Launching your career

Interviewing guidelines

Guideline 1

The person who interviews you may or may not be a professional interviewer.

The professional

This person understands the behavioural, legal and financial implications of interviewing. She will not likely ask you any illegal questions, such as how old you are, if you are married, or whether you have disabilities. The professional interviewer will probably look at a variety of your qualifications including your personality type, your manner, your overall approach to work, and your ability to work under pressure, in addition, the “technical” skills you have.

If a professional interviewer “likes” you because of an impression or “gut feel”, it is likely because of his experience of the task of hiring. Many successful hires lean an interviewer to be able to recognise pretty quickly what a desirable candidate for his client or company is like. This person is less likely to have a personal reaction to you than a less experienced interviewer might, you may not even be able to tell if you have made a good impression due to his practical reserve. Professionals (especially contract recruiters) know that their livelihood depends on successfully matching employees with companies. Mistakes of match or fit are costly to everyone involved and they know this.

The nonprofessional

This might be a person who desperately need someone to fill a painful gap in skill, knowledge or experience, but may see an interview process as time consuming and potentially frustrating. Because of these conditions, she may make a quicker judgement of you based on fewer considerations. For example: someone who fits in with the group or someone she likes and feels comfortable with. The questions may seem random and undirected or sound like they came out of the same books you studied to prepare. When the exhausted interviewer finds one she likes, then in her mind the search may be over, regardless who follows the appointment schedule.

Guideline 2

Interview decisions are often made in the first minute of the interview. In education, this phenomenon is called the halo effect: a good initial impression will carry you through several possible mistakes.

Guideline 3

The classic interview “uniform”, the dark suit, may or may not be the most appropriate. Many companies are using “business casual” dress code. You should try to find out what clothing is expected because part of making a positive first impression is to look as much as possible like the people who already work there. For example: visit the company and see how people are dressed up there.

Guideline 4

Your interview may or may not be in person. The phone and video-conferencing interviews are becoming more and more common. Not being able to see the reaction of the person conducting the interview on the phone or without video on can leave you feeling anxious and tentative.

Do as much as possible to encourage an in-person interview. However, some people just do not want to take time for every candidate. Looking on the positive side, the phone does offer an exchange where you can ask questions and clarify points. Also, you can glean some reactions from the voice. Sometimes a phone interview is only a rubber stamp, where the manager just wants to chat with the person his staff has already chosen. Either way, a relaxed, confident, and even manner is at least important as the words you offer.

To stay focused, have a notepad by the phone to write down notes. These should include:

- The main idea of the question just asked

- Notes on the company or position

- Any names mentioned

- Questions about the company

- The procedure for the next level of decision

Guideline 5

The interview may or may not be for a real position. Sometimes, companies talk to potential candidates to see what is “out there” in the way of skills or availability. It is an opportunity to establish your value, to make the company understand that you are an asset that someone should find a place for. For this kind of interview, do a great deal of preparation in the company and its products, directions, and values - this will make you appear to be keenly interested in the company welfare.

Additional guidelines


Your professionalism, reliability, poise and intelligence may be gleaned from your manner and may be a large part of your evaluation. The elements that go into your manner are: punctuality, tone of voice, diction, grammar, discretion and judgement (knowing what not to talk about), walk, handshake, facial expression and social graces.


Always arrive early enough to locate a parking space and the office. Do not check in with the receptionist until a few minutes before your appointment time.

Tone of voice

Nervous people speak in strained and flat tones. Relaxation of the throat muscles through yawns, singing or voice warm-ups can help. Volume should be conversational. Watch for signs of the interviewer being overwhelmed or having difficulty understanding.

Diction and grammar

Ability to speak clearly, so that people from all parts of the country can understand you, is an important part of your qualifications. Poor grammar is often taken as a sign of weak education or a lack of attention to polishing your manner. Adolescent phrases, such as “like” and “awesome”, may make the interviewer see you as immature.

Discretion and judgement

Being too personal or discussing tasteless subjects can make a terrible impression, even when the conversation has turned casual and may even be taking place in a bar. Talking negatively about past jobs, or other interviews is also considered inappropriate. Lying and faking knowledge also fall in the category of things to avoid.


Striding forward confidently, especially when the interviewer is holding open a door or walking with you around the building, denotes assuredness with your ability to do the job.


The expectation in Western culture is a firm grasp of the whole hand. Eye contact is expected with the handshake as well. Dry your hands prior to the greeting.

Facial expression

Relaxed muscles around the eyes and cheeks suggest a calm demeanor and a genuine interest.


Be certain that what you wear fits. Something too tight or obviously too large makes you look like you have bad judgement not only about your appearance, but also about how to behave appropriately in business situations.


Lists of sample interview questions are available in many places for you to look over to prepare. You should certainly have already thought out some reasonable responses to standard questions, such as “tell me about yourself” and “why are you interested in a job with our company”.

Social graces

If the interview moves to food, be sure you demonstrate table manners that reflect professional courtesy. What to say and what not to say at a business social gathering are important also. Never speak disrespectfully of anyone, even political figures. Remain positive in all that you say. Monitor the volume. Of your voice. Avoid personal topics, like health and appearance. Make sure you know who the important people in the room are and introduce yourself.

Adapted from

McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.

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