Interview Tips Part 1: The ‘Top 5’ Questions

What Interviewers Are Looking for

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Today’s labour market remains tough. When the market is competitive, the likelihood that there will be several candidates after a given job is high so it is important to differentiate yourself quickly from your competitors. That’s why I would suggest that you want to prepare well for a first interview.

After the first interview, your recruitment agent gives you some feedback which points to some hurdles you absolutely need to clear in the second interview if you want to stay in the running. What if you’re told: “They thought you were really quiet” or “They weren’t able to find out enough about your problem-solving skills” or “They think you can do the job but they’re not sure whether you’ll fit in”. How do you prepare for that second interview and get to the next stage?
Would you agree with me that you can’t just “wing” it? Preparation will make you more effective during the interview but it will also build up your confidence about how to navigate it. 

Here are my top 5 lines of enquiry when I interview:

1. Abilities: does this person really have the experience and skills base to do the job? Did they exaggerate or even lie on their CV? How can I check they can do all these wonderful things?

2. Fit: will this person be able to understand the complexities or specificities of our business? Will he/she be able to "figure it out"? Will this person be able to relate to and embrace the style in which we do business? Does he/she share many of the same values? 

3. Results: will this person accomplish what we’re bringing them in for? Will he/she be able to gather the support and cooperation of others in the organisation? Will he/she remain focused? What drives them? Will he/she be willing to go "the extra mile" to make it happen? 

4. Chemistry: will this person be able to fit in and become part of my team or is he/she a lone ranger or a prima donna? Is this an individual that we can rely on? Does this person readily share credit with others? Is this someone we will feel comfortable with? Will we enjoy working with this person on a day-to-day basis? Is this someone I and others in my team will be able to communicate with easily and effectively? Do we havesomething in common?

5. Motivation: how much does this person really want to work with us, or is he/she just job hunting? Is he/she eager to join us? Is he/she asking insightful questions which show genuine interest in working for us or is he/she just going through the motions?

When you think about the interviews you’ve had, do you recognise some of these lines of enquiry? Are there areas above with which you feel less comfortable about?

I hope that my ‘Top 5’ lines of enquiry are helpful. As always, I would be delighted to hear from you so email me directly at or leave me a comment. I will look forward to ‘seeing’ you in a few days when I will share my first two tips on interviewing well.

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  1. I am a CPA with Big-4 experience, a PBK member, Magna cum Laude, after returning to college in mid-life. After a 10-year career and In preparation for “downsizing,” I began to take on private clients and contract work with the goal of better controlling my work life. It has been a satisfying transition, but I now find it necessary to explore a full- or part-time position. My interviewing self-confidence is a bit shaky when it comes to my age, and most recent career path, since it has taken me out of the mainstream work environment.

    If I am the first to respond to your generous offer, are there tips that could help me go into an interview with increased confidence?

    Sharon Daly

    • Alexandra says:

      Hi Sharon, many thanks for your comment. I am hopeful that the forthcoming four interview tips will be helpful to you. Let me know if you have any questions once you see the next two videos. Warm regards, Alexandra

  2. robert serec says:

    Hi Alexandra, many thanks for this video session. Here’s a piece of my story I would like to share in order to confirm what you’ve just suggested in a nicely rounded interview description. I had a series of interviews from a phone call to a final interview with CEO, two of his closest teammates and a recruiter, and they tested me exactly the same way you’ve explained, walked me through the CV, my achievements, probing me with challenging ” and to some extent provocative questions” just to see my reactions, giving me a real challenge and asking for my input, solution, etc,… We got to yes, but since I am looking for international exposure we had to go separate ways. It was great experience. All of that leads me to a conclusion: If one wants to pass an interview session well, one should practice a lot and avoid exaggerating in order to make things look nicer or better as they really are, because that is going to make things worse and backfire for sure. You’ve demonstrated this nicely by top 5 lines which is an easy way for job searchers to understand this fact. And finally, I would suggest to job searchers as me to take every possible occasion in order to practice an interview and review video-sessions like this one.

    • Alexandra says:

      Robert, many thanks for sharing your experience. I am sure others will find it inspirational!

  3. Great tips, Alexandra!

    I’ve just shared this video on Facebook!


  4. Larissa says:

    Hi Alexandra, many thanks for your videos!
    I wanted to ask what you’d recommend in my case. I changed 3 companies in 5 years and am looking now for a position to combine with a study for my hobby (could be a second profession in the future). What kind of motivation/explanation would the hiring manager want to hear from me?

    • Alexandra says:

      Hello Larissa, I was in a similar situation with my last role in banking where I wanted to be able to pursue my studies in coach training. The way I sold the bank was by showing that my being better trained as a coach would be of benefit to the organisation. So one angle is to see whether your hobby may benefit the hiring manager. Otherwise, you may go for part-time work depending on how much time your studies take. I would advise that you be very transparent about your intentions but still manage to convey a genuine interest in the role you are applying for. Showing your drive to study also shows how motivated you are — which may serve the firm well too. These are just a few ideas which come to mind though I do not know the specifics of your situation. Hope they help!

      • Larissa says:

        Hello Alexandra, many thanks for your reply! I work in risk management and I am currently a first-year student of acupuncture. I think it is quite evident that my studies can benefit my health and overall well-being, but while I hear compliments for having such an interesting hobby, I feel that my interests make me less compatible with their vision of an ideal team member. Finding a part-time job also appeared to be difficult, as there are many candidates who are prepared to work full time (and do not have such a strange hobby). I wonder if there can be a solution for this situation, because moving to another sector is difficult when you have 3 major banks on your CV!

        • Alexandra says:

          Hi Larissa, that is an unusual situation! I’ve emailed you under separate cover. Friendly regards, Alexandra

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