Getting off to a good start

1. Maria Kelsey is a careers counsellor and expert interview coach. Listen as she gives some advice on giving an effective interview. How many points in the Top interview tips does she refer to? ………………..

Top interview tips

Don’t appear interested only in the salary and benefits.

Don’t appear over-confident or superior.

Do arrive punctually.

Don’t criticize your current employer or colleagues.

Do dress smartly.

Don’t look at the wall or floor when you talk.

Don’t mumble or fail to finish sentences.

Do research the company beforehand.

Do show enthusiasm.

Do tailor your CV to fit the job.

Answer & Transcript

Maria refer to 6 tips (in order):

Do research the company / tailor your CV to fit the job / dress smartly / arrive punctually / show enthusiasm

Don’t appear over-confident or superior.


Basically, it’s all about preparation. Make sure you know all about the company, and check your resumé matches the job you’re applying for. Then on the day wear something smart, get there on time, and when it’s your time to shine, get in there and give it all you’ve got. You must appear like you really want the job. Don’t act like you know it all, though. That won’t go down well.

2. Now listen as she discusses what to say in an interview. Complete the notes.

–  Do not talk about ………………….

–  Talk about any relevant ………………….

–  Mention any …………………. that relate to the job.

–  Mention any skills or …………………. you have.

–  Explain what you …………………. to the organization.

Answer & Transcript

–  Do not talk about your personal life.

–  Talk about any relevant work experience.

–  Mention any qualifications that relate to the job.

–  Mention any skills or special training you have.

–  Explain what you can bring to the organization.


Now, employers often start off with a question like Can you tell me a little about yourself?, to get things going and what a lot of people do, believe it or not, is they talk about their personal life. You know, their kids, what food they like and goodness knows what. That’s bad. Do not talk about your personal life. Basically, you should talk about any relevant work experience. That’s what employers want to hear. Play to your strengths, and mention any qualifications that relate to the job. Anything at all, you know, as long as there is a clear link with the job you are applying for. You should mention any skills or special training you have, as well, and perhaps above all what employers want is to know how you can help them, so explain what you can bring to the organization.

3. Listen to three candidates in an interview answer the question Can you tell me a little about yourself? Look at the notes above and tick who you think gives the best response.

Juan            Mark           Amelia


Mark gives the best response.

4. Listen again and note the good and bad points to each person’s response.


–  good: ……………………………………..

–  bad: ………………………………………..


–  good: ……………………………………..

–  bad: ………………………………………..


–  good: ……………………………………..

–  bad: ………………………………………..

Answer & Transcript

Juan: This is OK, but there are some irrelevancies and not enough detail

–  Good points: gives some academic background and work experience, including current position. Talks briefly about some skills. Gives an idea of why he wants the job.

–  Bad points: no indication of type/level of qualifications. Fails to expand in enough detail on his experience, or show how his experience might help the company. Talks about personal life and hobbies.

Mark: This is clear, logical and concise. He covers all the main points well and sounds enthusiastic.

–  Good points: gives appropriate details of academic background and work experience. He explains why he wants the job, what he can bring to the organization and also hints at the positive effect he could have.

–  Bad points: He could expand in more detail on exactly how his MBA has helped him (i.e. what marketing strategies in particular he has used effectively).

Amelia: This is the weakest of the three.

–  Good points: gives some ideas of personal qualities and skills.

–  Bad points: disjointed and illogical order, no academic details, poor explanation of her experience and no attempt to relate this to the job, irrelevant personal details.


Juan:     I graduated in Accounting from Madrid University and after I graduated I started work as a Junior Accountant at MTW. Now I am still there, and I am head of my department so I’m used to managing people and I have got a lot of experience in implementing financial programmes. I enjoy cycling and going to the movies, and I am married with three kids. I would like to work here because you are the best company in the business.

Mark:     As you can see from my CV, I attended Manchester International University and studied Marketing for three years. Then I moved to Richmond in the States and took my MBA. That really helped me gain a better understanding of marketing strategies and how to use them effectively. Since then I’ve worked as Strategic Marketing Manager for Gaviso. I’d really like the opportunity to use all this experience here as Marketing Director. I have a lot of ideas that I’m sure will be very effective in marketing your products to a wider audience.

Amelia:     Well, I’m quite easy-going I suppose. I can work well with anyone. I have a good education. My degree is from the Sorbonne in Paris. It’s a very good university. I like a challenge too, in my work and my personal life. I plan to climb Mount Everest one day. I’m freelance now but in my last job I had a lot of responsibility, a lot of budgets and things. In my spare time I read and go walking. I enjoy my work and I think I’m good at my job, yeah, what else can I say?

Knowing what employers want

1. Listen to Maria Kelsey talk about the skills employers look for. Number each skill area (a-e) in the order she talks about it (1-5).

 Research skills   ……

b   Interpersonal skills   ……

 Problem solving skills   ……

d   Leadership skills   ……

 Organizational skills   ……

Answer & Transcript

a 5   b 1   c 4   d 2   e 3


Well, employers look for people who can relate on many levels, you know. People who can talk to the President of the company or the worker on the shop floor. They want someone who is a good people person, basically. They also value the ability to take charge and head things up from the front when it matters. Of course, they need people who are good planners, efficient types, you know … although increasingly these days they also want free-thinkers who can work their way through difficulties. Oh, and employers want people who can act on their own initiative to collect whatever information they need, rather than sit around scratching their heads wondering what to do!

2. Listen to five questions that employers sometimes ask and match each question (1-5) with a skill (a-e) that it aims to uncover.

1 ……      2 ……      3 ……      4 ……      5 ……

Answer & Transcript

1 e   2 c   3 b   4 a   5 d


1   Do you manage your time well?

2   What’s the biggest difficulty you have ever faced at work?

3   Can you remember a time when you helped resolve a conflict among your colleagues or classmates?

4   Have you ever had to work on a topic you knew nothing about?

5   Are you comfortable making decisions and taking the lead?

3. Raj is having a job interview. Listen to him answer each question. Tick ✓ you impression of each answer he gives.

























1 Good   2 Good   3 OK   4 Poor   5 Poor

4. Listen again to each of Raj’s answers and note the reasons for your impression.

1   ………………………………..

2   ………………………………..

3   ………………………………..

4   ………………………………..

Answer & Transcript

Your own answers. Possible answers.

1   Raj gives a good example of how he is organized (using a filing system) and answers the question fully.

2   Raj explains the problem clearly, and why it was important (the company was losing a lot of money). He showed he worked hard to overcome the problem independently.

3   Raj describes the problem clearly, and the solution he came up with solved it easily to everyone’s benefit. However, he does not explain how he convinced the management and workers to accept the changes (i.e. exactly how he used interpersonal skills).

4   Raj points out his ability to research new areas independently, and shows initiative in asking colleagues. However, he doesn’t give a concrete example so it is very vague and lacks the necessary detail to satisfy the interviewer.

5   Raj clearly indicates his preference to leave difficult decisions to others.



Interviewer:     Do you manage your time well?

Raj:     Yes, I think so. I’m a very organized person. I have a huge filing system and I always know where everything is. I schedule my day carefully and try to make appointments I can keep.


Interviewer:     What’s the biggest difficulty you have ever faced at work?

Raj:     Last year we had a problem with some new software we’d installed. It wasn’t working properly and we were losing a lot of money because of it. it was down to me to fix it so I worked round the clock. I finally found a way round it, but it was really hard work and the pressure was unbelievable!


Interviewer:     Can you remember a time when you helped resolve a conflict among your colleagues or classmates?

Raj:     A couple of months ago there was a problem in my department. A new system meant that you had to sign in and out all the time. Many people didn’t like this because there was only one place you could sign in, which was a long way from where most people work. I suggested we put signing-in stations at several locations, and that seemed to solve the problem.


Interviewer:     Have you ever had to work on a topic you knew nothing about?

Raj:     Well, not really. Sometimes I’m given something that I don’t know much about, so I do some investigation and ask around, you know, to get up to speed.


Interviewer:     Are you comfortable making decisions and taking the lead?

Raj:     Yes, but not always. I think some decisions are better left to people more senior. For example, I don’t like firing anyone.

Dealing with difficult questions

1. Listen and match each speaker with the question they are answering.

Speaker 1        What do you think is your greatest weakness?

Speaker 2        Tell me about a time you failed badly at something.

Speaker 3        If you like your current job, why do you want to leave?


Speaker 1 Tell me about a time you failed badly at something.

Speaker 2 If you like your current job, why do you want to leave?

Speaker 3 What do you think is your greatest weakness?

2. Look at these three strategies for dealing with difficult questions. Then listen again and match each speaker (1-3) with the strategy (a-c) that they are using.

 Show a desire to keep learning and developing.   ………..

b   Talk about a weakness that is actually a strength.   ………..

 Show that you have strategies to deal with the weakness.   ………..

Answer & Transcript

 Speaker 2

b   Speaker 3

 Speaker 1


Speaker 1

Er, well last year I tried to establish a new system for internal mail, but it was a complete disaster. I didn’t take enough time to introduce it and nobody knew how it worked. I learned that although something seems clear to me, it doesn’t mean that everyone else understands. I’ll take more time and do more trials before I try anything like that again!

Speaker 2

Well, I enjoy the job I’m doing and I get on well with everyone, but I really want to move on and try something new. I’ve had this job for two years now and I think I’ve outgrown it. I’m ready for a new challenge, something that stretches me.

Speaker 3

I tend to worry too much whether the customer is satisfied or not, and that means sometimes I spend too much time on the customer and not enough time on other aspects of the job.

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