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5 Tips On How To Give A Great Job Interview

In our job placement company we interview job applicants every day.  Some of the applicants are applying for specific employment while others are being interviewed so that we can place them into our talent inventory for future employment.

We consider ourselves job placement coaches for two reasons – first our employer client often needs assistance defining the type of person they require; and second because our applicants have a difficult time determining what the best employment options are for them.

In order to get the right person for the right job with a person-future fit focus we have developed the following 5 points for giving a great interview.  For each of the first three tips the following questions apply:

What the job requires, what the job provides, what the person requires, and what the person provides helps you make more informed decisions about who would be the best fit in which role.

# 1. Identify job functions

This one seems obvious, however, let’s dig a little deeper.  What talents do the job functions require – critical thinking, empathy, initiative, or self-starting ability – to name a few?  It’s important to understand how those talents determine successful job fulfillment.  Once you can understand how the talents relate to the functions you are able to develop interview questions that elicit a candidate’s talents in the required talent areas.  Understanding a person’s talents – and non-talents is the first component in conducting a great interview.

Related: An interviewer’s perspective: where does it all go wrong?

# 2. Identify Company Values

Every company has a set of values that it promotes and embraces – either explicitly or implicitly.  We ask our clients a series of questions to help us to understand what their values are, and by extension, what values will be important for potential employees.  We have seen quite a few situations where clients have told us that the person they let go “was just not a good fit for the company – their interests were not ours.”  Understanding a person’s motivations and drivers is the second component in conducting a great interview.

# 3. Identify Behaviors Required for the Job

Someone asked me recently why this was important.  Well, I need to know if there will be a chemistry mix at the company.  Usually there is a skills match in most people we interview for the job for which we are recruiting.  Understanding a person’s behavioral style is the third component in conducting a great interview.

Related: “See Me” – Is your CV getting you interviews?

# 4. Ask Relevant Questions

Yes, you certainly should ask questions that verify credentials and experience, and with recent publicity about the validity of these – hire a qualified firm to conduct an educational and credit check.  Listen to the words they use, how they look you in the eye (or not), and their body language (smile, slumping shoulders, too rigid, relaxed).

There are three types of questions we use to help identify talents, values and behaviors:

  • Opinion – these types of questions help give you an opportunity to understand what aspects of a situation or environment your applicant appreciates and how these relate to the company’s values.  For instance if the job requires the applicant to be a mentor ask her to respond to this question: “How do you prefer to use your knowledge to help others?”
  • Behavioral – we are looking for an applicant’s possible future behaviors based on past responses. For instance – “Can you give me a specific example of how you did that?”  Look for a reply that demonstrates how they used a particular behavior to accomplish the task.  Listen to the words that they use – these help you understand behavioral preferences.
  • Competency –these questions look at their use of talents that are central to the job’s success, so use certain talents within the context of the question: (critical thinking, empathy, initiative, or self-starting ability, etc.).  For instance – “Explain a way in which you showed empathy in a particular work problem.” “How did you take initiative with the most important function in your last job?”  Look for a reply that identifies HOW their talents are used to answer the question.

Related:  10 MOST STUPID interview questions EVER

# 5. Identify the Applicant’s Future Vision

Take some time during the interview to ask the applicant what type of work, what type of company, what type of roles she wants to have.  Ask her how she wants to be valued within a company.  Try to get a sense that she is going to stay – or not with the company and position you are interviewing for.  The answers to these questions will help to also tell you how self-aware the applicant is – and whether you want to hire her for this very important position.

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Image: “Employment application/Shutterstock

Warren runs The Executive Suite, providing leadership & executive coaching programs, professional recruitment, One Page Business Plans, and franchise coaching services to businesses. Located in Hyannis, MA Warren is expert at people management, helping business executives hire, manage, and motivate others smarter. . He serves as the Director of Coaching Programs for Innermetrix, Inc. He is accredited in a variety of assessment and coaching methods. He is an ardent advocate of innovation, creativity, and inspirational change in business in life.

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  • Hey 
    Warren!!! I think the points mentioned here are really important and should be considered when going for a job interview, by any job seeker. it is absolutely important to understand the companies mission and vision, plus understanding their work culture and ethics can definitely contribute to answer the questions appropriately and more than that the questions that are put forwrd by the candidate are more targeted and focused. Which definitely have a postie impact.

  • Gigajob – you are absolutely right.  The more applicants understand the what, why, who, and how of their target companies (by doing good research) the more prepared they are. While I write here about the interviewer’s perspective, our prior post on Tweak Your Biz,, presented the interviewee perspective and role.  In truth, we advise and assist both clients and applicants.  Thanks for your comments.

  • Elishbul

    its refreshing to see a blog that looks at the interview from the othe rside of the desk and in doing so stresses more than just the technicalities of Job Spec etc..In fact personality and fit into Organizational culture, and most of all conviction and enthusiasm are for me really key when looking for someone new to add to the team. You can train people with technique and product knowledge but conviction and passion is the real HR gold

  • Elish – thanks. The person-future fit dynamic works well in creating long term workforce alignment.

  • Philip Galligan

    Hi John
    A very good article however I have to agree with Helen Cousins. Humanity is a better descriptive and more broadly defined than vulnerability. Sadly humanity is very lacking in today’s leaders at all levels of society. True leaders that meet the criteria listed are very rare. Many leaders today appear as greedy, egoistical, and autocratic.
    We have passed the phase of the “charismatic” leaders who lacked any substance or humility to a mix of autocrats and some enlightened leaders. In the light of recent history a more humble leadership style is required. Authenticity is vital. People are rightly skeptical.
    I think people are too dependent on leadership and we must take responsibility for our own choices of leaders. In Ireland we have too many greedy and egoistical leaders who thrive by promoting fear and too few leaders with he qualities outlined in your article. Let us hope for all our sake that a more enlightened leadership comes to the fore urgently.

  • John Twohig

    Thanks for the comments Helen. Vulnerability is seen as weakness, it takes a brave person in today’s society who exposes their vulnerability in public. I disagree with your comment that Obama’s love declaration did not expose his vulnerability and at no time have I equated vulnerability with weakness on Obama’s part, if fact the opposite is the case, it took bravery. Brene Brown has backed up her assertion about vulnerability with years of research, see the above link. Her claim that it is the birth place of Love. I agree that it also showed humanity and increased his connection with his community:)

  • Christina Giliberti

    I believe that John is referring to vulnerability as something which is open to emotional harm. I agree, that by being honest about our emotions, it can be percieved as a vulnerability to others, YET John’s post uncovers how this fear of the negative side (as you aptly put Helen) prevents us from being true leaders. Obama doesn’t hesitate when declaring his humanity, despite the fact that others would refraim from such ouvert emotional displays. To him, I would say, he sees it as a strength as opposed to a vulnerability or weakness. Perhaps therein lies the difference!

  • John Twohig

    Thanks Philip, the link on the post to Brene Browns TED Talk shows her work on vulnerability. It is very interesting and explains the results of her research which was extensive. I accept that out leaders also lack humanity, see the present case of the Governments treatment of the sad case in Galway.

  • John Twohig

    Thanks Tina, got it in one…..

  • Hi John,

    Loved your article and can definitely relate to it… I recently shared my views on “what leaders need to do to foster high performing, engaged teams”; and my views on that resonate with what you wrote in your piece… sharing part of my comments….

    I will share what I have personally practiced as a leader, coach and trainer for leaders. I like to see it as the transformational role of a leader in two dimensions:

    1. Self Mastery – I have personally experienced and observed a common trait of high performing, highly engaged teams – and its not so much about the teams – its about their leader. Most successful leaders that I have worked with or seen, have been those who have had the courage to be authentic. This reflects in their words and actions – right from aspects of communicating directly (the good news and the bad), not just being empathetic – but being equally vulnerable (some of us cant connect with leaders who seem “superhuman”).

    2. Interpersonal Mastery – two elements of leadership that have worked great for me in this context are – being connected and establishing a shared vision. Being connected with your team members – officially and unofficially – knowing the names of their kids, the projects they are working on, the stakeholders bothering them, the accolades they got when you weren’t around – all of these establish a feeling of “being wanted” and the fact that we care about the team.

    Establishing a shared vision is one of the greatest gift a leader can give his team. This goes way beyond just driving their engagement and their productivity. I have seen this create an atmosphere of excitement, action, cohesiveness and above all – a chase fro something larger than individual priorities. I have seen great leaders not just establish a compelling shared vision, but constantly reiterating it – using analogies of day to day work to link to it – making it the team “mantra”.

    These are just some of the things that I have personally implemented and benefited from.

    Finally, I don’t believe that a leader can take a “initiative” to get people engaged and productive – its got to be the way the leader operated with the team – Its not one initiative or event – it is the philosophy and the style of the leader that established team performance and engagement.

  • John Twohig

    Thank you Gatik for sharing. I agree with all you said and what you are referring to largely is, “Intrinsic Motivation”. Great leaders tap into the intrinsic motivation of their people. Empowering the following, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in the individual members and facilitating the individuals becoming a powerful team. Any leader that gets this right will find the results are startling.

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