Showing the knowledge in all circumstances. Our weekly column from various Irish newspapers

Q: I’ve always heard that you should impress the interviewers with your level of knowledge about the company. But how can you do that if they don’t ask the right question? Will it not look contrived? (MK, email).

A: The whole interview scenario has an element of contrivance about it. You must first of all prepare yourself for the actual interview environment and have yourself ready to push yourself out there: there is very little to be gained by holding back.

Even if they don’t ask you the ideal lead question, you should pepper your answers with your knowledge of the company. Apply your skills to the company’s current stage of evolution: “I notice that you are now offering such-and-such a service to your premium customers,” you might say, “and I think that’s one area where my x-and-y skills could be of value to you.”

The other, often overlooked, way of showing your knowledge is to ask insightful questions: the power of asking questions should not be under-estimated. “I see that you have changed the way you do {insert company product, marketing approach or something else relevant}. What was the thinking behind that? Was it to open your company up to new markets?”

By teasing out the issues the company is facing, you illustrate your enthusiasm for the role. Many candidates neglect to do this: they stay within the confines of their career to date and decline to project themselves into the new company.

Employers have a problem: they need to find someone to do something. They generally come to the interview process with a sense of enthusiasm, and they badly want to meet someone who fits the bill. Remember when we used to buy houses and the auctioneer would say ‘hang your hat’ to convey the suitability of the place.

Make sure the employer sees you as someone who can come into the company and settle in immediately, allowing for whatever training is required. And talking knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the company is one sure way of achieving this: and, of course, don’t bluff. Don’t make false claims.

 Chin up, eye contact is possible

Q: Eye contact – I just can’t maintain it. In interviews, that moment of eye contact can throw me right off kilter. Is it necessary? Or have you any tricks? (KM, email).

A: Yes, it is preferable to maintain eye contact. Looking down at the ground or out the window may be deemed endearing insouciance by the odd, occasional interviewer but I wouldn’t wager my castle on it.

Not alone should you maintain eye contact with the person who asked the question, but also with all others in the room –not at the same time, I hasten to add, lest I challenge an immutable law of physics. What I mean is you should move your eye contact between the various people on the panel throughout each answer.

There is a trick that I’ve found useful. I heard a TV broadcaster talk about this solution 20 or more years ago: look at the chin or the forehead of the person you’re looking at: they won’t realise you are not boring holes in their peepers.

It will get you through some iffy moments. After that, ‘hang your hat.’

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. More on