Guidelines to help you with any interview!

For some reason, most people are petrified about getting into an interview – and I can never understand why!


An interview lasts anything from about 30 minutes to 1 hour at a minimum.  That means for that time period, everyone wants to listen to you – and who better to talk about this topic than you! So why be nervous?

Another way of looking at interviews is to see it as a marketing or public relations exercise.

During the time slot allocated to you, you have to effectively utilize that time to market your technical abilities, aptitude and potential to perform the job being interviewed.

Any good public relations consultant will tell you that one of the skills of marketing is to understand the target audience to whom you are marketing to.

This article is aimed to help you better understand the potential target audience that you may face, so that you can be more effective in your interview (marketing campaign and covers:

  1. General Guidelines
  2. Interviews with employers
  3. Interviews with recruitment agents
  4. Interviews with head hunters and
  5. Panel interviews


A. General Guidelines

First impressions

In the first 30 seconds, people are making their first impression on you. In the first 30 seconds you are likely to be:

  • Knocking on the door.
  • Seeing the interviewer (s) for the first time.
  • Walking in.
  • Saying hello.
  • Shaking hands.
  • Taking off a coat.
  • Sitting down.
  • Accepting or declining water, tea or coffee.


Making the entrance

  • Don’t be timid. A shaky tap on a door sometimes gets ignored.
  • Give a businesslike knock.
  • If you have been asked to wait in a room. Simply stand up and move toward the person to shake their hands.

Seeing the interviewer (s) for the first time

  • Eye contact and smile.
  • Say hello and offer your hand to shake – keep smiling.
  • Introduce yourself.

Getting settled

  • Sit down once you have been invited to do so. Say thank you!
  • Get relaxed.
  • Don’t fidget!
  • Refreshments: If there is nothing visible, best answer, “If you are having something, I will join you, but otherwise I am fine, thank you!”
  • Refreshments, if you are offered something to drink, take it. Water is suggested.
  • Say no to any biscuits / snacks – you will be doing most of the talking.


Breaking the ice

  • When asked, “Did you find the place fine?” Don’t complain about getting lost – you may be working there later on!
  • Another question, “Are you okay for time?” Be careful with your answer – saying that you have taken sick leave for the day appears deceitful.
  • Body language:
    • Head: smile. Don’t look too serious and nervous. A nervous smile is better than gritted teeth. Eye contact. Nod when you agree with them and show that you are interested.
    • Upper body. Don’t lean too far back or slouch. It appears over-casual. Don’t lean forward too much, it can make you appear over eager. Lean forward when making a point.
    • Don’t fold your arms. Find a relaxed position and keep it there. Better still take notes as you go along – shows interest.
    • Lower body. Do what feels comfortable. Cross your legs but don’t cross and uncross them – makes you look fidgety and nervous.
    • Mirroring and matching principle.

Asking questions

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will most likely ask whether or not you have any question. Prepare in advance

Questions to avoid:

  • Possible takeovers
  • The risk of redundancy
  • Potential closure

(These questions make it appear as if you are concerned about joining them.)

  • Would I have to be involved in….
  • Is it a problem if…
  • How important is it that I ….

(These questions make it appear as if you have reservations about the role.)

Safe questions:

  • The organisation’s recent news.
  • Plans for expansion
  • What are the next steps following this interview.
  • Is this a new role or was there a previous person doing it?



  • Say that you have no questions
  • Ask whether you have been successful at the interview
  • Ask the interviewer how they feel about the interview or your application. 

B. Interviews with recruitment agencies

The purpose of the interview

  • You may have approached them, looking for a job.
  • You may have answered an advertisement and they are handling the job.
  • You may have applied to a particular company, and the agency handles the company’s recruitment.
  • You may have left your details on an Internet site and they are contacting you.
  • They may have contacted you out of the blue. This is commonly referred to as head-hunting.


The balance of power

  • Recruitment agencies derive their income and profit from placing candidates with employers.
  • You essentially represent a fee to the agency and it is to some extent in their own interests to find you a job.
  • The agency is working for the employer.
  • They may offer you career advice, however be aware that some advice may be more in line with their commercial intentions as to what they want you to do, rather than what is actually in your best interest.


Making the right impression:

  • Be flexible in your choice of companies.
  • Dress well. Dress to impress.
  • Go prepared. Be confident. If you are nervous, do not show it.
  • Ask questions and offer information about yourself.
  • Market yourself and send a message that you are worth their effort.
  • Make them aware of your financial requirements.
  • Ask all agencies to check the job with you before submitting your CV.

Questions to ask:

  • How many vacancies do you have at present?
  • Do you have any vacancies that I might be suited to my requirements?
  • How soon will it be before I am likely to hear from you?
  • Who is my point of contact?
  • Is there anything else that I need to do to maximize my chances of getting a job?
  • What happens now? Can you give me some feedback?

C. Interviews with head-hunters

The difference between head-hunters and recruitment agencies

  • A head-hunter is a consultant who approaches you (usually by telephone) and asks you to speak to them about a potential job for which you have not applied for.
  • They come to you.
  • They usually deal with senior positions, ie large salaries.
  • They are paid by a company to look for the right person for them and are usually paid a retainer.

The balance of power

The balance of power rests with the head-hunter. They have all the information and you only know as much as they share with you.


  • You have no information unless they choose to give it to you.
  • You can’t judge how to present yourself in the best light unless you know what they are looking for.
  • Even answering very simple questions can eliminate you from the running.


  • You have been head-hunted, congratulations! You must have something that is in demand.
  • If you are right for the job, they will be very keen to persuade you to look at it and meet with the employer.


Making the right impressions

  • Relax and answer the questions honestly.
  • Don’t appear desperate to move.
  • You need to convey the impression that you are open to the right offer if anything comes up and that you are happy working where you are even if something does not come up.
  • Give an accurate account of your abilities and the experience you have.
  • Be honest about your gaps. If you have no experience in an area, say so.
  • You may not be put forward for this job, so at least the head-hunter knows he or she can trust you and find you something suitable at a later date.

Questions to ask:

  • Can you give me any more information?
  • What skills / competencies are you looking for?
  • What sort of salary / package is on offer?
  • Are you interested in meeting with me in person?


What happens if you are successful in the interview with the head-hunter?

  • The process takes longer than the interview process with an agency. They usually have to interview every single candidate before making a final short-list.
  • This can take time, especially if you have been one of the first that was interviewed.
  • Once the list is presented by the head-hunter to the employer, there may be a further delay whilst the employer decides who to interview.
  • If you are finally selected for an interview, implies that you already have a good chance as you have been selected after a thorough screening and selection process.
  • There may be further, subsequent interviews at the company, but processes vary.

D. Employer Interviews

The balance of power

  • The balance of power is actually about equal (it may not feel like it, but it is!)
  • Both you and the employer are assessing each other for fit.
  • What changes the balance of power is how badly you want / need the job and how you project yourself during the interview.


Making the right impression

  • Dress smartly
  • Show your interest and enthusiasm.
  • Be nice to everyone. Treat everyone with respect.
  • Preparation increases your confidence and it makes it easier to feel ready for whatever questions that they ask. Never go into an interview ‘cold.’
  • Research: recruitment agencies can give you a brief; internet; company website; annual financial statements; articles.


The interviewer’s three main concerns

  • Do you really want the job?
  • Would you fit in?
  • Would you stay?

Questions to ask

  • Can you tell me what skills or competencies are the most essential to be successful in this job?
  • What would be immediate challenges that face a person that is successful in this role?
  • Can you tell me more about the reporting structure and department in which this role fits into?
  • What would be the number one priority for the person who is successful in this job offer?
  • What happens next?

What to do with hostile interviewers:

“I don’t know why they want me to see you, I don’t need a trainee engineer and your CV’s totally irrelevant for the job.”

Some facts:

  • The company chose to interview you.
  • So logically, you have something that they are interested in.

Reasons for doing so:

  • To put you under pressure.
  • Some interviewers are more nervous than you. A little aggression on their side helps to them to keep control of the situation.
  • Some interviewers want to test whether or not you will still stay interested.
  • Test of your genuine reaction. Especially if the role involves dealing with difficult people.

In hostile interviews, never:

  • Be hostile in response.
  • Try to be more cleaver


Handling poor questions and interviewers

The poor interviewer:

  • Most interviews are rarely conducted by interviewing experts.
  • Some interviewers may never have been trained to interview.
  • They may be as nervous as you are, or even more.
  • If an interviewer is nervous, try asking them a question to show interest and encourage them to relax.
  • If they ask a confusing question, ask for clarity.


Handling the subject of money:

  • Only negotiate with people who have the authority to negotiate
  • Be vague. “I really like the job that you have described, so I will consider any reasonable competitive offer.” Never give a monetary figure.
  • Balance your questions. If you ask more questions about the ‘perks’ and salaries in your first interview rather than the job itself, this might make you look like you are only interested in the money and not the job.
  • The first interview is usually a meeting to explore opportunities. There will be time at a later stage to negotiate the package.
  • If under pressure, always give them a range.


E. Handling panel interviews

  • A panel interview is where you are interviewed by more than one person.
  • This can be stressful, especially if you are not expecting it.
  • Panel interviews are planned to fast-track the screening process by inviting all the decision makers to the interview at once, avoiding you to make another trip to the organization.

Addressing your answers

  • People can only answer one question at a time.
  • When someone asks you a question, look at them and answer them.
  • It is their question.
  • However, as you are answering, focus on the person that asked you the question but also look around to the other interviewers as you are talking.
  • You might find that one person may not be asking any questions, they might be taking notes. Don’t ignore them.
  • You need to give eye contact to everyone in the room.


Find potential ‘allies’

  • Your potential boss. Your manager may well have the casting vote, so do not ignore them!
  • People who are supportive. Look for someone on the panel who seems to be friendly or is agreeing with what you are saying. They are an ally and you can look to them for support and encouragement.
  • Find the ring-leader if there is one on the panel. There is often, one person who is leading the panel or someone who naturally takes over and to whom the others defer. If you can spot this, make sure you try to impress him or her as they may well influence the opinions of others later.


Handling interruptions

  • If you are interrupted, it does not matter who has interrupted you. Just answer and deal with the interruption, focusing on the person who has raised it.
  • Dealing with multiple questions. If there is a pause in the questions or two people start to ask a question at once, don’t worry about it. It shows lack of co-ordination on their side. If in doubt, ask for clarity as to which question they would like you to answer first.

I hope this article has helped you to prepare for your next interview!

Happy marketing!