“Knowing the right answers can land you the job”

By Cape Argus

Job-hunting coach and CV writer Gerard le Roux says there are three types of questions you should pay attention to when facing a job interview.

If you don’t have the answers to any one of the three types of questions, or haven’t prepared for them, you will be damaging your chances of hearing the words, “You’ve got the job”, Le Roux says.

The first type of question relates to the company. Le Roux gives some examples:

  • What’s the company history?
  • How does it make money?
  • What’s the company’s reputation and how was this built?
  • How does the company go about its business?
  • What’s its biggest accomplishment?
  • What’s its biggest failure?
  • What does it value in its people?
  • What do you have that fits with what the company is trying to do?

Le Roux says these questions are important because your background knowledge shows that you’re interested in the company, and that this is not “just another interview” for you.

The research involved in finding the answers will also help you identify where you can make a difference, and you’ll tailor your presentation to focus on the most relevant aspects of your experience, he says.

He says you can find answers to these questions on the company website, in its sales/marketing material, or through media reports (do a Google search). “And here’s an insider tip, especially if the potential employer is a small or medium-sized company: call up the company beforehand and ask for someone in the sales department.

Be honest, tell them your situation, ask for five minutes of their time and ask your questions,” Le Roux advises.

Type two questions are those tough interview questions. Here are some examples:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Tell me about your biggest failure?
  • Why are you a good candidate for this position?
  • How would you tackle this job?


The interviewer will ask these questions for two reasons: they know they’re tough and want to test how you deal with them under pressure; and they want to know the answers to see how you’ll fit into the role, says Le Roux.

You’ll find the answers to these questions deep inside yourself, he says.

“As you will face these sort of questions in one form or another, prepare short, to-the-point, honest answers. Rehearse with friends or family – or find a mentor with some business experience who can guide you.”

The third type of questions is the questions you can ask, he says. Examples include:

  • How did the vacancy arise?
  • What are some of the failures in the position so far?
  • What are some of the successes in the position/department so far?
  • What would you like to see the new person accomplish in the first three months?
  • What does management value most in the person filling the role?

“Ask these questions in your own words, and understand why they’re good questions. If you’re not sure, don’t ask them, otherwise you’ll be caught wrong-footed if the interviewer should ask you to explain what you mean.”

Le Roux explains that questions of this type are important because they “mine” crucial information.  “They provide insight and help you to tailor your presentation to suit the client. They show confidence, and demonstrate that you want to get to the heart of the position in order to provide a solution.

“Not many other applicants will ask them,” says Le Roux.

And, James Caan recommends asking these 3 questions:

What qualities are you looking for in the person you are hoping to appoint?

This may sound like a very obvious starting point but it is vital for both parties to grasp exactly what it is needed from candidate in terms of skills and experience. Remember the whole point of the interview is to prove you are the person that they want and are looking for. There is a much better chance of being able to do that if you actually ask the interviewers straight from the start what their ideal candidate would be.

What scope is there for personal development at your company?

It is important to show any prospective employee that you are the type of person who is ambitious and is looking to move their career forward. No one wants to take on an individual who is going to be content to coast and you need to show that you are not coming along just for an easy ride. Any ambitious and forward thinking company will be looking for like minded individuals. Ask a question which will give you give the chance to show just how driven you are.

Is there anything you have seen in the other people on the shortlist that you have not seen in me?

This is a great question to throw into the mix as the interview is drawing to a natural close. I remember a candidate asking me this once and I had to smile because it left me with nowhere to go. As well as turning the tables on the panel it is also a great way of gauging just how well or how badly you have performed throughout the course of the selection process. You should always be looking to improve and getting feedback from an interviewer is a crucial part of this. It is a risky strategy to take because you might get an answer you are not happy with. But if you are prepared to take a risk, then this final question is a gamble that just might pay off.


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