Job interviews: it is really what you say AND the way that you say it

by Annie Tang in Blog

DatePosted on August 27, 2015 at 05:45 PM
Share share

Have you ever wondered how come you didn’t pass that job interview and get that dream job? The outcome actually depends on the fact that everything you say — including questions you raise — during your interview will be considered either in, or against, your favour.  So if you have attended several interviews with different organisations lately and not succeeded, it's less likely to do with your qualifications and experiences, but how you came across at interview.  

Let's say you attend an interview and leave the venue quite pleased that you managed to answer all the questions fully. The meeting lasted 35-45 minutes, which is a reasonable amount of time to get to know each other, you provided a good, firm handshake and you and the interviewer were smiling politely at each as you said your farewells. Yet, a few days later, you receive the bad news that your application has been unsuccessful. 

Often, this is why your recruiter will try to get your feedback on the interview as soon after the interview as possible.  Not only are they looking out for positive signs from you, the recruiter is trying to identify if there were any 'red warning signs' from what you said that could have led the interviewer to conclude you're not a good fit for the vacancy or for his/her organisation. 

Whether you go through a recruiter or not, the post-interview self-evaluation is a very important part of your own job hunting process. Being honest with yourself,  knowing where you faltered and how you could improve at your next interview will help you develop a more effective interviewee persona. It's a bit like after sitting an exam, you review your answers and see whether you could have answered them differently.

With this in mind, here are SIX critical areas which may affect the outcome of your interview:

1. You ask whether the role will offer a work/life balance

How this question goes down really depends on the interviewer.  If they are a workaholic and think that you are getting paid to do your job, they may get annoyed that you even ask this question. Instead of launching into the question, it’s best to gauge what the interviewer’s outlook is. You can normally get a sense of this from the things that he/she says. For example, they may say that they want the whole team to leave the office by 6.30 pm at the latest, or if they mention that all team members are expected to travel at a moment's notice or are expected to work weekends regardless of how much workload or business there actually is. 

2.  You talk about your previous employers (including boss/colleagues) in a negative way

This is always a 'no-no' because they know that if they hired you, they wouldn’t want you speaking about them in the same way! At best, you might be seen as someone who is transparent and honest.  At worst, they will feel that you are a gossip or a trouble maker who is likely to affect the stability of their team or damage team morale.

3.  You ask whether there any additional resources at hand or team support

Whilst this question may be an important factor to a prospective interviewee, you should try to find out this information beforehand from your recruiter. An employer who has lean resources and needs an open-minded and committed team-player may feel that you are not very 'hands-on' in your work or ready to roll up your sleeves and that you need to delegate most of your work. In which case, the question troubling the interviewer will be, why should they hire you in the first place if you're not willing to do the things you're being hired to do? 

4.  You ask whether there’s a chance to move to a business role from a back office role in the future

Again, depending on the interviewer, they may be thinking, if I’m interviewing you for this job, why are you so keen to move into a different department/role already when they need you for this particular role?  However, other interviewers in a more open-minded organisation might see this as a positive in that you can see yourself working for this organisation long term and can envisage developing your career in the same organisation. You can gauge what sort of organisation you're interviewing at by asking the interviewer what attracted him or her to the organisation in the first place.  If the interviewer mentions the openness of the organisation to develop employees by giving them opportunities in different roles and in different teams or group companies, you get your answer! 

5.  You ask about salary or other benefits

Salary/package is a sensitive issue and should only be raised by the interviewer.  Asking about salary during an interview (and certainly during the first interview) is a definite 'no-no'. Not only is it premature to be asking such questions, and some interviewers often find this rude, but it also reflects that you are more driven by the money than the role itself. Leave this to be negotiated/discussed by your recruiter. 

6.  Your body language says 'what am I doing here?'

Since 80% of all communication is non-verbal, if you're not dressed for the part or don't have the right posture for interview (at one end of the spectrum, being too relaxed, at the other, being too aggressive or dominant) or you don't maintain eye contact, the interviewer may either blank out, misinterpret what you have to say, or have selective hearing. If you haven't done so, watch this excellent TED talk from Amy Cuddy, mentioned in a previous post. Talking over an interviewer before they've finished asking a question isn't going to do you any favours either. 


Did you enjoy reading this article? 

Then go to our Facebook and Linkedin pages and 'like' them for more articles, discussions and tips on job hunting and career development!  

About the Author

Annie Tang

Annie is a co-Managing Director of Star Anise, focusing on in-house legal roles. She is a former practising Hong Kong lawyer and a mother of two.

Connect with Annie on LinkedIn:




Read more Articles by this author