October 1, 2015

Kick ass in interviews!

While there is no be-all-and-end-all guide to performing well in an interview, this article aims to offer some words of wisdom from my experience and research about interviews.

Preparation is key!

Leading up to an interview, there’s quite a lot you’ll need to do…

1. Research the company you’re applying to

…and what better place to start than their website? Depending on the company in question, this will be your ultimate source of insight into what the company says about itself and how it wants to be seen.

That’s never enough though. The idea is to show not only that you know what the company says about itself, but that you have the capability to dig up information that very few others can. That’s both to learn more about the company you’re about to get in bed with and to show off your oh-so-awesome research skills (handy to have in any role).

Social media is a good place to start. Are you following said company on all popular social media channels? Have you gone through their posts, links, tweets and drawn insights there?

2. Find out what the world is saying about the company

I’m not suggesting you do this manually – not at all. Use all of the shortcuts and tools at your disposal. Depending on how much time you have to prepare for the interview (and assuming you do not procrastinate… hah!), why not set up Google Alerts to feed you with the latest information about the sector, the company, it’s competitors, etc.?

You could always set up a dashboard or feed to bring you the latest on any/all of your devices. You could use a social media scanner tool to find out what the world is saying about that sector/company/role.

3. Remember not to forget

As you prepare for your interview, your mind is bound to explode with ideas. Yes, you’ll make mental notes and promise to never forget them. Wanna know the truth? Unless you write those ideas down, you will forget. Make a list of questions that you expect to be asked, and answer them. Make a list of questions you have, leave space to jot down answers and take note of further questions you may have mid-interview.

4. Your secret weapon

Lots of sleep the night before! And I mean LOTS of sleep! There’s nothing worse than showing up to an interview all hopped up on coffee, without a clear head. Coffee breath and rings around your eyes just aren’t attractive – sorry, it had to be said.

The meet’n’greet!

You are not a CV. You are a human, and yep, you guessed it… so are they. Treat them as such!

Show up early: You may be lucky enough to witness another interview in process and measure up the competition. If another candidate is waiting there as well, make friends – they may become your colleague (assuming more than one hire will be made). Or, you could psyche them out by something as simple as small talk. Whaaaaat? All’s fair in love and interviews! No?

Look your best: Dark grey suit. White shirt. Red tie. Black socks. Black shoes. Minimal jewelry. Fresh breath. Styled hair. Well-groomed face. Sit upright – no slouching. Smile. Feet firmly planted – no crossing/folding legs. Hands on lap – no crossing arms.

Now, you’re good to go! After all, God is in the detail.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Let the interview begin…

Are you ready? You’re about to be bombarded with tough questions, such as…

  • Why should we hire you?
  • Describe yourself in three words.
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about a time where you failed.
  • What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Tell me about your latest workplace conflict.
  • How many cups of coffee are drunk in the United States each week?

…and the list goes on!

It’s not about answering those questions – it’s about reading between the lines and answering those questions.

There are many resources to help you prepare for tough questions that may be asked. Read them. Prepare for them. Think of clear answers. Make notes. Then, throw out your notes and make a cheat-sheet with bullet points. You do not want to seem too rehearsed during the interview now do you?

However, what those resources do NOT tell you is how to turn a tough question into an opportunity to highlight your strengths. The good news is it’s as simple as A, B, C. No, literally… A, B, C. Address the question. Bridge to your point. Conclude the point. Need an example?


Tell me about a time where you failed.


(Address) A few weeks ago I set out to write a blog post about performing in interviews. Despite numerous sittings and countless hours spent, I could not for the life of me finish. I sometimes get writer’s/thinker’s block.

(Bridge) I didn’t panic. I soon realized that there were two reasons for this mental block. First, it became clear that my research wasn’t quite done. Also, I sought solace in the fact that the most brilliant minds sometimes get mental blocks too, not that I’m comparing myself to such genius – that would be far too presumptuous (pause for laughter… or crickets).

(Conclude) I did some more research and was able to overcome the block within minutes. The article is now live and has contributed wonderfully to the over 1,100 views I’ve got on my website so far.


On another note, yes, it’s true. I’ve got over 1,100 views so far. I could never thank you enough for that – truly.

Now, it’s your turn!

So far, it’s all hunky-dory as you’ve answered each tough question flawlessly. Whether or not you’re explicitly invited to do so, it’s now your turn to grill them. Ask questions!

You’re about to get married. You’ll walk into that office at 9am each day and leave at… well-into-the-night o’clock for most of the rest of your life. You’ll be spending more awake hours in that office than you will do at home. Are you sure there’s absolutely NOTHING you’d like to know about them?

Your culture may dictate that the appropriate response to “do you have any questions for us?” be a smile and a polite “no, thank you.” Ask questions! Make a list of them in fact… 20 of them! Yep, that’s a nice round number.

Here are a few to get you started…

  • Why is this position available?
  • How would you describe the environment in this office?
  • If you’d like one specific skill added to the mix, what would you like me to bring to the table?
  • Where do you see me adding most value should I be offered a role here?
  • How has your human capital grown/changed over the past two years?
  • What mentorship and skills development programs do you have in place?
  • What do you do to de-stress and relax?
  • Do you find that work generally follows you home?

Then, go in for the kill…

Memorize this phrase: “What reservations do you have about offering me this position right now?”

It’s powerful and will prompt the interviewer to give you open and honest feedback about your performance so far. If other candidates are stronger, don’t despair. That doesn’t mean you won’t be offered the position – endless factors come into play in such situations.

As a best case, the interviewer will look surprised for a moment, avoid eye contact at all costs and say “well… uh… we’ve got other people coming in too, so… um… we’d like to interview them before making a decision”, which means you’re the best so far – yay!

Just for lolz…

This is quite possibly the world’s most brutal interview – an awesome publicity stunt that got 20 million views and counting. Enjoy!