and consideration.

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)

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