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There are different things you need to think about before attending an interview, such as updating your documents, planning what to wear and thinking about how you should behave. The main focus of this module is on handling interview questions but you can refer to the last part of this document to locate sources for information 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 a skillful interviewer avoids asking questions demanding only Yes/No answers. In order to find out whether or not you fit the job well, the interviewer would like you to speak more so that he or she has more time to listen to and evaluate what you say. To encourage you to give a full 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. It is therefore important for you to think about all possible questions before you attend an interview. The following list gives you some ideas about questions you might be asked. Study them carefully and plan your answers before you attend an interview. Look at Successful Interview Skills, Chapter 5 for more examples of interviewing questions and appropriate responses 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? General 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 qualities needed for the post. To achieve this, you need to plan ahead for opportunities to sell yourself. Think carefully about what strengths you can capitalise on and the best timing to do it. Be specific 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 and past 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 things done. I also think that I have good analytical and quantitative skills. I have really been able to develop 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 handle unexpected 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 not sure 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 the conversation. Sometimes it is difficult to think of an answer straight away. You need to give yourself a few moments to think but you should not just sit and look at the interviewer in silence. To give yourself a little more time to organize your thoughts you can begin your answer with short phrases 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 to a 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 quest ion or you feel you have done it badly. It could be a tough question for any candidate. It is more important to get your concentration 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 you about your weaknesses. One suggestion is that you should give weaknesses that sound more like 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 feel that they are too good to be true. To avoid appearing insincere, you can mention one of your real weaknesses (but no more than one!), which would not stop you from getting the job. For instance, an accountant who says his weakness is his poor analytical ability would probably not 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 not be discounted. For any weakness you mention, you need to have thought about how to deal with it. This is very important because employers want to hire people who are self-aware and who can help themselves. Also, you may begin by mentioning a strength and that might reduce 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’m taking an evening class to improve it. I think I am improving and gaining the confidence in speaking 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.
I have a tendency to say ‘yes’ to too many responsibilities. For example ... But I soon realised that I could not do too many things at the same time. This experience helped me learn to prioritise. Money is a sensitive subject. You should research the salary range for the job ahead of time. When asked how much you expect to be paid, you may mention the bottom-line figure you have in mind or give neutral responses like: How much does the job pay? How much is a new employee usually paid? How much do you usually pay someone with my experience? I would expect to be paid what other people in this job are paid. Sometimes you may be asked why you want to join the company. Make sure you do your homework to find out about the people you hope to work for so that you can easily use the information to your advantage during the interview. You can say: Your firm is a young organisation with many innovative ideas. It ha s been very successful in an expanding market since its establishment 10 years ago. Working for you would be exactly the sort of challenge I am looking for. This is a well-established university. It has excellent tradition and reputation that any employee can be proud of. For people who have work experience, you might be asked why you left your last job. The interviewer is trying to find out if you had any problems on your last job. Do not say anything negative about yourself or your previous employer. Common reasons for leaving are budgetary cutbacks, the job was temporary, the company went out of business, there was no room for advancement or you wanted a job that would allow you to better use your skills. If it involved personal reasons, such as difficulty in getting along with your previous colleagues, child care, health problem, etc., try to explain without being negative and show that you learned something from the situation and that the problem will not affect your work anymore. The interviewer may also ask about your future plans to find out if you set goals for yourself and what kind of expectations you have of the company. You can mention your study plans or professional interests, which are not likely to affect your abilities to fulfill the job requirements. Your answer may show that you know where the job might lead. I know that generally it is possible to move from this position to a management position with two years experience in the company and I would look forward to having the responsibility for training and supervising new members of staff. From there, I know I could move into ... I have an interest in marketing and I would consider graduate study in business in the future. I think my goals will become more clear as I gain experience in sales and marketing. Some employers find it rude for interviewees to ask about salary and benefits. To play it safe, you should avoid this subject at this stage unless the interviewer initiates it. Questions you may ask: Towards the end of an interview, you are usually asked whether you have any questions. Take the opportunity to ask questions you have prepared beforehand to show that you are interested in the company and the position you are seeking. You can ask: How would you describe the duties of the position? How much travel is normally expected? How frequently do you relocate professional employees? What are the prospects for advancement beyond this level? How often do the training programmes begin? What new product lines/services have been announced recently? How many people are you interviewing for this position? If I am extended an offer of employment, how soon after this would you like me to start? When can I expect to hear from you?
But if you feel that you know all you need to about the position, you may say: I think that you have covered all the important points already. But if I have any questions later I will contact you. Finally, if you have prepared something important, e.g. your strengths, but you had not been asked about it, you can m ake use of this opportunity. You may begin by saying: If you don’t mind, I would just like to add a brief comment about the sort of person I am. My background has already demonstrated my academic achievements and professional abilities; however, in addition, I would like to highlight my personal strengths. Panel and Group Interviews The format of interviews can be slightly varied. You may be interviewed by a panel or with some other candidates at the same time. When that happens, try to stay calm and present yourself as you would in a one-to-one interview. Generally speaking, you have more than one listener in these interviews so you can expect a different interaction pattern. Try to maintain eye contact with everybody there. Questions in a panel interview tend to be more rapidly paced because the interviewers have more time to frame questions while you are answering someone else. You need to have very good concentration so that you can follow the questions and think quickly to organize your answers. During a group interview, the interviewer is less likely to interact with each candidate individually. He will present a few work related problems for the group of candidates to discuss and see how they can apply their education to work place situations. Before you go to this kind of interview try your best to research issues, trends, problems and effective ways to solve difficulties in your area so that you are more likely to have ideas during the discussion. Be prepared to participate actively with good manners. You certainly need to find chances to speak. But be careful not to appear to be too aggressive. Do not interrupt anyone who is speaking. Make sure you respond politely when you do not agree with something someone else said or when what you have said is criticized. Remember, the interviewer is definitely interested in observing how you communicate with other people. There is no way to predict and practice for every possible interview situation because the answers you give to any question may change depending on what you want to emphasize and/or de-emphasize and to whom you are speaking. However, part of it can be predicted and prepared. All you need to do, therefore, is be well-prepared, think positively and be sensitive to the interviewer’s style. Good luck! VITAL ERRANDS Errand 1 Most of you have probably attended interviews for different purposes, e.g. exams, part-time jobs, etc. Discuss or review any past interviewing experiences you have had. What happened? Were you successful? The following questions may be useful: 1. How many interviews have you attended? 2. What were they for? 3. Did you think they were good interviews or bad interviews? What made them good or bad? 4. Did you prepare for the interview? If you did, then how did you prepare for th e interview? 5. Do you think it is necessary to prepare for an interview? Why/Why not? 6. If you think preparation is necessary what should the preparation involve. Write your ideas below Errand 2 The following is a partial list of do's and don'ts for interviews. Can you think of more? Check p. 55 in Successful Interview Skills for more examples.
Ø Find out about your potential employer’s needs and interests. Ø Prepare a few questions, based on what you know about your potential employer. Ø Look at your interviewer in the eye. Ø Sit up straight. Ø Actively listen at the interview. Ø Arrive on time or even a few minutes early. Ø Wear appropriate clothing and have an appropriate hair style. Ø Have all your supporting documents clearly organised to show if necessary. Do not Ø Smoke. Ø Mumble. Ø Chew Gum. Ø Harshly criticise your current boss.
Errand 3 Some questions are almost always asked in every interview. Although the answers may vary depending on who you are speaking to, there will be less variation in the answers to these questions than to most. You should be prepared to answer the following questions: Ø Ø Ø Ø Tell me something about your background. Tell me something about yourself. Tell me something about your strengths and weaknesses. Think about what these questions require you to say and write down your answers to these questions. Practice saying them in an organised and natural way.
Errand 4 The purpose of this task is to make you think about what makes a good interview or a bad interview. Look at International Business English p.173 exercise 13.7 A and B. Listen to the two interviews on the tape and decide Ø Which interviewer did the better job? Ø Which of the candidates performed better? Why? Ø What answer would you give to each of the questions the interviewer asks? Errand 5 Simulation Interview: Work in a group of three. You will be taking part in three interviews as interviewer, interviewee and ‘observer’ respectively. Discuss who will play which role in each of the interviews. Decide on a specific job for which the interviewee is being interviewed. You can look in the SCMP job vacancies pages. Here are some guidelines to follow for each role: Interviewer Use the job advertisement to help you decide what sort of person you are looking for. Spend some time thinking about what questions you are going to ask. Write the questions out in the order you will ask them. Interviewee Look at the job advertisement and think about what sort of person the employer is looking for. Think about the experience you have. If possible have your CV ready for use in the interview. Think about why you want to leave your present job and what you have to offer this new company. All this information can be made up. Write down all information about yourself so that you don't have to think about it when the interviewer asks you a question. Observer Your role is to make notes and give advice to the others on their performance in the interview. As you listen to the interview make notes on these points:
Ø Ø Ø Ø Ø
What impression did each person give? If they were nervous, how did this affect their performance? Were there too many Yes/No questions? Which questions did they answer well? What advice would you give them for their next real interview?
Ensure each person has a chance to play each of the three roles. You may also record the interviews and assess your group mates’ performance using the peer evaluation form in the Job-seeking Package in the ELSC Resources Room for a more critical review. FUNDAMENTAL EXAMPLES ON SELF ESTEEM
Low Self Esteem Not To Blame!
We now know that all the ills of society cannot be blamed on low-self esteem (Prof Nicholas Emler - The Rowntree Report 2001). According to the latest research, low self esteem is not to blame for nearly as many problems as has traditionally been thought. 2) High Self Esteem Linked to Criminality
It is now clear that too high self esteem or 'High Self Esteem Disorder' is often more of a problem. (This is NOT merely a 'disguised' form of low self-esteem, as commonly thought). So, if you are the victim of a bully then you can rest assured you don't have to feel sorry for them. Hundreds of pieces of reliable research now show that bu llies and many criminals are much more likely to suffer from unrealistically high self esteem and impulse control problems than low self esteem. An exaggerated sense of entitlement - expecting much from many situations - is more likely to lead to frustration and aggressive, antisocial, or even criminal behaviour. 3) A Little More Uncertainty Can Help
Contrary to popular opinion, people with low self-esteem are always very sure of themselves. This manifests in their conviction that they are worthless or inadequate. As you will know if you have ever tried to argue with someone who puts him or her down continually, it is very hard to do! When someone with low self-esteem becomes less sure of their own opinion of themselves and therefore begins to assess counter evidence regarding their worthlessness, their self-image begins to become healthier. 4) You Can't Argue Someone Better!
Telling some one they are great or wonderful when they are constantly negative about themselves will not work. Arguing with someone who is so sure of them does not work, as we all know. You will just break rapport with that person. We have all met people who feel more comfortable in relationships with people who treat them badly - because that person seems to see things they way they do. People with low self -esteem can be upset by 'disconfirming feedback.' In other words if something happens which indicates that they may not be as terrible as they thought, it can feel disturbing as it contradicts their way of perceiving. Healthy self esteems needs to emerge subtly, not as a sudden result of hearing you are 'really special' or 'fantastic'. People need proof that unsettles the certainty that they are so 'defective' or inadequate and leads to a more realistic and balanced self-assessment. This can only happen when they
become calmer and more relaxed so that they can observe themselves more objectively and less emotionally. Whenever we are highly emotional our perception is distorted ('emotional hijacking') when people calm down around the idea of them then a healthier self-esteem can emerge! 5) Child Abuse Increases Likelihood of Low Self Esteem
People who were abused as children (physical beating or sexual abuse) are more likely to suffer unrealistic low self esteem as adults. This is because of constant repetition of a 'message' that they are of little value or just an object to be used. In a way they have been 'brain washed' by constant criticism or abuse that they are a certain way. When a person begins to question this former conditioning or brainwashing then a healthier and more accurate sense of self can begin to emerge. However the person may have to be de-traumatised so the emotional brain responds differently in future (rather than solely learning to think differently about stuff). However the way our assumptions and we think need to be observed, understood and if necessary challenged. (Explanatory styles) (Note: Most people who have low self esteem were not abused as children.) 6) Healthy Pleasures Are Vital
We need to engage in activities, which we enjoy and in which we can 'lose ourselves' regularly. The better one's sense of themselves the less they tend to use words like 'me, myself, I, mine' (personal pronouns) Someone's mental and even, to some extent, physical health can be directly related to how 'self-referential' they are in their conversation - as people become healthier they use the 'I' word less, in the same way that when your knee stops hurting you don't need to rub it any more. People should be encouraged to focus their attention away from themselves as well as to be able to take their own needs into account. A healthy balance should be encouraged as should the development of real practical skills. Real responsibility should be encouraged so that self-w orth can respond to external evidence on an ongoing basis. 7) Make the Most of Success
Low self-esteem requires a particular attitude towards success. Whenever you succeed at something, you must 'write it off' as good luck, chance, or someone else's responsibility. To gain a more realistic view of yourself, you need to take appropriate credit for your successes. In the Self Confidence Trainer , we call this skill 'Converting'. This involves learning how to convert real successes into statements about you. The other part of the picture is to view perceived failures as temporary and not statements about your 'core identity'. 8) Build on Solid Foundations
For anyone to be psychologically and physically healthy on an ongoing basis, there are a set of requirements that must be built into life. This is the checklist I use with my patients: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. The need to give and receive attention Taking care of the mind-body connection The need for meaning, purpose and goals The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves The need for creativity and stimulation The need for intimacy and connection The need for a sense of control The need for status
Of course, it is likely that at any one time, one or more of these may be slightly lacking in your life, without dire consequences. However, in the long-term, they must all be catered for one way or another. 9) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 10) Characteristics of Genuinely Low Self Esteem Social withdrawal Anxiety and emotional turmoil Lack of social skills and self-confidence. Depression and/or bouts of sadness Less social conformity Eating disorders Inability to accept compliments An Inability to see yourself 'squarely' - to be fair to yourself Accentuating the negative Exaggerated concern over what they imagine other people think Self neglect Treating yourself badly but NOT other people Worrying whether you have treated others badly Reluctance to take on challenges Reluctance to trust your own opinion Expect little out of life for yourself It's not just about Positive Thinking!
Positive thinking can be useful in that it challenges you to form a different view on things. However, most of the time it just takes the form of arguing with yourself, and as we've seen from 4) above, this doesn't work. To change your self-image and improve low self-esteem, you need to believe in an alternative opinion of yourself, not just repeat platitudes about how great you are really! By Ganesh R. Administrative Assistant IIITMK, Park Centre Technopark Campus Trivandrum 695 581 Kerala
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