Model answers for job interviews

IF you were to point a gun to my head and ask – What’s the toughest product in the world to sell? Here’s my answer: Yourself.  

You can appreciate why when the interviewers decide the result of many job interviews within the first two or three minutes. 

The book does give good pointers on what you must do to increase your odds to avoid being on the initial doom list. They’re fundamental, yet – as many experienced interviewers can attest – often overlooked or taken for granted.  

For example, listen carefully, but one candidate provided “witnesses” to defend her character when the question was to find out her “weaknesses”. Or give a firm handshake, which can say a lot about your confidence, without the need to convince the interviewer that you can qualify as a national arm-wrestling champion. 

With “brilliant” and “tough” in it, the book has an attention-getting title. But with such a title, it also sets – perhaps unrealistically – your expectation of the book. As a result, you might struggle to describe the model answers as brilliant. 

For example, tell me something about yourself. Here’s the book’s model answer: Perhaps I should begin by telling you why I have chosen to apply to you for this job at this stage in my career and outline how my experience in my current and previous jobs relates to this post. Perhaps? You may have learnt that a better response could have been: “What area of my background would be most relevant to you?” This way, you’re in control, focused in your answer, avoid irrelevancies and babbling away to your detriment or retirement. 

The model answers in the book are good and useful. To the seasoned and experienced interviewers, however, the answers may appear – rightly or wrongly perceived – dry, canned and expected. But then, the book is good for those seeking junior, entry or middle level positions, though the author well-intended it to “help anyone who has been invited to any kind of selection interviews for any job”. 

The book does include many tough and difficult questions. For example, are you married? 

A question that really should not, as it’s generally agreed, be asked (though opinions may differ and there’re unobtrusive and indirect ways to find out a person’s marital status). But if you were asked to as a test to how you deal with sensitive questions, what’s your answer going to be?  

And sure, you can say, “That’s none of your business!” and potentially qualify yourself a place at the job-hunting graveyard. Try this: “Only in Malaysia! And if I’m successful with this interview, I think I’ll be married – to the job! Seriously, though, may I know why you ask?” But don’t blame me if you can’t get your dream job. 

You’ll like the rationale provided for the questions found in the book. However, one would wish it were more consistent. And when it is explained, you would wish the rationale had more explanations. Explanations were also given on why the model answers are “brilliant”, but only on selected answers. 

Another positive feature of the book is the index page. It lists down all the interview questions, grouped under various categories. Each question is assigned with a page number that helps you quickly to locate its answer in the book. 

Earlier, I said that you might struggle to describe the answers in the book as brilliant. What then are considered brilliant answers? They are those that humour the interviewer, allow you to control the interview, answer in style and/or turn the tables.  

For example, what’s your expected salary? “Well, I expect to be paid the same level as Tan Sri Robert Kuok. But I’m realistic. Make me an offer and we’ll haggle from there.” 

So, if you didn’t get the last job you interviewed for, or you’re paid peanuts, perhaps you would like to consider reading the book to prepare for your next job interview. 


l Dr Sunny T.H. Goh welcomes feedback 

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