Watch the gap – and go for it

Q: I felt the questions didn’t suit me, as Larry Gogan was fond of saying on the Just-a-Minute quiz many moons ago. They didn’t really ask me what I’d bring to the role – they were totally fixated on what I thought about the position. How could I have handled the interview differently? (TH, email ).

A: Interviews are funny – they can come and go so quickly, leaving you to lament that ‘it was over almost before I knew it’, writes Deirdre May, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

Sometimes the questions aren’t as favourable as you would like them to be. It sounds like you weren’t given an obvious opening to extol your virtues – in a case like that; you need to fight your way to a point where you are able to highlight your skills, experience and characteristics.

A tip is to think of ‘the unasked question’ and how, by answering that, you can give additional information that the question didn’t explicitly seek.

For example, if they invite you to appraise ‘the key attributes needed for this job’, you should, of course, outline what they are – e.g. teamwork, an ability to manage people or a high level of precision. Having given the list, add in a further layer to the answer where you make it clear that you possess those key attributes, and where you have displayed them.

By answering the unasked question, you can flesh out the answer as you see fit. We must look out for opportunities to do this. Not all interview panels serve the dish up the way you like it, and so the onus is on you to identify the chances to go a step or two further.

By and large, interview panels are mannerly and will allow you to take that extra step to answer the unasked question. Think of questions as invitations to talk in a way that promotes you as the best candidate for the job.

You don’t know what way the panel is going to play it, but you should have a clear idea going in of what, in an ideal world, you would like to tell them about yourself and your understanding of the role.

In the interview, then, watch for chances to get that information across. Don’t be shy. Spot the gap and go for it.

Putting a bad answer behind you

You give a bad answer in an interview. You know it’s bad, they know it’s bad, anyone who’d hear it would know it’s bad.

So what do you do?

You dust yourself down and ensure it doesn’t affect your morale for the rest of the interview. The sky shouldn’t fall in. Every interview candidate has said something they wished they hadn’t. The myth of the perfect interview is just that – a myth.

When one room goes up in flames, the whole office block doesn’t have to succumb, thanks to modern fireproofing methods. Get out of the bad answer as quickly as you can, put it behind you and move on: generally speaking, interviewers realise the pressure you are under and will make allowances for you, unless your one bad answer suddenly becomes a losing streak.

Give yourself a break and motor on.

Sli Nua Careers ( ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe and Claremorris ), Athlone, Limerick, Tullamore, Sligo, Tralee and Cork. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit


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