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Interview questions – Do’s and Don’ts

by Kathie Kelly on November 19, 2012

At some stage in your career you are sure to find yourself on either side of the dreaded interview scenario. Let’s just put it out there – there are some terrible interview questions that make their way into the interview process.

“If you were an animal, which animal would you be?” I’m guessing a sloth is not a great response here. But really, what on earth does this tell you about a person’s ability to do the job? Apparently it tells prospective employers how you perceive yourself. A less dated version of this might be; “Tell me what your last boss would say about you if I met them in a social setting? What about your partner, mum, or best friend?”

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” If you say “right here in this job” you appear ambitionless. ‘In your seat’ and you seem predatory and ‘succeeding in this company’ sounds like a suck up. A better question to ask would be, “How do you hope to be remembered when you retire?” This will help the applicant talk about what really motivates them and what they really enjoy.

Perhaps out of arrogance, interviewers tend to spend all of the allocated time asking questions.

A more fruitful experience for both parties is a two-way conversation

 An interviewer needs to give something of themself in the process otherwise what reason would the applicant have to work for them? This is a marriage of sorts, as it’s well documented that it’s not all about having the right skills to generate success in a new company, but rather fitting in culturally with the immediate and greater teams that will see you settling in and achieving quickly. Some good tips here are to talk (in broad terms) about the goals you have for the team/department, some recent achievements and give some context to the career path on offer.

Compatibility of both parties

Now here’s a tip that we use as recruiters – find out the pain points of your candidate. It doesn’t matter whether you are interviewing or you are the applicant, this technique will help you gain some insight. What’s important to your applicant or to the hiring manager? It could be some factors such as growth opportunities, location, flexibility, generating new business, deadlines and reputation. Once you have ascertained this information you can then align the two parties. Remember what your mum used to say, “You can’t put a round peg into a square hole.” It holds very true in the recruitment process, but sometimes we don’t marry up all our pain points and one party is left seriously underwhelmed.

Be prepared

Of course, you can Google interview questions and thousands will appear. Before you head into an interview though, stop and think about what you want to achieve and what you need to find out to make an informed decision. If you are an employer, never go into an interview under-prepared as this interaction could be the only impression an applicant gets about your business. Or, if you are the applicant, remember that even if the role you are interviewed for is not an exact fit, the interviewer may know of other vacancies that are yet to be advertised.

Finally, and again I am talking to both applicant and employer, have a think about what your non negotiables are compared to which aspects you are willing to be flexible about. For employers, think about what you really need this person to achieve in the next 12 months; does the position description accurately reflect this? And for applicants, really think about why you want to leave your current role and what needs to be different in your next position. Is the grass necessarily greener and will this new role provide you with that all-important job satisfaction? As in any business negotiation, know your bottom line.

With all of these things in mind, you should be able to approach your next interview with a clear plan of what you hope to get out of the meeting, and perhaps you might even enjoy the conversation!

Kathie Kelly

Kathie Kelly is the National Manager – Recruitment Solutions of BUSY At Work an organisation which provides workforce planning and recruitment services to businesses throughout Queensland and Australia.

Kathie is also a travel junkie,  has a keen appreciation for music, dance and live theatre, along with being a mad rugby league follower. You can connect with Kathie on LinkedIn at

Top image: jamelah

Kathie Kelly
With a background in both corporate and community organisations, Kathie felt there was an opportunity to use her skills to assist not for profit, charitable and arts organisations reach their potential through providing assistance in raising funds, generating and diversifying income streams. Hence Square Pegs was born - to help identify and connect partners and stakeholders with the aim of building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships. This might be through reviewing or writing grants/tenders/award submissions, developing strategies to attract sponsors, negotiating corporate partnerships or creating fundraising campaigns. All with the aim to help you keep doing the good work you do, but with a sustainable funding base to work from!
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