3 STEPS TO MASTERING YOUR JOB INTERVIEW – The non-recruiters version 33

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InfoTech-Goldperson  You’ve sent off a killer application and landed an interview for your dream job. Now comes the clincher – mastering the interview stage.

It’s a new year and some of you will be checking the web for the latest advertised jobs and maybe even testing the water, others will have already made the decision and will be looking for change.  I figured I would share a little information to try help those of you that are considering that change.

I’ve been involved in the hiring process of everything from trainees to management for many years and the one thing I can tell you is this – companies don’t shortlist for the fun of it. If you have made it to the interview stage, you are a serious contender for the job.

Once in the interview, you have approximately 30 minutes to convince the company representatives you are the right person for the job. How you deal with the interview determines your outcome.

Follow these 3 steps and not only will you master the interview process, you’ll make yourself unforgettable.


STEP 1: Know the right information

One of the questions almost every interviewer asks is what you know about the company, so why do so many people continue to get it wrong?

One mistake I continually see potential employees at all levels make is not doing their homework properly. They might have a quick read through the company website or think it’s enough just to know the basic business motto. When it comes to answering specific questions, they try to fudge their way through, get their answers wrong, or don’t answer the question effectively.

The second mistake is trying to remember statistical information about the company and recall it off the top of your head during the interview process. Not only is this type of information boring and uneventful, it is also very easy to get wrong.

So why is this question so important?


That’s easy. Your answer tells me how much you want to work with the company.  It also gives me insight into what you value about the company. Its an easy question for you to break the ice with and put you ahead of the pack.

What’s the best way to answer this question?

Pick two or three pieces of relevant information about the company. This could be a recent announcement the company has made, or a new product they have launched. Don’t bother with too many statistics.

Recite the information a few times, and then write it down from memory to see how much you have remembered. In the days leading up to the interview, practice talking about that information with your partner, your kids, your friends or pretty much anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. This trains your mind to use the information as a conversation piece.  You will then have a well-rehearsed conversational reply about the company that makes you familiar to the interviewers.

Here’s an example:

“After reading through your website and having a quick look at the annual report, I noticed COMPANY X operates in Queensland, Victoria and of course here in Sydney.  I was not previously aware that COMPANY X had services in three states of Australia.  (Short pause for comment if required).  Another interesting point; I noticed that Brian Smith, the CEO of COMPANY X, took part in a Cancer fun run. I really appreciate when people take the time and personally give back to the community. I also noticed that COMPANY X supports a number of charities and community services such as the local sports’ centre. I would be proud to work for a company that has a great reputation in the industry and with the local community.”

This kind of well thought through but rehearsed answer gives you “friend status” in an interview. It helps to create conversation that the interviewers can comment on and give feedback to.  It also shows you are willing to learn about the company and its employees.

Answering this question well creates familiarity and makes the interviewers visualize you in the role. Master it and the rest of the interview will be a breeze but remember to keep it simple and relevant.


Word Cloud RBSTEP 2: Know your CV

You need to predict what questions you will be asked in an interview. You don’t need to own a crystal ball to guess what they will ask. You just need to go through your last two jobs and write down some questions you’d ask if you were interviewing that person.

If you’ve never interviewed someone before, Google ‘commonly asked interview question’ to get yourself started.

Now that you have your list of questions, get your partner/kids/friend from step 1 to ask you each question. Write down your answers. Repeat the process a few days later using a clean sheet of paper and then review your answers from both sessions.

Next read through the position description and answer the questions in light of what you know about the advertised position. Try to use examples you know work well with the position description.

Over the next day or two, get someone to ask you the questions but this time, give only verbal answers. Now check these against your written answers.

Try to give informed constructive answers to any questions and avoid answering with negative examples.

Do this step well and it becomes a very powerful synergy to step one – you will have the interviewers thinking about you in the role at the workplace.  When an employer can envision you working with them, the tone and atmosphere of the interview will be in your favour.  You will be memorable.


STEP 3: Know your cheat sheet

This step really comes back to the age old adage – If you fail to prepare you should be prepared to fail.

An interview cheat sheet is invaluable during the interview process. I review mine in the minutes before an interview and as a memory marker during the actual interview.

Just remember not to hand it over. It’s for you, not anyone else.

Use clear headings, stick to bullet points wherever possible, and keep it simple – 2 pages or less. While there is no harm in taking a few seconds to start your answer, you want to avoid the lengthy pauses that come from having to search for your answer or information.

Your cheat sheet should include:

  • The name, address and contact phone number of the person/people you are meeting and the time of the interview.
  • An outline of why you are the right person for the job.
  • Information about the company from step 1. If you’re going to use statistics in step 1, write them on your cheat sheet.
  • The answers to your CV questions from step 2.
  • Questions you would like to ask the company in regards to the position.
  • A copy of your CV – attached behind the cheat sheet. This will help you quickly reference any information they make ask you about your CV. In fact, I always take two copies of my CV to interviews – one attached to my cheat sheet and the other to give to the interviewer.



Following these steps does two things: It shows an interviewer you can listen to questions and respond constructively. You will be remembered with cognisance, not just as a stranger that they interviewed.

Give yourself the best opportunity every time you get an interview. Make eye contact, be positive and do your homework.

The only factors about the interview you can control are your preparation and the way you present.



“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address at Oglethorpe University (May 22, 1932)


First posted as a guest blog on http://www.rileybanks.net/

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Rod Byfield

About Rod Byfield

Once a wayward rural kid originally from the small town of Kandos in central New South Wales, Australia. I have always held the belief that given the right environment anyone can achieve whatsoever they desire.

33 thoughts on “3 STEPS TO MASTERING YOUR JOB INTERVIEW – The non-recruiters version

  • Sebastian Kempf

    Good three steps. I was also sitting on “the other side” in job interviews and was wondering why the applicants don´t prepare. Almost everyone is asking the same questions so you can do alot before you go there. Especially the “Why do you wanna work for us?” question was always very interessting.

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield

    Thanks for your comment Sebastian. You are absolutely correct, in fact that question is the starting point of many interviews. One that should be used as an opportunity to connect and deliver to your new peers. If you can do this in the interview, they will have confidence that you can do it in the workplace.

  • Sebastian Kempf

    That´s right. This question is an opportunity and you should use it.

    It takes many hours to look at all the applications and figure out who could be the right person for the job. So if you´re a lucky applicant who is invited to an interview, please show some respect and prepare at least one hour for your future job which will pay your bills.

    It will be interessting for me to answer this questions again. I´m looking forward to go to my first interview in Australia soon.

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield

    To true mate, there is a lot of time and effort and money spent for a short list. That’s why it can be so disappointing when they are unprepared. Best wishes for the interview.

  • Joseph Higgs

    Good advice. Some additional items I coach people on:
    1. Have 3 solid questions for the interviewer about the company. Generally, at the end of an interview, the interviewer asks if you have questions. Rookie mistake is to say no. Some of your prepared questions may get answered in the interview. And, you may think of a new one in the interview.

    2. Take notes. Split a page in half vertically. On the left is interesting things you learn in the interview. On the right, additional questions that pop in your head.

    3. Be prepared for ‘Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years’. Write it down, tune it, make it your 30 second speech.

    4. Be prepared for ‘Why did you leave X’ for each of your prior jobs. No fumbling, mumbling, whining or crying. Write it down, tune it, be ready for it.

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield

    Thanks Joseph, great advice. These are a good set off addition tips people need to be aware off. It’s all about being prepared, the interview is your chance to show a perspective employer why your the one they need for the job.

  • Terry Savage

    Sleep, don’t cram.
    I just saw a report on a study that dealt with college students and exams. Not identical to the interview scenario, but pretty close.
    Controlling for a wide range of variables, the study found that students who got a good night’s sleep before the exam performed substantially better than those who crammed and stayed up late. Far beyond marginal statistical significance.
    Our culture has come to undervalue sleep, relative to what we physiologically need. In 1900, the average American slept 9 hours a day. In 2000, it was down to 7 hours a day.
    Does anyone seriously believe that there has been an evolutionary reduction in the physiological need for sleep in a mere 100 years?
    So, turn in early, and get the job!



  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield

    Your welcome Austin – Put it behind you and try again mate 😉

    “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Thanks Terry, Sleep is certainly an important factor. There are number of well know sleep studies – How lack of sleep can severely inhibit your decision process and even your motor control for reaction and movement. We had a campaign by the national roads authority in Australia called “take 5, stay alive” that was based on the need to rest/sleep.

  • Rebecca Byfield

    Another great bit of advice from the Wisdom of Rod files – never be drawn into badmouthing past employers or colleagues. When an interview panel asks you to describe a bad boss, you shoot yourself in the foot if you actually do it! Funny thing is, within a few days of Rod telling me that, I had the exact situation come up in an interview. While it’s tempting to tell the truth, diplomacy always works best.

    As for sleep Terry, how I wish I remembered what 9 hours a night felt like!

  • J. M. Auron

    Great advice! There are a couple of other things I suggest to my clients when we’re doing interview coaching. They seem small – but can make a difference.

    1) Be conscious of how you dress – and adapt that to the organization and geographical location. I know it sounds obvious. But I’ve known developers to go in to a Fortune 500 company in jeans – or seen female candidates come into an interview in club wear. Neither are great strategies.

    2) Don’t eat or drink anything from the time you leave the house – or office – until after the interview. That cup of coffee has an amazing to slip. Five minutes before the interview.

    3) No perfume or cologne. If you’re being interviewed in a small room, by a sensitive interviewer? He or she may not be able to put a finger on why they’re not calling you back – but if you’ve set off the interviewer’s allergies, you won’t be near the top of call back list.

    Finally, I particularly commend @Terry for the too often forgotten advice on adequate sleep. I’d lived in DC metro for many years – and sleep is considered weakness of character. People will in fact compete on how little sleep they get in an average night. Most people need the 8-9 hours that was normal a century ago. Getting back to that won’t only improve interviewing. It’ll grow productivity across the board.

  • Terry Savage

    Thanks, JM!

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that everything we thought we knew about sleep, is wrong.

    Everything we thought we knew about weight (eg, the “thermodynamic” model) is wrong.

    Everything we thought we knew about the nature/nurture balance is wrong.

    Everything we thought we knew about astrophysics is, at the very best, seriously incomplete. Dark matter? Dark energy? The overwhelming majority of the universe, we have no clue about.

    Interesting times, indeed!



  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Thanks JM for your kind words – likewise your advice is all good. The spilt coffee / food I have personally had several people apologise for stains prior to an interview. Its one of those Murphy’s law things “If it can go wrong it probably will” so concentrate one the interview and make your stomach wait a little longer.

    Thanks also to Terry for your continuing input 😉 – certainly a lot of “food for thought”

  • J. M. Auron

    Thanks Rodney! And I realized that I forgot to mention the most critical thing.

    At the end of the interview? Be absolutely to ask for next steps. That will give you a much clearer idea of interest – and will also give you a clear path to follow up.

  • Richard Edwards

    I prepare a bullet point presentation for the interview, which succinctly summarises my suitability for the role, using all the information I have gleaned in my research. This includes items restated from my cover letter and CV, but done in very few words, in large type. This achieves the following objectives:

    – The interviewer has physical proof that you have done your research
    – The interviewer sees that you are willing to invest time to get the job
    – If the interviewer has not fully analysed your CV & cover letter for your suitability (perhaps because they are a bit too detailed when screening lots of CVs) they have a succinct summary.
    – The interviewer has something to take away that reminds them you were different

    I think I’ve seen this tip from others elsewhere, and I find it works for me.

  • Terry Savage

    JM’s right, and I always do that.

    However, in my experience, fewer than 10% of all hiring managers make the hiring decision in the timeframe they give you. My suggestion to all is that you shouldn’t be discouraged by that. I’ve been called for a second interview two months after the first, but I was already doing something else by then, of course.

    It always mystifies me why a manager would do this. Whenever II’m serious enough about hiring for a position to interview people, it’s because I need something DONE. I have a very tight process that involves only group interviews, and multiple interviews per day. The period between interviews and my hiring decision is rarely more than 24 hours.

    But I know that I’m an outlier in this regard…



  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hey Richard,

    Thanks for your input – A great idea and this is what I would call my cheat sheet (point 3 of the blog). I had never thought of leaving it behind, but you make a very good point. It could very well set you apart by leaving this information for the interviewer.

    Although I’m still of the opinion how you connect while being interviewed makes the greatest difference. Its tools like your presentation that gives you the ability to connect well and give valid, succinct conversation. Which will lead to a memorable interview.


  • Greg Revell

    Hi Rodney,
    Great question. It jumped out at me as I was just writing about this topic recently. Lots of great advice here. For me, I take a slightlly different tack. I help my clients focus on the inner game (mind set). Here are some things I’d like to share with you from my world.

    1. Be detached (from the outcome). It’s about being able to convey a sense of assuredness that says you’re not desperate for the job. Sure, you’d love to get it, but you want your body language to say “you win some, you lose some – so what.”

    2. Set the context – this is a bit more of an advanced approach, but you can subtely “seize control” of the interview if you sense the right opportunity. You set the context by framing it early in the interview so it goes the way you want it to go thereafter. Without them realising it, the interviewer(s) will start to ask questions that you want them to ask!

    3. Deliver your message. This is basically your powerful “why” statement. This is the value-statement that tells them *why* they need to hire you (and a tip: it’s not about what you’ve done in the past!)

    Hope that adds something interesting to your conversation

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hey Greg,

    It’s seems this topic has jumped out at a number of people – which is great!

    Great advice mate – I especially like the mindset concept and this is what the physical preparation I discussed in the topic should help to enhance. But as you suggest above there is an entire science that can be applied to the mindset.

    Number 3 is a game winner and this is something that all professionals should work on – what makes you different, why are you the best for this role, how are you better than the other candidates etc. This takes time to develop and can change depending on the role. Its is also something that you need to take care with – Its very easy to sound egotistical and overbearing.

    Love your input mate – excellent points and great food for thought!

  • J. M. Auron

    Terry – I certainly know how you feel. When I was recruiting full time, I’d be very frustrated by companies who needed talent in a hurry – until I’d proposed 3 stellar candidates. There can be a number of reasons – but it’s often a disconnect between the hiring authority and HR. But my suggestion to candidates in a situation like that was clear. If a company is taking that long to make a decision? You probably don’t want to work there.

  • Terry Savage

    Yeah, I came to a similar conclusion. My view is that if I don’t have an offer in my hand…I don’t, and I keep looking. Until I have an offer, I don’t really have any decisions to make.

    Plenty of fish in the sea…



  • Luiz Nascimento

    1. Decide the exact profile that you want to get
    2. Create a list of “must knows”
    3. Select the few applicants that seem to fit the profile
    4. Create a kist of specific questions for the selected curricula
    5. Select the threshold question for each selected applicant
    6. Have the applicants talk of their previous activities
    7. Put relevant questions as required, trying to keep their num bers low
    8. Create the probable profiles of the most promising candidates.
    9. Compare your requested profile with the candidates’
    10. Chose and make an offer.
    Induction, as required.

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hi JM / Terry,

    Topical digression – but interesting point nonetheless 😉

    In principle I agree that timeliness on the employer side is very important. But I guess in many cases if your going for a job – there is a reason. I personally would not have applied if I didn’t want or possibly need the job. In the case that you really want/need the job, waiting may be your best option.
    Another point to add would be overseas positions – These jobs can take weeks or months to organise. The issue here is the external process of arranging visa’s and or work permits which can be quite a troublesome task. In these situations the contract can be subject to the authorisation of a work permit.

  • Mark Klincewicz

    Hi Rodney,

    I like the idea of bringing to the interview a notepad. Make sure you use it to jot down things that come to your mind, things that you find interesting and make sure you have some of the key points written down that sell yourself. This shows a sign that you come prepared and best of all it shows that you are a note taker, which is a great attribute at the C level.

    I pride myself on the janitorial school of business in that a janitor should never be found in the hallways without a rag in their hand. I teach this to my staff all the time. I challenge them to catch me walking around the office without some sort of paper or notebook in my hand.

    Bring that rag to the interview, and others will take note.

  • Terry Savage


    I didn’t mean to suggest that I would REJECT an offer just because they took an excessive amount of time to consider it. But I wouldn’t WAIT for it either.

    Even if I need *a* job, it doesn’t mean I need *their* job. Plenty of fish in the sea! While they’re cogitating, I’m not waiting; I’m looking. Every time a potential employer has gotten back to me after a long period of time, I’ve already gotten another job.

    There’s no excuse for excessively long hiring cycles.


  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hi Mark,

    I completely agree – an excellent suggestion, it’s a fantastic idea and one that I also emulate, although I do it with an IPad. Love your example about the janitorial side of the business!
    I had just recently discussed with a new trainee this exact principle – if you have something to write on and you use it, then you wont forget.

    Thanks for your input!

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hey Terry,

    No issues mate – I fully understand your point and have seen this in the past myself, I also dislike business procrastination.

    Your absolutely correct in regards to waiting – until an offer is confirmed you are still unemployed/ looking for your next role. In this case you should continue the job search and keep looking.

    As JM mentioned its important to ask for next steps at the end of the interview – this should give you some indication of a timeline. If the business is serious they should be able to tell you straight away when the final decision or offer will be made.

  • J. M. Auron

    Terry – some great points. I would always counsel candidates to continue the job search until an offer was in hand and signed. One of the great frustrations with recruiting – and with the job search generally – is that things can fall apart at the 11th hour. So, as the great Yogi Beara would have said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

    Mark – very true. Coming prepared is critical. And I agree with your points on a cheat sheet. Though I do feel – at the risk of sounding self serving – that that’s one of the functions of a superior resume. The resume can help direct the conversation, and guide it to one’s strongest accomplishments.

  • Luiz Nascimento

    Strategy, even winning strategy – and I put mine forward one day ago – needs to be flexible. With each new candidate we need to determine with the few initial questions, what is the best tactic to get all the answers and insight required. And there is no rules for this: our appraisal has to be on the spot and accurate for goos results.

  • Rod Byfield
    Rod Byfield Post author

    Hi Luiz,

    Flexibility is a good word and a component that should be considered in any interview, this is what preparation leads to – if you prepare well you will be able to “flex” better during the interview and cater for a wider list of questions.
    I agree there are no rules – but people can prepare for most interviews by considering well known and often used interview questions. Really its about the setting the correct mindset and giving yourself the chance to explain why you are the “game winner”.

    Thanks for your comments – sorry for the delay in reply, have been offline for a couple of days.


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