Interview Basics: The Twelve Commandments
Twelve key points to bear in mind in order to transform your hard-won job
interview to a lucrative offer.
Below are twelve key points to bear in mind in order to transform your hard-won job interview to a
The importance of practice and preparation cannot be emphasized enough. Generally, a jobhunter is
much more versed in the fine art of interviewing if they have been out looking for jobs and
interviewing for a while; it is critical however for newcomers to the interviewing scene to know what
to expect, how best to behave in an interview setting and how to answer the questions in a manner
that reflects on them most positively. Read the current literature on interview trends, prepare
answers to the most common interview questions and perhaps rehearse by having a friend or better
still, a peer in the industry conduct a realistic mock interview and analyze your conduct and answers.
You should know your CV inside out and be able to answer any questions that relate to it without
hesitation. Job descriptions for a given role are key wellsprings of information on the skills required -
aim to present each and every one of these required skills in a personal skills inventory as you
answer the interview questions.
2. Have the company, industry and product line well researched
You are much more likely to impress and convince the employer of your unique suitability for the job
if you are intimately familiar with the company, its position in the industry, its product lines and what
may be required for a candidate in your role. Once you can see yourself as part of a "big picture" you
can better formulate your answers, prepare your skills inventory and formulate your success stories
as they directly relate to the company's requirements.
3. Arrive early
Respect the interviewer's time. Aim to arrive 15 minutes early and busy yourself with the company or
industry literature while you wait. You can also use the time to go over your CV and answers you
have prepared so you feel more relaxed and in control during the interview. If disaster strikes and
you are running late, make sure to call the interviewer to inform them.
4. Be aware of the importance of first impressions
As you have heard a myriad times before, you will not get a second chance to make a first
impression so make sure your first impression conveys a successful, enthusiastic, well-mannered
professional who will be an asset to the team. Smile and shake hands firmly when you meet the
interviewer and be aware that over 60% of the cues being communicated to the interviewer are non-
verbal cues. Watch your body language, gestures and tone of voice and bear in mind that the
manner in which you are conveying information may be as important as what you are saying. Stay
calm and focused and demonstrate self-confidence and professionalism in your answers and how
you deliver them. Your attire MUST be professional and you must be well-groomed for your
interviews, it is far better to err on the conservative side than to arrive dressed in a slovenly manner
and communicate a complete disregard and disrespect for industry norms and the company culture.
5. Keep your answers brief and to the point
Answer the questions directed at you in a precise and succinct manner and make sure you do not
ramble or get carried away on an irrelevant and inconsequential tangent. The more you get carried
away on a given question the more likely you are to slip up and communicate weaknesses or
factoids that are best not brought to bear at the interview stage. Demonstrate clarity of mind and
thought process by making your answers simple and to the point - this does not however involve
killing the conversation flow with yes/no answers. Aim to keep the conversation going on a pleasant
professional respectful tone with answers that illustrate your strengths and experience and keep the
intervi ewer excited to learn more.
6. Bring to bear facts and data from your past experiences to support
Make sure to support all your answers with accurate facts and figures to gain credibility with the
interviewer and show you have a keen eye for the bottom line. Expound in detail on targets achieved
or overachieved and talk about measurable milestones and contributions to the bottom line whether
they be in terms of money made, money saved, losses averted or otherwise. Be very specific about
your skills and describe past success stories that support them in accurate, quantifiable detail.
7. Know your strengths and make sure you communicate them at least
The interviewer is looking to hire a winner who has had a record of achieving success in a similar
capacity in the past. Be prepared to elaborate on past successes that bear in a direct manner on the
present job and show how those experiences are directly relevant to the role, responsibilities and
skillset required for the present job. Keep in mind that the employer is looking to minimize his/her
risk by hiring a candidate who has excelled in a similar or identical role in the past and can brings
these skills to bear on the present job. Even if your past job was very different than the present one,
you will be able to come up with success stories that relate directly to the job requirements in that
they highlight key skills or character traits whether they be creativity, initiative, problem-solving
acumen, sales skills, negotiation skills, communication skills etc.
8. Do not dwell on weaknesses or personal matters
Two areas that have no place during the interview stage are your weaknesses and your personal
life. Avoid talking about personal matters and answer any question on weaknesses with either a brief
explanation of what area you would like to further develop your skills in or by reiterating a key
strength of yours that you perhaps take too far. The first shows you know what key skill you need
further work on and are willing to take action on it and the second approach reiterates a key point of
strength. You may also mention a weakness that is completely unrelated to the position at hand eg if
you are applying for a creative role in and advertising agency you can mention that your accounting
or investment management skills are not your strongest point and you are much more comfortable in
a creative role. Whatever you do don't open a can of worms and torpedo your chances of securing
the job by dwelling on real weaknesses and shortcomings that directly relate to your ability to excel
at the job.
9. Ask questions
Have a list of questions prepared beforehand that are designed to impress the employer and show
that you are familiar with current company/industry issues. An appropriate line of questioning can
make for excellent conversation and will leave the employer with the impression that you have done
your due diligence and researched the company and industry thoroughly. Do not ask about salary
and vacations at the early interview stages.
10. Talk like an insider
If you have researched the company, industry and product lines thoroughly you will be able to talk
like an insider and impress with your insider's insight on relevant issues. Keep the conversation flow
fluid and informative by bringing up facts you have learned about the company and its products and
competitors and show how you, armed with your unique skillset and experiences, can positively
impact the bottom line.
11. Do not discuss salary too early
Asking about salary too early in an interview will make you appear mercenary. A potential employer
will look for enthusiasm for the job itself, not just the salary on offer. Most serious companies will
have a formal wage structure - so don't be afraid to ask about it at the appropriate time. Prior
research into realistic salary expectations will also help avoid embarrassment.
12. Do not overpromise
Don't promise what you are not in a position to deliver. Your over confidence will eventually catch
you out, with potentially serious consequences, should you actually get the job. Promote your skills
enthusiastically but stick to the facts.