Prepare for surprises at an interview

PLAN IN ADVANCE: One tip in being prepared for interviews is to write vignettes for past positive and negative situations. Structure your snippets using the Situation, Action and Result technique.


    Apr 19, 2016

    Prepare for surprises at an interview

    YOU are going out on a limb to land a job in today's tough economic climate.

    Apart from ensuring that your resume is in mint condition, know the three key types of interviews that you may face and prepare for them so you can shine.


    The questions come fast and furious and you wonder if the interviewer is trying to make you lose your cool.

    Welcome to the stress interview. This technique is typically used only for positions in which the job candidate will be facing stress on the job.

    The questions are meant to get under your skin - the hiring manager wants to know how you will perform under stressful situations. The interviewer wants to get a reaction from you so he may rephrase the same question in different ways to determine how you will respond each time.

    Do not take the bait.

    Stay calm and never let the interviewer see you sweat.

    He is watching your body language, facial expression and how you communicate. Are you angry? Are you showing signs of physical discomfort?

    Look at your resume objectively. Are there things that others would consider to be a weakness? For instance, does your resume give the impression that you job hop? Or have you been stuck in a particular role for what may be perceived as a long time?

    After you have identified any potential weaknesses that a hiring manager may exploit on your resume, formulate responses to each of them. Get a friend to interrogate you, asking difficult questions intended to make you lose your cool.


    This type of interview is meant to discover how the candidate will respond in specific work-related situations.

    The premise behind behavioural interviews is that past performance is a predictor of future success.

    The process is much more probing than traditional interviewing. Typically, behavioural interviews use "tell me" or "describe" phrases.

    Examples include:

    "Tell me about a situation where you failed."

    "Describe an accomplishment that you are especially proud of."

    "Tell me how you handle conflict at work."

    Write vignettes for the situations. Structure your snippets using the Situation, Action and Result technique.

    Three of your examples should have positive outcomes such as a major accomplishment and meeting goals.

    The other three situations are ones that started out negative and were turned into positive outcomes.

    Ensure that you include stories that demonstrate leadership and problem-solving skills, which are universal competencies employers look for.

    Tell your story enthusiastically. However, if you are asked a question that stumps you, ask for a clarification.

    Ask the interviewer for a moment to think about the question. Or, if the interviewer is open to it, ask if it is possible to gather more information and reply him after the interview.


    One of the reasons for having an interview over a meal is that a prospective employer wants to assess the way you present yourself in that setting.

    This is especially for positions that require frequent meetings with clients and superiors over a meal.

    During a meal interview, you are being judged on your skills and qualifications, in addition to your table manners and social and conversational skills.

    All these factors play a major role in evaluating if you are offered the job.

    Be sure to read recent specialist or trade publications to be aware of industry developments. A few hours before the interview, check the news for current affairs updates, as these make good conversation topics.

    Research the interviewers, take note of what they look like and jot down a few points about each of them.

    Check out the menu at the restaurant's website and decide what you will order during the interview. Stay away from foods that are messy to eat, difficult to hold or have a pungent odour.

    Better yet, visit the restaurant before the day of the interview and gauge how much time you need for the commute.

    If budget is not an issue, try the food too.

    Bone up on the social etiquette basics - like which cutlery to use first.

    For a Western meal, start with the cutlery placed on the outside and work your way in.


    There are other interview approaches too. These include the phone, panel and block interviews. Of the three, the panel interview may be the most nerve-racking. This is because two or more representatives from a company are present to do the grilling.

    Each person on the panel has a function and each panellist is trying to learn an aspect about you to assess your suitability.

    In a block interview, companies accept job applications during a specified window when all applicants may attend, and interviews take place on a first-come-first served basis.

    Whatever the interview type, research is a must. Read up about the company, suss out information on the hiring manager if you know who he is.

    Understand the must-have skills for the role and think about how you complement it.

    Also, think about the soft skills that you have. Typically, employers may have an eye out for qualities like critical thinking, problem-solving, willingness to learn, self-confidence and team spiritedness.

    This article was contributed by Right Management, the career development arm of United States-listed HR consulting firm, ManpowerGroup.