Interviews are as much about your communication skills as what you have to say. Every part of an interview is basically a sales pitch, proving yourself a better interviewee than the other candidates. This is your chance, take it.

There are other sides to interviews which are far less obvious.

One of them is the fact that you get the opportunity to check out your potential new workplace and the people you're working with. That's important, because it will affect how you handle your interview. The better oriented you are to your surroundings, the better you'll do in the interview.

Some workplaces can be scary, others can be truly off-putting in the most unambiguous way. Give yourself a bit of time to get accustomed to the environment, and you'll find you can feel a bit more relaxed when you get to the interview. Arrive early, sit down, and acclimatize.

Despite rumors, interviews aren't all about psychology and weird forms of logic being inflicted on interviewees. The questions are usually designed to get all relevant information in the time allotted for the interview.

The basic structure of any interview is actually very straightforward. The questions are really:

  • Who are you, as a person?
  • What experience do you have?
  • What have you achieved?
  • How do you perform in the workplace?
  • Will you fit in with our people?
  • Can you handle particular situations, and how?
  • What values do you add to the job?
  • Can you demonstrate you're better than the other candidates, and how?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your career objectives?

From these very basic, and very necessary, requirements for information, literally hundreds of questions can be created in relation to any job, in any industry. Some are relatively subtle, some are very direct, almost sledgehammer-like, and to the point.

There are various types of interviews and interview techniques, and they all have essentially the same need to get specific information.

The essential criteria of a job application are pretty much a road map of the questions the interviewers must ask. After interviewing all candidates, the interviewer has to make a written recommendation, and back it up with a consensus among the interview panel.

This is a legal process. Employment laws do allow some rights to candidates to appeal decisions or complain about interviews being unfair, so employers don't want to guess about whether they're getting it right. That's why the interview is conducted as a formal process.

The fundamental issue for interviewees is giving good answers to questions which prove their abilities and enhance their chances of getting the job. That's also part of the process, because the answer is used as part of the basis for the decision to hire.

Good answers get jobs.

People get the wrong idea about interviews, and how to answer interview questions. Every once in a while, people come up with the idea that you can just parrot your way through an interview, reciting something learned by heart.

Not true. The interviewers will have heard it all before, from a lot of people, and they definitely won't be hiring everyone they interview. They might assume that you're just parroting, and don't really understand the question, or the answer.

Either way, they're not likely to be particularly impressed. You can't stand out at an interview by doing the same things as everybody else.

There do have to be some common elements in any correct answer to the same question, however it's asked, or answered.

How you answer in your own words, however, will give much more of an indication of whether you understand the question or not.

If you don't understand the questions, you don't understand what the issues concerning that question are, in relation to the job.

The questions are trying to discover what you know, not what some employment industry author knows.

That's why this series isn't about giving people answers to recite.

It's far more important to understand the purpose of the questions, recognize what information is needed, and to give meaningful answers.

Now, the good news.

If you know your stuff, you already know how to answer most, maybe all, of the questions.

It's getting your foot out of your mouth that's the hard bit.

Often it's not what people say in their answers that's wrong. It's how they organize their information.

If the answer is ABCDEFG, it comes out a ADGBCEF, or maybe only a few of the points, missing elements, and jumbling up the whole answer.

In your own work you know how to explain things, and if you're experienced, you can do it well. You may, actually, do it every day. We'll go into this in more detail later. For now, just bear in mind that interviews are all about information, and you do have that information.

Never be put off or overawed by interview questions.

There's no mystery or secret code.

They're the sort of questions you'd probably ask someone yourself, if you were interviewing someone for your own job.

If the answer is correct, you've solved the problem. You've also kept yourself in the race with the other candidates.

Remember, this is a competitive process. If you play any sort of competitive game, try thinking of your interview like that.

Generally speaking, there will be two or three surviving candidates at the end of the interviews. The interviewers then have to make a choice, and they may well have to check the answers. The person who gets more correct answers is always in the running for any job.

Another reassuring fact is that even if you don't get the job first time round, you're still in the running with a good chance if the chosen candidate can't do the job, or is disqualified for some reason.

That does happen, far more often that people realize. You'll be on the short list at the very least, or you may simply be appointed to the position, as the next cab off the rank.