Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

  | James Innes

Sometimes, the best person for a job, in terms of the right skills, experience and achievements, doesn’t always pass the interview. What may appear to be the most able candidate on paper can really shoot themselves in the foot when they actually get to the interview, because they fail to prepare and assume, if they just turn up, everything will be fine. Unfortunately for them, this won’t get them the job. You need to work hard to get yourself ready for an interview, as you are still up against many other applicants – and this is your key opportunity to make an impact.

The interview is one of the most critical points in the job search process. Whilst you might look great on paper, you need to subsequently prove that in front of a hiring manager. Many other factors that are not related to the person’s ability to do the job are going to be picked up in the interview.

For example, are you a good fit with your future co-workers and employers? Do you understand the company and its industry, what are important trends and developments?

Here at the The CV Centre we have developed a pre-interview questionnaire to help you plan and prepare for an interview. It should help to get you thinking about all the most important issues you need to consider before the big day.


Regarding yourself and your interview history:

(a)         How many interviews have you attended within the past two years and how many of these have resulted in a job offer?

(b)         If any of your interviews failed to win you a job offer, why do you think that was?

(c)          What, if any, feedback have you received from an interviewer after an interview?


If you have won an interview for a specific role within a specific organisation:

(a)         Have you applied for a position at this organisation before and/or what previous knowledge or experience of the organisation do you have?

(b)         What is it about this particular position that appeals to you?

(c)          If this position marks a change in career direction for you then why have you decided to make this change?

(d)         What, if any, is your understanding/perception of the organisation’s internal culture?

(e)         What, if any, further information do you have with regard to the kind of skills and experience the organisation is looking for?

(f)          Have you been asked to prepare a presentation and, if so, what instructions have you been given? For example, content, time, visual aids to use, etc.


We recommend you take the time to complete the questions above before any interview. It’s only a short list of key questions but it should really help to get you thinking in the right direction

In terms of Interview questions and answers, there are, of course, thousands of possible questions you could be asked. However, there are some perennial favourites that will be asked, in one form or the other, in nearly every interview you attend. Therefore, it’s most important that you prepare thoroughly for the following ‘top ten’.

1            Tell me about your work experience – what did you do, what did you enjoy, what were you good at, why did you leave each job?

2            Why have you applied for this vacancy?

3            Why do you wish to leave your current position?

4            Why do you want to work for this organisation?

5            What are your strengths?

6            What are your weaknesses?

7            What has been your greatest achievement – in your personal life as well as in your career?

8            What can you, above all the other applicants, bring to this job?

9            Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

10          You’ve mentioned x under the Interests and activities on your CV. Can you tell me a bit more about that?


You should make sure you think very carefully through your answers to all these questions before getting anywhere near an interview room. Try to understand the meaning behind each question – what the interviewer’s intentions are in asking you the question.

On average, there are likely to be at least five candidates being interviewed for the same vacancy, which means, everything else being equal, that you have, at the most, a 20 per cent chance of getting the job. However, if you put the time and effort in beforehand, there is so much you can do to improve your odds of success. You may be the best candidate for the job – now go and prove it!

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