From Interviewee to Potential Hire

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Last time I left you waiting in the hall for your interviewer or escort to take you to the interview. Be calm; put your mobile phone onto ‘silent’ mode. Hopefully, you have arrived early enough to be able to park in a good spot but not too early to wait forever till your interviewer comes.

Fact or fiction: Some employers leave their interviewees waiting extra time on purpose to test their capacity for handling stress.

Fiction! A respectable employer will NOT let a professional candidate waste time in the waiting area just to test their stress thresholds. There are many other expert means of testing a caliber’s capacity for handling stress such as the behavioral interview approach and competency based interviewing. Making the prospect hire wait might eventually cause him/her to apologize and leave on account of other errands they are committed to run notwithstanding their stress level!


You are sitting there and all the online tips and tricks that you have read about are going through your head. It is impressive to have already done your homework but remains the practical side of the experience that has to walk hand in hand with the theories you have taken the time to identify yourself with. Simply put, some of the pieces of advice that you have read about may not be applicable to our deeply rooted Egyptian culture. Let’s say that your interviewer turned out to be a guy and the following thought ran through your head:


“Do I stretch my hand for the hand shake or maybe he does not shake hands with women ……?”


Answer: this is a professional entourage which requires a certain level of flexibility and openness. As long as your interview is not for a family business or a company that is owned and managed by the same people, you’re in a safe place! In which case, feel free to be the first to stretch out your hand and go for a firm but friendly handshake along with a smile that shows your beautiful teeth without exaggeration! TheUniversityofAlabamaperformed a study which involved 112 male and female college students whose handshakes were evaluated by four handshake coders. The study found that there is a substantial relation between the features that characterize a firm handshake (strength, vigor, duration, eye contact and completeness of grip) and a favorable first impression. Also, women who are more liberal, intellectual and open to new experiences were found to have a firmer handshake and made a more favorable impression than women who were less open and had a less firm handshake.

Walk to your interview room with your interviewer in equanimity and take your seat. If the interviewer asks you if you would like something to drink, feel free to request coffee or even a glass of water. You are entitled to pick a drink and it may not change the interviewer’s opinion about you. Now follows the non-verbal success list that you need to acquaint yourself with:

  • Eye Contact: Unequaled in importance! If you have a habit of looking away while listening, it shows lack of interest and a short attention span. If you fail to maintain eye contact while speaking, at a minimum it shows lack of confidence in what you are saying and at a maximum may send the subtle indication that you may be lying.
  • Facial Expressions: It has continually amazed recruiters when interviewing a large number of people who were totally unaware of the sullen, bewildered, or even mildly hysterical expression plastered on their faces; often during the entire course of the interview! Take a good, long, hard look at yourself in the mirror. Look at yourself as others would. Then modify your facial expressions, first eliminate any negative overall characteristics that might exist, and then add a simple feature that nearly every interviewee forgets; a smile! Not some Bart Simpson grin, but a true and genuine smile that says you are a happy person!
  • Gestures: Contrary to popular belief, gestures should be very limited during the interview. So please don’t use artificial gestures to supposedly heighten the importance of the issue at hand. It will merely come off as theatrical. When you do use gestures, make sure they are sincere and meaningful.

In reference to the interview questions themselves, there is only so much preparation you can do. Despite the existence of a pre-determined set of questions that have been used by recruiters since Ice Age (were they recruiting back then?). There are tailored ‘out of the box’ queries that you may encounter. In a nutshell, it would be best if you have answers in mind for the below questions:

          Where do you see yourself in five years? (This is a very commonly used one though it is so old school those days!)

          Would you rather work on your own or as part of a team? (definitely say you can work on either fronts and be equipped with examples to support you answer!)

          Give us an example of a situation in which you were able to solve a problem/assume responsibility/be in charge/meet a deadline/respond to an angry customer/prioritize your tasks.

          Why are you thinking about quitting your current job? (Tailor your answer within promotional or developmental opportunities. It is not good to say something bad about your current employer even is she is a Cruella de Ville!)

          What is your expected salary? (if you would like to be blunt and only be called for a second interview if their salary is within your range, go ahead and state the amount. If you are desperate to leave your current employer, say you’re happy with a new challenge notwithstanding salary as long as there are competitive benefits)

I wish you the best of luck with the interview! Out of my own personal experience in recruiting, the aspect that you cannot train yourself on is PASSION! If you are enthusiastic about the new job and the adventure that comes with it, it will be all over your eyes and your body language. Similarly, if your energy level is low and your aura is dull, you will bring down the interviewer’s expectations and excitement to shortlist you.

Regina Inani

Human Resources Development Specialist


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