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Win the interview, win the job!

The reengineering and transformation of companies globally has resulted in many employees having to re-apply for positions in the companies in which they are employed.  No doubt this process can leave applicants traumatised and elevate stress to unmanageable levels.  Minimise your risk in the process by following these simple rules:

The Primacy Effect

Critical first impressions count.  The primacy effect is made up of three aspects:

1.Visual impact:  

What you look like, how well-groomed you are.  Remember to match the expectations of the people who will be interviewing you.  An interview is a formal situation and as such one should dress out of deference or respect for the interviewer.  If your dress code is formal meaning suit and tie, it will be a good idea to follow this norm.  If, however, the dress code is informal, no jacket or tie – it would be unrealistic to go to the interview wearing a formal suit.  But at the same time, it would be inappropriate to arrive in jeans and a T-shirt.

Dress for Men

Wear a suitable business suit/smart casual outfit and button the jacket if you are wearing one. Your shirt should have a well-fitting collar rather than a soft collar which looks untidy. If you are wearing a tie, it should be discreet and tied correctly. Socks should match the colour of your trousers and not your shoes.  Pay attention to the small details such as your hands – make sure your nails are clean, that your hair is neat and that any facial hair is well groomed.  It is not a good idea to leave one finger nail long, as this may leave people wondering about what you do with it.

Dress for Women

Wear a suitable business outfit in which you feel comfortable and attractive; do not try to be too seductive or too dowdy. Preferably avoid wearing a brand-new ensemble unless you are sure that the skirt will not ride up when you sit down or that the top will not need constant adjustment.

Don’t wear excessive make-up and avoid wearing ostentatious, jangling jewellery; rather limit your accessories to a few tasteful pieces.

It is preferable to wear low comfortable shoes rather than very high heels which may make you appear unsteady if you have to walk far.

Do not try a new hairstyle on the morning of the interview; as long as your hair is clean and tidy (i.e. not falling in your eyes or all over your face), you will present a clean-cut image.

2.Vocal Impact

Successful candidates participate actively in the interview. They demonstrate a knowledge of and interest in the company and how their particular skills will fulfil the company’s requirements.  They ask intelligent questions about the responsibilities, duties, and opportunities entailed in the job.  They are keen and self-assured without being overbearing.  

They establish a congenial but not over-familiar rapport with the interviewer.

Regardless of how impressive credentials are on paper, the interviewer will choose the candidate who appears suited to the company’s present environment.

3.  Psychological Impact

Attitude is critical.  Appear motivated, intelligently curious or open-minded, confident, friendly and forthcoming.

Role Play

It is inadvisable to attend an interview without some practice in interviewing techniques.

Practice your interview skills by preparing answers to the kinds of questions you can always expect and then role-play.  Ask someone to act as an interviewer and question you. Practice your answers until you can respond naturally and without hesitation or repetition.   

Do’s and Don’t during the interview

An interview is a formal situation between strangers and, as such, certain codes of behaviour should be adhered to:


  • Be pleasant without gushing
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer as you both talk; looking away indicates uncertainty.
  • If you feel that the interviewer is indulging too much in small talk, direct the interview back to the job and your qualifications.
  • Summarise by saying you are interested in the job and that you are loyal and hard working.

Do Not:

  • Do not address the interviewer by his/her Christian name unless specifically requested to.
  • Avoid jokes, way-out slang, profanity.
  • Don’t chew gum or smoke.
  • Don’t touch or fiddle with anything in the office unless invited to do so.
  • Don’t go into lengthy details concerning any personal problems you may have.  Keep it relevant and to the point.


  • If you do not know the answer say so.  Do not try and ad lib an inadequate response to questions – say that it is not within your field of expertise.
  • Allow your face to reflect expressions – do not have a wooden expression.  Maintain an interested and animated expression at all times.
  • Start formulating your answer as they begin to ask the question.  Draw on prepared questions you have or special statements that you have prepared.  But listen carefully before responding appropriately.
  • Answer with a positive response first, then address the negative and finally conclude with something positive.
  • When you wish to shift the conversation to other areas, make use of phrases such as “Yes, but please remember that”, or ‘that can also be applied to..’, or ‘That’s an interesting point’, ‘that can also be applied to ..’  

Answering Questions:

There are two cardinal rules for answering questions in an interview:

  1. Be prepared.  Off the cuff answers can be most damaging to your chances as you may inadvertently give totally inappropriate answers or you may omit salient points in your haste to appear alert and non-hesitant.
  2. Listen to the questions.  You will irritate an interviewer if you answer a question that was not asked or if you digress by indulging in superfluous drivel.
  3. If a lengthy silence develops during the interview, it is wise to smile and remain silent yourself.  This silence is often used by interviewers to assess if you can handle stress and still maintain your poise.
  4. If you are asked a personal question do not be afraid to tell the interviewer that you have never been asked a question like that before and that you would appreciate a moment to think about your answer.  The interviewer will respect your candour and the fact that you think before speaking.

My Pocket Coach prepares candidates for job interviews.  For further information call My Pocket Coach on (011) 781-1444