Chapter 5: Interview skills

A job interview is somehow similar to speed dating. It is a data-collection process between you and the employer within a short time. While the employer finds out whether you are the right person they are looking for, you also want to know whether they are the organization you want.

Before Interview

Do your research on:

  • The address of the interview venue, check what transport you can take to the venue, and how long does it take.
  • The background of the company. Research on the information about the company and the position you are applying. If you are interviewing for further studies, research on what are the charateristics of the graduates. For example, if you are applying for postgraduate studies in Architecture, look for the knowledge and skills required for an architect (see chapter 6 for list of online resources).

Prepare your:

  • A neat and professional outfit will give your interviewer a good first image. Better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  • A tidy, complete set of document reveals your personality.
  • Encourage yourself by positive self-talks, prepare to show the interviewer your passion in the job by examples, knowledges, and facts about your experiences.
  • Don’t get overstressed, get enough sleep.

On the Interview Day

 Arrive 15 – 30 minutes early so that you have time to get ready for the interview

  • Switch off your phone
  • While waiting, read your CV once again to recall your memories
  • Greet the interviewers when you enter the room, sit when you are asked
  • Keep eye contact with every interviewer, show passion in the post
  • Keep natural body language such as smiling and nodding
  • Don’t badmouth your former employer
  • Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions, answer them with examples and facts
  • Prepare for standard questions, answer each question within 20 seconds to 2 minutes

You are recommended to use these key words during an interview:

I am:

·         Punctual ·         Motivated ·         Goal-oriented
·         Dependable ·         Flexible ·         Creative
·         Self-disciplined ·         Integrity
·         Well-organized ·         Loyal

I have:

·         Good time management ·       Problem solving skills ·         Negotiation skills
·         Teamwork ·       Leadership ·         Confidence
·         Enthusiasm ·       Organizing skills

Breaking down Common Interview Questions

Below are samples of common interview questions, the hidden meanings of each question, and how you can tackle them.

Source: What colour is your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-hunters and Career-changers, 2018.

Give me a brief introduction about yourself

The hidden meanings:

The interviewer may have not have studied your CV in depth and they want to investigate if there is anything wrong with you that you will slip out.

How you can answer:

By showing the interviewer that you are a suitable candidate. You may describe your work and study history, your characteristics, you passion, preferably within two minutes.

Why are you interested in this position?

The hidden meanings:

The interviewer is afraid that you are not motivated enough to work at their company, hence you will not work for them long.

How you can answer:

Study the company background and job requirements well, explain to the interviewer that you are well prepared for the position. Demonstrate that you are looking for a position exactly they are hiring.

Can you explain why there are gaps in your work/study history?

The hidden meanings:

The interviewer is suspicious that you may have difficulties in finding a job, and he/she wants to know why. The interviewer may also be worried that you may not plan your career.

How you can answer:

Explain what you have done in the gaps. You could be studying/volunteering/on working holiday or simply looking job hunting. You need to highlight that you are well planned in career.

Have you ever done this kind of work before?

The hidden meanings:

The employer is worried that you may not have the skills or experience to fit the vacancy.

How you can tackle it:

Tackle the question by stating your transferable skills you acquired during your experience, from how you solve problems using these skills, and the successful result of that experience. Also mention you pick up new skills quickly.

Other popular questions:

  • In what whys do you think you can make a contribution to our company?
  • Why are you a suitable applicant for this position?
  • Why are you interested in working for our company?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What are the most important rewards you expect in your career?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • What are the most important things to you in your job?
  • What do you want to ask us?


Attend the Workshops organized by the Student Affairs Office to advance your Interview Etiquette.

Proceed to Chapter 6: Making Career Decisions