Classic Interview Questions: Your work history and professional development.

Alternative and related questions:

What’s the biggest failure you’ve experienced in your career?
Can you tell me about a time when you’ve failed to meet an important deadline?

The meaning behind the question:

As well as pinpointing a particular ‘failure’ in your career, the interviewer will also be gauging your overall attitude to failure – how you deal with adversity. Everyone experiences some failures during the course of their careers but not everybody bounces back and learns as much from the experience as they perhaps should.

Your answer:

You might think this is a tough question because there’s no way to answer it without admitting failure. But it’s not really that tough. The secret is to avoid picking too major a failure and whatever example you choose, to subtly blame the failure on factors outside of your control. You should be very wary indeed of laying the blame at the doorstep of a former boss or colleague; this can backfire on you spectacularly. However, you can certainly dilute some of the blame by saying that you were working “as part of a team” at the time.

Example:

In my last job we were given the opportunity to pitch for a major contract – at relatively short notice. I was part of a team that spent a good couple of weeks working very hard on the tender and it was clear that our company was undoubtedly the best choice for the contract. Unfortunately, the client had employed a rather inexperienced individual to review the tenders and they fell for a competitor’s sales pitch – which had a lot less substance but a lot more spin. It was a major blow. I was naturally very disappointed at what seemed a very unfair decision, especially having put so much effort into the tender – but I wrote it down to experience and got on with successfully bidding for other contracts. The following year, the client having been very dissatisfied with our competitor’s performance, we were asked to re-tender for the contract. This time, we won it. We did of course learn some lessons from our previous failure but, most of all, we were fortunate that the individual responsible for reviewing the tenders this time was a lot more experienced.

Word of warning:

Don’t be tempted to say you’ve never failed. The interviewer won’t believe you!

Alternative and related questions:

Can you tell me about a time when you made a major error at work?

The meaning behind the question:

What the interviewer is trying to extract from you here is not an admission of guilt but a demonstration of how you reacted to your error and what steps you took to resolve it. You can learn a lot about someone from the way they handle their mistakes.

Your answer:

As with the previous question, you might think this rather a tough one. The interviewer has specifically asked you about the very worst mistake you’ve ever made at work. The key is to realise that everyone makes mistakes; the important thing is to learn from them and make sure you never make the same mistake twice.

Also, just because they’ve asked you what the worst mistake you’ve made was, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tell them! Try to talk about a mistake that was clearly severe but one that is unlikely to put them off hiring you completely. How? By choosing carefully and placing the emphasis on what you did to resolve the situation – and what you learned from the experience.

If you can subtly apportion some of the blame to circumstances out of your control – or if you can choose an example which didn’t directly involve your work – then it’s going to strengthen your answer. It also helps if you can pick an example which goes back some way in time. However, you definitely want to avoid coming across as someone who can’t admit their own mistakes.

Example:

I think the worst mistake I ever made at work was in my first ever job – five years ago now. A more senior member of the team seemed to take an instant dislike to me from the start – and one day she was particularly unpleasant to me in front of several colleagues. Later on, I was talking to one of those colleagues who was, I thought, attempting to console me. Angry and hurt, I foolishly vented my feelings and told her what I thought of the lady in question. I was naturally shocked to find out that she went on to tell everyone what I had said and this certainly didn’t help my relationship with the team member who was causing me problems. Rather than let the situation carry on, I chose to have a quiet word with this lady so as to find out what her problem was with me and to see if we could put it behind us. It turned out it was nothing personal; she just resented the fact that a friend of hers had also been interviewed for my position and had been turned down. Once we had got matters out into the air, her behaviour changed and we actually got on quite well after that. However, I certainly learned a lot from the experience. I learned that careful communication is vital in managing interpersonal relationships and that if I have a problem with someone it’s always best to talk it over with them rather than with someone else.

Alternative and related questions:

Can you tell me about a major project that you have recently managed?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer isn’t really interested in the project itself; they’re interested in how you successfully completed the project. They’re looking for evidence of your ability to successfully complete a project and they’re trying to ascertain how your key skills contribute to this ability.

Your answer:

The emphasis in this question is on a project that you have successfully completed. It’s a perfect opportunity to blow your own trumpet.

Make the very most of this question to highlight your skills and abilities which led to the successful completion of the project – being careful to pick those which are most of relevance to the job for which you are now applying. Make your contribution to the project clear. What role did you have to play in its success?

Unless the interviewer specifically asks you for a project for which you had sole responsibility, it is reasonable to assume that they are happy with you talking about a project you worked on as part of a team – which is the case for the majority of projects.

It is also best to talk about a project you completed recently. If you go too far back, the interviewer might wonder why you can’t cite a more recent example.

Example:

I was recently involved in organising our participation at a trade fair. It was a very major project. We’d never done a trade fair before but we felt it could be a useful method of drumming up new business. It took a considerable amount of planning and organisation on my part; I had to assess everything that would need to be arranged in advance, from hiring the lighting set-up to liaising with our designers on the production of appropriate corporate literature for us to hand out. I had to make sure I didn’t miss the smallest of details – for example I had to check the plans of our stand to ensure our extension cables were long enough to reach all our equipment. On the day itself, we were on site very early to make sure everything was in place, tested and fully functioning prior to the arrival of the visitors – just in case there were any last minute hitches, which, thankfully, there weren’t. The event was very successful and our stand attracted a lot of attention. It was a very busy day. We were able to pitch our services to hundreds of people and pass on their contact details for our sales team to follow up on. Following the success of this event, we’re now looking at future events we can attend.

Alternative and related questions:

Can you tell me about a major project you were involved with that went wrong?

The meaning behind the question:

Problems are inevitable, no matter what your line of work. The interviewer isn’t particularly interested in the problem per se. What they’re interested in his how you dealt with it – what action you took and what the outcome of that action was.

Employers don’t want problems; they want solutions – and they rely on their staff to deliver those solutions. The interviewer wants to make sure that you’re just the sort of employee who would be able to do that.

Your answer:

This isn’t the same question as Question 11, “What’s the worst mistake you’ve made at work and how did you deal with it?” so make sure you don’t give the same answer! It would definitely be a blunder to pick an example of a problem which you yourself had caused – or indeed which was caused by a colleague of yours.

You should also avoid picking a problem where a colleague or a member of your staff were themselves the problem. Try to choose a simpler and less controversial topic. The best examples to pick are those where the problem was caused by circumstances beyond your organisation’s control.

Since they’re referring to a problem in the past, it’s important for you to choose an example which not only highlights your problem-solving capabilities but shows them to be relevant to the job for which you are now applying.

Example:

The weather caused us major problems just a couple of months ago. There was very heavy overnight snowfall and, with all the buses cancelled and only a few trains running, only a few members of our admin team managed to get into work. There was nothing for it but to fire-fight – we didn’t have enough staff to get everything done that would normally need to be done. I established what our main priorities were – what activities were most essential to the running of our department – and made sure that we had those covered. I identified less important tasks that we could postpone for a few days until we had the full team back. I also spoke to all the missing team members to see if there were any other urgent priorities of which we, in the office, were unaware. We worked hard and fast – right through lunch – and, despite feeling that the phone was always ringing, we managed to keep everything running smoothly until things were back to normal.

Alternative and related questions:

Have you ever been asked to help train a new member of staff?

The meaning behind the question:

You’d be wrong in thinking that this is a question just for managers. This question could be asked of anyone who works in a team – which is pretty much everyone! In all lines of work the ability to help others to further develop their skills and experience is a valuable attribute. How you describe your example will tell the interviewer a lot about you.

Your answer:

You need to structure your answer logically so as to identify what the circumstances were, why the individual needed coaching, how you went about coaching them and, most important of all, what the outcome was. Coaching a team member is a project like any other. In order to deliver a successful answer to this question you’re going to need to demonstrate a successful outcome to your efforts.

The example you select will depend on your own personal experiences but, whatever example you choose, make sure you come out of it as the hero of the day.

If you’re struggling to find an example then the easiest is normally to pick a time when you had to help deal with a new member of staff. Coaching is a very broad term and helping to train a new colleague certainly falls under its umbrella.

Example:

In my current job for a mail-order company, I work as part of a team, processing orders received and liaising directly with our customers by telephone to handle and resolve any problems or queries. While administration forms the majority of the workload, there’s also a lot of customer contact. Recently, my manager took the decision to hire a new team member who had a lot of very valuable customer-facing experience but not so much administrative experience. While the new member of staff clearly needed no help dealing with customers on the telephone, it was obvious from the start that she was clearly struggling with the administrative side of things. As one of the most experienced members of the team, my manager asked if I could take this lady under my wing and help her to resolve the administrative difficulties she was having. Over a period of several days I took the time for her to initially shadow me in the work I was doing before moving on for me to let her do the work herself under my careful observation. She learned very quickly and within the week she was fully up to scratch and has since become an invaluable member of the team.

Alternative and related questions:

What have you learned in each of your previous roles?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer could have asked, “What have you learned in your last job which will be of use to you in this job?” because that is what they’re driving at. They’re not asking you to talk about your duties, responsibilities or achievements. They’re specifically asking in what ways you have developed professionally while working in your last job (or any particular job of their choice).

Your answer:

It’s vital that your answer should cite one or more examples which are directly relevant to the role for which you are now applying. There’s no point in discussing something which isn’t going to be of obvious value to you – or, more specifically, your employer – in your next job.

The chances are that your previous role(s) will have prepared you in various ways to meet the challenge of your next job. Try to ascertain what is likely to be most of interest to the interviewer. What are the key requirements of this vacancy? What have you learned that will ensure you meet those requirements? Select at least one – if not two or three – ideas and turn them into strong selling points.

There’s no need to highlight how this relates to the role you’re applying for. It should be self-evident and, if you make a point of it, there is a risk the interviewer might think you’re just telling them what they want to hear.

Example:

My last job was an excellent learning opportunity and I developed my skills and experience in numerous different ways. While I already had strong IT skills, I didn’t have any previous experience of Microsoft Access. When my employer introduced a new order management system which used Access they gave me the opportunity to undertake additional training so as to be able to work effectively with this. I was then able to put this training into practice on a day-to-day basis and I am now extremely adept at using the package. I also learned a great deal about handling customers. My previous roles were not customer-facing so it was great to have the chance to develop this area of my experience.

Alternative and related questions:

How was your performance rated in your last appraisal?
How would you comment on your last appraisal?
What areas for improvement were identified at your last appraisal?

The meaning behind the question:

Appraisals are supposed to address both your strengths and your weaknesses – both your achievements and your failings. However, the interviewer will know that appraisals focus more on where there is room for improvement than on giving you a pat on the back. This question is a clever ploy to get you to confess precisely where there is room for improvement in your performance.

Your answer:

You’re going to need to be careful with your answer to this question. For a start, it’s very important to be totally honest – because the interviewer can easily check up on this sort of information when taking up your references and, if it’s an internal vacancy for which you are applying, then you can be more or less sure they will already have examined your last appraisal.

It’s not a difficult question to get right. You need to focus on the positive points that were brought up in your last appraisal and only touch briefly on any less positive points – making sure that you confirm these are issues you have now addressed or are in the process of addressing. You’re under no obligation to relate every last detail of your last appraisal so I would vote in favour of mentioning several positive points but limiting your answer to cover just one weaker point. If your appraisal brought up an apparent weak point that you can put a positive slant on then so much the better.

Of course, not all employers have a formal appraisal system – and this will certainly simplify your answer! It would, however, be a good idea to mention that, while there was no formal system in place, you have routinely received positive feedback on your performance, both from your boss and from your colleagues.

Example:

My last appraisal was very positive. My manager felt that I had made excellent progress in many areas and had really mastered the intricacies of the project we were working on. He did say that he felt other members of the team had become too dependent on me and that a lot of my time was being taken up in showing them how to tackle difficult or unusual issues. While he perceived this as an area for improvement, I perceived this as further evidence that the time is now right for me to take a step up to a management-level position – hence my applying for this role with yourselves

Alternative and related questions:

Have you ever been made redundant and, if so, why?
Have you ever been fired?

The meaning behind the question:

This question is distinct from “Why do you wish to leave your current position?” that we covered in the previous chapter in that it’s not exploring your current motivators in changing jobs; it’s exploring your previous reasons for having left a job.

The interviewer might also be hoping to turn up any skeletons you may have in your cupboard, for example dismissals.

Your answer:

We’ve already covered the topic of changing jobs in detail in the previous chapter under “Why do you wish to leave your current position?” – and much of that same advice will apply to this question. However, here I’d like to focus on two special cases: two more negative reasons why you might have left a previous job:

  • Being made redundant
  • Being fired/sacked

I would immediately like to apologise to any readers who have been made redundant. It is in no way my intention to cause any offence by listing redundancy as a negative reason for leaving a job. I fully appreciate that redundancy is a difficult time and that there’s often little justice in an employer’s choice of who to make redundant. I empathise entirely. However, my reason for including it in this list is not to suggest you’ve been made redundant through any fault of your own – but because your having been made redundant may unfortunately be perceived in a negative fashion by a prospective employer. It is therefore a hurdle you need to deal with – and which I will show you how to deal with.

Redundancy hurts. There’s no two ways about it. However, you must conceal any bitterness and resentment you may feel and instead convey to the interviewer that “such is life”, “these things happen”, it wasn’t your fault. It is the position that is redundant, not the individual person. Under no circumstances should you criticise the employer that laid you off. Rather than dwell on negative aspects, you must aim to emphasise any positive outcomes – for example that it gave you the opportunity to undertake some valuable training or that it meant you were able to move on to a new and better position.

Example:

Unfortunately, a major client, that my department was responsible for supplying, decided to withdraw completely from the UK and close all their branches. It appears they had over-reached themselves in deciding to expand beyond the USA. Almost everyone in my department was subsequently made redundant. However, with hindsight, it all worked out very well in the end because I was able to secure a new – and more senior – position within just a couple of months.

If you’ve been fired from a previous role then this is a tough one to deal with – it’s hard to put a positive slant on such matters.

There are two points I need to make about how you should handle this. Firstly, you must be truthful; it’s all too easy for a prospective employer to check these sorts of detail. Secondly, you must convey the circumstances as calmly and dispassionately as possible, acknowledge responsibility for the causes of your dismissal and, above all else, convince the interviewer that you learned a great deal from the experience and that this will never, ever happen again.

There are various words and expressions which can be used to describe your being dismissed from a job – sacked, fired, etc. However, these have more negative connotations than simply saying you were dismissed. You should therefore avoid using them in your answer.

Example:

I was only in that job for a couple of months and I unfortunately left it sooner than I would have liked to. I had an initial probationary period of three months and, during that time I regrettably had an argument with a customer. I felt they were being extremely unreasonable and, rather than pacifying them, I let the situation escalate. It turned out that they were a long-standing customer and they used their influence to insist that my manager dismiss me. I was young and inexperienced and I learned a great deal from this. I would certainly never now argue with a customer; I know that there are much better ways to resolve such a situation.

Alternative and related questions:

What’s the best job you have ever had?
Can you describe the best job you have ever had?
How would you define your dream job?
In which job were you the happiest/most fulfilled?

The meaning behind the question:

This is potentially a trick question. Does the interviewer really care which of your jobs was the best? Or are they more interested in identifying what your conception of the perfect job is – and how that matches or differs from the vacancy for which they are currently interviewing you. It’s much more likely to be the latter. By identifying what you have most enjoyed in the past they can assess how likely you are to enjoy this job in the future.

Your answer:

You should endeavour to pick a job which is not greatly dissimilar from the one for which you are applying. You then need to explain your choice in such a way as to emphasise the similarities between that role and this current vacancy – subtly of course.

Example:

I have tried to plan my career path carefully, only changing jobs when the right role has presented itself. However, I would say my best ever job was my role with Elisabeth Elkins Catering.  I was given a considerable degree of autonomy to conceive, plan and implement our marketing strategy. I had a highly productive working relationship with the Managing Director and the outcome was clearly very successful – our sales more than tripled by the end of my two years.

Word of warning:

Avoid citing your current job. The interviewer will wonder:

  • If it’s that great then why do you really want to leave?
  • If they do give you this job, is there a risk you might later regret it?

Alternative and related questions:

Why did you choose to study x at university and how do you feel it is relevant to this job?
What did you learn at university that will help you to undertake this job?

The meaning behind the question:

Completing a degree course is a significant undertaking. In asking this question the interviewer is trying to appreciate what your degree course involved and how the skills and experience gained during your time at university will be of use in the job for which you are now applying.

Your answer:

The way you answer this question will depend on your circumstances – and there are two main possibilities.

If your degree is directly relevant to the work you are now doing – for example if you’re a doctor – then this question is reasonably straightforward to answer. You just need to pick a few key aspects of your degree course which you have found to be particularly useful to you in your working life. Describe these briefly and demonstrate the bearing they have on your suitability for the role for which you are applying.

If, however, your degree was in Criminology and you are now working as a Finance Assistant then talking about the module on ‘Criminal Justice in Modern Britain’ is obviously going to be completely irrelevant! Instead, in such cases, you should be concentrating on:

  • What transferable skills and abilities you developed during your degree course
  • How these skills and abilities relate to your current line of work
  • How the experience of completing a degree course has helped you develop as an individual

Many employers are sceptical as to the real-world value of some degree courses. There is a common perception that graduates lack initiative – and the ability to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical purposes. Make sure you dispel any doubts the interviewer may have in this respect.

Example:

While my degree in Geography is of course not directly relevant to my current role as a Market Researcher, it was nevertheless a very worthwhile experience in many different ways. I developed a broad set of transferable skills, including how to compile, interpret and analyse data – skills I now apply on a daily basis. I also undertook a number of team projects, working together to achieve a goal, including writing up the results of our findings – and how best to structure and communicate our arguments. Undertaking a degree course was of course a major personal challenge and I definitely matured significantly during my time at university – learning how to plan and organise my own workload so as to meet all my deadlines.  I feel it has definitely helped to prepare me for my current career.

Alternative and related questions:

What have you learned in your last job?
What have you learned in each of your previous roles?

The meaning behind the question:

Ongoing personal and professional development is vital in many different lines of work. The interviewer will be looking for:

  • Evidence that you are someone who takes your continuing development seriously
  • Details of how you have developed in ways which will be useful to your next job

Your answer:

This question is similar to Question 24, “What have you learned in your last job?” but is sufficiently different for us to handle it separately. Yes, the interviewer will be interested in what you have learned in your last job but this a broader question and requires a broader answer – particularly if the interviewer has asked about the past five years instead of just the last 12 months.

You may have developed in numerous ways during the past five years but you should endeavour to select examples which are directly relevant to the role for which you are now applying. Talk about general ways in which you’ve developed as an individual, talk about specific training you have undertaken – and above all make it clear that you have been the driving force behind your development, not your employers.

Example:

Over the course of the past five years, I have made an effort to develop my skills and experience in numerous different ways. I have matured as an individual and my experience of working with others – both colleagues and customers – has contributed a lot to my interpersonal skills. I am also better able to see the bigger picture and how my role relates to the overall goals of the organisation. Having built up a broad range of experience, I am now much more productive in my role – and much better equipped to handle unusual or difficult situations. In terms of training, I have learned a range of new IT skills, including Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Access. I have also undertaken an evening course in business administration which has helped to shape the way I work and has given a formal structure to many of the skills I was already developing on a practical basis. I am also now a qualified First Aider.

 

Alternative and related questions:

How have you changed the job you’ve been doing?

The meaning behind the question:

All job roles evolve over time – some more than others. The interviewer isn’t asking how your job has changed since you were first appointed – they’re asking how you have changed it. They’re looking for evidence of initiative, drive and enthusiasm. The best employees are always looking for ways to make improvements – to change things for the better. It’s all too easy for an employee to sit back and just accept things the way they are but that’s not the sort of employee who is going to help drive an organisation forward.

Your answer:

An interviewer should only be asking this question if your current job is one in which you can reasonably be expected to have made changes to your role.

In many roles there is limited scope for making changes so your interviewer probably won’t be expecting too dramatic an example. If you have been responsible for a tangible improvement to your role then this is obviously going to be an excellent choice. Alternatively, it should be more than sufficient to describe ways in which you took on additional duties and responsibilities that weren’t part of your original job description.

Be aware that this is the sort of question that an interviewer is particularly likely to check up on when taking up your references – so it’s essential to be absolutely honest.

Example:

When I first took over the role, I noticed that my predecessor (who was in the job for many years) had been using a number of rather out-dated and laborious systems to help them manage the allocation of work to our sub-contractors. This was clearly wasting a significant amount of time – and time is money. I therefore consulted with my manager and outlined a proposal to scrap these various manual systems and replace them with a single system running on software I had become adept at using in my previous role. Given the low cost of the software and the obvious advantages of my proposal, my manager agreed to the plan. Having spent a couple of weeks setting up the new system, I consequently reduced my workload substantially and I was able to use this spare time to help my manager with his financial reporting. This gave me useful, additional experience and also freed up my manager to spend more time on other issues.

Word of warning:

For some reason, candidates are particularly prone to misunderstanding this question and interpreting it along the lines of, “What changes have you made in your current job?” This is a very different question and, no matter how good your answer to this question, your interviewer won’t be impressed if you fail to answer the question they actually asked.

Alternative and related questions:

How was your performance rated in your last appraisal?
How would you comment on your last appraisal?
What areas for improvement were identified at your last appraisal?

The meaning behind the question:

Appraisals are supposed to address both your strengths and your weaknesses – both your achievements and your failings. However, the interviewer will know that appraisals focus more on where there is room for improvement than on giving you a pat on the back. This question is a clever ploy to get you to confess precisely where there is room for improvement in your performance.

Your answer:

You’re going to need to be careful with your answer to this question. For a start, it’s very important to be totally honest – because the interviewer can easily check up on this sort of information when taking up your references and, if it’s an internal vacancy for which you are applying, then you can be more or less sure they will already have examined your last appraisal.

It’s not a difficult question to get right. You need to focus on the positive points that were brought up in your last appraisal and only touch briefly on any less positive points – making sure that you confirm these are issues you have now addressed or are in the process of addressing. You’re under no obligation to relate every last detail of your last appraisal so I would vote in favour of mentioning several positive points but limiting your answer to cover just one weaker point. If your appraisal brought up an apparent weak point that you can put a positive slant on then so much the better.

Of course, not all employers have a formal appraisal system – and this will certainly simplify your answer! It would, however, be a good idea to mention that, while there was no formal system in place, you have routinely received positive feedback on your performance, both from your boss and from your colleagues.

Example:

My last appraisal was very positive. My manager felt that I had made excellent progress in many areas and had really mastered the intricacies of the project we were working on. He did say that he felt other members of the team had become too dependent on me and that a lot of my time was being taken up in showing them how to tackle difficult or unusual issues. While he perceived this as an area for improvement, I perceived this as further evidence that the time is now right for me to take a step up to a management-level position – hence my applying for this role with yourselves.

Alternative and related questions:

What do you think of your current boss?
What kind of a relationship do you have with your current boss?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer may just be idly curious as to what your current boss is like, but don’t count on it. They’re much more likely to be probing your perceptions of authority – and, in particular, how you handle authority. While seemingly innocuous, this is actually quite a loaded question. If the interviewer identifies you as having any problems with authority then it’s going to be a big, black mark on your application.

Your answer:

This is most certainly not the same question as the ‘tough’ alternative, ‘What are your current boss’s weaknesses?’ that we cover in the next chapter – and you should most certainly be avoiding making any disparaging comments. Regardless of what a loser you might think your boss is, it isn’t going to get you anywhere to slate them. Statistically, having problems with their boss is the No. 1 reason people give for changing jobs. However, you’d do well just to give a reasonably complimentary description and portray a positive working relationship between the two of you.

Example:

I’m fortunate to have a pretty positive working relationship with my boss. She gives me a high degree of latitude to get on with my job while always being there to help me with any unusual or difficult situations – to lend me the benefit of her experience. Like many managers, she’s often very busy but she does a good job of closely supervising her team, steering us in the right direction and helping us to achieve the results that are expected of us. I know she appreciates the work I do and this obviously helps to motivate me and to strive to achieve my very best.

Alternative and related questions:

Would you give us permission to take up appropriate personal and professional references?

The meaning behind the question:

While the interviewer’s interest in checking your references is certainly not a negative sign, it’s still not yet a job offer. Most employers (if they have any sense) will take up references before hiring someone. It’s always a sensible precaution.

Your answer:

You don’t want your referees to be pestered unnecessarily by time wasters. By the time they have handled their umpteenth enquiry of the day, they are a lot less likely to say nice things about you! This is consequently not as straightforward a question to answer as it might at first seem. Your answer needs to be phrased in such a way as to make it clear that you have nothing to hide and you would be quite happy to provide details of referees but that this should only be done once your application is subject to a firm job offer. This is an entirely reasonable request and deserves to be respected.

Example:

I understand the importance of references and would be delighted for you to have a word with my referees – I’m confident they’ll be very supportive of my application. However, because my decision to change jobs is quite a sensitive issue – particularly with regard to my current employer – I would of course prefer if we could leave the issue of referees until such time as we might be discussing a firm job offer.

As well as these questions, you may also be interested in our section: Tough Interview Questions & Answers.

Think you’re well prepared? use our simple Interview Question Tool to see if you have got an answer to some random questions that it will fire at you. Good Luck!

The Interview Question & Answer Book

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