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					Job Interviews
Job interviews tips and techniques, sample interview questions and answers,
sample interviews letters and templates

Job interviews are easier for interviewers and the interviewees if you plan and prepare questions
and answers, and use proper interviewing techniques.

On this page are job-hunting and job interviews tips, samples of tough interviews questions, and
answers, for interviewers and interviewees. There are also many ideas for group selection
assessment recruitment methods, the most effective way to recruit people for most jobs.

If you are finding it difficult to get interviews for local jobs, here's a very direct job-hunting
method which can be very effective.

Job interviews are critical to the quality of an organization's people. Good job interviews
processes and methods increase the quality of people in an organization. Poor job interviews
methods result in poor selection, which undermines organizational capabilities, wastes
management time, and increases staff turnover.

Below are samples of interviews questions asked at interviews. Many interviewers and
interviewees are keenly interested in 'tough' interview questions and certainly interviewees need
to prepare answers for 'tough' questions. However, from the interviewer's perspective asking
'tough' questions is not usually helpful. Interviews should not place undue pressure on
interviewees, because people tend to withdraw and become defensive under pressure. We learn
more about people when they relax.

It's better therefore to focus on 'good' interview questions rather than 'tough' ones. Good
interview questions encourage interviewees to think about themselves and to give the interviewer
clear and revealing information as to the interviewee's needs, capabilities, experience,
personality, and suitability for the job. The best interview questions are therefore the questions
which most help interviewees to reveal their skills, knowledge, attitudes, and feelings to the

The UK (consistent with Europe) Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, effective from
1st October 2006, make it unlawful to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of age.

This has several implications for job interviews, documents used, and the training of people who
conduct job interviews. For example, while not unlawful, the inclusion of age and date-of-birth
sections on job application forms is not recommended (as for all other documentation used in
assessing people).

For further guidance about the effects of Age Equality and Discrimination in job interviews, (and
in other aspects of managing people), see the Age Diversity information. This is important for
interviewers and interviewees.
Much of this guidance also applies to students seeking internships and work experience
placements. Effective interview techniques, and the processes surrounding interviews, apply to
all situations involving candidate selection, whatever the position and situation.

If interviews make you nervous (as they do to most people), take comfort from the interview
story about the wrong Guy, which is also a great lesson for interviewers in the need for good
preparation and communication, and why high pressure in interviews doesn't get to the truth, it
merely forces people to tell you what you want to hear.

Interviewers and interviewees can maybe take some inspiration for how to handle the interview,
and personal and organisational values, from the love and spirituality page, which addresses the
increasingly important area of bringing compassion and humanity to work.

See the separate articles:

job-hunting method and tool - adapt it for your own situation

life balance

pay-rise negotiation

cv's writing templates, examples, and tips

reference letters tips, templates and samples

resignations letters tips, templates and samples

exit interviews - including exit interviews questions samples

assertiveness and confidence

raising self-belief

job interviews advice and samples for                                'gut instinct'...
interviewers and interviewees                                        I refer to The Apprentice
                                                                     TV show, UK version. The
This job interviews article below includes:                          US version exhibits a
                                                                     similar effect.
job interviews tips for interviewers
                                                                     In perhaps the most
job interviews tips for interviewees                                 transparent and expensive
                                                                     job interview process ever
job interviews questions and answers samples - guidance for          devised, Sir Alan Sugar
interviewers and interviewees                                      almost always admits to
                                                                   struggling to decide which
stress and pressure interview questions                            candidate to fire, and
                                                                   ultimately to resorts to 'gut
competency-based and behaviour interviews questions                instinct' in making his
presentations at interviews - preparing and giving
                                                                   There is a lesson in this for
questions for interviewees to ask the interviewer and asking       interviewers and
for the job at interviews                                          interviewees, namely: Sir
                                                                   Alan is not the only
salary negotiation tips for job interviews                         interviewer who makes
                                                                   decisions on 'gut instinct',
second interviews guidelines                                       instead of using more
                                                                   objective methods of
follow-up letters or emails by interviewee after job interviews    assessment.

group selection recruitment process (also useful for               When interviewing people,
assessment centres events)                                         please try to be objective
                                                                   and fair to candidates - use
designing graduate assessment recruitment days and other           proper relevant
group selection days and ideas for group selection activities      measurements - and so
and methods                                                        avoid the need to make
                                                                   purely 'gut instinct'
samples of job interviews thank you letters or rejection letters   decisions.

job interviews and job applications rejection letters - handling   When being interviewed,
the processes positively - feedback to and from applicants         be prepared to present
                                                                   convincing evidence to the
job promotion interviews tips                                      interviewer that you will be
                                                                   the best person for the job,
tips and techniques relating to salary negotiations at job         so that the interviewer does
interviews                                                         not have to rely on 'gut
                                                                   instinct' in making that
tips on what to wear for job interviews                            judgement.

tips on doing research before job interviews

simple quick proactive plan to get the right job

helpful process for planning your career steps and successful
job hunting

interviews tips - for interviewers
  1. You must makes notes of the questions you intend to ask - otherwise you'll forget.
  2. Decide the essential things you need to learn and prepare questions to probe them.
  3. Plan the environment - privacy, no interruptions, ensure the interviewee is looked after
      while they wait.
  4. Arrange the seating in an informal relaxed way. Don't sit behind a desk directly facing
      the interviewee - sit around a coffee table or meeting room table.
  5. Clear your desk, apart from what you need for the interview, so it shows you've prepared
      and are organised, which shows you respect the situation and the interviewee.
  6. Put the interviewee at ease - it's stressful for them, so don't make it any worse.
  7. Begin by explaining clearly and concisely the general details of the organisation and the
  8. Ask open-ended questions - how, why, tell me, what, (and to a lesser extent where, when,
      which) to get the interviewee talking.
  9. Make sure the interviewee does 90% of the talking.
  10. Use 'How?' and 'What?' questions to prompt examples and get to the real motives and
      feelings. 'Why?' questions place more pressure on people because they suggest that
      justification or defence is required. 'Why?' questions asked in succession will probe and
      drill down to root causes and feelings, but use with care as this is a high-pressure form of
      questioning and will not allow sensitive or nervous people to show you how good they
      are. Think about how your questions will make the interviewee feel. Your aim and
      responsibility as an interviewer is to understand the other person - not to intimidate,
      which does not facilitate understanding.
  11. High pressure causes people to clam up and rarely exposes hidden issues - calm, relaxed,
      gentle, clever questions are far more revealing.
  12. Probe the cv/resume/application form to clarify any unclear points.
  13. If possible, and particularly for any position above first-line jobs, use some form of
      psychometric test, or graphology, and have the results available for the interview, so you
      can discuss them with the interviewee. Always give people the results of their tests.
      Position the test as a helpful discussion point, not the deciding factor. Take care when
      giving the test to explain and reassure. Ensure the test is done on your premises - not sent
      in the post.
  14. Give interviewees opportunities to ask their own questions. Questions asked by
      interviewees are usually very revealing. They also help good candidates to demonstrate
      their worth, especially if the interviewer has not asked great questions or there is a feeling
      that a person has for any reason not had the chance to show their real capability and

interviews tips - for interviewees
  1. Research as much as you can about the company - products, services, markets,
     competitors, trends, current activities, priorities. See the tips about researching before job
  2. Prepare your answers for the type of questions you'll be asked, especially, be able to say
     why you want the job, what your strengths are, how you'd do the job, what your best
     achievements are.
3. Prepare good questions to ask at the interview. See the section on questions to ask at
    job interviews.
4. Related to the above, request a copy of the company's employment terms and conditions
    or employee handbook before the interview, in order to save time covering routine
    matters during the interview.
5. Assemble hard evidence (make sure it's clear and concise) of how what you've achieved
    in the past - proof will put you ahead of those who merely talk about it.
6. Have at least one other interview lined up, or have a recent job offer, or the possibility of
    receiving one from a recent job interview, and make sure you mention it to the
7. Make sure your resume/cv is up to date, looking very good and even if already supplied
    to the interviewer take three with you (one for the interviewer, one for you and a spare in
    case the interviewer brings a colleague in to the meeting).
8. Get hold of the following material and read it, and remember the relevant issues, and ask
    questions about the areas that relate to the organisation and the role. Obtain and research:
    the company's sales brochures and literature, a trade magazine covering the company's
    market sector, and a serious newspaper for the few days before the interview so you're
    informed about world and national news. Also worth getting hold of: company 'in-house'
    magazines or newsletters, competitor leaflets, local or national newspaper articles
    featuring the company.
9. Review your personal goals and be able to speak openly and honestly about them and
    how you plan to achieve them.
10. Ensure you have two or three really good reputable and relevant references, and check
    they'd each be happy to be contacted.
11. Adopt an enthusiastic, alert, positive mind-set. If you want some help with this try the 'I
    Am' self-belief page.
12. Particularly think about how to deal positively with any negative aspects - especially
    from the perspective of telling the truth, instead of evading or distorting facts, which
    rarely succeeds. See the CV pointers about this - it's very significant.
13. Try to get some experience of personality tests. Discover your personality strengths and
    weaknesses that would be indicated by a test, and be able to answer questions positively
    about the results. (Do not be intimidated by personality testing - expose yourself to it and
    learn about yourself.) To understand more about personality testing and the underpinning
    theory - and to find out more about yourself in this respect - see the section on personality
    theories and make time to read and understand it.
14. Think about what to wear. See the guidance about choice of dress, clothes and colours for
    interviews below.
15. Some jobs invite or offer opportunity to re-define or develop the role itself. It might be a
    existing role or a new position. If so prepare for this. Most jobs in fact offer this potential,
    but sometimes it is a stated requirement. See the notes in the CV section about
    approaching a vacancy for which the role has not yet been fully defined.
sample job interviews questions and answers - for
interviewers and interviewees
These are samples of questions that interviewers ask interviewees, with suggested ideal answers
and reasons and purposes of the questions, to help interviewers and interviewees alike. See also
the questions to ask at your job interview for ideas and suggested questions that interviewees
should ask the interviewer, which are also extremely important.

There are very many different questions that can be used in job interviews. This page does not
attempt to list them all. Instead it seeks to give you an understanding through the examples
below and other tips as to what is effective and why, from the standpoint of the interviewer and
the interviewee. Therefore, whether you are an interviewer preparing questions to ask, or an
interviewee preparing how to give great answers, it is better to read all of this section to help you
understand what works best and why, rather than simply select a few 'stock' examples. Having a
few 'stock' questions and answers examples will limit your appreciation to just those examples.
Instead seek to understand the reasoning that determines successful interviews, and then you will
be able to formulate your own questions and answers for any interview situations that you face -
whether as an interviewer or an interviewee.

   question               answers examples and guidance                       question notes
How do you      The first thing is to acknowledge the                  See general guidelines
measure talent? significance and importance of a question like         above if you've not seen
                these examples.                                        them already.
                By showing that you recognise the potency of           These (apparently) tough
How do you      the question (for organisations as well as             questions about 'talent' and
measure talent interviewees), you are half way to providing an         how to measure and develop
in an           impressive and effective answer.                       'talent' are presently
organisation                                                           confounding many of the
(or company or (This principle of acknowledging very good              world's biggest
team)?          questions in this way can be applied to any other      organisations, many leaders,
                question that addresses a serious and deeply           and organisational
and in similar  significant issue, as this is.)                        development specialists.
                You can show your recognition with an initial          These questions about
How do you      response such as:                                      'talent' reflect widespread
grow/develop                                                           modern organisational
talent in an    "That's a very significant question. Its               challenges, and so are useful
organisation    implications affect the future health of all           in interviews, especially for
(or company or organisations - probably now more than ever.."          training, HR, management
team)?                                                                 and executive positions.
                Beyond this, the question might initially seem
                impossible to answer, especially if you've had no      Interviewees who can
                real experience of measuring or growing such an        answer these questions
intangible and fundamentally important aspect of sensibly and thoughtfully
performance in people and organisations, but        demonstrate considerable
there is actually quite a simple way to answer a    perceptiveness and ability.
question like this, for example:
                                                    Answers to these questions
"The reason why this is such a difficult question are relevant modern
for modern organisations to address and resolve, indicators as to an
is that while some organisations and leaders        interviewee's value and
know how crucial 'talent' is for their survival and potential in the field of
competitive effectiveness, you can't actually       management, leadership and
measure and grow anything until you can             HR.
define exactly what it is, which is the real
challenge. I believe that you can only begin to
measure and develop anything when you can
define exactly what it is. Talent is prime
example. The concept of 'talent' alone is
completely intangible. It means all sorts of
different things to different people and
organisations. Therefore the key to measuring
and growing 'talent' is first to define exactly
what 'talent' is - to understand and describe what
it means, what it looks like, how it behaves and
what it can achieve. And these definitions will
be different depending on the organisation.
Talent in a bank will have a quite different
meaning to talent in an advertising agency, or in
a hospital. So that's the first answer to the
question: First you need to define it and agree
the definition, which is likely to be quite and
involved and detailed task, because it's such a
deep and serious concept..."

Here's how you can develop this answer:

"Aside from defining what talent is, the
organisation needs to acknowledge the
importance of talent, (according to the agreed
organisational definitions). This requires a
commitment from the very top, which must be
transparent and visible to all. Then people will
begin to value talent more fittingly and
preciously. A similar thing happened with the
'total quality' concept, when leaders woke up and
realised its significance. But they first had to
define it and break it down into measurable
manageable elements before they could begin to
                    improve it. Talent is the same."

                    If you really want to go for broke you could add:

                    "The same thing will happen with love and
                    spirituality in organisations, as is happening
                    already with ethics and responsibility. These
                    fundamentally crucial concepts can only be
                    assessed, managed and developed when they are
                    given emphatic priority from the top, and
                    defined in a meaningful and manageable way.
                    Then they can be grown just like any other
                    organisational attribute."

                    A supplementary point is that some leaders
                    simply do not appreciate the really true concept
                    of talent, which unfortunately is a serious
                    obstacle to doing anything useful about talent at
                    all. Where this is the case, the leader must be
                    educated or replaced, because as ever
                    organisations can only do what they leader
                    genuinely understands and commits to
(Prior to a sales   The level of detail and precision that you can      Asking interviewees to
or commercial       include in your plan and presentation depends on    prepare a plan for their first
management          how well you know the market and the                one or two or three months
interview)          organisation. Beware of assuming too much           in the role is an increasingly
Prepare a plan      however - it's important to strike the right        popular way for
for your first      balance between the need for assessment and         interviewing organisations
1/2/3 months in     action.                                             to get a real taste and
the role and                                                            sample of how the job
present it at the   Interviewers want people who will make things       candidate would approach
interview.          happen and introduce positive change, but at the    the job.
                    same time who can preserve the good things and
This example        avoid problematical fall-out.                      Seeing lots of fresh ideas is
and guidelines                                                         also very helpful in its own
for answers are     A Gantt Chart is a good way to present this sort right for the recruiting
orientated to a     of plan. See the project management section, but organisation.
sales or            avoid going into the level of detail suggested for
commercial          major projects.                                    A question like this -
management                                                             usually for a management
role, but the       A clear series of bullet points will also be       position, but not always so -
same principles     acceptable for most situations. Be guided by the is a great opportunity for the
apply for many      recruiting organisation as to the technology and interviewee to use
other               media to use, but in any event concentrate on the preparation and research in
management        content rather than the bells and whistles. A       producing a compelling
positions, and    good candidate would be able to handle this         presentation of your value to
increasingly      using just a flip chart.                            the employer.
positions too.    See also the presentations page for ideas about      It's a real chance to show
                  how to structure the presentation, but again be      what you can do, in terms of
Market forces     mindful of the pressure of time: be very             ideas, experience, technical
inevitably tend   compact, impactful, concise and efficient in the     grasp of your subject, and
to require all    way you put your ideas across.                       ability to present and
roles to be                                                            enthuse with clarity, logic
increasingly     What's required here is essentially a cohesive list and passion.
strategic,       of strategic action points, each aimed at
therefore this   producing specific results. Innovation helps          The guidelines and
interview        provided it's not too off-the-wall.                   examples here are for a
question could                                                         sales or commercial
be used for lots Typically it's very difficult (and generally          position, but the same
of customer-     unwise) to enter a new organisation and               principles apply for any role
facing roles as immediately begin making lots of big changes,          when asked to prepare a
well as          unless of course the situation is in crisis; a period plan and present it at an
management       of assessment and research is normally sensible. interview.
job interviews.
                 Another crucial aspect is the maturity and            The interviewer will want to
                 performance of the team. Look at the                  see that the interviewee has
                 Tannenbaum and Schmidt, and Tuckman                   a good understanding of the
                 theories to understand the significance of the        key performance criteria for
                 team's capability.                                    the function or team or
                                                                       department concerned, and
                 Aim for 5-7 bullet points per section of the plan can use experience, research
                 (for example a 3 month plan could be presented and original thinking in
                 as three 5-7 point sections). Each action point       creating and delivering a
                 with outcomes and reasoning explained.                clear, logical cohesive
                 Financials and example statistics/ratios too if       action-plan presentation.
                 you know them.
                                                                       Thus the interviewer is
                 Points and areas that could feature in a sales        effectively having to 'pitch'
                 management plan are as follows - either as areas for the job, in the same way
                 to address, or areas to develop into specific         that an agency has to pitch
                 action points, depending on the level of              for a new account.
                 knowledge and experience. These are in no
                 particular order. Priority and mix depends on the Being asked to present a
                 situation:                                            plan at an interview is a
                                                                       wonderful opportunity to
                      Immediate review of current and                 shine, especially for people
                         projected performance and factors -           who do not necessarily
                         identify glaring gaps, weaknesses and         perform well under pressure
                         opportunities - identify and optimise         when handling some of the
    quick gains where possible                   more unpredictable
   Pareto (80:20) analysis - products,          questions that can arise in
    markets, customers                           interviews. Instead, being
   People/team assessment - styles,             able to prepare a plan and
    strengths, performance, responsibilities,    presentation in advance
    etc - psychometrics if                       allows interviewer and
    possible/appropriate                         interviewee's to assess and
   Costs and spending review - optimise         respond to each others needs
    and tighten - improve accountability and     in a far more professional
    freedoms within agreed guidelines            and well-organised way.
   Customer analysis/visits - protect and
   Competitor assessment - identify losses
    and threats, especially from a major
    accounts/sectors view
   SWOT, PEST analyses
   Sales cycle and selling process review -
    key ratios and statistics
   Sales proposition, USP's, USB's (see
    sales section)
   Performance management, measurement
    and reporting
   ICT and internet - internal
    communications and systems, and
    customer interfaces
   Pricing and margins analysis
   Advertising and promotion and enquiry
    generation - conversion ratios through
    the sales funnel
   Strategy review - distribution/route(s) to
    market(s), partnerships - suppliers and
    sales distribution
   Marketing and sales materials and
    documentation review, including
    electronic and online data and systems
   Sales model - alignment of sales people
    with markets, sectors, verticals and
   Sales skills and training assessment
   Sales processing and relationships with
    other departments, CRM (customer
    relationship management)
   Sales services agencies/suppliers -
    telemarketing, A&P, etc
   Quality/service assessment - especially
    identify key performance factors
                        Look at/develop inter-
                        Motivation, morale
                        Sales planning, aims, objectives, targets -
                         cascading to individual quotas and
                        Standards and controls
                        Legal and licensing areas if appropriate,
                         contracts and SLA's (service level
                        Philosophy and belief, ethics and

                 The presentation needs to combine relevant hot-
                 spots from the above list, and to suggest a
                 process of assessment and involvement of
                 people, blended with change, so as to identify
                 and optimise key performance factors within
                 strategy, people/teams, skills and processes.
How do/would     Aside from the sort of poor performance which         These questions invite
you optimise     requires a firm disciplinary response (see the        candidates at management
performance      section on performance management), this              interviews to demonstrate
and lift         question is best answered from the viewpoint of       their management and
standards in a   improvement and development, rather than              leadership abilities.
team?            discipline and control. The question provides a
                 great opportunity to refer to lots of relevant        All management
or               theory, and to show you know how to apply it.         interviewees should prepare
                                                                       to answer this sort of
Explain your     'Poor performance' is actually not a helpful          question. Even if the
approach to      perspective - it's negative. It's best to interpret   interviewer doesn't ask the
maintaining      this as helping people to become the best that        question, there will be
high standards   they can be, in ways that enable them to align        plenty of opportunities to
and improving    their natural strengths and preferences with the      use the answers in dealing
poor             needs of the organisation and team.                   with other questions.
performance in
a team.          Maslow is certainly relevant - we need to help        Good modern employers
                 people self-actualise, which a better angle of        will look for positive Y-
or               approach than 'poor performance'.                     Theory ideas about
                                                                       managing people.
(prior to the    Belbin's model of team roles is a useful
interview)       reference framework (everyone's good at               More traditional and
                 something - so find out what it is and get them       autocratic interviewers will
Prepare and      playing to their strengths).                          seek a tougher approach, in
give a                                                                   which case you can
presentation on   Also useful in this respect is Gardner's multiple      incorporate a few examples
how to            intelligences, and learning styles, along with the     of firmness and control
maintain          other personality styles theory, although don't go     within your answers, where
standards and     into that depth at the interview - just refer to the   situations and scenarios
address poor      main principles.                                       warrant such a style.
performance in
managing a        Aspects of delegation are relevant, within which       If you are the interviewee
team.             Tannenbaum and Schmidt, and Tuckman's                  don't just use my words -
                  'storming, forming..etc' model are also useful         take what's meaningful and
                  reference frameworks.                                  workable for you and make
                                                                         it your own. Understand
                  Adair's Action-Centred Leadership model is a           your own strengths and style
                  great reference for illustrating the different         and show you know when to
                  aspects of teams that need managing and                adapt and use a different
                  leading.                                               approach.

                  The role of every good leader is to develop a          If you are the interviewer
                  successor, alongside which is the aim to develop       ask this sort of question and
                  team maturity so that it can self-manage. This         look for the candidates to
                  approach fosters high standards and great              demonstrate that they
                  performance because the team is being                  understand about modern
                  empowered. Open clear positive two-way                 methods of managing,
                  communications help to establish team                  leading and developing
                  understanding and agreement of aims and                teams. You need to recruit
                  direction (and standards). Involve and consult         managers and leaders who
                  and enable and coach, rather than decide and           can empower and inspire
                  direct and control. People perform and achieve         others, so seek these
                  best when pursuing their own goals and aims,           qualities in people, which
                  not the ones imposed from outside. The trick           will be demonstrated in the
                  therefore is aligning people with work, so it's        answers to this sort of
                  meaningful and important.                              question.

                  An interview presentation (ensure you know
                  how long the presentation should last) is best
                  structured in three parts, plus the intro and the
                  close. Look at the notes on presentations. Use
                  different ways of communicating your ideas.
                  Physical props demonstrate points powerfully
                  and involve the audience/interviewers if passed
                  around. Referring to case studies and extracts
                  from biographies of high-achievers will help
                  illustrate that high performance is borne of inner
                  drive, not external control. A good manager is an
                  enabler not a controller.
Have you ever  Obviously if you have a real example with a              The interviewer asks these
dealt with a   good positive successful outcome for the                 interview questions give the
customer       customer and supplier then use it (it's a good           interviewee an opportunity
making an      idea to think about and prepare an example for           to demonstrate firstly how
unrealistic    this type of question in advance). Ideally               they decide that what is
demand?        examples should include the following elements:          realistic and what is
               Central to this process is being able to fully           unrealistic, and secondly
or             understand the customer's position and feelings,         how to explain to the
               without necessarily agreeing with them.                  customer why the demand
Can you give   Explaining this difference between                       cannot be met, and
me an example understanding and agreeing at the interview               hopefully better still suggest
where you've   helps the interviewee to demonstrate capability          an acceptable alternative
had to deal    to deal with these types of difficult situations.        course of action, preferably
with a         Good sympathetic questioning skills, and a good          which results in the
customer who understanding of the options available to the              customer being more
has made an    supplier organisation in solving problems, are           satisfied than if the issue
unrealistic or also vital for being able to adapt and develop           had not arisen in the first
unreasonable   mutually agreeable solutions. An excellent               place.
demand?        answer or demonstration of excellent capability
               would include a very positive result in which the        It is a fact that the greatest
or             customer's satisfaction and loyalty was increased        customer service challenges
               to a higher level than before the complaint or           also offer the greatest
How do you     request (which is actually more easy to achieve          opportunities to delight the
deal with      than most people imagine). To show excellent             customer, and interviewees
difficult      technical skills in dealing with very difficult and      who demonstrate such a
customers?     emotional customers interviewees could refer to          philosophy are generally
               techniques within Transactional Analysis,                indicating great potential
               Empathy theory, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic                and value to a prospective
               Programming).                                            employer.
(Any question      When asked a question which intentionally or         The purpose of these
that invites you   unintentionally exposes a 'negative' situation or    questions may be unwitting,
to describe,       experience or reason (for example for having left    that is to say the interviewer
explain, or        your last job), you should provide a positive        has no idea what they might
comment on a       interpretation and reflection of the experience.     be uncovering. Or the
'negative'         This means objectively (without emotion or           question might be to
situation, for     bias) demonstrating understanding of the             intentionally put pressure on
example, "Why      behaviour (which was directed at you that            the interviewee in an area of
did you leave      caused you to leave, or your negative behaviour      weakness, or vulnerability,
your last job?,    that caused you to leave). For instance if you       or past failure or mistake.
if the reason      were bullied say so, but do not be critical or
was that you       bitter, and emphasise the positives from the         In any case, interviewers
were being         experience (which not least would be that you        learn a lot about an
bullied, or that   thought it best to leave rather than continue in a   interviewee's emotional
you lost your      situation that was not doing anyone any good). If    maturity (increasingly a
temper at your     you behaved badly then you should ideally            much sought-after attribute)
boss and were    explain what you did and why, and how you             when the interviewee is
fired)           have learned from it and that you will not make       invited to explain, comment,
                 the same mistake again.                               and show their feelings
                                                                       about a past 'negative
                 In general the approach is the same for most          experience.
                 situations when dealing with questions that
                 expose weaknesses or failures or opportunities        Emotionally mature people
                 for bitterness: you can (and should) explain what     are able to talk objectively
                 happened (to lie or distort would be wrong) but       and honestly about
                 do so without bitterness or recrimination, and        'negative' experiences, and
                 demonstrate forgiveness, tolerance and self-          interpret them into positive
                 development achieved from the experience.             experiences.

                 If you were the guilty party it helps to show that A good interviewer can
                 you had the courage to take some action to make confidently form a good
                 amends, even for 'lost cause'.                     impression of any
                                                                    interviewee who displays
                                                                    good emotional maturity.
How would        Think before the interview and during the             This is not a actually great
you respond if   interview: How would you actually respond to          question to ask (if you are
you were         this question? If you'd accept the job and you are    the interviewer) or to be
offered the      really happy and free to do so, then say so. You      asked (if you are the
job?             have little to gain from being evasive. If you        interviewee) because it
                 have other options or commitments that need           suggests that the interviewer
                 proper and fair consideration before accepting        might not offer the job to
                 the job offer then say so (it does not put you in a   someone who is not certain
                 very good light if you demonstrate that you are       to accept it.
                 prepared to treat an existing employer or another
                 potential employer badly). If you need more           This is not great indication
                 information (about package, expectations,             of a good, confident grown-
                 responsibilities, etc) then say so. If the            up high-quality employer
                 interviewer is being aggressive or provocative        (or interviewer).
                 (as can happen in certain sales interviews
                 particularly) you could say that actually the only    If you are strong and mature
                 way to find out for sure is to make the offer, ie.,   you'll be able to deal with an
                 "...make me the offer and I'll tell you..." (the      employer who feels the need
                 interviewer will not normally fall for that one of    to ask this question,
                 course but at least he/she will see that you can      otherwise you might not
                 stand up for yourself, which most tough-nuts          find this type of employer
                 will respect).                                        mature enough for you.
What would       Look at the Transactional Analysis, NLP, and          This type of 'scenario'
you do if you    Empathy pages - a lot of what you need to know        question is good because it
had to deal      (and will differentiate you from other                enables an interviewee to
with an angry    interviewees) is there, depending on your             demonstrate experience,
customer?       interview situation. Basically the answer is to      technique, and awareness of
                empathise, understand, and as quickly as             why a certain behaviour is
                possible obtain the customer's trust in your         appropriate for a given real
                promise to try to resolve the matter. And then set   situation that can arise in the
                about finding the facts and resolving it, working    job.
                within whatever policies and processes are in
                place for the particular problem. The important      Demonstration of exactly
                thing is to remember the difference between          the same experience is not
                understanding and agreeing - you need to             necessary, what matters is
                understand without necessarily agreeing or pre-      the ability to adapt and
                judging the outcome (unless of course you can        apply technique and
                actually resolve it an agree it there and then).     behaviour, which could
                And you need to apologise without pre-judging        come from different related
                whatever investigation you need to do or             experiences, for example
                arrange. Finally, take responsibility for seeing     dealing with difficult or
                the issue through to the finish, when at the end     upset people in any other
                of it hopefully the customer is more delighted       situations.
                than they have ever been, (which is often what
                happens when you do things properly).                The interviewee must
                                                                     demonstrate knowledge
                                                                     and/or experience of
                                                                     appropriate technique,
                                                                     behavioural and emotional
                                                                     awareness and capability,
                                                                     and the ability to match a
                                                                     good technical emotional
                                                                     and constructive response to
                                                                     a particular emotional (and
                                                                     probably process-based)
What will you                                                        This tough interview
bring to the job                                                     question is an opportunity
or company if Imagine what your objectives will be if you            for the interviewee to relate
we employ        were in the role, and orientate your answer         their strengths and
you?             towards meeting them, on time, on budget, and       capabilities to the
                 with style (especially to improve motivation        priorities of the job
                 and morale and to avoid unnecessary disruption      function, and to the aims
                 and unhelpful side-effects).                        and priorities of the
                Try to focus on the particular priorities and
                requirements of the role, the targets and aims,      The interviewee must
                (which means you need to ask what they are if        therefore demonstrate an
                your are not told) and also if possible, focus on    understanding of both
                working style and behaviour attributes that fit      sides of the question - the
                the preferences of the interviewer, since most       needs of the employer, and
                 interviewers prefer people like themselves.       how to apply their own
                                                                   skills, capabilities,
                 For example (assuming that the points illustrated experience, style and
                 are relevant):                                    strengths to the situation.

                 "I can see clearly that quick results are a priority   It's a good question, and
                 - and that's something I'm good at generating,         also a great opportunity to
                 because I have good abilities and experience to        show how good you are, and
                 interpret situations, and then a strong focus on       how you will add positively
                 activities which will achieve change and results       to the mood and attitude of
                 in the necessary areas."                               people you'll work with.

                 "I'm diplomatic with people too, which means I         This question invites good
                 can generally bring people along with me; if           specific solutions and
                 needs be though I can be firm and determined           suggestions in response to
                 enough to convince people who need a bit of            stated organizational
                 extra encouragement."                                  requirements.

                                                                        As such it will quickly show
                                                                        up the candidates who
                                                                        understand what's needed in
                                                                        the role and how to make it

                                                                        Certain interviewers and
                                                                        situations will also be
                                                                        seeking indications of the
                                                                        candidate's personal style
                                                                        when working with others -
                                                                        notably whether the
                                                                        candidate will be an asset to
                                                                        the team in terms of
                                                                        motivation and morale.

                                                                        If you are the interviewer
                                                                        make sure you explain
                                                                        earlier in the interview what
                                                                        the situation requires in
                                                                        terms of results, parameters
                                                                        and attitudinal factors.
Tell me about                                                       The proper purpose of this
the culture at                                                      tough question is to see how
your last        If the past culture was good them explain how      you interpret and explain
company or       and why in terms that the interviewee is likely to culture, which provides an
employer.        identify with, for example:                        opportunity for you as the
                                                                      the interviewee to
                 "The culture encouraged people to develop,           demonstrate how you feel
                 grow, take responsibility. People were coached       about and react to whatever
                 and mentored towards quality and productive          culture was in place. It's a
                 effort. All of this helped me a great deal because   potential trap for
                 I identify with these values, and respond to these   interviewees who would be
                 opportunities."                                      negative and critical and
                                                                      apportion blame, eg 'the
                 A good answer, in referring to a non-supportive      culture was not supportive
                 culture would be to express the positive aspects     and so it didn't help me to
                 (eg lots of freedom for me to take initiative,       perform' (not a good
                 responsibility, find new ways to contribute, a       answer). The culture
                 free market allowing the good workers to             question also invites
                 naturally excel and develop reputation and           comments from the
                 internal working relationships, etc.)                interviewee about
                                                                      management style, and
                                                                      again is a trap for negative
                                                                      respondents who criticise
                                                                      their past boss (bad answer),
                                                                      rather than accentuate the
                                                                      positives and demonstrate
                                                                      positive behaviour in
                                                                      negative situations, which is
                                                                      a highly desirable trait.
Tell me about    The question is an opportunity for you to            A big open question like
your life at     demonstrate the qualities that the interviewer is    this in an interviewer is a
College or       seeking in for the job, so orientate your answer     huge opportunity or huge
University (or   towards these expectations (without distorting       trap. It can be a tough
even your time   the truth obviously).                                question if not approached
in your                                                               properly.
previous job).   In your answer, emphasise the positive
                 behaviour, experience and achievements (ideally      Interviewees should have
                 backed up with examples and evidence) which          the sense to refer to
                 will impress the interviewer because of its          previous experiences that
                 relevance to the role requirements.                  indicate capability and
                                                                      behaviour of the sort that
                 The interviewer is looking for the same              the role requires.
                 capabilities and behaviour in your college (or
                                                               It's a trap for interviewees
                 university or previous job) life that they want in
                 the job.                                      who look regretfully or
                                                               negatively on past
                 Your emphasis should be on your achievements, experiences, criticise or
                 and how you achieved them, that are relevant  attribute blame, or display
                 to the job requirements.                      'someone else's fault'
                  Interviewers with special interest in behaviour
                  and personality may also use a question like this     College and University are
                  to assess your self-awareness and maturity, in        environments which provide
                  the way you consider your answer and relate it to     lots of opportunity. Good
                  your own experience and development.                  applicants will be able to
                                                                        demonstrate that they have
                                                                        used the opportunity to learn
                                                                        and develop, whether their
                                                                        experiences were all
                                                                        positive and successful or

What do you       It's not easy to answer this in terms of job          This is a common tough
want to be        expectation - no-one can realistically predict        interview question, and it
doing in 2/5/10   what job will be required in 5-10 years, let alone    commonly trips people up
years time?       whether they will be right to do it, so I'd avoid     into making over-ambitious
                  specific job aims or claims, unless you actually      claims about their future
Or:               have a very clear plan, and are seeking a job and     potential and worth. It
                  career which clearly offers predictable and           highlights feelings of
Where do you      structured progression.                               delusion, and a need for
want to be in                                                           security if they exist.
2/5/10 years      For most people and roles, which are largely
time?             unpredictable, this question is best and easiest      The question encourages the
                  answered in terms of the sort of situation you'd      interviewee to think and
                  like to be in, which should reinforce all the other   express their plans and
                  good things about yourself, for example:              aspirations, future direction,
                                                                        needs and wishes. Some
                  "Making a more significant contribution to            people find it more difficult
                  whatever organisation I'm working for. To have        to answer than others,
                  developed new skills, abilities, maturity -           depending on their
                  perhaps a little wisdom even. To have become          personality.
                  better qualified in whatever way suits the
                  situation and opportunities I have. To be better      Some people are able to
                  regarded by my peers, and respected by my             plan and see clear steps
                  superiors as someone who can continue to              along the way, which would
                  increase the value and scale of what I do for the     be more commonly
                  organisation."                                        exhibited by people whose
                                                                        work involves this
                  "I'd like more responsibility, because that's a       approach.
                  result of personal growth and progression, and
                  it's important for my personal satisfaction."         Job roles which require a
                                                                        higher level of adaptability
                  "I have no set aspirations about money and            and flexibility are unlikely
                  reward - if I contribute and add value to the         to attract candidates who are
                  organisation then generally increased reward          meticulous planners.
               follows - you get out what you put in."
                                                                     The question is a powerful
               "Long term I want to make the most of my              one because it prompts the
               abilities - if possible to build a serious career,    interviewee to think and
               but in this day and age nothing is certain or         visualise about themselves
               guaranteed; things can change. I'll do my best        and how they expect and
               and believe that opportunities will arise which       want to change.
               will enable me to keep contributing, increasing
               my worth, and developing my ability in a way
               that benefits the organisation and me."

               Employers will respond well if they see that you
               are mature, independent, self-motivated; that you
               will make a positive and growing contribution,
               and that you understand that reward (financial,
               promotion, responsibility, etc) will always be
               based on the quality and value of your input.
Give an        This depends on your relationship to the two          The interviewer is using this
example of     people, so seek clarification if this is not clear,   tough question to test the
when you had   but broadly the aim is to first take any heat out     interviewee's experience and
to settle a    of the situation by calming the individuals. Then     ability to diffuse conflict,
dispute        firmly arrange a three-way discussion later in the    and also to step back and
between two    day or an early opportunity in the future, in a       take an objective view,
individuals.   suitable environment (closed meeting room), at        rather than getting involved
               which you can facilitate a proper discussion of       and taking sides, which is
               the issues, so as to arrive at an agreed positive     the natural temptation.
               way of going forward or compromise. It's              Objectivity and facilitation
               important to understand each person's                 are important skills of a
               standpoint and feelings, without agreeing with        good manager, and this
               them, unless the argument concerns a clear            question will identify
               breach of policy or wrong behaviour, in which         whether the interviewee
               case the transgressor should be counselled            possesses them. This
               separately, after which the three-way meeting         question will also put
               can be held to mend relationships. Arguments          pressure on the
               come in all shapes and sizes - a more specific        interviewee's ability to
               answer is possible in response to a more specific     manage people, because it
               scenario.                                             provides a tricky people-
                                                                     management scenario.
What is your   Mindful of the trap possibilities, the interviewee    This is a good and tough
ideal job?     would always do well to qualify the question by       interview question, and the
               asking for a timescale (at what point in my           answer would almost
               career?) before answering. This shows that some       always trigger a more
               consideration is taking place rather than a knee-     specific follow-up question,
               jerk, and that the question is producing a serious    asking 'why?', and then
response rather than a fanciful one.                  probing the reasons for the
Aside from this, the best answer to the question,     choice. From the
as for any interview question, is to use the          interviewer's standpoint, the
opportunity to sell the strengths of the              question is open and vague,
interviewee as a potential asset to the               which for certain purposes
organisation. This would produce an answer that       (see the next para re traps) is
creates a picture of a loyal, results-orientated      a good thing. If the question
person, making a significant contribution to the      is intended to elicit
organisation (status and level would depend on        meaningful information
timescale). If the answer is poor it will trigger a   about the interviewee's
probing follow up that puts pressure on the           career plans, then some
interviewee to justify a daft response. If the        timescale should be attached
answer is impressive there probably won't be a        (ie 'what would be your
follow-up as there's nothing to probe and the         ideal job in 3/5/10 years
interviewer can move on. Wrong answers would          time?')
include: 'boss of my own company' 'your job'          The question exposes
'the top salesman on half a mill a year' 'CEO of      interviewees who seek only
this company' (unless you can justify the claim)      personal gratification
a pop star, a railway engine driver, a film star,     ('outputs') from a role
etc Good answers would include: 'A manager or         (money, status, esteem,
executive with this organisation in (function         excitement, glamour,
relative to experience and skill set) where I have    security, etc) rather than
the responsibility and accountability for using       seeking opportunities to
my skills and efforts to achieve great results,       make best possible use of
work alongside great people, and get a fair           their effort, skills and
reward.' 'I'd like to become an expert in my field    experience, in contributing
(state function if relevant), where I'm able to use   to the
my skills and abilities to make a real difference     performance/quality/results
to the company's performance.'                        of the organisation for
                                                      which the role is performed
                                                      The question is a potential
                                                      trap for people who are
                                                      more concerned with what
                                                      they get out of a job rather
                                                      than what they put into it.
                                                      Employers do not really
                                                      want to recruit gratification-
                                                      orientated people. These
                                                      people are generally not
                                                      self-starting nor self-
                                                      The question also gives
                                                      indications as to how
                                                      realistically the interviewee
                                                      sees themselves. Some
                                                                      people visualise highly
                                                                      fanciful and unrealistic jobs,
                                                                      which is a warning sign to a
                                                                      potential employer. Others
                                                                      visualise jobs that are
                                                                      clearly remote from the job
                                                                      being applied for, which
                                                                      indicates that some
                                                                      falsification or delusion is
Why do you       Reflect back the qualities required and job          Opportunity to sell yourself
want this job?   priorities as being the things you do best and       and show you understand
                 enjoy. Say why you think the company is good,        what they're looking for in
                 and that you want to work for an organisation        the role. Make sure you hit
                 like it.                                             both of these hot buttons.
                                                                      It's a touch question if
                                                                      you've not prepared the
What did you    Prepare a number of relevant examples and             Another tough question
achieve in your explain one (two or three if they're punchy and       which will expose a lack of
last job?       going down well). Make sure you feature as the        preparation or relevant
                instigator, or the factor that made the difference.   experience. The question
                Examples must lead to significant organisational      and answer show whether
                benefits; making money, saving money/time,            any achievements have been
                improving quality, anticipating or creatively         made, and what values are
                solving problems, winning/keeping customers,          placed on work. Shows
                improving efficiency.                                 motive - whether process,
                                                                      results, accuracy, security,
                                                                      social, etc. Shows
                                                                      understanding of cause and
                                                                      effect, pro-active vs passive.
How would        Identify the two or three main issues and say        A tough question if the
you approach     how you'll deal with them, which shows you can       interviewee has not
this job? How    focus on what's important. Likely to be planing      prepared. Shows if you've
would you do     and organising, ensuring all the communications      thought about what job
it?              and relationships are working well, reviewing        requires and entails. Role
                 and measuring activities and resources against       and situation needs to have
                 outputs and improving where possible.                been explained well to
                 Emphasise your personal strengths that are very      enable a good response.
                 relevant to the role requirements.                   Exposes people who can't
                                                                      actually do the job.
What are your    Prepare three that are relevant to the               Shows whether candidate
strengths?       requirements of the role. Be able to analyse why     has self-awareness, and can
                  and how you are strong in those areas. Mix in          identify what strengths are
                  some behaviours, knowledge and experience and          relevant to role. Shows if
                  well as skills, and show that you understand the       candidate has thought and
                  difference. Style should be quite confidence           planned. A glaring omission
                  rather than arrogant or over-confident.                if not planned as this is such
                                                                         an obvious question that
                                                                         everyone should be
                                                                         prepared for. Strengths
                                                                         should obviously relate to
                                                                         the needs of the employer
                                                                         and the role.
What are your     Start by saying that you don't believe you are         A tough question if
weaknesses?       actually 'weak' in any area. Acknowledge certain       answered without proper
                  areas that you believe you can improve, (and           thought. A trap for the
                  then pick some relatively unimportant or               unsuspecting or naive. Will
                  irrelevant areas). If you must state a weakness        show up those who've not
                  these are the clever ones that are actually            prepared as this is another
                  strengths: not suffering fools gladly; sometimes       obvious question to expect.
                  being impatient with other people's sloppy work;       Will also prompt follow-up
                  being too demanding; refusing to give in when          questions probing what the
                  you believe strongly about something; trying to        candidate is doing to
                  do too much, etc, etc.                                 improve the weakness,
                                                                         which is worth preparing for
What would      Another opportunity to state relevant strengths,         Potential trap to draw out
your references skills and behaviours.                                   weaknesses - don't fall for it.
say about you?
How do you        Say that you tend not to get tense or stressed         Exposes people who can't
handle            because you plan and organise properly. Say you        deal with pressure or don't
tension/stress?   look after the other things that can cause stress -    recognise that lifestyle
                  health, fitness, diet, lifestyle, etc. Talk about      issues are important for
                  channeling pressure positively - thinking,             good working. Exposes the
                  planning, keeping a balanced approach.                 misguided macho approach
                                                                         that stress can be good. It
What was the      Be honest, as the interviewer might have read it       Will provide another
last book you     too. There's no shame in admitting to lightweight      perspective of the
read and how      reading material if that's what you like - put it in   interviewee's personality
did it affect     context, why you read it, and give a positive          that may not otherwise
you?              result, whatever it is. Be able to give an             surface. Opportunity to
                  intelligent reaction to what you've read. Don't be     demonstrate skills ,
                  too clever or try to impress as nobody likes a         aptitudes, special interests,
                  smart arse.                                            self-development, analytical
                                                                      ability, self-awareness. May
                                                                      expose feelings or issues
                                                                      that can be probed further.
What does/did     Tell the truth.                                   This question is not
your father do                                                      appropriate or helpful in
for a living?    You are you. Your parents are different people.    most interview situations,
                                                                    but it can arise, and when it
or               Your parents have no bearing on how your value does so it can be quite
                 should be judged.                                  emotive, which is mainly
What do your                                                        why it's listed here.
parents do for a Avoid reacting in a defensive, judgemental,
living?          ashamed or critical way.                           The question is designed to
                                                                    expose people who are over-
or               Avoid any suggestion that any parental influence protective or insecure, or
                 on others has been or could be useful to your      who might think that they
Tell me about own career or success (i.e., references relating to are somehow entitled to
what your        'old school tie' , or 'it's not what you know it's privilege because of who
parents do for a who you know').                                    their father is or has
living.                                                             achieved.

or                                                                    The question can also
                                                                      expose emotional hang-ups
What work are                                                         or sensitivities if any exist,
your parents                                                          with a view to further
involved in?                                                          exploration/discussion.

                                                                      Interviewers should use this
                                                                      question with great care, if
                                                                      indeed there is a good
                                                                      reason for using the
                                                                      question at all.
Tell me about a   Avoid anything deeply personal or seriously         Can expose emotional raw
big challenge     emotional unless you are in complete control of     nerves or sensitivities.
or difficulty     your feelings about it. Try to prepare an example   Opportunity to show proof
you've faced;     that's work-related and relevant to the role.       of being able to achieve
how did you                                                           results in the face of
deal with it?                                                         difficulty. Is this person
                                                                      actually experienced are
                                                                      they just saying they are.
                                                                      (Experto Credite - Trust one
                                                                      who has proved it)
Tell me about     Don't get trapped into admitting to a temper or     Exposes hang-ups and style
something         loss of control. Say you tend to get more           of management and
recently that     annoyed with yourself than with other people or     communication. Exposes
really annoyed   other situations. Annoyance isn't very              anyone who believes it's
you.             productive, so you tend to try to understand and    okay or even good to get
                 concentrate on finding a way around a problem       cross with other people. It
                 or putting things straight.                         ain't.
Give me some     Prepare this as one of your strengths, as there's   Exposes single-style non-
examples of      not a single job that won't benefit from good       adaptive communicators,
how you have     adaptive communication skills. Give examples        who don't understand or
adapted your     of how you've been detailed and given written       adapt to different people and
own              confirmation for people who need it. Give           situations.
communicating    examples of how you verbally enthuse and
style to deal    inspire the people who respond to challenge and
with different   recognition. Think of other examples of adapting
people and       your style to suit the recipients. Give examples
situations.      when you've had to be task-driven, process
                 driven, people-driven, and how you change your
                 style accordingly. A chance for you to truly
Can we check     Yes.                                                Exposes people who are not
your                                                                 comfortable about having
references?                                                          their references checked, in
                                                                     which case probe. Exposes
                                                                     people who've not had the
                                                                     foresight to organise an
                                                                     important controllable
                                                                     aspect of their job search,
                                                                     which is a bad sign.
What type of     Say generally you get on with everyone. Say you     Exposes hang-ups and
people do you    respond most to genuine, positive, honest           prejudices. May prompt
get on with      people. If pressed as to people you don't get on    issues to probe. Strong,
most/least?      with, say that you respect people for their         emotionally mature
                 differences, and seek to understand them, rather    candidates tend to respect
                 than seeing differences to be a reason for          differences and understand
                 conflict or difficulty.                             weaknesses in others.
                                                                     Weaker candidates tend to
                                                                     be more critical and
                                                                     judgemental about others.
Give me an       Don't admit to having produced poor work ever.      A trap - don't fall in it.
example of       Say you've probably made one or two mistakes -
when you've      everyone does - but that you always do
produced some    everything you can to put them straight, learn
poor work and    from them and made sure you'll not make the
how you've       same mistake again.
dealt with it.
Excellent           You may be hit with this if you're too contrived       Will knock a lot of people
answer - now        or clever, in which case give an example of            off guard, and expose any
can you give        something that didn't quite go so well, but make       tendencies to confront or
me an example       sure you present it positively and say what you        argue.
that wasn't so      learned from it. Don't try to stick to your guns
good?               and maintain that you're perfect - show a little
                    human weakness, but present the weakness
                    positively, either as a lesson you've learned
                    from, or an area you are working on - or if it's
                    justifiably beyond the remit of the job, then
                    something you'd seek to delegate or bring in
                    relevant support.
What do you         Pick a relatively irrelevant skill and say that you    Another trap to expose
find difficult in   don't find it as easy as you'd like, so you're         weaknesses, and an
work, life, or      working on it (don't just make this up - think         opportunity to show
relationships       about it and be truthful). Don't own up to a           strengths instead if played
(etc)?              weakness in an area that's important to the role.      properly.
                    As with the weaknesses question, you can state
                    certain difficulties because they are actually
                    quite acceptable, even commendable, they'd
                    include: suffering fools gladly, giving up an
                    impossible task, tolerating unkind behaviour like
                    bullying, having to accept I can't help certain big
                    problems in the world, etc.
How do you          Planning and writing a plan is very important. I       A great opportunity to shine
plan and            think how best to do things before I do them, if       and show management
organise your       it's unknown territory I'd take advice, learn from     potential. Planning and
work?               previous examples - why re-invent the wheel? I         organising is one of the keys
                    always prioritise, I manage my time, and I             to good work at any level so
                    understand the difference between urgent and           it's essential to acknowledge
                    important. For very complex projects I'd produce       this. Exposes unreliable
                    quite a detailed schedule and plan review stages.      people who take pride in
                    I even plan time-slots for activities that aren't in   flying by the seat of their
                    themselves organised, like thinking time, and          pants.
                    being creative, solving problems, etc.
How much are        Be honest about what you've been earning and           Exposes unrealistic people.
you                 realistic about what you want to earn.                 An opportunity to
earning?/do                                                                demonstrate you understand
you want to                                                                the basic principle that
earn?                                                                      everyone needs to justify
                                                                           their cost. Extra pay should
                                                                           be based on extra
                                                                           performance or
How many         It varies according to the situation. I plan and      Exposes the clock-watchers
hours a week     organise well, so unless there's a crisis or          and those who attach some
do you           unusual demand I try to finish at a sensible time     misplaced macho pride in
work/prefer to   so as to have some time for my family/social          burning the candle at both
work?            life/outside interests. It's important to keep a      ends. Look for a sense of
                 good balance. I start earlier than most people -      balance, with flexibility to
                 you can get a lot done before the phones start        go beyond the call of duty
                 ringing. When the pressure's on though I'm            on occasions when really
                 happy to work as long as it takes to get the job      required.
                 done. It's not about the number of hours - it's the
                 quality of the work that you do; how productive
                 you are.
Do you make      Be honest. Yes of course on occasions, but I          Anyone who says they don't
mistakes?        obviously try not to, and I always try to correct     make mistakes either isn't
                 them and learn from them.                             telling the truth, or never
                                                                       does anything at all.
                                                                       Whatever, a 'no' here is a
                                                                       big warning signal. (Ack.
                                                                       Linda Larkin)
(Follow above    Absolutely I can - I get the guidance I need, and Shows whether the person
question with)   it may help prevent others from making the same can take responsibility and
- Can you        mistake.                                          guidance. A mature,
share your                                                         positive approach to
mistakes with                                                      learning from mistakes is a
others?                                                            great characteristic. (Ack.
How to do        By the results that I achieve, and that I achieve     Exposes people who are not
measure your     them in the most positive way. If there isn't an      results orientated - more
own              existing measure of this I'll usually create one.     concerned with process,
effectiveness?                                                         relationships, airy-fairy
How do you       Be truthful, but express positively. I'm generally    Indicates ability to
like to be       very adaptable to most management styles. In          cooperate and manage
managed /not     the past I've helped my bosses get the best out of    upwards, also how
like to be       me by talking to them and developing a really         management attention you'll
managed?         good understanding. I work best when I'm given        need. Exposes potential
                 freedom and responsibility to take some of the        awkwardness. Only the
                 load off my boss's shoulders - they have enough       most experienced and
                 to deal with. Do not respond to the negative and      capable managers will be
                 give any example of how you do not like to be         seeking difficult dominant
                 managed.                                              types, and only then for
                                                                       certain roles requiring a
                                                                       high level of independence
                                                                      and initiative.
What personal    Prepare for this - be able to state your personal    Exposes those with little or
goals do you     and career goals - keep them reasonable,             no initiative. People who
have and how     achievable and balanced. Explain how you see         don't plan or take steps to
are you going    the steps to reaching your aims. An important        achieve their own personal
about            part of achieving progress is planning how to do     progress will not be pro-
achieving        it. Be able to demonstrate that you've thought       active at work either. People
them?            and planned, but also show that you are flexible     who don't think and plan
                 and adaptable, because it's impossible to predict    how to progress will tend to
                 the future - the important thing is to learn and     be reactive and passive,
                 develop, and take advantage of opportunities as      which is fine if the role calls
                 they come along.                                     for no more, but roles
                                                                      increasingly call for
                                                                      planning and action rather
                                                                      than waiting for
How do you       Say balance is essential. All work and no play       Can expose those with
balance work     isn't good for anyone, but obviously work must       outside interests that may
and              come first if you want to do well and progress.      prevail over work
family/social    Planning and organising my work well, and            commitments (keen sports-
commitments?     getting results, generally means that I have time    people, etc., who cannot put
                 for my outside interests and there's no conflict.    work first.) Indicates
                                                                      whether the interviewee has
                                                                      balanced approach to life.
                                                                      Obsession with work to the
                                                                      exclusion of most else is not
                                                                      generally a good sign.
Why should we You have a choice here as to how to play this:          Pressure question -
appoint you?  you can either go for it strongly, re-stating your      opportunity for interviewee
              relevant strengths - behaviour, experience and          to clearly and confidently
              skills, or you can quietly confidently suggest: I       stake their claim. Look
              don't know the other applicants, so it would be         again for the interviewee to
              wrong for me to dismiss their claims. However, I        state relevant strengths in
              am sure that I have all the main attributes the         behaviour, experience and
              role requires, which, combined with                     skills. Look also for good
              determination and positive approach, should             eye-contact when pledging
              ensure that I'd be a very good choice. (If              hard work, loyalty,
              management progression/succession is seen as a          determination, etc.
              benefit then you must refer to your willingness
              to develop and take on greater responsibilities in
              the future.)
What can you     I don't know the other applicants, but generally I   Pressure question, and one
do for us that   excel at . . . (pick your strengths that most fit    that enables the stars to
other people     with what they're seeking). Introduce some            shine. Look for awareness
cannot?          behavioural and style strengths as well as skills,    in the interviewee that they
                 and show you know the difference between              know what their relevant,
                 them.                                                 even special, strengths are,
                                                                       and can link them to
                                                                       benefits that they would
                                                                       bring to the role.
Tell me about    You must rehearse this one. Have ready a              Will show whether
yourself.        descriptions of yourself and why you're like it.      applicant has self-awareness
                 Don't just spout a lot of standard adjectives, say    - a critical skill that not
                 why you are like you are. Don't ramble on and         everyone possesses. Will
                 tail off. make a few clear statements and finish.     also show if applicant can
                                                                       think and present a complex
                                                                       case clearly and to the point.
                                                                       Also shows confidence and
                                                                       security levels, and 'grown-
What makes       Nothing really makes me mad - it's not a good         Exposes poor self-control or
you mad?         way to deal with anything. Certain things             unreasonable aversions,
                 disappoint or upset me - rudeness, arrogance,         fears, and insecurities.
                 spitefulness (pick any obvious nasty traits or        Exposes lack of tolerance
                 behaviours, particularly behaviours that you          and emotional triggers.
                 believe your interviewer will personally dislike      Clever interviewers may
                 too.)                                                 infer or encourage a feeling
                                                                       in the way they ask the
                                                                       question that it's okay to get
                                                                       mad. Don't fall for it.
What do you      Don't be critical. If possible be generous with       Exposes back-biting,
think of your    praise and say why, giving positive reasons. If       bitterness, grudges, inability
last             there was a conflict don't lie, but describe fairly   to handle relationships.
boss/employer?   and objectively without pointing blame.               Exposes people who can't
                                                                       accept the company-line.
If you won a     Probably save most of it, give some away,             Exposes the foolhardy, the
million on the   maybe a small treat for myself but nothing            irresponsible and the
lottery what     excessive. I could handle it I think because I'd      dreamers. Opportunity to
would you do?    always want to work, I'm quite sensible with          demonstrate level-
                 money, maybe start my own business if I could         headedness, morality, work
                 be really sure to make a success of it.               ethic, intelligence to know
                                                                       that money doesn't buy
stress and pressure interview questions
When dealing with questions that put pressure on you or create stress, be confident, credible and
constructive (accentuate the positive) in your answers. And make sure you prepare. Stress and
pressure questions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Three commonly used types of pressure
questions are those dealing with weakness and failure; blame; and evidence of ability or

weakness and failure questions

"Tell me about your failures....", or "What are your greatest weaknesses......". are the
interviewer's equivalent to "Are you still beating your wife?..".

Don't be intimidated by these questions - you don't have to state a failing or a weakness just
because the interviewer invites you to.

"I don't generally fail", or "I really can't think of any", are perfectly acceptable answers. Short
and sweet, and then wait smiling for the come-back - you'll have demonstrated that you are no
mug and no pushover. If you are pressed (as you probably will be), here's your justification
answer, or if you wish to appear a little more self-effacing use this as a first response:

"I almost always succeed because plan and manage accordingly. If something's not going right
I'll change it until it works. The important thing is to put the necessary checks and contingencies
in place that enable me to see if things aren't going to plan, and to make changes when and if


"There are some things I'm not so good at, but I'd never say these are weaknesses as such - a
weakness is a vulnerability, and I don't consider myself vulnerable. If there's something I can't
do or don't know, then I find someone who can do it or does know."

Do you see the positive orientation? Turn it around into a positive every time.

blame questions

Watch out also for the invitation to rubbish your past job or manager, especially in the form of:
"Why did you leave your last job?", or "Why have you had so many jobs?"

The interviewer is not only satisfying curiosity.......... if you say your last boss was an idiot, or
all your jobs have been rubbish, you'll be seen as someone who blames others and fails to take
responsibility for your own actions and decisions.
Employers want to employ people who take responsibility, have initiative and come up with
answers, not problems. Employers do not want to employ people who blame others.

So always express positive reasons and answers when given an opportunity to express the
negative. Never blame anyone or anything else.

"I was ready for more challenge", or "Each job offered a better opportunity, which I took", or "I
grow and learn quickly and I look for new opportunities", or "I wanted to get as much different
experience as quickly as I could before looking for a serious career situation, which is why I'm

I great technique for exploiting the blame question trap is to praise your past managers and
employers. Generosity is a positive trait, so demonstrate it. Keep your praise and observations
credible, realistic and relevant: try to mention attributes that your interviewer and prospective
new employer will identify and agree with. This will build association and commonality
between you and the interviewer, which is normally vital for successful interview outcomes.
They need to see that you think like they do; that you'll fit in.

prove it questions

These can be the toughest of the lot. Good interviewers will press you for evidence if you make
a claim. So the answer is - be prepared.

Watch out for closed questions: "Can you do so-and-so?.." , "Have you any experience in such-

These questions invite a yes or no answer and will be about a specific area.

If you give a yes, be prepared to deal with the sucker punch: "Can you give me an

The request for examples or evidence will stop you in your tracks if you've not prepared or can't
back up your answer.

The trick is before the interview to clearly understand the requirements of the job you're being
interviewed for. Ask to see the job description, including local parameters if applicable, and any
other details that explain the extent and nature of the role. Think about how you can cover each
requirement with examples and evidence. Wherever possible use evidence that's quantified and
relates to commercial or financial outputs.

Companies are interested in people who understand the notion of maximising return on
investment, or return on effort. If your examples and evidence stand up as good cost-effective
practice, they'll clock up even more points for you.

Make sure you prepare examples of the relevant capabilities or experience required, so that
you're ready for the 'prove it' questions. You can even take papers or evidence material with you
to show -having hard evidence, and the fact that you've thought to prepare it, greatly impresses

If you don't have the evidence (or personal coverage of a particular requirement), then don't bluff
it and say yes when you'd be better off saying, "No, however...."

Use "No, however ..." (and then your solution or suggestion), if asked for something that you
simply don't have.

Give an example of where previously you've taken on a responsibility without previous
experience or full capability, and made a success, by virtue of using other people's expertise, or
fast-tracking your own development or knowledge or ability.

On this point - good preparation should include researching your employer's business, their
markets and their competitors. This will help you relate your own experience to theirs, and will
show that you have bothered to do the research itself.

In summary, to deal with pressure questions: Keep control. Take time to think for yourself - don't
be intimidated or led anywhere you don't want to go. Express every answer in positive terms.
And do your preparation.

(This item about stress and pressure interview questions was written for the Sydney Morning
Herald, extracts of which appeared in April 2004.)

competency-based and behaviour interviews questions -
'how would you do this...?'
For interviewers these are powerful and effective questions. These questions make the
interviewee tell you how they would approach, handle, deal with, solve, etc., a particular
situation, problem, project or challenge that is relevant to the job role in question. The situation
could be from the interviewee's past experience, a hypothetical scenario, or a real situation from
the interviewing organisation. As the interviewer you should judge the answers objectively.
Avoid the temptation to project your own style and feelings into the assessment of whether the
answer is good or bad. Look for thoughtfulness, structure, cause and effect rationale,
pragmatism. The candidate may not approach the question like you do, but they may have a
perfectly effective style and approach to the answer just the same. The answers will indicate the
interviewee's approach, methodology, experience and competency in relation to the scenario, to
how they get things done, and also the style by which they do it.

From the interviewee's perspective, these questions commonly start with a scenario and a
question as to how you as the interviewee would deal with it. Or the question might ask you to
give an example of how you have handled a particular situation or challenge in the past. Or the
interviewer might ask how you would approach a current situation in their own organisation.
In these cases the interviewer will often judge your answers according to how much they agree
with your behavioural approach. The questions may initially seem or be positioned as
competency-based, but often the interviewer will be treating this really as a question of
behaviour and style.

And as ever, without going to unreasonable lengths your answers should reflect the style
expected/preferred/practised by the interviewer/organization. People like people like them.

For instance - a results-driven interviewer, certain high achieving dominant personalities,
aspiring MD's, certain ruthless types, will warm to answers with a high results-based orientation
(eg '....I focus on what needs to be done to achieve the task, to get the job done, to cut through
the red tape and peripherals, ignoring the distractions, etc. Strong incentive, encouragement,
clear firm expectations and timescales, deliverables, etc........' - the language of the achiever.

Alternatively, if you find yourself being interviewed by a persuasive, friendly, influential,
egocentric type, (lots of sales managers are like this) then frame your answers to mirror that style
- '.....I use persuasion, inspiration, leading by example, helping, providing justification, reasons,
empathising with the situation and people who are doing the job, motivating according to what
works with different people, understanding what makes them tick...' - all that sort of stuff.

HR interviewers are often 'people-types' and will warm to answers that are sensitive, and take
strong account of people's feelings, happiness, well-being, sense of fairness and ethics, honesty,
integrity, process, accuracy, finishing what's been started, having a proper plan, steady, reliable,
dependable, etc. - the language of the fair and the disciplined.

Technical interviewers, eg., MD's who've come up through science, technical, finance
disciplines, will warm to answers which demonstrate the use of accuracy, plans, monitoring,
clearly stated and understood aims, methods, details, checking, measuring, reporting, analysing.

These are generalisations of course, but generally relevant in most interview situations when you
are asked 'How would you ...?'

Obviously be true to yourself where you can. It's a matter of tint and orientation, not changing
your colour altogether.

Occasionally you might meet a really good interviewer who is truly objective, in which case
mirroring is not so useful - whereas confidence, maturity, integrity, flexibility, compassion,
tolerance, pragmatism are, and as such should be demonstrated in the way you answer questions
of a balanced mature non-judgemental interviewer.

Interviews can be a bit of a game, so when you see that it is, play it - the more you see subjective
judgement and single-track behaviour in the interviewer, then the more advantage there is in
mirroring the interviewer's style in your answers.

People like people like them. Which very definitely extends to assessing behaviour-based
giving presentations at job interviews
Being asked to give a presentation at your interview is a great opportunity for you to shine and
stand out from the crowd.

While giving interview presentations can understandably be daunting, a little preparation and
thought will enable you to use the situation to great advantage. This is chiefly because giving a
presentation offers you a much better platform than is normally available when simply answering
an interviewer's questions.

A presentation enables you to showcase your attributes and qualities - and often to research and
prepare - way beyond the constraints normally encountered in reacting to conventional interview

So if you are asked to give a presentation - regardless of the time available for preparation -
welcome the challenge - be prepared, and make the most of the your chance to show what you
can do.

Demonstrating an organizational or strategic interpretation and enthusiasm for the role -
showing that you can add value beyond what the employer hopes for - is the key to
standing out as a star candidate.

Research, preparation, and freedom to create and deliver a great presentation are the main the
ingredients for anyone seeking to make an impact in any situation - and all of these are enabled
when you are invited to give an interview presentation.

While the guidelines below are chiefly for interviewees they also help interviewers in creating
instructions and a basis for reviewing and assessing presentations given by job candidates at

When you are asked to give a presentation at an interview you should use whatever time is
available to consider the following questions in relation to the employer organization, their
market place and how your filling the role can bring them what they need and more.

Here are some strategic questions to consider and resolve as far as possible prior to planning an
interview presentation. The scenario is a job vacancy in training, but the principles transfer to
any role.

   1. Understand the significance of any particular key words used in the presentation
      instructions - think about the words used by the recruiting organization in their letter or
      specification, for example "...give a technical presentation..." or "...give a professional
      presentation..." Think about what they mean exactly by a word like 'technical' or
      'professional'. Words like these are often especially significant clues to the sort of
     presentation style and content that the interviewers are seeking. Try to get into their shoes
     and understand exactly what they are looking for in the successful applicant.
2.   What are the essential competencies and attributes they need in the role? Cover the
     basics - the job description is usually a good indication, but sometimes you should look
     beyond this to more of an industry-standard approach, especially if the job description is
     a little flaky. Sometimes the employer will expect you to help re-define the role -
     employers don't always know what they want, or the full extent of what the role. Showing
     that you understand the role is a good basis for demonstrating that you can actually
     perform in the role.
3.   What gaps/opportunities exist in their knowledge/use of alternative/advanced
     training design and delivery technology/methods (or other role-relevant issues as
     appropriate)? Recruiting new people offers employers the opportunity to introduce new
     ideas and keep up to date with modern approaches, technologies, methods, etc. You
     should demonstrate that you will be a good source of new ideas and methods when you
     join them. Addressing this in a presentation enables you to show how you will add value
     to the employer's technology, innovation, methods, etc.
4.   What particular challenges or crises do they face that you can help them fix?
     Identifying and solving problems are usually big priorities for new people, if only
     because everyone else had tried and failed. New blood and fresh enthusiasm are often
     essential to break deadlocks and find solutions to long-standing problems. So try to
     discover their big challenges and difficulties, and consider how you'd approach them,
     without making unqualified assumptions, or running the risk of repeating things they've
     already tried. This sort of consideration of their challenges and approaches to solutions
     requires a balanced approach - not being too assumptive or presumptuous, but at the same
     time demonstrating a level of confidence and determination to tackle problems creatively
     with a fresh incisive view and impetus.
5.   What specifically can you bring to the situation which will improve their
     competitive position in relation to their own markets and customers? This element of
     a presentation demonstrates that you can add value to the organization in terms of sales,
     business, profit and ultimately financial performance, (an area of enormous importance
     for most employers) by your appreciation of how the performance of your role can bring
     competitive advantage and improvement to the organization. Consider what you can do
     that will enable the organization to retain and attract more customers and business. The
     ability to translate and express your job in terms of competitive advantage - or in the non-
     profit sector, in terms of quality of service - is an irresistible proposition for most
6.   What crucial differences/innovations/improvements could you bring beyond even
     their ideal expectations? This is your personal Wow Factor. The employer will have a
     baseline expectation of the sort of candidate required to fill the vacancy. A number of
     candidates might meet this specification. So what can you offer that goes beyond the
     baseline expectation? What can you do that's different and better than other candidates, in
     a way that the organization will regard it as making a significant additional contribution -
     perhaps in an area or areas which they have not yet even considered? Think about,
     prepare, and build into your presentation a really special advantage or capability you can
     offer that no-one else can, and translate this into what it could do for them.
   7. How can you help them better identify, measure and improve crucial performance
      in their overall learning and development (or other role-relevant functions), and
      beyond this into their operations? This adds value in the crucial and often neglected
      areas of measurement, control and implementation. Most employers do not actually
      measure and appreciate the critical priorities of their operations, and how these key
      performance areas are affected and enabled (or frustrated) by particular roles within the
      organization. As a job candidate when you demonstrate that you can perform the role up
      to and beyond the organization's basic needs, and then additionally contribute much
      needed strategic interpretation and implementation support, you will be presenting a very
      powerful case indeed that you are the best candidate for the job.

At all times keep this at the back of your mind that unless the vacancy is for a very specific and
limited role, then the interview is actually mostly about the recruiting organization and the
interviewer(s), not you.

What this means is that you must present yourself in terms that make sense to and match the
needs of the organization. Everything you say about yourself must be couched in terms of what it
will mean for the employer. There is no point in presenting a glowing picture of yourself and
your knowledge, experience, capabilities, etc., in glorious isolation. Instead you must prepare
and present everything about yourself so that you are irresistibly relevant to the needs and aims
and challenges of the organization.

The interview presentation offers you a wonderful opportunity to do this - to demonstrate that
you can enable relevant and effective improvement/achievement for their biggest problems and
opportunities, better than any of the other candidates.

Research and understand their issues. Then prepare and and present your own personal added
value in relation to their situation.

Here are some more general tips on creating and giving presentations.

Finally some quick ideas for structure, especially when little preparation time is available:

The Rule of Three

   1. Introduction or aims.
   2. The points you want to make (three, subdivided if necessary).
   3. Summary - and ideally an impressive memorable finishing statement.

The Tell 'Em Rule

   1. Tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em,
   2. Tell 'em,
   3. Then tell 'em what you told' em.
(Again, essentially intro, key points, summary.)

Three Big Points

(Especially for surprise presentations when you only have a few minutes to prepare.)

Three big points must address the three biggest outcomes that the organization needs from the
new appointment.

   1. Brainstorm (jot down as many relevant ideas for the three outcomes as you can).
   2. Decide (confirm if at all possible) and reduce these down to the three biggest outcomes
      that the interviewers are seeking from the person to be appointed into the role.
   3. Then hit them hard with how you will achieve each of the three big outcomes - and also
      how you (and they) will assess the effectiveness of the solutions. (Assessment is crucial
      to awareness, validation and control.)

questions to ask at interview - for interviewees
While this section essentially gives guidance and tips to interviewees these ideas and principles
will also help interviewers.

At job interviews it's as important for you the interviewee to prepare questions to ask the
interviewer as it is to prepare answers and readiness for the questions that the interviewer will
ask you.

If you are the interviewer, ensure you offer the interviewee the opportunity to ask questions
about the job, the management, the organisation and the market within which it operates. The
questions that job candidates ask at interview provide valuable insights as to their attitude,
maturity, capability and strategic understanding of the role and the organisation, so for
interviewers, questions asked by interviewees form a significant and illuminating part of the
interview process. Listen to and learn from what interviewees ask you - often the questions that
interviewees ask will provide more information to the interviewer than anything you ask them.

As the interviewee, take full advantage of opportunities to ask questions. Asking good well-
prepared and researched questions is your chance to demonstrate that you are better than the
other candidates, and to show that you have a tremendous capability and understanding and
potential, irrespective of what the interviewer asks you.

Preparing and asking great questions at your own job interview dramatically reduces any
dependance that you might otherwise have for the interviewer to ask you 'the right questions'. It
won't matter if the interviewer doesn't ask good helpful questions, or fails to prompt the sort of
discussion that allows you to show how brilliant you are - instead, you can control this area of
discussion yourself by asking the interviewer great questions that will make them sit up and
realise what an excellent candidate you are.
An helpful although not absolutely essential aspect towards asking the interviewer good
questions is good research (which follows later on this page).

A key to asking great questions at your interview is to ask questions that impress the
interviewer. Most candidates just ask about routine details that they think they ought to know, or
which they think of on the spur of the moment, but which will probably be provided in due
course anyway in documentation about terms and conditions. This is meaningless twaddle and to
be avoided.

Instead focus on the job priorities and scope, on the organisation and ways to make a difference
or an improvement. Try to think strategically like a manager, and for very senior positions, like
the CEO. Try to adopt the mind-set of a helpful advisor who needs to ask helpful facilitative
questions. Focus on the organisation not on your own needs.

Try to prepare and ask questions that make the interviewer think to themselves, "Wow, that's a
good question - this candidate has really thought about the role, and understands the sort of
issues we need them to handle/the sort of responsibilities/initiatives we want them to take.."

Aim to ask questions that make the interviewer think, (depending on what the organisation and
role requires), "Wow, that's an unusual question - this candidate is special - they are
demonstrating to me that they understand people/understand about communications/have great
integrity/a strong value system/great humanity/maturity/a good strategic mind/etc, etc."

Think before the interview about what the successful candidate will be like - ask yourself
beforehand, what great questions would the successful candidate ask? And then be that person.

When you research the job look into the sort of challenges the organisation is facing, and think
how this affects the vacant role. What does the employer need from the successful applicant?
How might the role be extended to contribute more to the organisation if the job were performed
by a suitably positive and capable person ? (That's you incidentally.) The job advert or job
specification might give you some clues. Do your research so that you understand as much as
possible about the priorities of the job position, and the organisation and its situation, and then
think about the ways that the role could be extended to provide greater support towards
achieving organisational challenges.

This sort of background thinking will help you to prepare questions that will seriously impress
any interviewer, whatever the role. It is possible also to think of good positive impressive
questions just by using what you know of the role and the sort of issues that face modern
employers. The point is, you need to think about it and prepare beforehand.

For example:

examples of good questions to ask interviewers

These types of questions are certainly appropriate for interviewees to ask an interviewer at an
interview for a junior-to-middle ranking role. For more strategic roles and executive
responsibilities you'll need to raise the strategic perspective of some of these questions - use your
judgement. Remember, the aim is to make the interviewer think (always relative to the role),
"Wow, that's a good question.."

In any event adapt the wording and develop alternative questions to suit your own style and the
situations concerned.

"Of the main priorities and expectations attached to this role, which ones are well understood and
measurable, and which are not?"

"If the CEO/MD/Departmental Manager/you were to name the three most important priorities for
this role/the successful candidate to achieve in the first six months, what would they be, and how
would they be measured?"

"I'm aware that this market is fast
moving/competitive/mature/local/regional/national/international (whatever your research
indicates); how is this affecting the strategic priorities and the demands on the role/vacant

"Communications, internal and external, are clearly extremely important in this organisation;
what are the related priorities for this role?"

"I've read that you (the employer organisation) face a lot of competition from XYZ (sector,
company, whatever); what do you think are the main ways that the successful candidate can help
the organisation deal with this threat?"

"Where are the priorities/What are the issues for this role/the successful candidate in terms of
maintaining/developing/improving effective inter-departmental relations?"

"What are the priorities and challenges as regards areas for change and improvement facing the
department/organisation/team within/connecting/relating to the role?"

"What is the balance of priorities for this role - short-term efficiencies and performance, or
longer-term planning and organising?"

"If someone were to come into this role and begin to make a significant impact on culture and
morale, what sort of changes would people/you/the management/the board/the CEO want to see
most, and how would this be measured?"

"It's normal that most roles are operating considerably below their potential to contribute to
strategic change/organisational performance and improvement; what are the expectations in
terms of broadening the scope of this role"?

"How might this role positively impact on/contribute to customer relations/organisational
development/culture/staff morale/training and development/legislative anticipation/market
development/sales development/business retention in ways that it's not done so far?"
"Where do think there might be opportunities for this role to connect with/cooperate with other
functions, and what's stopped that happening in the past?"

"What are the vulnerabilities in processes/people/business retention/grow/ technology, ITC
systems within the organisation/department that need to be attended to?"

And so on.. You get the idea?

Serious, strategic, thoughtful, facilitative questions. Questions that amaze the interviewer - about
things they might not have even considered. In fact the best questions should make the
interviewer think, "My God, if this person can have this level of insight, and such a positive
enlightened approach at the interview, just imagine what they'll be able to do when they get their
feet under the table..."

This sort of positive expansive questioning is not limited to strategic management positions -
every job role is potentially strategic - what makes the role strategic is the person doing it, not
the job title or status.

And the role can be in any function, any industry, any type of organisation - doesn't matter -
every role interfaces in some way or another with people, processes, other departments,
customers and suppliers (internal or external), and so has a strategic dimension. recognise the
strategic dimension; influence it positively, and you get asked to do it on a wider scale. Asking
good questions at a job interview helps the job candidate to demonstrate that they have this

Organisations, and therefore interviewers want to recruit people into all roles who can come in
and make a positive difference. By asking well-prepared and thoughtful questions, you can
demonstrate that you are one of these people.

Being an advocate of the maxim 'accentuate the positive' I am usually loath to dwell on
negative examples, however in this case I make an exception because this is an important no-go

Just as it's helpful for interviewees to prepare and ask good questions, so it's helpful also to avoid
asking routine questions that waste time and can often be covered more efficiently in some other
way (by reading a document for example.)

questions to avoid asking

Contrast the expansive, positive strategic questions above, about job scope and contribution to
organisational effectiveness, with this stuff below. Interviewers will generally react negatively
(secretly usually) to questions such as the following examples, so unless you are a very junior
person going for a very junior role with an employer who has not prepared in advance this type
of routine information, avoid asking questions like these at your interview.

      "How many weeks holiday do I
      "When would I get a pay-rise?.."
      "What are the lunch times?.."
      "What sort of car do I get?.."           Do not ask these questions
      "What other perks are there?.."
      "What are the pension                    These are warning-sign questions to most
       arrangements?.."                         interviewers. Do not ask these questions at
      "Do you have a grievance                 interview unless you want to be seen as
       procedure?.."                            someone who cares more about the pay and
      "What expenses can I claim for?.."       perks than the job and the organisation, let
      "How soon before I could get             alone making a positive difference in the place.
      "When is going-home time?.."
      and others like these

Generally speaking these questions suggest to the interviewer that the candidate is mostly
interested in what the organisation can give the employee, rather than the other way around.
Interviewers want to meet and recruit interviewees who see things in terms of what the employee
can do for the organisation.

Find another way to get this sort of information if you really need to know it at the face-to-face
interview. Good employers will explain all this to interviewees during the interview or in written
terms and conditions, which many employers will send out prior to the interview. As suggested
in the tips at the start of this page ask prior to the interview for a copy of the employment terms
and conditions or an employee handbook. If they don't have this or can't send it, and you have a
burning question about these sort of 'hygiene factors', the best way to approach it is to ask
something like:

"What's the best way for me to see the routine details about the employment terms and
conditions relating to this role? Do you have a handbook or sample contract for example? I don't
want to waste time here going through incidentals..."

By doing this you demonstrate several important things, that:

      you regard these things as secondary - implication being that you regard doing the job as
       the priority
      you respect the value of time, since you appreciate there are better things to concentrate
       on during an interview
      you understand the principle of efficient information management and communication,
       on the basis that all this detail will be available somewhere to read rather than have to
       waste effort asking individual questions
       you are professional - because providing information like this in the way you suggest is
        the most professional way to do it.

Of course the job-grade and seniority of the vacancy and the size of the employer organisation
will affect the significance and transfer of this sort of information. In an interview with a tiny
little company for a junior clerk's position the interviewee can be forgiven for asking these sorts
of questions relating to terms and conditions, not least because the company might not be
professional or organised enough to have produced a proper handbook or contract, nevertheless,
whatever the role and size of employer, the less time spent asking about all this sort of
information the better. And certainly avoid the entire area in interviews for professional positions
with professional employers, especially in commercially competitive functions and industry

A final point about questions to ask at interviews when you are the interviewee:

asking for the job
In certain circumstances, especially for sales and commercial roles, there might be an
expectation or opportunity for you to 'close' or ask for the job, which is potentially the most
powerful question of all to ask.

If you really want the job and can accept an offer there and then, there is often a lot to be gained,
and very little to be lost, by asking for the job at the end of the interview, although bear in mind
the effect that this tactic has on salary negotiation.

Obviously it's only appropriate in certain situations; notably towards the end of the recruiting
process when the interviewers have seen all the candidates, or if the employer has more
vacancies than they can easily fill.

Similarly, it's reasonable to ask for a second interview, or to be shortlisted, if that's the next stage
in the process.

Persistence and determination are highly valued attributes, logically in sales and selling
organisations, but also beyond the sales functions. In fact some job candidates successfully take
the method to extremes and simply do not take no for an answer, virtually camping out on the
employer's doorstep until they are eventually brought in from the cold and offered the job. The
decision-maker, typically an owner-manager or CEO in such situations, is finally forced to
concede that if the person wants the job that badly then perhaps they'll be rather a good bet after
all. This sort of determination is often associated with loyalty and commitment - and uniqueness
- which can all create a compelling case for decision-makers who are attuned to this sort of style,
particularly if other candidates are thin on the ground.

While these extremes are not for everyone, anyone is entitled to ask for a job that they really
want. Plenty of offers are not made because the interviewer doubts the seriousness or
commitment of the interviewer. Asking for the job at least largely rules out that possibility.
Added to which, certain types of managers and directors (the ones who would normally ask for
the job at their own interviews for example) respond positively when an interviewee looks them
straight in the eye, pauses for dramatic effect, and says earnestly,

"I want this job. Make me the offer and I'll take it here and now."

It's not really a question, it's more of a statement of intent, and lots of decision-makers like to
hear it.

As ever having other options - other interviews lined up, or even another offer - is helpful and
can add an extra bit of pressure to your push.

If you fancy using the ploy, it's also worth thinking about exactly what you want to say.
Decision-makers certainly like to hear that you like their organisation (that you'd not be inclined
to be this determined were it any other employer) and that there are one or two compelling
reasons for your wanting to do a great job for them, so it's worth thinking about how you might
weave a few simple supporting points into your final coup de grace.

An employer or interviewer who is keen on you, who has satisfied they've been through the
proper processes, and who knows or believes that you have other options, will sometimes give
you the job offer there and then if you ask firmly and professionally for the job. Which of course
saves a lot of time for all concerned, so if you feel like asking for the job - any job in fact - the
approach is not limited to sales and commercial positions - then go for it.

salary negotiation tips for job interviews
The best time to negotiate salary is after receiving a job offer, and importantly before you accept
a job offer - at the point when the employer clearly wants you for the job, and is keen to have
your acceptance of the job offer. Your bargaining power in real terms, and psychologically, is far
stronger if you have (or can say that you have) at least one other job offer or option (see the tips
on negotiation). A strong stance at this stage is your best chance to provide the recruiting
manager the justification to pay you something outside the employer's normal scale.

If there's a very big difference between what is being offered and what you want, say more than
20%, you should raise it as an issue during the interview for discussion later (rather than drop it
as a bombshell suddenly when the job offer is made). Do not attempt to resolve a salary issue
before receiving a job offer - there's no point. Defer the matter - say you'll need to discuss salary
in due course, but that there's obviously no need to do so until and unless the company believes
you are the right person for the job. "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," should be the

A job and package comprise of many different things - unless the difference between what's
offered and needed is enormous (in which case the role is simply not appropriate) both sides
should look at all of the elements before deciding whether salary is actually an issue or not.
The chances of renegotiating salary after accepting a new job, and certainly after starting a new
job, are remote - once you accept the offer you've effectively made the contract, including salary,
and thereafter you are subject to the organization's policies, process and natural inertia.

A compromise agreement on salary, in the event that the employer cannot initially employ you at
the rate you need, is to agree (in writing) a guaranteed raise, subject to completing a given period
of service, say 3 or 6 months. In which case avoid the insertion of 'satisfactory' (describing the
period of service) as this can never actually be measured and therefore fails to provide certainty
that the raise will be given.

If you are recruiting a person who needs or demands more money or better terms than you can
offer, then deal with the matter properly before the candidate accepts the job - changing pay or
terms after this is very much more difficult. If you encourage a person to accept pay and terms
that are genuinely lower than they deserve or need, by giving a vague assurance of a review
sometime in the future, you will raise expectations for something that will be very difficult to
deliver, and therefore storing up a big problem for the future.

Additional tips and techniques relating to salary negotiations at job interviews.

second interviews guidelines
At second interviews, unsuitable applicants should have been screened out by this stage. For
certain jobs a decision will be made to offer the job after the second interviews; recruitments for
senior positions may proceed to third interviews.

Second interview questions should be deep and probing about the candidate and the candidate's
approach to work. The questions should concern detailed and testing examples and scenarios
specific to the particular job, asking how the candidate would deal with them. This is to discover
as reliably as possible how the candidate would approach the job, and what type of person they
are - the interviewer needs to be sure they will get on with the candidate you and that they will fit
in well.

The interviewer should also probe the type of management that the candidate responds to and
doesn't, and how the candidate would work with other people and departments, giving specific
examples and scenarios.

Tests and practical exercises using actual work material or examples can be used, which enable a
practical assessment of the candidate's real style, ability, knowledge and experience.

The candidate can be asked to prepare and give a short presentation about themselves, or how
they would approach the job or a particular challenge. This could involve the use of certain
equipment and materials, particularly if such ability is to be required in the job.
The interviewer should also try to get to know more about the candidate as a person - to be as
sure as possible that this is the right person for the situation; the interview approach should be
probing and gaining practical evidence, proof, of suitability.

A good second interview should establish as reliably as possible the candidate's suitability and
ability for the specific needs of the job, which includes the work, relationships, aspirations, and
personal background.

There is nothing wrong in the candidate asking the organisation prior to the interview what to
plan and prepare for in the second interview - interviewers should regard this as a positive sign,
and it may help the candidate to give some clear information on what to expect and prepare for.

Certain senior jobs recruitments will involve a lunch or dinner so that the interviewer and other
senior managers or executives can see you in relaxed mode. This is an excellent way to discover
more about the personality of an applicant.

Group selection (normally a half-day or even whole day) - see below - is a very good alternative
to conventional one-to-one interviews after first interview stage. Group selection puts all the
candidates together for a series of activities and tasks, which can then be observed by a panel of
interviewers. Individuals can be asked to prepare and give presentations, and various other
exercises relevant to the job. One-to-one interviews follow later in the day when the group has
been reduced in numbers. Group selection takes a lot longer than a conventional second
interview and all candidates should be notified as to the process and outline agenda.

interview follow-up letter or email by interviewee
If you are particularly keen to be offered a job and wish to increase your profile and chances of
receiving a job offer after attending interview, you can follow up an interview with a letter or
email (and then a phone call) to reinforce your commitment and qualities for the job. The sooner
the better.

Often jobs are offered to the most passionate and determined applicants, so this should be the
feeling that your follow-up should try to convey, without giving the impression of desperation or

You should seek to focus your follow-up letter or email on the key performance aspects in the
role that the interviewer believes are required for the successful applicant.

This type of follow-up enables you to show that you have considered and developed your
thinking after the interview (a desirable attribute), and also enables you to re-emphasise your
claim to the opportunity, bringing your name to the front of the interviewer's mind again. A good
follow-up letter or email also enables you to demonstrate that you are persistent, professional,
interested, possess relevant capabilities, recognise what the requirements and priorities are, are
keen, and can sell yourself in a determined manner, that probably the other applicants will not

Interviewers also respond well to applicants who really like the company, especially if your
reasons coincide with the reasons that the interviewer likes the company too, so it can help if
your follow-up 'resonates' with the feelings of the interviewer about what is required for the role.

From the interviewer's perspective - if you are an interviewer or decision-maker who receives a
good follow-up letter from an enthusiastic interviewee - I recommend you give the applicant
extra credit and consideration. They are demonstrating many of the most relevant qualities that
you are seeking.

sample follow-up letter from interviewee after interview

Use and adapt this template example to create your own interview follow-up letter or email.

Dear ........

You interviewed me on (date) for the (role) position.

I really want this job, so I'm taking the liberty of re-stating why I think you should choose me:

(then list 3-5 short points which relate your skills, knowledge, experience, achievements,
character, attitude, to the results and effects they'll be seeking from the person appointed. It is
very important that these points demonstrate that you have clearly understood and can deliver -
specific measurable things if possible - what they need for the role, for example:)

        You need someone who can produce new profitable business - a minimum (stated target
         level) a year. My track record proves I can do this. I know already how I will do this for
         you. Moreover I'll help others around me to do it too.
        You need someone who is very adaptable. Again my recent career history shows how I'm
         able to adapt to fast-changing situations - to identify and achieve new aims quickly. Put
         me anywhere - I'll adapt and create a new plan, and achieve it.
        You need someone who can hit the ground running - I can do this - I have commitments
         from personal customers who have promised me business equating to (amount) by
         (when) should I take on this new role.

You might have seen better qualified applicants, or people with more relevant experience, but
when it comes down to it, it's the person with the most passion and determination who is able to
make a real difference. I'd urge you to give me the chance to prove I am that person.

Yours etc.
You could also follow up the letter/email with a phone call to ask what the interviewer thinks,
and if there's anything else that you can do or provide to help the interviewer decide.

Persistence often pays off, especially in roles which require someone who can get results by
making things happen, which applies to most roles in business and organisations these days, and
certainly all management roles.

When you follow-up your own job interview with passion, determination and expertise, the
interviewer sees real evidence of how you can perform in the job itself.

The interview follow-up letter, email and phone call is therefore a great opportunity for you to
demonstrate many of your attributes for real, in a way that will raise your profile, re-state your
credentials and understanding of the role's requirements, and thereby create a clear separation
between you and the other job candidates.

attracting and recruiting high quality staff
Here are some brief but significant points about attracting and recruiting high quality staff.

And while the methodology is especially important for recruiting rare individuals, it actually
applies to the successful attraction and recruitment of all staff.

The methodology for attracting and recruiting good quality employees follows basic
marketing principles.

This might seem obvious to marketing and advertising folk, and even to some sales-people, but
commonly recruitment in organizations is a function of HR (Human Resources) department, or
in smaller companies the task is perhaps handled by an office manager. Not all HR people and
office managers think like marketeers, and the world is a better place because of this,

If you want to recruit the best possible staff, you must approach the activity as if you were
marketing a product or service.

First, it might help if you consider the elements of the recruitment process in terms of marketing

      Your organization is effectively a supplier.
      Employees are customers.
      The two simple statements above represent a vital point. Ignore it or reverse it at your
       peril. (There are unfortunately very many arrogant employers who believe they are doing
       their employeees a huge favour by employing them. The employer - typically the
       directors and the culture which emanates from them - regards itself as the customer, and
       the employees as the suppliers. This is a formula for the recruitment and retention of the
       disinterested and demotivated. Try to see things the other way around: organization =
       supplier; employees = customers.)
      Employment/a career with your organization (essentially the job or role) equates to
       the product.
      The job candidates - your ideal new employees - are your customers, prior to which
       they are your target market or target audience.
      The channel(s) or method(s) by which you reach your target audience is/are your route(s)
       to market. (For example, routes to your target market of potential employees would
       include headhunters, recruitment agencies, recruitment websites, newspaper or trade
       journal adverts, job shows and exhibitions, university/college/school career events,
       referral by existing employees, etc.)
      The employment opportunity is your product offering, within which your organization
       is a vital component (in other words, it doesn't matter how good the job is, if the
       organization is a pile of unethical crap, or perceived as such, then the job opportunity will
       probably be irretrievably tainted).
      The product offering (job opportunity) must contain at least one and ideally a few USPs
       (Unique Selling Points) or there is little reason for good people to be interested in
       working for your organization compared to competing opportunities with other
       employers. (Ideally your organization should be so bloody wonderful that the
       organization itself is one of the USPs of the job. USPs must be considered from the
       perspective of the customer, not the supplier. USPs effectively define the type of
       customers attracted to the product.)
      The way(s) in which the employment opportunity (product offering) is
       communicated to the target audience/market equates to your advertising.
      If you do not know what your USPs are then you need to research what they are
       (assuming you have one or two...) by asking your best staff why they continue to work
       for you so diligently and loyally.

So, having established a few definitions and correlations, here, simply, is the methodology:

   1. Identify/refine your USPs (as an employer - your unique selling points - what makes a
      job or career with your organization different and special versus any other). Different
      jobs will tend to imply different USPs.
   2. Identify your target audience/market (candidate profile, deeper than traditionally defined
      - this must go beyond job skills and experience - consider lifestyle/life-
   3. Identify routes to market (how to reach the ideal candidates).
   4. Implement activities/a campaign to put your offering in front of your target audience.
   5. Process the enquiries (applicants) with complete professionalism, including very sensitive
      and respectful treatment of all unsuccessful applicants.

As with marketing, differential in the product offering (employment USPs) and creative and
effective advertising/communications are the means by which competitive superiority (versus
other employers) is achieved and candidates are attracted and enthused by the job opportunities.
If you are an HR person and all this sounds a little daunting, please be assured that it is not
rocket science - it's very logical - and you might have some brilliant marketeers in your
organization who can help with the process.

I'd add that (just like marketing a product/service) it's easy to make wrong assumptions about
your organization's (as an employer) own strongest USP(s), as perceived by the potential
customers (the best quality employees), so just as with fundamental marketing, it helps to
research and discover what aspects of working for your organization attract and retain the best
staff of the type you are seeking.

Refer to the pages on marketing, and to a lesser extent selling. The essential ideas of marketing
and selling apply very directly to attracting and recruiting good quality employees.

Crucially, the foundations - the philosophy, organizational integrity, values, culture, etc - must be
right and good, otherwise you are building on sand.

The best employees gravitate towards, and tend to perform best for, the best employers. If your
organization struggles to recruit and retain excellent people it might be little to do with the job or
the pay, and conversely, good ethical caring organizations will generally attract and retain great
people even if the job and the money are not the most competitive.

group selection recruitment method
The Group Selection recruitment method (also called recruitment assessment centres or
recruitment assessment days) offers several advantages over conventional one-to-one
interviewing, which because of the limitations of one-to-one interviews, many interviewers find
a very unsatisfactory method in recruitment and selection. Group Selection enables a number of
people from the organisation to observe a number of job candidates, as they go through a series
of specially designed activities.

Group Selection also offers the recruiting organisation an excellent opportunity to present the
company and the job in a very professional way, thus appealing to and attracting the best
candidates. Also, the unsuccessful candidates leave the process with a very positive impression
of the organisation and the experience as a whole.

Group Selection also enables the the best people to show themselves to be the best, often
working on real job-related scenarios, which removes much of the guesswork about people's true
abilities. One-to-one interviews tend to favour the 'professional interviewee' types, who present
very well, but who might then fail to deliver - 'all mouth and trousers' as the expression has it.

There are very many different ways to structure a group selection or recruitment assessment
centre/day. The further group selection ideas below will help expand possibilities for this super
Screening interviews are useful in short-listing candidates for group selections. For a senior job
group selection, screening interviews and psychometric assessments are recommended to
shortlist candidates.

Group selection activities are by far the most reliable way to see what people are really like,
provided the process is carefully planned, managed and facilitated. If you'd like advice about
Group Selection methods or designing a Group Selection day please get in touch. Here's an
outline of the process:

   1. Create/confirm job specification, job description, skill-set, and person-profile.
   2. Plan recruitment and induction schedule.
   3. Create and place advert.
   4. Shortlist applicants from written applications or CV's.
   5. Write to candidates explaining selection process, venue, date and time.
   6. Plan the Group Selection day or half-day, to include: presentation to them by senior
      managers about the company and the role; psychometric tests; activities, tasks and games
      for candidates to do, including team and syndicate work, and individual presentations;
      lunch; culminating in one-to-one interviews (usually three or four) involving final
      shortlisted candidates with senior managers on rotation. See the team building games
      sections for ideas of group selection exercises, for example the project team exercise and
      the postbag group selection recruitment exercise.
   7. Management review and decision. (Candidates can be asked to leave and hear later or
      wait, depending on situation.)
   8. Job offers, acceptance, reference checks, induction.

For sales, sales management, and sales training vacancies, the Sales Activator® system is an
excellent resource for interviews, recruitment and selection, and group selection methods.

ideas for designing group selection recruitment, graduate
assessment days and other assessment centre recruitment
Many of these principles are important for any sort of recruitment process - not just for group
selections. Also, many of the group selection ideas can be adapted and incorporated into
traditional recruitment and interview processes.

This process grid illustrates the point. In both cases - conventional interviewing or group
selection recruitment - the first step (assessment specification) is crucial. Everything else is built
on this. If there is no assessment specification, or if it is flawed, then the event will be flawed and
so will the outcomes.

Recruitment        1. Assessment               2. Assessment           3. Plan event      4. Run
process           specification              methods                                      event
                                             design interview
                                             questions and other                          run the
conventional                                                          schedule the
                                             tasks or activities or                       interview
recruitment     break down the person                                 interview and
                                             tests to assess each                         and
interviewing    profile into manageable                               activities
                                             element of the                               activities
                elements - attach            specification
                standards or measures
                or parameters to be able design group                 schedule the
                                                                      event -             run the
group selection to assess whether met or selection activities
                not                                                   including           group
assessment                               to assess each
                                                                      presenting and      selection
days or events                           element of the
                                                                      selling the job     event
                                                                      to the applicants

The structure and activities of group selection days are flexible. Keep to the important principles
and process above, but other than that try to be innovative and creative, and always aim to ensure
that the recruitment process is pleasurable and positively memorable for all job applicants.

When you communicate with and organize job applicants you are continually presented with
opportunities to give a powerful and positive impression of your organization. Treat everyone as
if they were a customer, and the experience will produce various good outcomes in addition to
successful recruitment.

How you design and structure your group selection day depends largely on the recruitment
situation and the characteristics or profile - the sort of person - you are seeking: their skills,
experience, the demands of the role, the culture of the employer department and organisation, the
role's priorities and success measures.

The group selection activities and content ideas below are just examples. They are not attached
to specific assessment characteristics, measures or outcomes, which must be identified before
deciding on suitable activities.

Your first step is therefore to understand and specify what your needs are and how to
measure when someone meets those needs.

Then you can start designing group selection or assessment centre activities and the format of the
event, be it a day or a half-day. There are no fixed rules - a half-day is more suitable for junior
roles. Very important roles might justify more than a day - or maybe even a weekend.

The best assessment methods are typically built on the best assessment criteria.
This is a simple statement, but a very important principle: You will more reliably find the right
person if you first know exactly the sort of person you are seeking, and how to assess that they
meet the selection criteria.

Start by asking yourself (and ask other people with interest in the recruitment):

      What information is missing or unknown or unreliable about recent or past new starters?
      What does the current recruitment process fail to discover about applicants?
      What are the gaps in our knowledge about new starters until now?
      What discoveries about new starters have caused problems or departures?
      What discoveries by new starters about the organization led to problems and departures?

When you understand the gaps or failings in your recruitment, then you know some useful areas
to focus on in order to improve your methods.

In addition to filling the gaps and addressing the weaknesses of your current methods you must
look at the role(s) being recruited in detail, and establish profiles so you can clearly define (and
communicate to others) what you are seeking.

Defining a role or person-specification can be challenging, but approached logically it's possible
to define anything.

It's like the 'talent' question - which especially relates to graduate recruitment and young-person

How can you to identify, assess and measure 'talent'?

The answer to the sample interview question how do you measure talent? illustrates the main
principle: first define what it is - break it down - attach parameters or measures or standards; then
you have a basis for assessment or development.

This same principle applies to designing good group selection and assessment centres.

To identify, assess, measure and develop anything you first need to define what it is.

You define something by understanding it and describing it, and breaking it down into elements
or component parts: a profile of some sort that is clear and meaningful and usable to those

At its simplest, an assessment specification or personal profile is a checklist, ideally with some
measures attached.

So, to run a successful group selection day or recruitment assessment centre, you must first
create your assessment specification.
Define and describe the person you need - using as many elements as necessary - and then attach
some measures to each element.

Having identified all the criteria that would define a successful new starter for the given role(s),
you can then design appropriate and corresponding assessment methods.

This assessment specification can refer to as many perspectives as you need - personality, skills,
attitude, experience, values and philosophy, emotional maturity, situation and circumstances -
anything relevant to and required by the role and employer.

Some elements of the specification (person profile) will be mandatory ('must have') - others
could be optional.

Alternatively decide if each element is 'essential' or 'desirable'.

The skill-sets and training needs analysis templates helps to illustrate this - and will provide a
basic format for creating your recruitment assessment specification in the shape of a 'person
profile'. You could even use a TNA (training needs analysis) spreadsheet for organizing the
assessments and results. The process of assessment according to defined elements is basically the
same for recruitment as it is for development appraisals and training needs.

How you structure the person profile or assessment specification is up to you. Ideally it should
enables you to attach measures and methods by which to assess whether the measures are met.

Having established your assessment specification (or person profile or checklist and measures),
suitably broken down into elements or parts - you can design suitable methods, activities,
sessions, etc., which will enable the applicants to demonstrate their capabilities, and for you to
assess them objectively - against a proper specification, rather than having to rely on your
subjective 'gut instinct'.

You might find the training planning format useful for this, especially to understand the process
of analysing a capability and then attaching a method of assessment or development to it. Here is
a training planner (xls format), and also as a pdf.

Again, the process of assessment in recruitment is very close to the process of training design
assessment and development. All require understanding of the whole person or role, breaking
this down into manageable elements, attaching parameters or measures, and then designing
activities or methods of assessment or development.

It's worth remembering, because it assessment and development are closely linked, that job
applicants attending a good group selection or recruitment assessment will also derive a
development benefit from the experience.

We cannot fail to learn and develop when we undertake good assessment activities. Keep this in
mind. It will help you to design a high-quality and beneficial event.
ideas, activities, methods and examples for groups selection
and recruitment assessment centres
The aim of designing and running a good group selection event - as well as identifying and
successfully recruiting the best job candidates for your vacancies - is for all those attending to
leave with the feeling that they had a great day, that they learned and developed a lot about
themselves, and that you are a wonderful positive employer. Achieve this, and applicants will
always look for your vacancies, and they'll tell all their friends too what a fantastically well-
organized and positive experience it was - even if they never got the job.

Here are some ideas for creating magnificent, memorable, beneficial and successful group
selections and recruitment assessment centre events.

As with the principles above about creating a person profile and assessment specification before
deciding on the assessment activities, these ideas are not all restricted to group selections. Many
of the concepts are adaptable and transferable to conventional recruitment interviewing

I emphasise again the importance of first creating your assessment specification (selection
criteria or person profile or checklist and measures - whatever you call it) before you design your

You must know what you are measuring before you decide how to measure it.

Here are the ideas. You will find many more ideas and methodologies for assessment centres and
recruitment group selection days all over this website, especially in the sections dealing with
teambuilding, learning styles, personality and profiling systems, appraisals and training needs
analysis, and training evaluation.

1. Identify the gap and weaknesses in your existing methods.

Fixing current weaknesses in recruitment - the issues and characteristics that are typically never
uncovered - is a great way to start thinking of what activities to put into a group selection event.

How do you know what your current gaps and weaknesses are?

As ever - don't guess. Why guess when you can ask people and find out for certain?

Seek applicant feedback (especially from unsuccessful applicants) as to what skills, capabilities,
potential were not exposed or explored by the day's activities, or by conventional interviews.
Additionally, conduct exit interviews especially when new starters leave soon after joining. What
mistakes were made? What was missed during the recruitment stage?

Discovering weaknesses with your current methods will help you improve and develop your
assessment specification.

When you run any recruitment process you are effectively a supplier, and the applicants are
effectively your customers.

You must aim to delight them - to have them leave with a good feeling - that they have been
fairly treated. This partly achieved by planning and organizing an interesting, dynamic and
developmental experience, but mainly it results from giving people clear opportunities to
demonstrate how they can best meet the specification for the job.

By providing a complete process aligned to the full specification, you improve the clarity and
justification of your decision-making for the unsuccessful applicants. The unsuccessful then
understand better why they did not succeed and are less likely to bear ill will.

Paths cross often. Job applicants are all potential customers. Make friends. Be good and fair to

2. Consider that different personalities and learning styles respond in different ways - and
so need different ways to demonstrate their capabilities.

Again these principles apply beyond group selections - they apply to conventional interviews

Consider that different personalities, communications styles, and learning styles among people
will cause some assessment activities to be easier or more advantageous for some people than

In the future technology will make it possible to tailor assessment tasks and activities according
to individual personality.

How far you can explore this currently will vary according to your resourcefulness and access to
modern methods and systems, etc.

At a basic level consider using a VAK or Multiple Intelligences or Kolb assessment at the outset
of the day, to enable assessors (and to an extent delegates too) to weigh/allow for individual
preferences/personality styles/strengths - and also to demonstrate that you understand that
different people have different styles and needs, and that you have done your best to structure a
balanced series of activities.
At a more advanced level, technology will increasingly enable us be able to build some sort of
'artificial intelligence' into the day/processes/activities, not only to be able to assess people, but
also to assess people in a way that is appropriate for each person's personality and natural
preferences. (See the Benziger theory if you want to understand this more about natural

3. 'Life-stage theory', emotional balance and maturity (relative to age), are significant
factors in the behaviour and effects of people at work.

Explore emotional maturity and 'life-stage' factors among job applicants.

All the skills and experience in the world won't matter if the applicant's emotional foundation is
seriously or temporarily impaired or vulnerable. Emotional problems can often appear as force of
character, ultra-competitiveness, egocentricity, wit, wackiness, eccentricity, workaholism, etc.,
which for certain recruitments can be appealing. Be careful. You want someone who will make a
difference - but a good difference.

Conversely: genuinely stable, well-balanced and psychologically robust people are an asset to
any organization, pretty well regardless of the role, skills, ambition, and natural (personality)
style preferences.

Having a good reference point or discussion framework to explore emotional balance and
maturity helps avoid being seduced by extreme behaviour, especially if the assessment
specification or role requires strength of character, or other characteristics that verge on extreme.

Exuding more testosterone than Genghis Khan on acid might be good for the ratings on the
Dragons Den or The Apprentice (I refer to the panel not the contestants), but would you really
want to manage someone like that in your organization, never mind the damage they'd do to the
good folk around them? Entrepreneurial egomania and organizational employment rarely
combine happily.

Having a good reference point for emotional balance and maturity also helps remind us during
the recruitment process that life and work are (thank goodness) becoming more civilized.
Successful workers, good managers and great leaders these days are civilized and emotionally

People with problems can be very successful entrepreneurs, and they can make a big short-term
impact in an organization, but usually they create a lot of fall-out. Emotionally immature people
(again this is not necessarily age-related) tend to create mess, casualties, and at some stage need
help themselves when problems can no longer be masked. The egocentric entrepreneur will
typically create their own passive environment (their equivalent of a padded cell some might
say), but such tendencies (often typified by bullying or temper tantrums) are extremely damaging
to organizations where there are other concerns like staff, customers and suppliers. You don't
need these extreme characters if they come with emotional baggage: they don't possess sufficient
reserves to really care about you and their fellow workers. So don't kid yourself that a bit of
madness or psychosis can be good for a modern organization; it isn't.

As an aside, this invites a fascinating question: at what point does extreme personality or
questionable emotional balance fall within the bounds of disability and equality legislation?
Thankfully we have not arrived at the point (yet) where rejecting an applicant for reasons of
personality or attitude could be deemed unlawful. No doubt a test-case will arise before too long.

Whatever, however you do it, any group selection should address emotional maturity. I repeat it
is not an age thing. It's whether the person is grounded, reasonable, thoughtful, balanced - you
know: a grown-up. It's simple but often overlooked.

I value the Erik Erikson model greatly. It provides a super learning and self-awareness
discussion framework.

If you are proposing to go into some depth with people ensure the session facilitated by an expert
or trained counsellor, appropriate to the personality theory used.

Transactional Analysis is another immensely powerful, helpful and potentially revealing model.
There are many wonderful TA practitioners who will be able to help with this aspect - whether
from an activities or assessment viewpoint, or both.

If I could do one thing in group selection it would be to explore emotional maturity ('grown-
upness' we might say) - because, irrespective of age, in my experience emotional maturity is the
greatest attribute for sustaining successful work and contribution to any modern organization.

As the modern age and competitive pressures require organizations and their people to be ever-
more self-managing, the 'grown-upness' attribute will become even more significant.

An emotionally mature person will always tend to find solutions and resolve problems - even if
they do not have the skills or experience.

Whereas even the most technically skilled and experienced but emotionally immature person is
liable, in response to sometimes the weirdest trigger at any unforeseen moment, to implode,
explode, rant, rave, suck in unbelievable amounts of management (or boardroom) time, and
generally be the biggest recruitment disaster of your career.

You will gather by now that I consider one of the great opportunities at a group selection event is
to identify and avoid recruiting emotionally immature people.

Approach the subject with care however. At a simple level simply facilitate a group discussion
about emotional maturity and observe people's contributions and reactions.

Seek expert advice and facilitation if you want to go into more depth.
Helpfully emotional balance and maturity links with the next area - integrity and ethics - which is
easier to incorporate within group selection and assessment activities.

4. Integrity and ethics - together a crucial factor for sustainable success at work in the
modern age.

Integrity, ethics, compassion, humanity are like emotional maturity fundamental to sustainable
success in modern organisations.

Therefore find a way to explore these values and philosophical factors somehow at any
assessment centre.

Incidentally emotional maturity and ethics, integrity, humanity are linked by the simple concept
of consideration for others - the opposite of selfishness and greed, to put it another way. (See the
Erikson life stages section if you want to understand this more clearly. And see the note at the
end of the next section about reconciling money and ambition with ethics and integrity.)

Of course these factors (ethics, integrity, compassion, etc) are only relevant to your recruitment
if the work environment and corporation require and aspire to these things.

If not, then it's unlikely that a well-run group selection is the answer to current challenges.

On a complex level, ethics and integrity can be difficult to measure and judge, but at the level we
need to assess, it's simple.

We all basically know the difference between right and wrong - or the difference between a good
act and a selfish one - and the difference between the truth and a lie. Telling a lie in order to gain
or save business, or to cover up a mistake is not acceptable. This isn't about having a doctorate in
morality - it's basic integrity.

Striking exactly the right balance in very difficult questions is not always impossible - there will
always be ethical questions for which there is no right answer, usually because the problem is
actually rooted way back when someone else got a far simpler decision wrong. Your aim
however is not to resolve the wrongs of the world, nor to find new recruits with such a capability.
But you do need to determine whether your new recruits are the right side of ethical and truthful
given the standards set by your own organization.

Ethics and integrity are crucial in the modern age of work and business, and therefore should be
part of modern selection criteria.

Moreover today staff at all levels should know that the organization is honest and ethical, and
that the organization expects the same of its people.
Simple methods of addressing and exploring these issues at a group selection assessment day are
for example:

      discussion about corporate social responsibility, ethical business, fair-trade, the
       environment, etc
      discussion about politics, religion, crime and punishment
      preparation and presentation of an issue connected with the above

N.B. A short note about ambition and money is appropriate: Being competitive and financially
ambitious and striving for status and responsibility does not make a person unethical. Wanting to
work hard, earn a high salary, achieve status are perfectly normal and natural tendencies in many
people (see Maslow's theory for example), and these traits are desirable in many roles. There is a
point however at which a person's determination and method of pursuit causes damage, harm,
upset or risk to other people or the wider environment, and I suggest that this is when the ethics
alarm bells begin to ring.

5. Personality profiling - involve the people - explain and give feedback.

There are many good personality profiling systems available.

Each has a different perspective and value. Some systems are quite similar, especially if based on
the same basic psychological theory.

See the personality page for ideas and examples.

Work with a provider or system that will be helpful and constructive to the recruitment process,
which means being transparent and inclusive, not secret and aloof, as some systems and
providers can be.

Avoid using psychometrics (personality profiling) just for the sake of it.

Always involve the delegates in explaining the system and how it works and what it means.
(Remember everyone should leave the event with a positive feeling - that they've learned and

Accentuate the positives. Good systems do not attach 'good' or 'bad' to people's traits.

People are strong in different ways. People approach tasks and responsibilities in different ways.
There is not a single 'right' profile.

Used well, psychometrics help us all to see where and how people (including ourselves) can be
most effective.
Graphology (hand-writing analysis) makes a fascinating session, and is revealing in many ways.
As with any specialised session, ensure you involve a suitably qualified expert to facilitate the
session, analysis, feedback and follow-up as appropriate.

Importantly, avoid creating the impression (and of course the reality too) that recruitment
decisions are largely based on psychometric testing.

It is sensible to decide before the event the 'weighting' of psychometrics and to convey this to the
delegates so they know it's just a part of the picture.

It is not sensible to reject any applicant on the basis of psychometrics alone, and it is daft to give
any applicant the impression that this has occurred in their case. (It does happen..)

5. Projects and tasks based on work scenarios enable practical demonstration and evidence
of capabilities, style, etc.

You can issue work-related tasks on the day, however you can achieve greater value from issuing
practical assignments (formulation of plans, presentations, etc) if you do so a week (or two or
three, depending on the situation, the job-role and the timescales) before the actual day of the
assessment or group selection.

This increases the range of the task content and the review to a lot more than if the assignment is
issued on the day itself.

This also gives the nervous or quieter applicants a fairer opportunity to shine without having to
rely totally on the day's 'performance'.

You can relate the assignment task(s) for preparation before the group selection or assessment
day and/or on the day to real work situations or not, as appropriate - do whatever helps you best
to assess the attributes concerned.

Stipulate the rules - especially if issuing a task in advance of the event - and especially to clarify
the situation about seeking support or help for the assignment.

Since much modern work - especially management - is mostly dependent on initiative and
resourcefulness and working with others, rather than one's own knowledge or personal ability, do
not leap to the assumption that a task must be 'all their own work'.

Whatever you deem it should be, as ever, clarify the expectations; and don't create any rules for
which you will be completely unable to assess compliance, or the rule will be meaningless.
6. Extending the tasks ideas - applicants can be asked to engage with existing staff and
other people connected with the organization.

You can make the tasks even more real.

You might for example be able to organize exercises or sessions connecting the applicants with
staff around the organization.

This enables you to see (and for delegates to experience) real engagement with existing staff.

Many failed recruitments are accompanied by a regret on both sides that "..If only we could have
known we were simply not going to get on with each other before accepting/offering the job.."

Who says you cannot get people to engage with potential colleagues as part of the recruitment
process? You can if it makes sense.

Incorporating reality and actual involvement - so that exercises deal with real situations and real
people - can give rise to other helpful benefits elsewhere in the organization, if it's possible to do

Provided it's not seen as an unwanted distraction, existing staff will also enjoy the participative
involvement aspect, again if it's possible to organize.

The task doesn't need to be technically demanding if what you are assessing is the
'getalongability' factor, which can be so crucial for team-based roles. Simply, an information-
gathering task or quiz about the company can provide an interesting and enjoyable basis for
assessing how people actually engage with real colleagues and the real organizational

Feedback from pre-selected staff can also be helpful and can be structured as an adaptation of the
360 appraisal concept.

Involvement and buy-in among existing staff for recruitment decisions - again especially for
team-based roles - can be helpful beyond the recruitment itself.

This modern integrated approach can help expose many unknowns that characterize traditional
recruitment, in which selection decisions are largely based on hypothetical scenarios and
questions. Recruitment becomes less risky the more we work with and observe candidates
operating in real situations.

For the more adventurous, you can even extend the engagement to involve customers, suppliers,
or even potential customers.

If you want to put a toe in the water why not involve one or two key customers or suppliers in
the day?
This level of involvement has positive benefits for company relations too, outside of the

Imagine the strengthening of relations with suppliers and customers if the idea were to grow and
you were to reciprocate and help each other with assessment days..

7. Other group selection examples and ideas

There are many other aspects and ideas that you can include in a group selection day or event.
Above I've focused on the more innovative aspects. There are several basic elements of the day
which need to be considered too, briefly summarised here. Again, while this section is mainly
focused on group selection assessment events, the principles and many of the ideas also transfer
to conventional interview recruitment:

      Welcome and coffee - introduction and scene setter from a suitable figurehead, or maybe
       the employee of the month?
      Warm-up or ice-breaker
      Company presentations - involve staff outside of the usual team, who'd maybe benefit
       from the experience and set a great tone
      Demonstrations and tours - you need to sell the job too, remember, although keep it
       quick, snappy and dynamic
      Short exercises to keep people active - linked to assessment specification criteria of
      Presentations - although these are very common, so try to inject an innovative aspect
      Lunch and coffee breaks - breakfasts and dinners too if appropriate - people behave
       differently when they are 'off duty'
      One-to-one interviews - round-robins - avoid having people sitting around waiting
      Staged departures - lunchtime is an obvious break point for some to leave
      Remember the psychometrics feedback - manage with care; feedback sessions can be part
       of the assessment activities - it's easy to overlook and forgetting this is not fair.

In summary..

Group selection assessment recruitment events offer dramatically more scope for selling the job,
and for finding the right candidate(s).

A group selection event does however require a lot more planning than a one-to-one interview.

You can be very creative when designing group selection recruitment events.

The event reflects on your organisation.
Aim to create a positive experience for people - whether they get the job or not.

The principles and many of the ideas adapt and transfer to conventional interview recruitment.

Whether recruiting through group selection or interviews alone - always ensure you define the
requirement very clearly (the person profile, developed into an assessment specification, broken
down in to manageable measurable elements) before you design or select your assessment
activities and/or interview questions.

Your final selection decision can only ever be as good as your definition of the person you are

samples of job interviews thank you letters or rejection
From the interviewer's standpoint when writing to unsuccessful interviewees, it's essential that
you do not write anything that could carry a liability for claims of discrimination, libel or
defamation of character. If you are the interviewing manager or have the responsibility for
sending interviews rejection letters and have any doubt about local policies and laws concerning
interviews rejection letters, consult with your HR department before writing and sending job
interviews letters to unsuccessful candidates.

Generally the safest kindest way to write an interview rejection letter is to simply say thank you,
and to state that the reason for the interviewee not being successful is due to there being better
qualified candidates. Below is a sample thank you rejection letter.

See the notes below also relating to more complex and positive rejections of job applications,
notably for additional guidance about giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

basic sample job interviews rejection letter

Name and address of candidate.


Dear (Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss Surname)

Thank you for attending the interview (or group selection event) with us on (date) at (location)
for the position of (position).
While you presented yourself extremely well and impressed us very much, I regret that we are
not on this occasion able to offer you the position, due to there being other better qualified (or
more suitably qualified) candidates.

I thank you for the interest and enthusiasm you have shown and wish you all the best for the

Best wishes, etc

sample job interviews 'holding' letter

Here's a job interviews 'holding' letter, to be used when the selection decision is delayed for
some reason, when it is important to acknowledge and thank the interviewee and keep them
informed (and interested) in the position:

Name and address of candidate.


Dear (Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss Surname)

Thank you for attending the interview (or group selection event) with us on (date) at (location)
for the position of (position).

You presented yourself extremely well and impressed us very much, and the interview process is
still ongoing. We will be in touch as soon as possible to inform you whether we can offer you the
position or not (or when and if we will need to see you again).

I thank you for the interest and enthusiasm you have shown thus far. Should you have any
questions meanwhile please let me know.

Best wishes, etc

other notes and examples for sensitive and constructive job
application rejection letters
Here are some further ideas for job applications rejections, sample letters, and especially how to
deal with unsuccessful applicants more sympathetically and constructively. Use or adapt
these examples and ideas when informing job applicants that they have been unsuccessful in
applying for job interviews, or after unsuccessfully attending job interviews (if you are a
pioneering manager working outside of the HR department you should agree things first with
your HR department).

This is a challenging area that many employers will not be able, or desire, to explore. Which is
fine. You'll get around to it when you are good and ready...

First of all, you are not obliged to give a reason for the rejection. It is not a good thing to concoct
a reason, not least because people aren't stupid (think back to your own experiences when you've
been given a flimsy excuse or reason), and obviously you should avoid writing anything to a job
applicant that could be regarded as discriminatory or insulting.

However, you should try to add a positive aspect to rejection letters if you can. It's good to do so,
especially when someone has clearly tried their best. It's a wicked world - why not try to make it
little kinder. People remember when they have been treated well; they tell their friends, and
they'll remember when and if you meet them again one day. What goes around comes around, as
they say.

Employers routinely reject people without a care for the rejected person's sensitivities; it's an
assumption passed down from manager to successor. "We've always done it that way - why
waste time bothering about people?...".

However, a little consideration can help a lot to reduce the demoralizing effect of receiving a
rejection letter...

If the application or interview is a good one, but not quite good enough to succeed, it often
makes sense to keep the person's details for possible future reference. If you plan to do this then
tell the person. It's a positive aspect, albeit within a rejection letter. Having said this, don't just
say it for the sake of it.

Particularly forward-thinking employers (and able managers) can offer to give applicants
constructive feedback on their unsuccessful applications (and failed interviews too), and this
again is an option that you can choose or not, in which case be mindful as ever about potential
discrimination and defamatory risks. Postal or telephone feedback is possible, each of which of
course have implications for time and control, and costs, for the employer - it's your choice. If
you offer feedback ensure it is fair and that you establish a process for identifying a few
constructive points, giving them, and recording them, which can quite easily be incorporated into
the normal recruitment process and documentation. You will after all have made the rejection on
specific grounds, rather than on a whim, in which case, it's a logical step to then communicate
these points back to the applicant. One can easily argue that it's only fair to do so. A simple way
to do this is to create a simple list of the most common reasons for rejecting people, and to
indicate on the list the reason(s) applicable to each person failing to progress.
Giving positive feedback verbally or in writing, outside of a controlled list of reasons, requires a
certain level of skill, so that the feedback is not perceived as a criticism, and so that the
discussion or communication (whether verbal or a written response) remains adult-to-adult.
Written feedback is safer, but verbal feedback is better, if handled well. The risk is that the
feedback leads to defence or argument from the recipient, so it's important to accentuate the
positive and be objective and factual, for example: "Clearer presentation of your qualifications
would have enabled us to make a fuller assessment," or "The application would have stood a
better chance if it had been more neatly presented," or "We needed to see more evidence that you
understood the communications and relationships requirements of the role."

Here's an example of a feedback template which can be used by managers who perhaps do not
possess sufficient ability to work without one.

feedback template example - for use after job application rejection

NB - These are examples of feedback points - amend and add to them to suit your situation.

feedback to
Unsuccessful job applications can be upsetting, so we try
to be as helpful as we can in giving a bit of feedback to all
unsuccessful applicants. Below we've indicated the main
reason(s) why you didn't succeed on this occasion, and we
hope that this will help you to take something positive
from the experience, and to be successful in the future. In
                                                                              with a tick
return please feel free to give us your comments about
how we conducted the recruitment. It's a difficult process
for all concerned and we welcome your views.
Your application letter and/or CV could have been
presented more professionally and neatly.
Your experience was required to be more relevant to the
job vacancy.
We needed to see a clearer understanding of the job's
We were seeking, or managed to find, an applicant who
had better formal qualifications.
You were actually over-qualified and too capable for the
We were seeking, or managed to find, an applicant whose
current commitments or location or earnings requirements
were more suited to the vacancy.
Please give us your feedback about the way we conducted the
recruitment by also completing and returning the attached sheet in the
envelope provided.

applicant feedback template example - for use after job application or interview

NB - These are examples of feedback points - amend and add to them to suit your situation.

feedback from applicant................................... ref.............................................
                                                                                                 please give
Please help us to improve our recruitment processes                                            your comments
by giving us your feedback about the way we
                                                                             Yes or No
conducted the recruitment.                                                                       (applicant to
Could we improve the way the job was explained in
the advert?
Could we have explained better the sort of person we
were seeking?
Were all of our communications to you clear and
professional and polite?
Were the recruitment arrangements and processes all
explained clearly enough?
Is the opportunity to receive and give feedback helpful
to you?
Would you apply for a job with us again?
Do you have any other comments or suggestions?
Giving (one or a few) points of feedback like this keeps the feedback factual, constructive, and
provides the person with some helpful pointers for improving applications that they'll make in
the future.

Receiving feedback enables you to improve your recruitment and interviews processes. Also,
allowing the other person to give some feedback helps them to feel better about their experience,
and also leaves them with a much more positive impression about you, instead of remembering
you simply as the employer who rejected them.

Giving verbal feedback also provides an excellent opportunity to ask for feedback from the
candidate concerning the candidate's experience and feelings about the organisation's
recruitment process. Like any feedback about organisational performance this is valuable stuff,
so seek it out. It will also lead to a more balanced feedback discussion, allowing the unsuccessful
candidate to make some of their own points, which most folk find quite an uplifting and pleasing

In order to offer and give constructive feedback a lot depends on the scale and the size of the
business, the people handling the recruitment, the type of jobs being advertised, the type of
people applying, the market or trade sector, the employer's attitude towards PR, and not least,
how you feel about trying to do good and helping people wherever possible. Aside from simply
being a good thing to do for people, a lot of goodwill and positive reactions result from offering
and giving good constructive feedback. Unlike most aspects of the recruitment process, you're
giving a little bit back, not just taking, rejecting, and leaving people feeling bereft, which is the
common application rejection experience.

The employment and recruitment world is a cruel one, so it's good to make it a little happier and
more helpful if you can.

Giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants and interviewees is also particularly
good to do when dealing with candidates who are already employed within the organisation. This
is for obvious reasons, not least: they'll be more likely to stay motivated and feel positive about
the organisation; they'll be more likely to present their next application in a better way; and
they'll better understand why they didn't succeed on this occasion and hopefully be less likely to
blame others for not having succeeded.

See Transactional Analysis - it's a communications and behaviour model that is enormously
helpful to handling potentially emotional discussions.

See also exit interviews - it's a different subject and process obviously, but rooted in a similar
philosophy: trying to help people where you can.

sample rejection letter for unsuccessful job interview or job applications
Dear ....

(job title) vacancy

Thank you for applying for the vacancy (above/for ....).

(Or - Thank you or attending the interview for the vacancy [above/for ....] on [date].)

I am sorry that on this occasion you have not been successful, (despite presenting yourself very

(If you have no objection we will keep your details on file for possible future reference.)

(When we receive a particularly good application that is not successful - as yours is - we offer to
give the applicant some constructive feedback about their application, and we would like to
make this offer to you. If you'd like this to happen please let us know by
(phoning/writing/emailing - as appropriate) and we will be in touch.

I wish you all the best for the future.

Yours sincerely, etc.

See also the guide to exit interviews, with sample exit interviews questions, and tips for
interviewers and interviewees.

job promotion interviews tips
For interviewers and interviewees, much of the information above in the main job interviews
article is relevant to job promotion interviews.

These tips chiefly focus on interviews rather than group selections. Attending group selections
for job promotion is a different matter, which I'll comment on briefly now:

Group selection enables the employer's selection panel to observe behaviour and interaction in a
group situation. Job promotion candidates in these situations should therefore behave in a way
that will impress the selection panel, in areas which the employer logically expects the group
selection process or exercise to highlight. Here are the sorts of behaviours that impress when
demonstrated by group selection candidates: responsibility, integrity, leadership, maturity,
enthusiasm, organisation, planning, creativity, noticing and involving quiet members of the
group, calmness under pressure, and particularly discovering and using other people's abilities in
order for the team to achieve given tasks.

The remainder of this item concerns job promotion interview situations.

For interviewees, the same principles apply as in new employer job interviews. Interviewers
commonly assess interviewees according to their own personal style and approach - people like
people like them. For example: friendly people like friendly people; results-driven people like
results-driven people; dependable reliable passive people like dependable reliable passive
people; and detailed correct people like detailed correct people.

As an interviewer, when interviewing try to see the interviewee according to their own frame of
reference not your own - you will make a fairer assessment.

As an interviewee be aware that even the most objective interviewer - even if aided by
psychometric job profiles and applicant test results - will always tend to be more attracted to
applicants who are like them, rather than applicants who are unlike them; it's human nature.

When as an interviewee you attend promotion interviews, your answers should be orientated to
match the style preferences of the interviewer. Try to see things in the way they see them, and
express your answers and ideas in language and terms that they will relate to and understand.
Don't distort the truth or make claims you cannot substantiate or deliver - show that you
understand how your boss and/or the interviewer sees the situation, and how they see that the job
needs to be done successfully.

Rebels and mould-breakers are rarely promoted because they are seen as a threat or liability, so if
you have rebellious tendencies it's a good idea to tone them down a little for the promotion
interview. In the rare case that a distinctly mould-breaking individual is required for the role,
such a requirement will be stated, then by all means go for it, all guns blazing.

At promotion interviews, interviewers particularly expect to hear the applicant's practical and
cost effective ideas and plans for the new job. As the candidate, be able to demonstrate how
well you understand the business and the organization. This requires that you do some research.
Avoid the common tendency to think that internal candidates already know what they need to
and therefore have a better chance than, for example, an external candidate. If an external
candidate has done their research they will impress the interviewer more than an internal
candidate who hasn't.

Doing some research - above and beyond your normal sphere of responsibility and operation -
demonstrates your potential, and particularly your capability to make a difference in the
promoted role, which for most promotions is a strong requirement. If it isn't a requirement then
it's a big advantage over another candidate who hasn't thought outside of the box, so to speak.

Doing good imaginative research, especially looking at organisational and departmental threats
and opportunities, also enables you to prepare and ask great questions of the interviewer, which
regardless of the way the interviewer handles the interview, provides you with a great way to
show your potential.

If appropriate, your ideas can be fresh and innovative (especially if the interviewer is innovative
and creative themselves), but you must above all be able to demonstrate a clear grasp of 'cause
and effect', and the importance of achieving a suitable return on investment or effort.

Promotion almost always involves having responsibility for making decisions about the use of
time and resources. Interviewers need to be convinced that you understand how to handle this
responsibility - to identify priorities, to focus effort in the right direction, to manage efforts
productively - as if you were using your own money.

Demonstrating clear knowledge and interpretation of policies, processes, rules, standards,
and a firm and diplomatic style when supervising others, is crucial for promotion into most
first-line management or supervisory roles.

Demonstrating an ability to plan, organise and achieve effective implementation (of plans,
changes and objectives) is crucial for promotion into most middle-management positions.

Demonstrating an ability to initiate and optimise strategic activities, giving strong return on
investment is be crucial for promotion into most senior positions.

Demonstrating huge personal commitment and enthusiasm, together with complete and utter
loyalty to your boss and the organization, are always essential factors for successful promotion
interviews. Loyalty and commitment are essential. The interviewer must be able to trust you to
the extent that they will stake their own reputation on your commitment and ability.

The ability to adapt and be flexible as priorities and circumstances change around you, is also
essential for promotion into most supervisory and management roles. Interviewers will not
promote children or people with baggage or issues - interviewers promote mature grown-up
people. People who will lighten the management burden, not add to it.

It is important to convey convincingly that regardless of the challenges that occur on the way,
you will always strive relentlessly to achieve your aims and objectives - and that you will
never, ever, ever, let your boss down.

If you really believe it and feel it, look the interviewer in the eye and say: "Give me this
opportunity, and I will repay your faith in me to succeed in this job."

references and checking references
As an interviewee it's good to prepare your references in advance, and give the interviewer a list
of your referees with names, positions, employers details, and all possible contact details. Try to
identify (and agree cooperation in advance from) referees who will be happy to give you a
positive reference, and in so doing, who will support your personality, skills, performance and
job history claims. Provide as many referees as you need to cover the important aspects of your
performance and employment history, plus any specific critical requirements of the new job
(accreditation, record, training, vetting, etc). A healthy list of referees would normally be
between three and five people. It seems a lot, but it's more impressive than just a couple; it shows
you've thought about it beforehand, and it builds in a bit of leeway for when people cannot be
contacted or fail to respond quickly for any reason.

Generally the more senior and credible your referees the better. It's perfectly acceptable to list
one or two referees from your private life rather than work, especially if they have a job or status
that carries important responsibility (councillors, police, etc)

If you know that a particularly significant and favourable referee might be difficult to contact,
ask them to provide you with a 'to whom it may concern' open reference letter as to your
character and history, signed by them, on letterhead - and preferably use and keep hold of the
original copy - ask the interviewer to take a photocopy and give you back the original.

As an employer - employers should always follow up and check successful job interview
candidates' references. Not to do so is irresponsible, especially if recruiting for jobs which carry
serious responsibilities, such as working with children, disabled people, sensitive data, money,
valuables, etc.

You must inform or ask permission from the candidate prior to checking their references.

The extent and depth to which references should be checked depend on the situation and the
referees given by the job applicant. Certainly make job offers conditional to satisfactory
checking of references, and if as an employer you are not happy about the referees provided then
ask for others. Checking references can be a very sensitive area, so care needs to be used. Many
referees will not be comfortable providing personal information about a person, not least due to
fear of defaming someone and the liabilities concerned. Postal reference checking is an
alternative to telephoning, although many referees feel less comfortable effectively making a
written record of negative comments, and may be more forthcoming in a telephone conversation.

Refusal by a referee to provide a reference about someone is obviously not a helpful sign, and
considerable positive feedback from reliable alternative referees would normally be required to
proceed with a job offer following such a response.

Bear in mind also that the referee may have their own agenda. Take care to interpret carefully
any personal comments which might stem from personality clash. Try to concentrate on facts
with evidenced examples rather than opinions.

References should definitely be checked concerning job-critical areas (relevant to the new job for
which serious liabilities might exist if candidate is not telling the truth), as should any areas of
suspicion or doubt that cannot be resolved/proven for sure at interview.
And for everyone, irrespective of satisfaction with interview answers, it is important to check
some basic facts with past employers to ensure that the candidate has not been telling a pack of

Possible areas to check (a sort of checklist - not a fixed agenda):

      CV/career history, dates, salaries.
      Qualifications and training.
      Personal details, age, etc.
      Claims about achievements and performance in past jobs.
      Personality and relationships at work.
      Domestic situation, financial situation.

Seek local qualified advice from your HR department or advisor if in doubt, and also if you want
to use a postal reference checking method, since most HR departments will already have a
standard approved document for this purpose.

tips on what to wear for interviews
You'll see various research and general advice concerning what best to wear for job interviews.
The sort of clothes, styles, colours, shoes, make-up, accessories, etc., are likely to have the best
effect. Standard rules for dress code at interviews are mostly common sense: be smart,
coordinated, clean, tidy, relatively under-stated - however you can go further than merely
adopting the standard recommendations to wear blue or grey suits, black shoes, white, cream,
pale yellow and pastel colours for shirts and blouses; and to avoid black (too funereal - unless
your interview is with an undertakers), bow-ties, Elton John specs and deer-stalker hats.

You can take a more sophisticated approach to your choice of dress and style at job interviews.

Your best choice of dress, clothes, colours and style at interview should actually depend on the
role and what surrounds it.

For example, blue is thought by many people to represent formal business professionalism,
which is fine for 'professional' job opportunities, but a smartly pressed blue business suit and
crisp white shirt and tie won't help you much in an interview for a role requiring care and
compassion, working outdoors in all weathers, managing down-to-earth labourers, being bubbly
and creative, or teaching disaffected kids.

What we wear should be an extension of our personality of course, but also importantly,
indicates to the interviewer our ability to recognise what the employment situation and job
No-one ever got a job because of the way they dressed whereas lots of people fail to get jobs
because 'something' about their appearance put the interviewer off - maybe just a bit - but enough
not to get the job.

Dress in a way that projects you personality, sure, but not to the extent that your appearance is
inappropriate to the situation. For adventurous dressers, especially going for jobs that might call
for a spark of individuality, it can be a fine judgement. A lot depends on the interviewer too -
innovative interviewers in industries that are amenable to flair will respond more positively to
people who look different. But process-orientated decision-makers in structured environments
will prefer people who look safer. If in doubt err on the safe side.

Employers want people who can do the job - that's a given - but they also badly need people who
will 'align' and fit in - people who can 'get the beat' of the organisation and department. Empathy,
trust, rapport, are all built on this initial platform, and what you wear and how you style yourself
provide a great opportunity to start putting these foundations in place with the interviewer. Your
interview dress code and visible styling help you show the interviewer (it's a conscious and
unconscious effect) that you understand the organisation's style and how to fit in with it; that you
can adapt appropriately to your environment - it's a valuable ability and there's nothing to be
achieved by creating doubts in this area.

So when you next prepare for a job interview, try to orientate your choice of clothes and style to
that of the employer, and also to the way the interviewer perceives the role. Consider also the
type of job and the service sector, and particularly the personality, skills and behaviour that is
required in the role: For example is the role mainly extravert or introvert, detailed or conceptual,
creative or processing, conforming or innovative, etc., and how does this affect the way you
should be styling yourself and dressing for the interview?

If it helps you decide what to wear, think about how the existing employees dress. Does the
employer have a conservative attitude and culture regarding dress code, or is the culture more
modern and relaxed. It is as unhelpful for you to be dressed too conservatively and professionally
as it is to be dressed not professionally enough. Try to get an idea of what people wear in the
organisation so that you can reflect, within reason, the tone and style that fits in with the
employer and the interviewer's expectations. Do the men wear ties or not? Do the women wear
suits? Do they 'dress down' on Fridays? (This is particularly relevant if you happen to go for an
interview at their offices on a dress-down Friday, when prior knowledge will help you to tone
down a little and avoid sticking out like someone who doesn't fit in because they've not had the
sense to find out before-hand.) Go see or ask if this will help you to feel more confident.

On the point of going and seeing, especially if you know very little about the organisation, it's
often helpful to get a feel of the place and the people before deciding that the organisation is
actually worthy of your talents and commitment. If you live close enough to the organisation's
offices or site it makes good sense to visit their reception or sales office as part of your pre-
interview research, when you can pick up a few brochures, feel the atmosphere, and form a view
of staff attitudes and style, etc. This will also give you a good indication of their dress code,
especially if you visit when people are arriving or leaving work. Lunch-time visits are interesting
too - at the start of breaks and when people return to work. It's amazing what you can hear and
learn sometimes, simply sitting in a busy reception for a few minutes or approaching a reception
desk and asking for a brochure.

As regards your own appearance for interviews, consider any jewellery and other bodily
adornments too. No-one ever got a job because they wore an outrageously big fat diamond ring,
or a nineteen-ounce gold chain over their shirt, but I bet there'll have been plenty of people
who've not got jobs because they've erred on the wrong side of this particular judgement.

For the same reason, the number of body piercings displayed at interview is generally inversely
proportional to the chances of successfully attracting a job offer, unless the job happens to be in a
body piercing studio.

Tattoos are another interesting area. Attitudes to tattoos are certainly more tolerant than twenty
years ago: even main board directors these days commonly will be hiding a little dragon or
butterfly somewhere intimate on their person, however, given two equally-matched candidates at
a job interview or group selection, the one with the short sleeves and naked ladies up each
forearm is unlikely to get the nod. Safest bet - especially for customer-facing jobs (literally face-
to-face) - is not to show too much tattooed skin at interviews unless you are very confident of
yourself indeed.

The reality unfortunately is that most people, including interviewers, will tend to judge you with
their eyes, not least because interviewers know that their customers and staff will do too. And,
like all business decisions, recruitment decisions reflect on the people making them. Therefore
when you are being interviewed the interviewer is not only deciding whether you can do the job,
they are also deciding whether choosing you will reflect well or not on their own reputation. The
less you challenge this area the more likely they'll feel comfortable deciding in your favour. Use
your common sense.

So, if the role and the organisation calls for someone to conform and behave according to strong
corporate style and expectations then dress accordingly. If the role and the organisation calls for
individuality and fresh ideas then you have more licence to dress more individually, but still
beware. It remains that most employers and interviewers, whatever they might say about
welcoming fresh blood and challenging new ideas, will always tend to err on the side of caution.
Interviewers generally don't knowingly take risks - they prefer safe options - safe non-
threatening people, who appear and dress in a safe and non-threatening way.

I'm not saying you've got to become a de-humanised clone for the interview, or that there's no
place for individuality, on the contrary actually - you've got to look good (and extremely smart
too if it's called for) - and aside from this there certainly is a huge need for individual thought
and behaviour and innovation in all organisations - but that's after you've got the job and settled
in. You've got to get the job first, and you'll do that most easily by appearing immediately like
someone who'll fit in rather well, not by looking like someone who marches to a different tune or
has no idea how to adapt to their environment.

Clothes, style, colours, jewellery, hair, like anything else that represents you as the applicant
(just as the quality and presentation of your CV for example), should project the 'fit' and
congruence between yourself and the employer and the interviewer's requirements for the job,
and also show that you can understand different situations and behave accordingly. Individuality
is great, but the job interview is not really the best place to start displaying a highly individual
dress style, unless the role specifically calls for it, which in truth is very rarely indeed.

Look good, but under-stated. Project yourself and your personality in what you wear, but above
all show that you are aware of what's going on around you, and that you can adapt to the
situation and present yourself appropriately.

do your research before all job interviews
A final note about the importance of researching the employer and their markets and issues
before interviews.

First, research can enable the least qualified, least favoured, least likely applicant to succeed and
beat off the most likely interview opposition candidates. Doing good relevant research is the
singlemost powerful thing you can do to improve your chances of getting the job. It's that
important. No research, no views. No views, no value. No value, no job. It's simple: Do your
research and apply your experience, capabilities and thoughts in preparation for the interview
and you will have good views that will be valued. If you offer good value you'll probably have
the job.

Second, the above applies to any organisation or employer with whom you have an interview;
any size, any sector, commercial, not-for-profit, even the corner shop. If you want the job - do
the bloody research. This is not to say that people who don't do their research don't get jobs, but
the fact is that any person who's done good research and thinking will virtually always get the
job over someone who has not bothered to.

If you are an external applicant bear in mind that you are likely to be up against at least one
good, favoured, known internal applicant, who already knows and understands lot about the
organisation. Your aim is to present yourself as a more attractive option than the internal
applicant. You will do this by researching the employer organisation so well that you know it
better and more incisively and more strategically than the best of the internal applicants. Your
objectivity and neutrality, and your external experience, will enable you to see many things that
even the best prepared internal job applicants cannot see. Use this opportunity to make a great
impression on the interviewer or panel.

If you are being interviewed for an internal job promotion, bear in mind that the best external
applicants will be doing all they can to demonstrate that they have a keen knowledge and
appreciation of the employer organisation and its markets, etc. If you are complacent and think
that you know it all already then you will be bitten on the bum. Someone from the outside will
impress the interviewer more than you because they will seem keener, and will be seen by the
interviewer to have a fresh pair of eyes too, which can be very appealing to recruiting
organisations. When preparing for an internal job promotion interview or groups selection you
have a great opportunity to ward off any threats from external well-researched applicants by
doing lots of your own research and thinking. This will put you ahead of external applicants
because you will also have the internal political and systemic insights that are so difficult for
external applicants to discover.

Internal or external job interviews - whatever - do your research.

Doing plenty of good quality creative research on the employer organisation, their history,
market sector, products and services, people issues, organisational priorities, strategic challenges,
competitors, threats opportunities, challenges, etc., helps enormously to convince an interviewer
that your are the applicant who wants and deserves the job more than anyone else.

Imagine you are a strategic advisor - remove yourself from the detail and grind of the job role
basics. Go deeper - think about what's going on in the department or organisation at a higher
strategic level, or whatever aspect of performance that your capabilities can best understand and
influence - think about and be prepared to talk about how you can bring best possible benefit
and value to the situation.

Interviewees who possess good knowledge and understanding are able to ask really good
questions about the role and the organisation. They can discuss how to develop and improve
performance, how to exploit opportunities, diffuse threats, and to help the department and the
organisation meet their aims.

You will be asked questions, obviously, many of which will invite you to demonstrate all the
fantastic research and thinking that you've done, and the ideas that you have for helping the
organisation and its people to perform well and improve.

If the interview is for a customer service or management role particularly, then having some
first-hand experience as a customer or prospective customer yourself (if only from the point of
view of having made a tentative 'customer enquiry' or requested a brochure) will often provide
you with lots of ideas for commenting helpfully on how the organisation performs, and
potentially for improving services and quality, or morale or competitive edge - whatever your
research and thinking and expertise lead you to conclude. This applies just as much to internal
applicants as external interviewees - don't assume you know it all. See things from the outside.
See things from the perspective of the customers or clients of the organisation.

All this is part of very necessarily researching the organisation before attending the interview.
Interviewers love to meet people who are passionately interested in their business and have taken
trouble to do some homework and thinking. If you an external applicant, doing good research
before the interview gives you your best opportunity to demonstrate what you can bring to the
role, and that this is more than the internal applicants can bring. If you an internal applicant,
doing good quality research and meaningful thinking, especially from an outside perspective (no-
one else on the inside will be doing much of this I assure you) is your greatest opportunity to
surprise and delight the interviewer about your terrific capabilities and potential, and leave them
wondering why you weren't promoted a long time ago.
use a strategy and method for getting the right job - be
The success rate that people experience when applying for advertised jobs is on average very
low. It's not your fault - it's the process: The recruitment process is very arbitrary, subjective, and
sometimes little more than a lottery, and often advertised jobs are already destined for an internal
applicant anyway, so the external candidates never have a chance from the outset.

Here is a very specific job-hunting method and tool. You can also adapt it and use alongside
some of the techniques explained here.

Worse still, rejections and 'no-replies' can drag down your morale and confidence, and this can
turn into a downward spiral.

So do something different. Take control of your own destiny.

Why rely wholly on a process that involves inevitable intensive competition and an arbitrary
unknown selection method?

Instead be proactive. Use (or adapt) this simple process for getting a job that's just right for you.
If you want to continue to apply for advertised jobs, fine, but follow this plan as well; aside from
being very effective in its own right, the method will improve your success rate with the
advertised jobs too.

First realise that different people suit different jobs and employers, so you need to know
yourself and know your market (your market is the types of employers and the industry sectors
that need people with your particular capabilities, personality, and aims).

Knowing yourself and what's out there will enable you to understand which employers and jobs
will offer you the best fit.

A dream job is one where the fit is right. This sounds simple and obvious but it implies a lot.

Obviously getting the dream job is another story, about which more follows later in this section.

For the time being though, how do you identify what is a potential dream job?

Think deeply and creatively about what will be the best sorts of jobs and employers for you.
They might be quite different from what you've habitually believed or been conditioned to think.

Think and act creatively and innovatively on the way you 'package' or yourself - the sort of
image and presence you create.
A CV is no longer restricted to hard-copy paper or a digital document.

What about a video CV? What about creating an impressive web presence for yourself?

Being proactive in this way impresses employers and will give you choice. You become the
buyer not the seller, because all good employers want innovative proactive impressive people. So
become one of these people.

Get to know yourself by seeking feedback from trusted friends. Do some personality tests (there
are plenty online now, and free). If you want to go into detail look at the Personality Styles

Whatever you do - ensure you know yourself, honestly and objectively - especially all your skills
and strengths that will be desirable to employers. Think deeply about your passions, your loves,
what you enjoy - these are likely to be or relate to your key strengths and potential. Look at
yourself from a deeper and wider perspective than job skills - think about your personality - the
situations and challenges you enjoy - the things in life as a whole that you are good at.

Employers of all sorts now want and need people who have characteristics and potential that
cannot be represented by mere 'job-skills'.

Employers need people with more important and meaningful qualities; like creativity, humanity,
determination, self-reliance, unshakable dependability, passion, compassion, curiosity, belief,
integrity, vision, innovation, ethics, and an awareness of the wider world, health and lifestyle,
mind and body, diet and fitness, leisure and entertainment, music and the arts, technology,
communications, the environment, the natural world, education, society, people, relationships,
and cultural diversity, etc.

Look at the Multiple Intelligences theory and do the self-test to prompt some thinking about your
fundamental attributes and strengths, and start to see yourself in these wider terms.

List your strengths and dreams using this wider perspective. Not just job-skills - instead: life
strengths and passions. You will very quickly see a person emerging who is unique, and able to
offer uniquely special qualities to all forward-thinking employers.

And then you'll perhaps begin to imagine all sorts of different types of work that will provide a
better fit for what you can do, what you love, and the differences you want to make in life.

Use this new view of yourself to create or improve your CV.

Next, draw up a profile of the sort of work and types of employers that will best fit what you
can do, what you love, and where you want to go.

When you've thought carefully and decided where the best fit will be for you, again, be
proactive not reactive.
Go find the jobs and openings that fit your strengths that are not advertised.

Use your CV and covering letter to package and market yourself (see the CV section on
creating a great proactive CV).

Approach a least 20 of the right sorts of employers that you think will want what you can do.
Within reason the more the better: 50 or 100 is obviously better, provided the fit is good and the
data is reliable. Marketing is a numbers game - hence the more the better.

Finding these organisations and names and contact details takes some effort, which of course
varies according to the types of organisations you want to approach. The internet and the
telephone make it relatively easy these days to gather this detail, provided you apply yourself to
the task.

You might think of a smarter way to create a list of potential employers in one go - perhaps from
the local chamber of commerce, or a trade association, a library, a directory, or another
information provider - maybe even a list broker. There are many good list providers that have
searchable databases on the internet, and while your requirements are modest, many are happy to
help and costs can be very low. I've always found Electric Marketing particularly good,
especially for lists and details of large organisations and recently appointed decision-maker
contacts. It's possible to buy a list of companies and contacts for upwards of 20p a name.

If you are comfortable using MSExcel or similar, put all the names and addresses into a
spreadsheet - a separate column per address line. If you buy a list it will already be in a
spreadsheet format. This enables you to run a mailmerge with MSWord and saves a lot of time
producing personalised letters. Failing that, no problem - it does not take an age to create 20
letters without mailmerge. Running a mailmerge enables 50 or 100 letters and CV's to be sent

Target your professionally written letter and CV at business-unit manager level - it doesn't matter
if you get referred to HR - you've made your mark. 'Business-unit manager level' means the
overall manager or boss of the business unit or division or site that you are targeting. These
senior people know what openings they have and what they need, and they also have the clout to
make things happen. And they'll recognise the strengths in your letter and CV and the approach
you have taken. The job title of your target contact (business unit decision-maker) will depend on
the types of organisations you are approaching, and this requires some thought and research.
Seek advice from a list broker if you use one - they are generally very good at advising the best
contacts (job titles) for any given purpose. It's certainly worth sending your letter and CV to
more than one contact in large organisations. Some detailed research as to structure and key
decision-makers is warranted for any large organisations that you believe could offer you the
best fit and opportunities.

Present yourself in your CV and covering letter in terms of what you can do for the organisation
or business. See the CV section. This aspect is crucial. It's essential to describe yourself in a way
that is immediately and obviously appealing to the reader, which means putting yourself in their
shoes and imagining what they particularly need. What are the strategic and organisational
priorities that they'll need a new employee to address? What are their criteria regarding style,
approach, personality, values, etc., that new employees must possess?

It might be that you have to vary the content of some of the letters so that the approach is tailored
suitably for each one or type of your targeted employers. Refer also to the business writing tips,
the advertising writing tips and the sales introductory letters. All of these notes contain useful
pointers for job seeking. You are after all selling yourself.

You must approach at least 20 organisations because the aim is to get at least two interviews
lined up (obviously with different employers or departments). Securing more than one interview
is very significant - it puts you in a very strong position. You're doing the buying not the selling.
You're the one with the choice now, and most employers will want you all the more if they think
you are in demand elsewhere.

The interviews will probably not fall into your lap, although sometimes they do: selecting
appropriate target organisations and names of decision-makers, combined with a good CV and
covering letter can produce great instant results. For the other organisations who don't respond
immediately you'll need to follow up your letters by phone. You will maybe have to send copies.
Things get lost, no matter. Be persistent and methodical. Ask the PA's of decision-makers and
managers for help rather than try to go around them.

Be persistent. Keep sending letters. Keep notes so you continually improve your understanding
of your own personal 'job market'. Keep following up by phone. Keep positive. Refine your list
and your letters and your CV as you get a feel for what's working best.

You are managing your own personal marketing campaign and your destiny is in your own

When your letter and CV arrives it is unique and relevant and it's selling you, in terms of what
you can do for the organisation. It is not one of a hundred other 'send and hope' applications for
an advertised vacancy that's probably going to go to the internal candidate anyway. Your
approach is unique, special, and it gets noticed.

Sooner or later you will be offered meetings or interviews. If you follow this process, and the
other related guidelines explained on this website, it is inevitable that you will get some positive

You might not actually need or be offered a 'job interview' as such - maybe it will be offered as a
'meeting' or a 'discussion' - it doesn't matter. The aim is to get a meeting or interview with
someone, preferably someone who's got a job opening at that time or an overview of several
opportunities within the organisation.

Aim to get two or more meetings or interviews. It gives a big boost to your confidence level
knowing you've other options, and it has a very positive and helpful effect on the interviewer too.
People want people who other people want.
Now you are effectively at the job interview stage, and you must read the various guidance notes
about preparing and attending job interviews that are provided on this page. You've completed
the most difficult stage of the challenge. You've carved out a unique opportunity for yourself,
and whether the opportunity that you'll be discussing is one that is advertised or not, you'll stand
out as the leading applicant because of the approach you have taken.

Commonly people who take this proactive marketing route save employers the task of
advertising altogether. If your approach and discussions coincide with a vacancy arising then
you'll offer an immediate solution that saves the employer weeks of recruitment efforts,
management time, and advertising and recruitment agency costs. Alternatively the approach
advocated here can often prompt the employer to accelerate plans of one sort or another whereby
a role is created specially for you.

All employers need good people. When one comes along, as you will do when you follow this
method, many employers will try to find an opportunity to fit, whether they are currently
recruiting or not.

This is another advantage of having more than one interview lined up. It adds to the pressure for
the employer to make a quick decision and find a slot for you, and also reduces any inclination to
advertise the post, for fear of losing you, a star candidate.

Aside from the advantage of anticipating and prompting vacancies and job opportunities
rather than waiting for them to appear in the papers or on the internet (like everyone else), you
will automatically demonstrate that you possess many of the important attributes that the
employer seeks, simply by the way you've conducted your approach and developed the
opportunity, for example: initiative, self-reliance, capability to make things happen, to
communicate, put a plan together and implement it, etc.

By being proactive and making your own opportunities will make the interview and the whole
process much easier for you because you've controlled it, moreover you look like a great fit for
the organisation, you've proved you can get things done, and you've avoided most if not all of the
competition. And you'll have saved them the hassle of recruiting too.

Anyone can take this approach. All it needs is a bit of thought, research and preparation.

And all you need add is the simple commitment to do it.

So do it.

helpful questions and process for planning job hunting,
career advancement, or starting your own business
If you are unclear or frustrated in your efforts to find the right job for yourself, consider these

You will be able to plan how to achieve your career aims (similar principles apply for starting
your own business or becoming self-employed or freelance) by asking and then answering
(yourself) questions like:

       What are the 5-10 main requirements of the position that you are seeking, from the
        employer's angle (or from the customer's angle if you are considering working for


       How can you demonstrate (to an employer - initially in a CV and short covering letter -
        and then later in an interview - or to a customer, using equivalent marketing materials)
        that you offer an irresitible way to satisfy the above requirements, and more?

       How can you best develop a personal marketing/selling campaign to sell yourself into a
        position you are aiming for?

If you have skills in selling, marketing, coaching, business management, training, etc., you can
approach this question by imagining yourself to be one of your trainees or a client.

In any event, imagine you are advising yourself how to package and market yourself. How to
prepare and move yourself into a new situation. Look at the goal planning section.

It's often easier to plan how to achieve personal aims by stepping back and seeing the situation as
a stranger would do.

Understand properly where you are, where you want to be, and then plan how to get there. If the
step is too great to make in one go (which it probably is if it's too difficult to achieve), break it
down into steps or stages. Consider these steps in terms of cause and effect. See the goal planner
if you've not already done so.

If you cannot yet meet and exceed the requirements of your ideal employed role (or your target

       What steps are necessary for you to achieve these capabilities and attributes?

Use goal planning methods. Identify causes and effects. Make a plan and implement it. Start
controlling your future, rather than letting it control you.

Think creatively, 'outside of the box'. Challenge your assumptions, and especially your fears and
insecurities and worries.
On which point, if you are wondering if self-employment or starting your own business might be
better than working for someone else:

       What are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a freelance route?

       How does this compare to an employed position, in the widest sense?

See decision-making and SWOT analysis.

Use whatever methods will help you step back and assess your situation objectively.


   1. Where are you now - your current situation and especially capabilities and attributes?
   2. What is your next important aim for a job or work situation?
   3. What capabilities/attributes do the desired situation require you to have?
   4. What are the gaps between your capabilities/attributes, and the capabilities/attributes
      required for your aim?
   5. How will you fill the gaps - so that you meet or exceed the requirements? (Use a goal
      planner of some sort.)
   6. How will you find the right employers (or customers, if you prefer the freelance/own
      business option) and put your offering in front of them as efficiently and powerfully as
   7. Then implement your plan with determination, enthusiasm and a calm confidence that
      having used this process you will inevitably achieve your aims.

see also

       life balance
       performance appraisals and 360 degree feedback
       love and spirituality in organisations - interviewers and new starters - anyone - can bring
        compassion and humanity to work
       the interview story about the wrong Guy
       pay-rise negotiation
       cv's writing templates, examples, and tips
       reference letters tips, templates and samples
       resignations letters tips, templates and samples
       exit interviews - including exit interviews questions samples
       assertiveness and confidence
       raising self-belief
       personality and styles, and personality tests theory
       multiple intelligences theory and learning styles
       age diversity and discrimination
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