What Employers are Really Looking For?

The key questions

There are only three main questions an interviewer wants to ask:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you do the job?
  • Will you fit in?

Structuring your planning around these three areas will help you to cover the most crucial issues likely to be covered during the interview, and give you the chance to prepare your key statements and responses to market yourself most effectively.

Can you do the job?

Questions in this area are intended to probe your background. It is unlikely you would have been invited for an interview if your qualifications and experience on paper did not match the criteria for the job. Most interviewers therefore will spend about 15% of the interview on this area.

Do you have the required qualifications?

If the job is very technical, you may be required to demonstrate greater in-depth technical knowledge in the interview. Be prepared to verify and back up any claims you make regarding qualifications and so on. Employers are increasingly using the services of data agencies to verify details given on CVs and application forms. Avoid ‘little white lies such as upgrading your A-Level results. A small fib found out will undermine your credibility totally.

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How does your previous experience meet the requirements of your target role?

Your job is to make sure you highlight how your experience and qualifications match the job you are targeting. Think about what they are looking for before the interview, and make a list of your key selling points.

Will you do the job?

Interviewers are interested to know why you are applying for their particular job. Most interviewers will spend around 15% – 20% of their time probing your reasons for change.

  • What is your motivation for putting yourself forward for this job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current / last job?

Be honest about your reasons for leaving your last job. Don’t be afraid to say you were made redundant, or that the company went bust (unless of, course, you were responsible for that!). If you left under a cloud, you will need to find a way of giving the details without jeopardising your future chances. If the problem was a personality clash, you will need to be diplomatic in saying this as no one wants to employ someone who is likely to rock the boat. If the reason was more serious, such as dishonesty, then it is best to be open. You will found out eventually if you try to cover up, and turning your mistakes into a positive learning experience will show you in a good light.

  • Why do you want to work for this organisation?
  • What do you know about this organisation?
  • What are your constraints regarding location / hours / flexibility etc?
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Find out as much as you can about the organisation and reflect this back at the interviewers in your reasons for wanting to work for the company. You might consider they have exciting products or service concepts, or an outstanding training programme, or present great opportunities for personal development. The more you know about the organisation, the better armed you will be to make a considered choice about IF you want to work for them. The interviewer will appreciate your seriousness in doing your research.

Will you fit in?

The crucial question for most interviewers is will your face fit. Interviewers will spend around 65% to 70% of their time probing your work style and personal characteristics.

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If you are a good match to the organisational culture, other aspects of your experience and qualifications may be considered less important. At the end of the day, no one wants to employ someone they don’t like. The acid test is whether they could see themselves sharing an office with you. Here, your unspoken communication is just as important as what you say. How you dress and how you handle yourself give off vital messages. Do you look like you’re already one of the team? Do you dress like them? Speak like them? Wear the same old school tie? The key is to look like you already belong. But, above all, be natural. If you put on a performance, chances are you won’t be comfortable in your new environment, and it won’t be long before your colleagues realise it too.

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