A to Z of how to crack interviews

Surinder Narain Ahuja , Last updated: 02 June 2015  

An interview is a conversation between two or more people where questions are asked by the interviewer, answered by the interviewee and vice versa, to elicit professional suitability to each other.

Interview is” Exchange of Information”, where each party seeks or gives information

During an interview, an interviewer evaluates and an interviewee does marketing of - “Professional knowledge, skills, mobility, good communication skills, personality, positive attitude and seeks right financial reward, appropriate to the position in question”

This article is focused on types of interviews, different phases of an interview, post interview activities and how to prepare for an interview.

Types of interviews

1. Telephonic interview

Sometimes the interviewers conduct telephonic interviews to cover a large number of candidates in a short span of time. The objective in this case may to have a brief conversation with all candidates and select the ones whom the interviewer would like to meet in person, like an elimination round or alternatively, the first round.

As an interviewee, one should consider the following critical aspects

a. Prepare thoroughly

b. Take the call from a quick place with no background noise

c. Preferably use a landline such that there is no network disruption and keep your mobile on silent mode

d. Do not eat or drink during interview; if required, have water but ensure that the phone is on mute

e. Lastly, have your job related records organized and handy.

2. Face to face or In-person interview

This can be a meeting between you and one or two members of the staff (like an interviewee panel). It is also called Screening Interview, where the basic purpose is to get initial impression of your technical skills, non verbal communication skills, attitude, interest and professional conduct.

3. Selection interview

During this interview, in depth questions are asked to evaluate your professional knowledge for the position and your ability to suit the position. You are expected to market yourself as a natural addition to the team.

4. Panel Interview

During this interview, a number of people are sitting as a panel and one acts as a chairperson. Such type of interview is popular within the Public Sector as well in Campus Hiring.

While the interviewer will be lead by the Chairperson, other members ask questions related to the area that they are assessing. In most scenarios, panel members comprise of human resources, technical experts, supervisors and Head of Departments.

5. Group interview

Such interview is also called Group Discussion. During this interview, several candidates are present and they are asked to interact with each other.

During the discussion, the interviewer is a silent observer of various aspects e.g. leadership, knowledge, communication skills, team spirit, good listener etc. This technique is also used as an elimination round.

6. Sequential interview

There are several rounds of interviews, each time with different interviewers. Each Interviewer may ask different set of questions and some questions may be repetitive. While answering the interviewees, treat each interview like the first interview and do not take it lightly.

7. Lunch/ dinner interview

Such interviews are generally conducted for senior management hiring, being confidential in nature and avoidable in an office set up.

If such interviews are conducted to line or mid level positions, it is to assess the communication skills, interpersonal skills as well as table etiquettes. While ordering your meals, do not order the most expensive or most economical food items and take the middle path. Whether it is lunch or dinner never order alcoholic beverages and choose soft drinks instead. Take caution not to spill food or drinks

8. Video conference interview

Video interviews are primarily used to facilitate communication between the interviewer and interviewee from different locations

One must do preparation for such an interview by practicing in front of a video camera or mirror so as to overcome camera consciousness. You can also explore using Skype or Google chat to do a mock interview with a friend.

Different phases of an interview

The interview process can be divided into three phases

1. Warm up phase
2. Main content phase
3. Wrap up phase

Phase 1: Warm up (when you enter)

During this phase, more of non verbal communication and less of verbal communication is used. Once you are entering the interview cabin, please keep in mind the following steps:

a. Do not enter the interview room with your travel baggage

b. Walk briskly, with purpose, heads up and stand up straight

c. Greet an individual or panel of interviewers in one go appropriately….i.e. good morning/afternoon/evening

d. Shake hands only when the interviewer(s) extend hand. Give the interviewer a firm handshake, and maintain eye contact.

e. Sit in the chair only when asked for. Ideal way of sitting is with your feet firmly planted on the floor or on the support provided by the chair with a straight back.

f. Do not keep your hands on the table; keep them either in your lap or arms of the chair.

g. Do not keep your folder on the interviewer’s table, without seeking permission or keep the folder either on the additional chair or along with the chair on the floor.

h. If offered Tea/Coffee, politely decline unless it is Tea Time, you may join them. Asking for water is perfectly normal and feel free to ask for it

i. Don’t be over-friendly

Phase 2: Main content

During this phase, the real interview starts, wherein the HR or Technical round are conducted. An interviewee while answering the technical questions should use technical language rather than speaking like a layman.

First impression - factors of interviews

a. Don't say anything negative about former colleagues, supervisors, or employers

b. Do make sure that your good points come across to the interviewer in a factual, sincere manner

c. Don't ever lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and succinctly. And don't over-answer questions

d. Don't offer any negative information about yourself

e. Don't answer questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Explain whenever possible. Describe those things about yourself that showcase your talents, skills, and determination. Give examples

Phase 3: warn up stage

At the end of the interview there are three situations:

a. You have given a very good interview; you may or may not have been given a job offer

b. You have given good interview and the interviewer will revert back to you after few days

c. You have not given a good interview

Six post interview activities

1. Be proactive

During interview, if you have promised to send any additional document or information, make sure it is implemented immediately.

2. Thank you letter

At the end of interview, the interviewee should endeavor to collect Business Card from the interviewer or collect the information directly from the office.

Within a day or two, the interviewee should write separate letters of thanks to all the interviewers. Each letter should be personalized and distinct.

3. Evaluate

Right after interview, recall what happened during the interview:

Ask yourself

a. What went right?

b. What went wrong?

c. What can be improved?

Do this as first activity after coming out of the interview, since everything will be fresh in your mind and you will be in a position to recall. Be truthful to yourself during this exercise.

4. Make follow up call

It is always good to follow up and ask about your status. Be polite and not pushy. Polite follow up is an indicator of good business etiquette and will help you to set yourself apart from other candidates who do not follow up.

5. Recall Difficult Questions

Immediately after the interview, when your memory is fresh, make note of the difficult questions you were asked and later prepare the answers. In this way you can improve your performance in the next interview.

6. Continue your job search

In spite of the fact that you have given a good interview, at the same time there are many more candidates for interview. Thus you cannot be sure till you are communicated about your selection. One should continue with the job search.

How to prepare for an interview

While preparing for the interview, the following FACTORS should be kept in mind:

i. Know yourself
ii. Know about the employer
iii. Know your subject
iv. Anticipate questions
v. Anticipate interviewer’s expectations

1. Know Yourself – Introspection

Take inventory of your skills

Generic Skills

• Technical and generic skills
• Past experience and specialization
• Personal attributes including hobbies
• Analytical skills
• Problem solving skills
• Flexibility / versatility
• Inter-personal skills
• Oral and written communication
• Organization and planning
• Time management
• Motivation
• Leadership
• Self starter / initiative
• Team player
• Know Yourself - SWOT Analysis


• Good team player
• Communication skills
• Client relationship
• Achievement of targets
• Value addition approach
• Work smart, instead of work hard
• Mobile
• Result oriented under pressure situations


• Professional advancement
• Career growth
• Building new relationships
• Exceptional performer
• Cost effective

2. Knowledge about Employer


• Know full forms / complete names
• History
• Revenues
• Employees
• Work culture
• Divisions / departments
• Vision and mission statements

Sources of information

• Website
• Annual Report
• Friends working in the same company
• News articles

3. Know Your Subject

• Job description / profile
• Study future trends and changes in technology
• Read professional journals
• Discuss with people doing similar jobs

4. Anticipate  Questions

Ask yourself these questions

• Have I demonstrated required skill sets?
• What are my strong and weak points?
• What are my short-term and long-term goals?
• What can I offer the employer?
• What kind of environment I like?
• What do I like doing?
• Besides skills and experience, what else can I bring to this job?

Anticipate interviewer’s expectations

• About yourself
• Challenging situations you have faced
• Technical questions
• Your strengths and weaknesses
• Why should you be hired

5. Dress Code

Your dress sense during interview will make the first impact, positive or negative, it varies from company to company, depending upon company culture. Keeping this in mind given below are some guide lines on Dress Code

• Interviewer forms an opinion based on your dress, personal grooming, posture and body language
• Be conservative; don’t be influenced by fashion and vibrant colors
• Find out the dress code of the company, if possible

Dress Code: MEN


• Suits/trousers–gray, back, navy blue
• White full sleeves shirt
• Matching tie with length up-to belt buckle
• Leather shoes, same colored belt and matching socks
• Trimmed hair, moustache & nails
• Clean shaven
• Go easy on aftershave

• Portfolio bag


• Party suits / jazzy trousers
• Flashy / bright coloured shirts
• Sports and party shoes
• Flashy / vibrant coloured ties
• White cotton socks
• Pony tails, untidy, uncombed hair
• French (if growing) / jazzy beard

Shoulder bags and helmets

Dress Code: WOMEN


• Sober color, conservative suit, formal dress
• Coordinated blouse
• Leather shoes / sandals
• Limited jewellery
• Neat, professional hairstyle
• Tan or light hosiery
• Sparse make-up & perfume
• Manicured nails
• Portfolio bag


• Party dresses / casual clothes
• Excessive jewellery
• Excessive perfume
• Excessive make up
• Chappals / casual sandals
• Undone / loose hair
• Bright / dark lipstick and nail polish
• Big purses or shoulder bags

About the author: Surinder Narain Ahuja is as experienced trainer, faculty member and visiting professor, teaching interpersonal skills and management concepts. To know more about the author visit “About Surinder” webpage on his website www.surindernarainahuja.in

Published by

Surinder Narain Ahuja
Category Career   Report

9 Likes   41617 Views


Related Articles