For candidates
How to Succeed at the Interview

How to Succeed at the Interview

Having been invited in for an interview, you can congratulate yourself. Your CV caught the attention of your potential employer. But now the real work begins and you must make the most of this opportunity.

Your performance during the interview will play a significant role during the rest of the recruitment process. Moreover, you will probably meet many different people and have to go through several separate interviews as your suitability for the position is assessed (alternatively through an Assessment Center). Obviously, this means that you must be well prepared.


Here are some questions you should prepare ready answers to ahead of your interview.

  • What do you know about the company? 
  • How long has it been in operation? 
  • What is its core business? 
  • How many people work there? 
  • Is it well known in its industry? 
  • Has it been mentioned in the newspapers recently? Was this on account of its winning a large tender, downsizing, or because of a change of ownership? 
  • What does the company expect of its employees? 
  • Does the company sell directly to a retail chain or only through specialized distributors? 
  • Do you know the company’s products or services? 
  • Is it a part of a larger group of companies? 
  • Is the vacant position newly created? If it is an existing position, why is it vacant? 
  • Are there any specific requirements related to the position? 
  • Is it possible to get more detailed information about the field you are applying to work in? 
  • Who will you work for and what will your colleagues be like? 
  • Will the successful candidate receive any special training before starting?

You should know the answer to these and other similar questions. This is a lot to be learned and it is your responsibility to find out as much as you can. Generally, publicly traded companies make more information available to the public. The larger and more prolific the company, the easier it is to find information. Possible sources of information include:

  • Someone you know working in the company.
  • The Internet, newspapers and industry publications.
  • The latest yearly report.
  • You can find out a lot about the habits, culture, strengths and weaknesses of a company by spending some time around the company’s building, watching employees or visiting their stores and outlets as a potential customer.

If you do not manage to answer all your questions before the interview, use the interview as a chance to learn more.

Before going to the interview, make sure you know:

  • Where it will be held.
  • How long the journey will take you.
  • If parking is available near the location.

If possible, verify what you’ve learned during the working day. In short, be prepared for anything.

Before leaving for the interview, do not forget to bring a copy of your CV and a notepad. Pick out your outfit and make sure that what you’ll be wearing is clean, tidy and will make a good impression. You might also want to bring your umbrella along as you never know when it might rain.

Ensure that you have some ready answers to the most likely questions.

Make a list of references, including managers, colleagues or people you have closely cooperated with in your industry.

The Interview

Enter the meeting room with confidence and energy. Remember that the interviewer will formulate an opinion of you within the first few minutes. Before entering the room, take a few deep breaths to gain the confidence. Be sure to smile and make eye contact. Your handshake should be firm, but not overpowering. Introduce yourself clearly and articulately, without whispering or looking down at the floor.

Remember the English saying “You only get one chance to make a first impression”.

Take a seat when invited. You may be offered an unpleasant place to sit, perhaps in a low or uncomfortable chair or opposite a window. Try to appear relaxed and get on with it. If, however, you feel that the place you were offered is too uncomfortable, ask to be seated elsewhere. Sit up straight and try to look calm and contended. Accept refreshment according to your taste, though asking for alcohol is considered inappropriate.

The interview usually begins after quick introduction and often includes some information about the company and the position being offered. Afterward, the interviewer make begin asking questions, though sometimes the he or she may begin by asking if you have any questions.

Bear in mind that the interviewer is forming an initial impression of you at this stage so it is important to speak in a confident voice and make eye contact. Wait until the interviewer has finished his or her question before answering. Do not interrupt or cut the person off.

You should not smoke even if offered. It is never recommend to use bad language, talk ambiguously or to enter into an argument. Moreover, you should never apologize for your current situation, regardless of whether you are unemployed, too old or too young, have children or lack of formal qualifications.

If there is anything said in the interview that you do not understand, don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation. Also bear in mind that any underhandedness such as cheating can exclude from the recruitment process immediately.

If you are not offered the position and are not asked specifically, it is best to avoid any issues regarding salary, vacation, car etc.

Take advantage of any opportunity to find out more about the company or the position you are applying for. Some general topics to think about include the following:

  • The expectations your employer will have of you in the position.
  • Opportunities for professional growth and education.
  • Opportunities for potential growth within the company.
  • Try to obtain all necessary information should you be offered the position and decide on whether you would accept it.
  • Be sure to express you interest in the position and in the company at the end of the interview.

Here is a list of some common questions that you may be asked during the interview:

  • What do you know about our company? 
  • What do you think our goals are? 
  • How did you learn about the vacant position? 
  • How can you contribute to the further development of our company? 
  • Tell us more about your current job. 
  • Briefly describe your career up until now.
  • How did you get your current job? 
  • Describe you working day at your last job? 
  • What aspects of your last job most satisfied you? 
  • What aspects of your last job did not satisfy you? 
  • What were your greatest accomplishments in your last job? 
  • Were there any significant ups and downs?
  • Did you make any changes that significantly influenced the success of your department or the company as a whole? 
  • How would your former manager and your colleagues describe you? 
  • Were there any significant problems you faced in your last position? How did you deal with them? 
  • How did your last job prepare you to take on a higher position or more responsibility? 
  • What aspects of your last job are related to the position you are applying for? 
  • What are your feelings toward your former company? 
  • What would a job offer at this company mean to you? 
  • How does this job offer reflect the direction you would like to take your career in? 
  • Have you been invited in for other interviews?
  • Why did you decide to study at university? 
  • What influenced your choice of specialization? 
  • Were you active in extracurricular activities while studying? 
  • Did you hold any kind of function?
  • Describe your most unusual vacation? 
  • How did your studies at university contributed to your personal development? 
  • Where did you obtain your professional qualifications?
  • Are you considering studying in future?
  • What are your key skills and abilities? 
  • What are your weak points?
  • What personality features are, in your opinion, most important for the position you have applied for?
  • Describe your professional and personal goals?
  • What would you like to achieve in 2, 3, 5, 10 years? 
  • If you could change something about your career, what would be it? 
  • What do you expect from your future employer? 
  • Does the job you’re applying for include anything that was missing at your last job? 
  • What are your salary expectations? 
  • Do you expect any further benefits apart from your salary? 
  • Why should we consider you for the job, given the fact that you have no experience with the latest developments in the field? 
  • Why were you not more successful in your last job, in your opinion? 
  • Would you say that your specialization is too narrow, considering our needs? 
  • Why did you change jobs so often? 
  • Why were you at your last job for so long? 
  • Why were you fired from your last job? 
  • What did you do while you were unemployed? 
  • Would you apply for this job if you had not lost your previous job? 
  • How would you compare this interview to others you have undergone?

If you apply for a job with an international company, or if the position requires knowledge of a foreign language, it is probable that the interview or part of it will be in that language. It is worth refreshing your knowledge or brushing up on specific vocabulary in the given field. Practice describing your career and answering possible questions in that language.

If there are any breaks in your CV or in your career, you should expect to be asked what you were doing at that time.

It also is possible that the interview may include some basic tests relating to your professional or psychological abilities.

Bear in mind that every interview is different and that each interviewer has his or her own style of asking questions. Regardless of this fact, all interviews have the same goal – to determine whether you are the most suitable candidate for the vacant position. To make that decision, you will be asked many questions and be expected to ask several questions yourself.

Toward the end of most interviews, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions about anything you are still not sure of or did not properly understand.

There are a few questions that you might want to initially avoid, including:

  • What kind of salary are you offering? 
  • How many weeks of vacation can I expect? 
  • How big will my office be? What equipment will it have? 
  • What kind of company car will I get?

Even though these questions may be very important to you, keep them for yourself until your receive the job offer. Instead, ask questions about aspects of the job you are interested in but didn’t have the opportunity to learn about. You must be sure that the interviewer is convinced that you really are the best candidate for the job. If you want to clarify or emphasize something, now you have the opportunity.

After the Interview

Be sure to send a thank-you e-mail or letter to the interviewer no later than two working days after the interview. This polite gesture will reinforce the good impression you made at the interview.

In the hours after the interview, it is important to sit down and evaluate how well it went and if there is anything that may influence your decision to take the job. Don’t ignore any impressions of the interview, regardless of how small or insignificant they seem.

The invitation for the interview and the way it was conducted can tell you a lot about the company. It is also a good idea to spend some time thinking about where the company is located. Whether in the city centre or in the suburbs, its location should be relevant to its activities. All of these should be in harmony and balance.

Consider the impression the company made on you when you entered the building. Were you welcomed by somebody? Were you offered a seat? Was your visit announced? Or did you find yourself you desperately wandering around the building? Was the atmosphere dynamic or tranquil? How did employees talk to each other and how did they dress? How large are the offices and how are they furnished and equipped? Does everyone have his or her own office or does everyone work together in one room? Are the doors left closed or open? Is the office neat and tidy?

Another good way to glean information about the company is through the interview itself. Under no circumstances should it be a monologue with either you or the interviewer doing all the talking. Nor should it be a cross-examination. The person you interview with should introduce the company, its activities and goals.

The questions you are asked during the interview process are also very important and should be relevant to the position you are applying for. The more an interviewer wants to know about you, the better. After all, it would be difficult to put your trust in a company that employs people without learning anything about them.

You also should be provided with a job description for the position you are applying for, including the main responsibilities and skills associated with the position. The way the interview is conducted can show you the approach the company has to its employees and how it presents itself.

The Interview: Round 2

If your first interview was successful, you can again congratulate yourself. However, the process isn’t over yet as you will be invited for a second round of interviews. The second interview is different from the first one in that you will meet other people working in the company. While not a rule, these meetings are usually short and somewhat formal. Again, preparation is essential and these meetings should not be underestimated. Each person you meet will evaluate you and express their opinion about you. 

If you apply for a job with an international company, you might be invited for an interview abroad. Be prepared for that, as well as for invitation for lunch or dinner.

Ask for a program of the next interview, including a list of the people you’ll meet, their positions and function within the company. Also ask about the place and length of the meeting and what documents you should prepare or bring with you. Take time to build on what you have learned preparing for the first interview and learn as much new information as possible.

Take extra copies of your CV and references to the next interview as you may interview with someone who was not initially listed on the program.

If you travel abroad, be informed about the specifics of the country including prices, business customs, accommodation, etc.

If you are invited to lunch or dinner, let your host choose first and then choose a meal at similar price range. If possible, order a meal that is not difficult to eat since you will be doing a lot of talking. Also remember that you are not having an affable lunch out with a friend, but an interview, even if it is taking place in a restaurant. Be sure to avoid alcohol. It may also be helpful to brush up on your table manners beforehand. At the end of the meal make it clear who pays. At least indicate that you will pay for yourself. If you do not pay, always say thank-you for being invited.

Everything you learned in preparation for the first interview also applies to the second interview. If you are talking to more than one person simultaneously, make eye contact with all participants.

Be prepared to state whether you accept the position or not. Now comes the time to discuss conditions, salary and benefits. If you need time for thinking, do not be afraid to ask for it. Just remember to keep any deadline you set.

As with the first interview, follow up by sending a thank-you letter or e-mail to everyone involved in the second interview process.

If the deadline has passed for the company to inform you of their decision, do not be afraid to contact them and ask them what the status of your candidacy is.

If you receive the decision from the company, ether positive or negative, reply to it as soon as possible. Even if the company has not accepted your candidacy, it is suitable to send a reply in writing. If you were accepted and they let you know in writing, answer in writing too.

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