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Last updated on 10/13/16

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Course introduction

Because you have an outstanding resume and have sent it along with a winning cover letter, you have been called in for an interview. Congratulations! The moment you have worked so hard for has arrived: you are about to meet the recruiter who will get you started on the career path of your dreams.

 The recruiter will be looking to confirm your competence, appraise your motivation and judge whether you will fit in the organisation. Your job then is to prove that you are competent to achieve the objectives of the position, show your enthusiasm and motivation for both the job and the organisation and help the recruiter feel that you will fit in well with the team.

Prepare for the interview

First thing, get on internet and learn as much as you can about the organisation. Get insight into the organisation's culture. What is their mission statement? What are their objectives? What are their core values? What accomplishments are they proud of?  Where are they located? Read: ‘Why work with us?’ What kind of people are they interested in?

As you read, check what root words are used over and over again, e.g., develop, development, developer, developmental are all forms of the word ‘develop’. For Colgate-Palmolive the word ‘people’ comes up on every page. These recurring words are windows into the organisation's culture. Be sure to learn them and integrate them into your discourse.

Think about what you can offer the organisation. How do your knowledge, skills and personal qualities fit the organisation's culture and needs? What would you like to be doing in the organisation? What role can you play in the organisation to contribute to their objectives?

What questions come to mind concerning the organisation? Write them down.

As the day of the interview arrives, plan what to wear. Dress appropriately: How do people typically dress in this organisation? If the organisation is within commuting distance, go over there to see people as they arrive or leave. Or look carefully at the pictures of people at work on the organisation's site. Are they dressed formally, in suits as we might expect in a bank? Or is it more informal, in neat sweaters and trousers as in an internet company? Remember, dress slightly better than the norm you discern. You are on stage.

Make sure you will arrive on time. Plan to be at least 10 minutes early. Anticipate hitches: trafic jams, bomb alerts in the subway, breakdowns … Do as you would to catch a train or plane: if you're late you've lost it all. On the other hand, prepare something intelligent to do should the interviewer be late. Have a good book with you; have work on your computer or smart-phone. Remain calm and ‘zen’ as you wait.

Prepare your introduction.

Introduce yourself

The typical first question of an interview is, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ While this might seem very open, the code is very specific: your response should be about 3 minutes (maximum) and no less than 90 seconds. If it is too long, you may bore your recruiter; if it is too short it will seem that you are not very communicative. It should only include job-related information, i.e., your studies, your work experience, pertinent community service, relevant extra-curricular activities from which you have gained useful transferable skills.

Your introduction should include only and all the points of your experience you want to discuss. The key word here is, “want”. Whatever you say brings the recruiter's focus to the idea. This means that you do not want to mention anything that might detract from your qualification for the job. You want the recruiter to focus specifically, and only, on all the reasons that you are the right person for the job.

Because the objective of an interview is to convince the recruiter that you are the perfect (and best) person for the job, you need to use persuasive techniques. And nothing is more persuasive than informing a person of what you can do for them. For this reason you need to:

  • Draw parallels between studies, experience and the job description:

“Your company is … I have done …” (This is why I can carry out the job well.)
“Given my studies in ___(specialisation / industry)___, I will be able to carry out the job as ___(job title) because ___.” 

  • If you have successfully done something, this is proof that you have the skills to carry out similar tasks. Tell about experiences that have contributed to your competence.

"One of my most challenging experiences has been ..."

  • Inform the interviewer of your motivation for both the job and the organisation.

“The reason I'm interested in the job as ___(job title) at ___ (company name / industry) ___, is …"


Work with a friend or classmate.
Choose one of these contexts:
(All interviews are contextualised; you always know who you are interviewing with.)

  • you have an interview coming up and you want to practice for it

  • you have applied for a job, and you want to practice, should you be called for an interviewer

  • imagine your dream job, in your dream organisation

Answer the question, ‘Tell me about yourself.’

Perform a successful interview using good communication techniques

To make sure the interview goes well there are a number of pointers to keep in mind. 

Remember: First 10 seconds, first 10 steps, first 10 words and you have made your impression. The rest of the interview will be to confirm this impression. It is always easier to confirm a good impression than to disconfirm a bad impression. The interview begins when you enter the main door of the building. Smile and treat the receptionist, the secretary and any other person you meet, well. Smile and show your zeal the second you see the recruiter.

Body language and attitude

Pay attention to your body language, which is an important part of your communication. Is your body communicating self-confidence? enthusiasm? motivation? Your enthusiasm and motivation should be as much for the organization as for the position. A good resume is not sufficient to induce a recruiter to hire you. A positive attitude for the job disposes the interviewer to want to work with you.

It is difficult to say how you should sit; it is easier to mention what to avoid:

Everyone has a position of excellence. It is the position that your body automatically takes on when you feel you are excellent. To find your own position of excellence, think about a moment of success. Relive that moment. How did you know you had succeeded? How did you feel? Now memorise the position your body has taken. Note how your back holds you up, the position of your arms and legs.

When arriving at an interview, relive all the successful moments of your life. Feel the excellence of those moments as you enter the recruiter's office. Know that you have much to offer the organisation.

Verbal communication when answering questions



Give an extended answer to questions: 15sec - 3min 

Be too short (or you seem to communicate badly or to be holding back information), or too long (the recruiter's attention span may not be long) 

Answer questions smartly

Go off a tangent

Answer questions positively

Speak about what you cannot do unless specifically asked

Prepare to convey your strengths and link them to the organisation's needs, relating your answers clearly to the demands of the position, thus demonstrating that you are qualified to successfully fulfil the required tasks: ‘As I speak four languages, English, Russian, French and Chinese, and have lived and worked in as many countries, my multicultural abilities would be a plus as a member of your team serving your international clients.’


Use concrete nouns with clarifying adjectives and dynamic verbs:  ‘I have always wanted to work with refugee children ever since I was a child myself in Hong Kong and there were refugee children from Vietnam living in our street.’

Be too vague: “I have always wanted to work with refugee children”

AVOID pronouns: ‘Finding solutions to clean up the rivers is important for world health.’

Begin sentences with “It's ...”: “It's important.”

Use explicit nouns or noun phrases as the subject of your sentences: ‘Finding solutions for worldwide security will improve the lives of millions.’

Use demonstratives alone or with abstract nouns (“this, that, these, those”): “That (field) will improve the lives of millions.”

Develop answers in the form of a story:


  • Begin with a general answer to the question

  • Continue with a “story” of your past experience to support your answer: This “story” will include a statement of the problem, the process you have followed to solve the problem and achieve the objective, finishing with the positive result of the solution and how it helped the organisation.

  • Note that the most important part of the story is the process: the actions you took to solve a problem or that made an achievement possible.

  • Extrapolate from the story to tell how you will act in their organisation:

“If I am hired for the position I will ….”
“If I work in your organisation I will …”

“Therefore in your organisation I would be able to …”



Follow successful strategies to plan answers to typical questions

Now that you know how to start off the interview with a good introduction, how to conduct yourself well during an interview and how to construct impressive responses, you are ready to seriously prepare inspiring answers to some of the most typical questions of interviews.

Remember: the subtext of every question is one single query:

Why should we hire you?

Pivotal Questions

What do you know about our organisation?

Because you have prepared for this job interview by studying annual reports and other information you can get on Internet, you will have no problem answering this question. You will speak about all the good things you know about the organisation, thus allowing you to demonstrate your motivation for the job. Your answer will also lead into your response to the next question. 

Why are you interested in this job?

Explain what motivates you for this particular job. Why is this not just a job, but exactly the job you are looking for. Refer to everything worthy you know about the organisation.

What are your main strengths?

You can download and fill in this worksheet to determine what they are.

  • Use softeners. Show that it is your subjective opinion and others may think differently.

“I think I am flexible.”
“Some people say I am adaptable.”

  • Give examples that presuppose the quality:

“My flexibility has allowed me to …”
“When I was at _____  I had to (problem/difficulty/task).
       Because I am flexible, I decided to ...”

What are you main weaknesses?

  • Choose weaknesses that will not have an effect on the job to be carried out.

  • Give a true weakness but one of modest size.

  • List a weakness that can be eliminated.

  • Answer with things you are improving upon.

  • Use softeners when answering.

  • Contextualize the weakness.

“I tend to lose patience with people who are late for deadlines. So to avoid getting to this point, I might check in with my team members to be sure they are getting their work done.”

What is your greatest achievement?

  • DO narrate a story of your problem-solving skills.
    The most important part of the story is the process by which you arrive at the objective.

Story Structure


Offer a problem at work/school/outside activity.


Speak in the first-person and explain what you have personally undertaken.


Give details of your process as you moved toward a solution: Explain each obstacle in the process and how you overcame each one.

Your answer should focus on this process. The way you deal with difficulties is proof of your competence.


Announce how well the problem was solved.

Positive result of the solution

Go beyond the fact that the problem was settled. Further explain how the organisation benefited from this solution.

What is your greatest failure?

  • Choose a failure early in your career, from which you have learned something important, which learning you later applied successfully.

  • Do NOT repeat the word “failure”. Redefine it as a difficulty.

  • Describe the problem neutrally and simply.

  • The movement of the discourse is:
    Failure  ► Difficulty ► Learning ► Success

  • Tell what you have learned from the experience.

  • Tell about a later success where you used what was learned
    “And in fact later, when I …”                    

Tell about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation / a difficult person

  • Tell this as a story with, of course, a happy ending

  • Use this story to bring out your qualities in the form of presuppositions as you tell your story:
    "… as I firmly believe that people can always improve, I …"
    "… as a team player, what I did was … "

Where do you expect to be in 5 years' time?

  • Plan to be working in the same company with more responsibilities

  • Give motivation for the company again.

  • Say what you hope to be doing with them, what responsibilities you hope you will have.
    "Because you are a company who ... I hope to still be working with you.
    I would like to be (+ verb-ing) …."

Do you have any questions?

YES! Go prepared to the interview with carefully thought out, intelligent questions.

These will be questions that:

  • show you know your job because only someone who knows the job well will know to ask them.

  • are the basic questions that a new person must ask to carry out the job successfully.

Imagine you have got the job; you are in your new office with your desk and computer. What questions will you ask on the first day?


What are the objectives of the position?
Who will I be reporting to?
Will I be working on a team?
What are your goals for international development in the next 2 years?
Could you possibly give me a general idea of the difficulties involved in the position?‌
What will be the greatest challenges of the job?

Do you have anything else to say?

YES! This is the moment to leave a lasting impression. You have about 2 minutes to summarize the interview. The two important points are:

  1. Prove you are motivated:
    "From what we have discussed, I'd like to say that I am truly motivated to … because the job offers …, … and … which is exactly what I have been looking for."

  2. Reiterate in what ways you are perfect for the job:

    “I do believe I can carry out the job well.  You said you need someone who has (done …) studied...  / can  (Verb) ..., and I have …”
    “You need someone who is, and I am … which can be seen in the way I … at … X company.”


Work with a friend or classmate.
Cut up the question card sheet. Turn the cards over and mix them up.
Choose a question card at random and hand it to your friend.
The friend will ask you the question on the card, and you will answer it.

Write a follow-up thank you.

This allows you to:

  • Help the interviewer to remember you better

  • Further support your application

  • Reiterate your interest and competence for the job

And remember: Keep It Short and Sweet

The structure of the letter is as follows:

Paragraph 1        

Thank the person for receiving you and let them know why you are pleased to have met them.

“Please allow me to express my appreciation for your allowing me to discuss with you the position of _____.”

Paragraphs 2

Refer to the discussion of the interview and specifically remind the recipient of how your competence responds to the requirements of the job.

“You mentioned that you need someone who can ____ and I have ____ -ed."
"You said that the work will involve ____. In fact, when I (context), I had to (verb)."

Paragraph 3        

Refer to the discussion of the interview and specifically explain why you are motivated for the job.

“Your explanation of the job has motivated me even more for the position in that ____”
(Subject + verb: tell why you are motivated)

Final Paragraph  

Let the recipient know you look forward to meeting them again and working with them.

“Thank you again for giving me the opportunity of sharing our mutual interest in ____.
“I look forward to further discussing our mutual goals concerning _____.”
“Thank you for your time and consideration of my application.”

More Language Forms:

“Please allow me to thank you for your time and the interest you have shown in my application for the position of ...”
“Please allow me to say that by joining your company it would be a pleasure to (verb) ...”
“It has been a great pleasure to discuss with you ___'s plans for ...”
“I greatly appreciate your desire for _____ which corresponds perfectly with my vision of ...”
“Joining ___ is an exciting prospect for me and would give enormous meaning to my work as ...”
“Looking forward to further discussing with you on how I can contribute to ___'s objectives for ...” 

Summing up

You have now become acquainted with all you need to know to conduct a successful job interview.

Remember, the key to a great interview is to prepare:

  • a pertinent introduction that is clearly oriented to the needs of the position

  • a state of excellence through positive thinking and confident body language

  • answers to the typical questions that you are likely to be asked

  • concrete, convincing language strategies

And to finally latch onto that job:

  • always reiterate your competence and prove your motivation with a well-written thank you letter.

Here's wishing you the career of your dreams!

Additional Resources‌

Interview Question cards

Worksheet to identify strengths


                                                                     This course was developed with the support of:

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement