How to answer more fully: that is the question

I have often found that some of the best job-hunting guidelines come from companies who offer internships and graduate programmes to students. In the process of inviting applications, large firms (accountancy, law and others) provide some excellent pointers to candidates.

Frequently, these pointers are very simple – so simple they might be overlooked.

There is a tendency when job-hunting to think about some ‘eureka factor’, a magical moment that will have a transformative impact on your interview. Instead, it is more ‘amateur boxing’ than the ‘pro game’: jab, jab, jab, rather than a major knockout blow in the fourth round.

Here are some guidelines I have accumulated from a trawl through the careers sections of companies who invite applications for internships and graduate programmes (and note again the simplicity in many instances):

Be ready to answer predictable questions such as:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why do you think you would be good here?
  • What have you heard about how we operate?
  • Have you spoken to anybody who works here?
  • What have they said about us in terms of being a place to mentor and develop people? (It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that you should take great care not to ‘shop’ your friend here – LH).


Be prepared to outline some vision or philosophy through fishing questions such as:


  • Tell us about a business you admire?
  • Tell us about a businessperson you admire?
  • Who are your business heroes?
  • Where have you experienced business excellence of late?
  • When was the last time you were impressed by someone with whom you were doing business – and why?


They may look for certain personal attributes and, therefore, you need to have examples to back up questions like these:

  • Do you work well in a team?
  • Can you work on your own initiative?
  • How do you cope with professional disappointment?
  • How do you like carrying out research?
  • If you were appointed head of a {insert name of well-known company, perhaps one currently in the news} what would you do to turn it around?


It’s generally good to know what’s in the news in the sector. A trainee accountant might face questions such as:

  • How would you characterise our economy today?
  • What are the challenges facing our economy?
  • How do you think we are dealing with the challenges in our economy?
  • Can you list a few items that give you hope for our economy?

When answering questions, it is important to go beyond the obvious. Monosyllables won’t get you the job. A literal reply will not travel. So if they ask you if you work well as part of a team, a simple ‘yes’ will not suffice: you need to have your examples to hand. Tell them about previous or current work roles, college assignments, sports teams or whatever you have that helps to characterise you as a team player.

You need to make an abstract concept into something positive. The responsibility lies with you to do that. They may not ask you to go beyond monosyllables, but failure to do so will go against you: so, when preparing for interviews, be prepared to elaborate in such a way that you flesh out your profile as the kind of person who could do this role.

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