How to have successful job interviews

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I am sitting in a nice coffee bar enjoying a perfect cappuccino. On my right, two people are sitting on a comfortable couch. They order something and start to talk. It turns out to be a job interview. I rarely listen to the conversations of others, but this time I am curious to hear what questions are being asked and how the other responds.

As a former manager of a laboratory, I did many job interviews. Some were successful and others not.

In this article I am sharing some of my personal insights and tips on how to have a successful job interview. Both for people who are doing the interview and those being interviewed.

I once had an interview with “Chris”. The interview went well and after 2 meetings he got a job offer as a field technician. The first day, Chris showed up for work. He got his safety briefing and we got him his gear (shoes, overal, helmet,…). I don’t remember exactly when, but around lunch, Chris entered my office and announced that this job was not what he’d expected.  That was the shortest hire I’d ever had! Of course, I tried to persuade him to try it for a week but Chris was determined to leave and return to his former job.

I was convinced that Chris was a good addition to the team. The question was if we were a good match for Chris? In later interviews I showed candidates around the workplace and told them more about their future activities. I also invited them to chat with the other technicians about the work. I never had someone quit after 6 hours anymore.

Back to the interview next to me in the coffee bar. The woman conducting the interview asked very brief questions like ‘What’s the story of this experience?’ or ‘Did you live long in Rotterdam?’. She also asked for a mind map. The candidate had a lot to tell, but it seemed like chit-chat for half an hour. Both interviewer and candidate could have profited from the STAR technique to keep an interview pleasant and focused. I will explain this technique briefly:



The (S) stands for SITUATION. Tell (or ask) about a situation at work.


Describe it well and tell what your TASK (T) was in that situation. What where you supposed to do.


Next tell (or ask) what ACTION (A) you took. What did you do in that situation?


Finally, the(R) stands for RESULT. What was the result of your action?

The STAR technique has helped me to find out more about the character strengths of candidates, my current clients or demonstrate my character strengths for a future client. As a candidate for a job you can prepare some STAR cases in advance.


In all cases, I urge you to stay authentic. There’s a possibility that you’ll end up working together. That is longer than the 1 hour interview. Are you willing to play a role that long?

I do not know how the interview at the Coffee Bar ended since I wanted to leave for a meeting.

How do you prepare for job interviews (both as an employer as a candidate)? What do you tell or what questions do you ask? Or are there exercises (like creating mind map) a candidate has to do in advance? Let me know in the comment box below. I am looking forward reading from you!

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