What Is the Essence of an Interview?

A recent article in leading US business magazine Forbes put forward the theory that there are only three true job interview questions. They spoke with executive recruiters who broadly agreed that the only questions are:

  1. Can you do the job
  2. Will you love the job
  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

These three questions address the topics of Strengths, Motivation and Fit, and essentially every other question you have ever been posed is a subset or a deeper-in-depth follow up on one of these three questions.

Armed with that knowledge, think about those three question and see if your answers would help you?. Also ensure that your examples underline your relevance in those areas?

Prepare by thinking through examples that illustrate your strengths, what motivates you about the organization and role you’re interviewing for, and the fit between your own preferences and the organization’s Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE).

Tip: Always seek a bridge to connect the answer to the true underlying question!

Are the key to how people get things done and have a big impact on people's ability to adjust, changes over time.

  • Plan for this in advance, consider what the employer most likely wants the job holder to accomplish in the role – try clarify this at the meeting and before answering the question.
  • When answering, emphasise your strengths and align them with the job you are being interviewed for, include facts and figures, and keep the emphasis on the positive.
  • Identify a past weakness and tell them how you overcame that particular weakness and explain what are the lessons learned and skills acquired.


Most people appear motivated as they want to score the come across sincere or to back your motivation with substance, illustrating it with clear examples will do you good.

To start, you may need to know what really drives you and keeps you motivated and positive. Then you can show how that can be matched to the company and role. You will be asked questions like ‘what makes you get up in the morning?’ or ‘how do we know that you will stay with us?’ be ready for them.

Show that you work hard because you enjoy your environment and the challenges that the role can bring.

  • How activities match with strengths, and resources (support and time)
  • How the job will help them progress towards their long-term goal
  • Employability (learning, development, resume builder)
  • Near term pleasure (enjoyable work/activities, fit with life interest). Compensation is also a factor (monetary, non-monetary rewards, recognition, respect)


At the senior levels, reasons that most of the hires who don’t work out are, usually boils down to cultural fit.

To avoid this, ask questions during the interview that will give you an idea and do some research online of how their employees view the company.

After you have ascertained that the environment is one where you would be able to fit in, ensure that you illustrate by giving examples that you have demonstrated your flexibility and the ability to adapt to any culture. If they are looking at bringing on a change agent, show that you will be able to balance that goal with the current culture.

The employer will use competency based questions to draw out your previous experience which is relevant to the job they want done and looking for examples that will illustrate the strength, motivation and fit.

Answer competency based interview questions using the STAR formula!

    Say where you were, what you role was and when it happened.

  • TASK

    Outline the challenge or nature of the project for which you were responsible and why it was important.


    Explain how you approached the task and the actions you took. If your efforts were part of a team effort, focus most on what you did, and what you contributed. Avoid saying what you thought you might do – you need to focus on what you have achieved.


    What were the outcomes? These should be substantiated with facts and figures and should show you in a positive light.

Some critical pointers to help you…

At senior levels you need to give a much fuller overview of your understanding of the business’ key driving factors, including your ability to understand and articulate its SWOT analysis. Also, the company’s strengths and weaknesses, and which opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace. You will need to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the industry and company’s competitive position in it.

Read up on the backgrounds of the people with whom you will be meeting via Linkedin, Facebook and Google. And if possible get the inside track about them using your people network.

Use the time during the interview in a balanced manner to answer as well as to ask questions.

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