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Attending an Interview

Attending an Interview

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Published by ganu_r

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Published by: ganu_r on Sep 11, 2009
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Preparation for an interview is very important. There are different things you need to think about before attending an interview, such as updating your documents, planning what to wearand thinking about how you should behave. The main focus of this module is on handlinginterview questions but you can refer to the last part of this document to locate sources forinformation about preparation for other areas.
How questions will be asked
In a job interview you need to be prepared to answer different kinds of questions. Generally askillful interviewer avoids asking questions demanding only Yes/No answers. In order to findout whether or not you fit the job well, the interviewer would like you to speak more so thathe or she has more time to listen to and evaluate what you say. To encourage you to give afull answer, the following expressions are commonly used by the interviewers:
Could you tell me about ...? I wonder if you could tell me ...?Would you mind telling me ...? I’d also like to know ...? Do you happen to know ...?
To prompt you to speak more, these follow-up questions might also be asked:
Why do you think that?Could you explain why you think that?Can you explain further?Can you give me an example of that? In what way exactly?What do you mean exactly?Please tell me more. Are you sure you mean that?
If you are able to handle the interviewer's questions well, you will leave a good impression. Itis therefore important for you to think about all possible questions before you attend aninterview. The following list gives you some ideas about questions you might be asked. Studythem carefully and plan your answers before you attend an interview. Look at
Successful Interview Skills
, Chapter 5 for more examples of interviewing questions and appropriateresponses to them.
Examples of Interviewing Questions
Education and training
Can you tell me about your course at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University?
Why have you chosen this course?
 Do you think that the course is beneficial to your career? If so, in what ways is it beneficial?
 Did you enjoy any particular part of your studies more than the rest?
Can you tell me about a project that you worked on at university?
Tell me something about your background.
Can you tell me about your extracurricular activities and what you gained from them?
 Do you speak Mandarin?
 Employment history
 Have you had any work experience?
Can you tell me about your last job?
What has been your greatest achievement in your working history?
Can you tell me about a problem you have had at work and how you dealt with it?
Which of all your jobs have you found the most interesting and why?
Why did you leave your last position?
Tell me something about yourself.
What do you consider to be your strengths?
What do you feel are your weaknesses?
 How would you describe your personality?
What would you like to be doing ten years from now?
Can you tell me about your outside interests and hobbies?
What are you most proud of having achieved in your life so far?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
 The vacancy
Why do you want to work for this company?
What do you know about this company?
Can you explain why you have applied for this post?
What do you think you can contribute to this company?
We have a lot of applications for this job. Why should we appoint you?
 Closing questions
What is your availability?
 Do you have any questions you would like to ask?
What should you stress?
Of course you want to impress the interviewer and demonstrate that you have the qualitiesneeded for the post. To achieve this, you need to plan ahead for opportunities to sell yourself.Think carefully about what
you can capitalise on and the best timing to do it. Bespecific and confident. You can use language like:
 I think, I’m good at ... I feel, I have good experience in ... I believe, I am able to...
After you mentioned a strength, you should back up what you have said with examples andpast experience. This will give the interviewer an impression that you are presenting yourself with facts and evidence instead of boasting or pretending you know something. For example:
 I think my strengths are my ability to work independently. I can motivate myself to get thingsdone. I also think that I have good analytical and quantitative skills. I have really been able todevelop those skills in my Quantitative Methods and Accountancy classes.
Techniques of handling questions
Apart from knowing how to answer questions you can predict, be prepared to handleunexpected and difficult ones. Here are some strategies you can use:Before any attempt to answer a question, make sure you really understand it. If you are notsure you do, you may clarify the question by rephrasing it:
So, you want to know how I plan my career for the next five years?So, what you’re asking is my experience in ...? If I understand the question correctly, you would like to know ... Are you talking about my post-secondary education?When you say ‘technical work’, do you mean experience in the laboratory?
You can also
ask for repetition
by saying:
Sorry, could you repeat that? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear. Can you say that again? I’m sorry I don’t understand. I beg your pardon.
 However, do not overdo it as your interviewer may feel that you cannot concentrate on theconversation.Sometimes it is difficult to think of an answer straight away. You need to give yourself a fewmoments to think but you should not just sit and look at the interviewer in silence. To giveyourself a little more time to organize your thoughts you can begin your answer with shortphrases such as:
Well, ...That’s a good question! Let me see ...First of all, ...
If you really need more time to think about your answer you may say:
 I need to consider my reply .Can you give me a moment to think .Oh, let me think for a moment .
It could be embarrassing if you sit there in silence for five minutes to consider your answer toa question. If you really cannot answer, don’t panic. Just say something like:
 I’ve no idea, I’m afraid.Sorry, I’m not sure about that. I think that area’s a bit too technical for me but I really want to explore it in the future.
Do not lose your spirits even you cannot answer a question or you feel you have done itbadly. It could be a tough question for any candidate. It is more important to get yourconcentration back and focus on the next question.
How to handle difficult questions?
Some questions are more difficult than others. The interviewer may, for example, ask youabout your weaknesses. One suggestion is that you should give weaknesses that sound morelike strengths, such as:
 I sometimes take my work too seriously. And I always work outside office hours to get something done. I am a very easy-going person. I will do the jobs that no one else wants to do.
Some interviewers may welcome positive answers like these while others will probably feelthat they are too good to be true. To avoid appearing insincere, you can mention one of yourreal weaknesses (but no more than one!), which would not stop you from getting the job. Forinstance, an accountant who says his weakness is his poor analytical ability would probablynot get hired. However, an accountant who said that he felt weak in his ability to speak Putonghua but that he was taking an evening class to improve his ability would probably notbe discounted. For any weakness you mention, you need to have thought about how to dealwith it. This is very important because employers want to hire people who are self-aware andwho can help themselves. Also, you may begin by mentioning a strength and that mightreduce some of the negative impact created by the weakness. For example, you may say:
 Although I’m very fluent in English, I always feel that my Putonghua is not good enough. I’mtaking an evening class to improve it. I think I am improving and gaining the confidence inspeaking Putonghua. I think my strengths are ... Well, my weakness is I lack some confidence; however, I think that with time and after I get more work experience, I will feel more confident about working.

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