Three Tips Candidates Should Remember In A Job Interview – Part 1

How should you position yourself as a potential candidate once you get past the shortlisting process? How do you stand out during the interview session and leave an impression with the panel?

One of the most important things we do as a leader is to recruit people who make a good fit in your team or organisation. Team players, good capabilities and competencies are naturally attributes or qualities leaders look for.

It is clear all of us want the best team composition for our organisations. It is also clear that there will be many who will be suitable for positions within organisations. How do leaders choose?

I have conducted recruitment interviews over the years for both my schools and for the Education Ministry for various positions, and I have seen quite diverse candidates and behaviours. Although these recruitment exercises are within the education industry, I thought there are some useful tips applicable to anyone applying for jobs.

In this post I will share three behaviours candidates should avoid for an interview.

What You Should Avoid During An Interview

1. Don’t tell the panel who you know in the organisation or talk about mutual connections, thinking that will help you secure the job. Let us be honest here: unless you were referred to the job vacancy by someone within the organisation and your application was handed over to the boss or recruitment manager, mentioning this association cuts no ice during an interview.

Name-dropping can endanger your chances of securing the position, particularly if you mention the wrong name. Why would a leader want to hire you just because you know someone in the organisation? It is your abilities and competencies that the leader is looking for, not for your networks within the organisation.

The only possible exception to this rule is if the interview is over and you happen to have a casual talk with the interviewer. If it is just an informal chat, it may be alright. My advice is still to avoid mentioning relationships. I have rejected a candidate before because when he did the name-drop he did it with a sense of superiority, as if he is worth more than what we saw.

2. Don’t appear for an interview totally unprepared. Sometimes I meet candidates who do not know much about the school or position they applied for. They do not know the scope of work for instance, the work hours, or even what the department does.

Some candidates were clearly shopping around for a job. They are not serious about job hunting, merely applying for any position they think they meet the requirements. Some of them think that so long they are qualified, they should be offered a job. But they forget that they are the ones who need a job, not the other way round.

Then there are those who are serious about job hunting, but do not carry out adequate research before the interview. They assume their experiences or qualifications would see them through, insisting that what they have or know can apply to my school context readily. You can detect their thinking from the way they speak in the interview – the condescending tone or the all-knowing look.

3. Don’t dismiss any of your experiences for any position. Your life experiences are valuable. It is not just direct experiences for a role that is relevant. Even when you are switching industries, you should consider how your present job equips you with the skills, knowledge and qualities for a job in another industry. Certain skills can apply across industries, and may even be more valuable in a new setting.

I once interviewed someone who volunteered for a charity for a couple of years, organising activities for the youth during holidays. This person failed to see the relevance of the volunteer stint, even though we tried giving cues during the interview. Hence our eventual rejection was not because this person is unqualified but because the person could not make connections between the job and past experience. The failed connection also does not speak well of the candidate’s cognitive capabilities.

In contrast, I have met candidates who were able to connect what they picked up working in a staff position in the ministry with how they can add value to the school. These candidates also highlight how they can work with the management team when they join. Or candidates who worked in other roles who can connect the skills they pick up for the teaching role they apply for. Clearly these candidates know how to present their career experiences to make them attractive candidates for consideration.


Job hunting can be stressful but you can use the stress to your advantage. Getting through the door for an interview opportunity is great. Don’t squander it away. Position yourself favourably during the interview so that you can stand a higher chance of being recruited. Don’t assume you are the only candidate or that you are close to getting recruited.

In my next post, I will share three tips on what you should do during an interview, so that your chances of getting hired will increase.

Do you have any other tips on what to avoid for an interview? if you have conducted interviews before, what are some of the mistakes candidates make that cost them their chances?

5 thoughts on “Three Tips Candidates Should Remember In A Job Interview – Part 1

  1. Interesting thoughts, though I have to say that it seems to apply to a specific caliber of job. You mentioned the sort of know it all arrogance that can destroy an interviewees chances. However, it’s equally bold to view them as if they need the job.
    Yes, some applicants are shopping. They blizzard the job boards with their copy and paste applications. They are the ones that need a job, any job. They will accept a poorly fitting job because they have bills to pay now. They are easy to spot as the ones that barely knew what they applied for.
    Also, it is really a privilege to be able to post a job people find desirable. I’ve had the distinct misfortune of posting a job only to have wasted money on the ad and two weeks waiting on the phone to ring. It would be easy to assume that applying for anything is a struggle to stand out among a stack of applicants, but that is not always the case. It doesn’t matter what an applicant says at that rate, the interview is little more than formality and double check that they have a pulse.
    The kind of higher functioning, career focused applicants you’d like to see probably don’t need the job; they desire it. That is a very different interview and the kind that your advice speaks to. I just feel it applies to certain professional positions, but job interviews on the whole are likely to be more toward meeting a dire need, either the applicant or the company.

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  2. Thanks Goose for your thought provoking comments. Your response made me realise that there are some jobs where the availability of applicants may not be there. Or, that there isn’t really a need to go all out to impress if the employer is in a great need to fill. My mother had the fortune to get jobs whenever she wants, and these jobs happen to be those that not many are interested in. So I understand what you mean.
    I wrote from having interviewed across a whole range of positions, from the executive to the managerial. So yes, my suggestions are positioned for those who have post-secondary qualifications minimally, and that’s where I write from. My view though is that employers would want the best for their companies, regardless of positions. And some attributes remain timeless, which I did not touch on here.
    But I am intrigued and humbled by your response. You made me reflect and wonder if my experience can be replicated. And while I would like to answer yes to that question, I also realise that it may not be that neat and straightforward a response and solution. Your comment also made me think of possible new material for writing another post on job hunting. Thanks so much for that!

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  3. Thank you for your opinion. I agree there is a range of jobs, and not all will require high functioning career focused applicants. So these tips may not apply to all. I am sharing from experience, and I think my desire is to see candidates with aspirations at the very least. I thank you once again for your insights. You help expose one blindspot in my thinking.

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