Thursday, 14 July 2016

15. Employment application: interviews

My interview experience

First interview          

My first interview was horrible!

I had applied to a firm in which I was hoping to complete my training contract after post-graduate studies.

The first question the interviewer asked me as I was entering the room was something like "How are the academics going?". I said they were not good. One may say that I shouldn't have said that, but I was trying to be as honest and as authentic as I could be. I can’t imagine being caught in a lie during the interview, or even worse – after the interview, while completing my training!

I was then asked a set of questions, including questions centered around my personality and my character. I was given a number of scenarios and had to respond by saying what it is I would do in the given scenario. I remember the one question I was asked: "If your friends/ colleagues wanted to go out with you to have some drinks, would you tag along?" - something along those lines. Again, since I was trying to be as authentic as I could be, I said I wouldn't tag along because I don't drink, and that there are people I know but don't go out with because I don't drink. I claimed that they know and understand me, and thus I gave the implication that they don't get offended by me. I think that was a bad answer to the interviewer, because I can imagine that they wanted someone who would be able to relate to others. I felt that I probably didn't fit in the culture of that organization.

I received a response a few days later that I wasn't afforded the chance to complete my training at that firm. I then thought to email back to ask where I may have gone wrong and how I could improve. I was directed to the university's Student Development Office, where I was made aware that there were some soft skills, character traits and capabilities I was lacking. I then enrolled into some programmes offered at the university. I talk about the experience I had at the programmes and the skills I obtained in blogpost 7.

Second interview

My second job interview went a little better, although there were questions I was supposed to know the answers to but didn't pay attention to during my preparation for the interview. For instance: “Who is the founder of the firm?”. It seems pretty bad to not know the answer to that question, hey? Worst of all, it was asked at the beginning of the interview! I still managed to continue with the interview with confidence, without feeling intimidated by the three senior men that were interviewing me. I didn’t get a final confirmation on whether the application was successful, though.

Third interview

The third interview went quite fast - it was on a Friday afternoon. One of the questions I was asked, which I didn’t expect or prepare for, was: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. I thought of being quite frank and honest. I mentioned them. One weakness that had to be dealt with was my sensitivity. What a privilege it was for the interviewer to inform me about how this weakness needs to be dealt with in the profession I was applying for. With acknowledgement of the insight the interviewer had shared, I was confident that I’d be able to deal with such a weakness. Surprisingly, I got accepted, but I rejected the offer because at the time I still wanted to complete a year of post-graduate studies. I did not want to study part-time.

Fourth interview

This is my most recent interview, which was done during the month of August - 2016. It went fairly well. In this interview, the interviewer wanted to know who I am, what I’m about, where I’m from, my family, my future plans. I also had to write a 1-hour test, which was done mainly for them to see how much knowledge and experience I have. The interview was a success – I received a response for a second interview scheduled with the senior managers.

Interview preparation

I did not really prepare for the first interview, but used a few guidelines in preparation for the second, third and fourth interview. Some of the guidelines I share are from the experience I had, and others I had obtained at a 'Work-readiness Skills' programme hosted by Mr Thando Melane who is an HR consultant, from Vuma Life Skills Training:

Research about the firm

This is one of the most important things that have to be done before going to the interview – to do some research on the company that has scheduled an interview. Finding out about the companies helped me to know what the companies are about, and most importantly how I would fit there – what I would be doing in the company, what opportunities I may have in terms of experience and exposure, what I may be able to bring to the company.

Preparation for interview questions

We don't necessarily know all the questions that will be asked in an interview, but fortunately for the articles I had been applying for, I had an idea of the questions that were going to be asked. There were firms that visited us as accounting students during our final year, and one had shared hints on the type of questions we may be asked when applying for articles.

From the interviews I had gone to, especially the most recent one, the four most important questions I figured that we have to prepare for are the following:

1.      Tell us about yourself – who are you?

2.      Why are you applying to this company in particular?

3.      Why should we hire YOU? What will you bring to the company?

4.      Where do you see yourself in the short-term and long-term? What do you see yourself doing?     

Dress code
I recall at the programme that we were told to look pesentable. Since the programme was addressed
to Accounting students, this section was centered around formal wear for business.

Quite a lot of attention was given to how ladies should dress, because gents can't really go wrong with formal wear - at least not as much as us ladies: there's cleavage, short dresses and skirts, etc.

On my first interview, I had a very old-school look. I blame that on my mom. She chose the black formal pants for me - practically from the 1990's if not earlier. I had some sort of blouse on and some form of black platform wedges. I did not even bother taking a picture. I did take a picture after my second interview, though: picture on your right. I promise you, it's much better than what I had on for my first interview. From then on, I had improved. The interviewer of the fourth interview even gave me a very pleasant compliment on my outfit before the interview. :P.


We were also informed to give a firm handshake when greeting the interviewer/(s), and to look them in the eyes while doing so, even throughout the interview.

At the interview

I could not predict how the interviews would go, so I knew I had to let things be: I simply responded to what I was asked and did not say things that were not necessarily asked for. I realised how important it is to stick to what is being asked. Whatever happens, it boils down to this: it’s either I’m fit to be in that company or not.

Concluding the interview

At the programme, we were also informed to thank the interviewers for their time once the interview is done. It is also very important to make sure that we have questions for the interviewer, otherwise it will be evident that we are not particularly interested or eager to work in that company. Typical questions that can be asked at the interview are:

1.      What type of clients does the company deal with? In which industries do the clients operate in?

2.      How many years of experience does the permanent staff have – what is the range?

3.      Does the company plan ‘get-togethers’ with staff, where staff are afforded the opportunity to fellowship and get to know each other?

Of course there are a lot more questions that can be asked, and the questions asked are always dependent on the type of company applied to and / or job applied for.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I certainly hope this insight is helpful. Be sure to share your views, even experiences, or further advice on this topic. You can also follow the blog on twitter: and facebook:

Until next time :).

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