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What Employers Look For in an Interview

Updated on May 23, 2011

What Employers Look For in Candidates during an Interview

Knowing what employers look for in candidates during the interview process gives you the best possible opportunity to get the job. Interviews can be daunting at the best of times so any advantage, however small, is worth taking. 

Firstly congratulations; if you've been called for an interview it means your CV has done its job and got you through the door - the rest is up to you.

Interviews are a two way street. They're a chance for both sides to learn about each other and to see whether they are suited, and being suited a job is dependant upon far more than having the right qualifications. From a company's point of view what employers look for are people who will fit in with their company culture and work ethic.

From an individuals point of view they need to be sure that it is the right job and company for them. If either side gets it wrong it can lead to an unhappy working relationship which, in the long run, neither side will benefit from.

What Employers Look For Before the Interview

In a nutshell what employers look for in a potential employee is someone who can fit in with their company and their company's ethos, and they start looking way before way before the actual interview.

Communication Skills:

When you are invited to interview it is normally in a manner which requires a response i.e. you need to either ring or write to confirm your attendance. This isn't so much an opportunity to impress as an opportunity to avoid giving a bad impression. If you need to ring to confirm do it quickly, promptly and politely - leaving it to the last minute does not look good. In the same vein a written response should be short (don't re-hash your cv in the letter, you've already got the interview), well written i.e. correct spelling and grammar and ideally typed. It also doesn't hurt to say you are looking forward to meeting your interviewer so long as don't use phrases such as 'can't wait' which come across as unprofessional.


Be on time, ideally arrive just a few minutes early. You don't need to arrive hours early, it won't get you in any quicker and will make you look desperate. If you do arrive very early, which often happens as it's good to give yourself plenty of time, try and find somewhere other than the company reception to kill some time - a coffee shop maybe.

Lateness is not good for interviews, however unexpected circumstances do arise, such as traffic jams (which has happened to me in the past) and generally interviews are understanding about this - but only if you let them know. So if you know you're going to be late phone and tell them and the chances are they will swap the schedule so you can still be interviewed. If you don't tell them they will assume (quite rightly) that you just haven't bothered to turn up when you do finally make it your failure to tell them you were going to be late will have raised questions about your punctuality, communication skills and dedication - not a good start to an interview.

First Impressions at Interview

If you're wondering how to impress in a job interview then you need to be aware that the first few seconds are crucial and what the interviewer sees and hears of your social skills in those first seconds will form the basis of their impression for the rest of the interview.

Personal Appearance:

Your personal appearance in the workplace is very important so please remember that you're going for an interview and not to meet your mates. That doesn't mean mean you necessarily have to wear a suit but your clothing should be appropriate to both the job you are applying for and the company you want to work for. For example if the company has a corporate policy of employees wearing business suits then it is a good idea to wear one to the interview. If a company has a more relaxed dress code you can wear something more casual so as it is smart and tidy i.e. no missing buttons or scuffed shoes.

Your Entrance to the Interview:

The best way to enter an interview room is to be confident, bright, make eye contact with those in the room and introduce yourself politely i.e. 'Good Afternoon my name is xx, it's a pleasure to meet you'.

'Hi', 'Alright', 'Hiya' are not professional greetings ~ and neither is mumbling into the floor or saying nothing.

On the other hand you don't want to be bouncing into the room like a demented Tigger, so keep it cool, calm and collected and project a professional front.

What Skills Do Employers Look For

Employers want to know whether the skills you stated on your CV were the truth, a slightly exaggerated form of the truth, or a downright pack of lies. To find this out they ask you questions - lots of them - and your answers are going to tell them what they need to know, and it's not just your answers, it's how you say them.

As well as exploring technical skills through the questions, your responses show your communication skills, how you handle pressure, how you handle difficult situations etc - you need to view the whole experience as an opportunity to show what you can do.


Speak clearly and at a conversational pace. If you're nervous it can be hard not to rush your words but just remember that from reading your CV the people interviewing you already think you can do the job (otherwise they wouldn't be interviewing you) so this is your opportunity to back that up and prove you are the right person for the job.

If you're not sure about a question ask for clarification, much better to do that and then be able to give a meaningful answer than to give an answer to a question you thought was asked. Give examples to back up your answers whenever up can as this can demonstrate the practical application of your skills.

Above all be yourself. Employers value honesty and are looking for employees who will fit into their business. If you try and give the answers you think they want at interview the chances are this will backfire as you could end in a company completely unsuited to you.

Normally, at the end of an you will be asked if you have any questions. If you do have one or two that's fine, and it can be a good idea to have a couple of questions lined up as it makes you look interested. If those questions are answered as part of the interview you can also say 'I was going to ask about X but that's been covered so I have no further questions'.

Do not go in with a list of 20 questions about the benefits that come with the job rather than about the job itself. For interviewers this raises questions about your motivation.

At The End of The Interview

 Thank the interviewer for seeing you and for their time. If you haven't been told when you'll hear about the job it's fine to ask how long they think it will be.

If they say a week and a week later you haven't heard then it's fine to phone and check what's going on, but don't start phoning on a daily basis as each time you call any chance you had of getting the job will diminish rapidly.

If you didn't get the job but did like the company there is nothing to stop you writing a short letter to thank them for interviewing you, that you're sorry you weren't successful and you'd be very happy if they would bear you mind for future positions.

Where to Get Help With Interviews

 If the thought of attending an interview leaves you cold, there are things you can do.

1. Remember that the reason you're being called to interview is because they already think you have the skills to do the job  - they just want to check their facts and see if you will fit into the organisation.

2. Get someone to do some mock interviews with you. Interviews are a series of questions and answers and a lot of it is about thinking on your feet so ask a friend to do some practice interviews with you to go through you CV and get you used to answering questions.

3. There are companies that offer interview coaching and interview training if you really want to pull out all the stops.

A Qucik Word on CV's

If you're not getting called to interview as often as you would like it would be worth giving your CV a good once over. Job descriptions answer the question 'what skills do employers look for' and your CV should show an employer that you have those skills.

If you're not sure how to lay out your CV then it's worth having a look at some free CV templates for suggestions, and once you have your template read up on as many tips to make your CV stand out as you can.


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    • felixkugz profile image


      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Obviously alot of time has gone into this post. It shows. Good job and keep posting!


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