Questions you’re likely to face

We dish the inside track on the top questions asked at interview, and how candidates should answer them to impress

“Why do you want to work for us?”
Explain why you see the company as an attractive employer. Financial package should never be given as a reason, but think about things like the company culture, training program, company structure, the ability to cross-train into different technologies, or the company’s ethic. Obviously these need to be relevant and well-researched.

“Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
Think about where you really want to be within a company: in a lead role with a team under you; or a lead consultant; or a director of the company. Be ambitious but realistic and have direction in your answers.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Talk specifically about the positive things you’ve achieved to illustrate your strengths rather than generalising and make them relevant to the role you are going for. Try to show your weaknesses in a positive light and give examples of where you have addressed and overcome your weaknesses.

“Why did you apply for this job?”
The candidate should be careful not to mention a desire for promotion or money. They should really focus on the actual content of the job, referring to the possibility of learning, new challenges, or the prospect of putting their previous experience to work in a new role. They should always provide examples with their answer, rather than just simply stating ‘I’m ready for the next step.’

“Why should we hire you?”
Many companies will ask the candidate to sell themselves using their strengths. Prepare a list of your strengths beforehand and think about how they relate to the job. I would advise people not to be modest and to only speak about their weaknesses if they are asked directly. Of course you should avoid being arrogant as much as possible, but arrogance comes across in body language more than anything else.

“What are your major achievements in terms of your career, education and life to date?”
Achievement means different things to different people. For example, one person’s idea of achievement might simply be the fact that they have completed their studies, particularly if, say, they experienced a tough time going through school. Another person’s idea of achievement might be having secured a place on a good graduate scheme. It’s not so much the actual achievement that’s important in a candidate’s answer, but the way they present it. This question always provides a good indication of a person’s level of self-awareness.

“What motivates or drives you?”
For some people this could be learning or work/life balance, for others it could be money or professional acceleration. The answer really tells the interviewer about what makes someone tick. Not everyone wants to be a board director, and an interviewer isn’t necessarily going to see it as a weakness if you don’t. It’s important to be honest.

“Tell me about your depth of knowledge in your subject area?”
Most job interviews are going involve questions about your professional knowledge. We are always interested in how a candidate keeps up to date in their field – what magazines and journals they read, what sort of models they are using in their work, what their network is like, whether they go to conferences – all of these things tell us about how a candidate keeps up their professional knowledge

Dealing with ‘trick’ questions

Now for the nasties… the negative questions that are thrown at you from left field. These are some suggestions on how to handle them

Negative questions are more about how a candidate copes with the question. They are about putting the pressure on. Interviewers are certainly looking for honesty in the answers, but if the role involves pressure then they want to know how the candidate copes with pressure.

Always answer the ‘What are your weaknesses’ question with honesty, but be careful in your choice of weaknesses. Don’t give a long list. Make sure the weaknesses you talk about are real. Don’t just list the classics like I am a perfectionist. Proving that you have a good knowledge of your weaknesses means you know yourself and are comfortable with yourself. List specific characteristics about yourself like I have a big group of friends rather than I am a team player.

It’s important to be very open and honest. Don’t try to hide things by saying things like ‘I encountered this problem, but it wasn’t my fault, it happened because I had a bad manager’. Don’t be defensive. If you are asked to describe a time you made a mistake, explain exactly what happened and talk about what you learnt and what you would do in the future if faced with the same situation again.

If you are asked about a time when you have made a mistake or had difficulties, always present your answer in terms of what you learned from the situation. Be careful, though, not to come across as too practised in the way you answer the question. I have seen people who interview very well, they come across as slick and packaged, but there’s a sense that they are putting up a front. Interviewers look for honesty, so don’t be afraid to inject a bit of yourself into the exchange. Don’t be afraid to show that you are human. Don’t compromise and don’t try to be something you’re not.

With any question like ‘what would you say your weaknesses are?’ employers are testing two issues: first, are you self-aware, ie are you able to see that there are things you are not so good at; and, secondly, are you the sort of person who does something to correct it? Avoid giving weaknesses critical to the job.

If they ask what salary you require, avoid being too specific. Use a phrase like: “In the range of…” Try not to discuss salary until you are offered the position because then you are in a better position to negotiate terms and responsibilities. If you are unsure what to answer, bounce the question back if this seems appropriate.

Another difficult question is ‘describe a situation where your work or an idea was criticised’. You are being asked to describe how you handle criticism. It is advisable to describe a poor idea rather than poor work. What does matter is how you handled the criticism. So a good answer, for example, would be: “I asked for further advice, then we worked together to come up with a more viable idea. My supervisor/manager’s input was invaluable.”

If you’re asked where you see yourself in five years’ time, they’re asking what will keep you motivated. To prepare, think about what has motivated you in the past that would be relevant to the job. For example it could be as simple as knowing that you are doing the job well.


Cardinal Candidate Sins!

Professional recruiters share some of the interview blunders they have seen candidates commit. Whatever you do, don’t…

…Forget your place

I’ve had many candidates acting in interview as if they were doing the employer a huge favour by attending, which only serves to ruin any chance of securing a position. However highly skilled and sought after a candidate may be, it is ultimately their job to sell themselves to an employer.

…Forget to mute that mobile

I’ve had a report from an interviewer about a candidate who had interrupted the interview to answer his mobile phone, at which point he slouched back in his chair, put his feet on the table and began tapping away at his laptop.

…Shoot yourself in the foot

I know of one candidate who said “I hate being managed by women” while being interviewed by a female manager!

…Force your research about the company on the interviewer

The interviewer might be impressed to know that you have taken the trouble but you may come across as smart. Include what you have discovered in conversation rather than by producing reams of paper and charts!

…Criticise former employees or colleagues

It is important to keep the exchange of information as positive as possible. You don’t want a recruiter to see any negative baggage that you could potentially bring with you. Also, a recruiter wouldn’t want to think you would repeat criticism bout them or their organisation!

…Talk about personal or domestic matters unless specifically asked to

Firstly, how relevant is this information in convincing a recruiter that you can do the job? Secondly, by going off the beaten track you are in danger of boring the recruiter, showing lack of focus and displaying poor listening skills.

…Read from your CV or refer to notes

You should be confident enough to discuss and expand upon your skills and achievements fluently without referring to supporting information. You may, however, need to refer to prepared questions that you want to ask at the end of the interview.


It would be very unwise to take on the interviewer head to head, even if you felt it was warranted. Make yourself as attractive as possible without challenging the interviewer in any way.

Surviving your new job

So it is Sunday night and you are starting work at your new job tomorrow and you are wondering what it is going to be like?

 Here are a few helpful guidelines on how to survive your first few weeks in your new job!


Whatever mistakes you have made in your previous career, you are leaving them behind. However you behaved is in the past. Your new employer will be looking at how you behave to judge you afresh. If you are the bright enthusiastic superstar winner, who goes the extra mile, they will take that as what you are like. Think of how you want to be perceived and start living it. Positive, energetic, enthusiastic, interested, supportive, helpful and hard working.

I managed someone for about 3 years, he was late everyday by between 15 and 30 minutes, it drove me mad. About 6 months after he left I was talking to his new boss and I jokingly asked “So, how is Vish’s time keeping” and he said “Great! He is first in everyday”. He had left his past behind and his new boss didn’t even know what I was talking about.

So, starting a new job is your chance to “reap what you sow”.


As any manager knows getting people in on time is the most tedious, irritating, most repetitive task a manager has to do. Make sure you are on time everyday, or you could be turning yourself into the scapegoat that your new boss has been looking for. I know one company that fired a new employee on the third day because she was late twice.


 Smaller and younger companies tend to shaped by the founders and key directors. If you are going from an Accountant led company to a sales led one you need to be prepared.

If you are joining a company that is run by an ex-salesman then make sure you pass the leads on, keep the CRM up to date, take an interest in the “sales pipeline” and approach any client meeting as an opportunity to find more business.

If you are joining a company run by an ex accountant, square your expenses properly, get the mileage absolutely right, fill out your time sheet as you would your wedding anniversary card,  dot your I’s and cross your T’s.

If you are joining a company that is run by an Ex-teckie then find out if they hate Bill, Larry, Steve or McNally, and don’t slag off the wrong company! Make sure your specifications are easy to follow, your support dockets properly filed and you follow the release management procedure properly.

It can be a surprise to find a company with a different aspect, so make sure your have your antennae up to figure out what is what.


Your new company may be doing some strange things, and some of their business process may be a mess, they might even be doing really odd things with software and hardware. This could be your opportunity to bring them into 2008 and show them what a superstar you are, or it could be the MD/IT Manager/your new boss, has some weird and spooky pet projects. Look before you leap!

Always be very careful of people who have moved from one department into IT within the same company, often they know how a company or department really functions, rather than how it should. If you are going to change the world, just make sure you have asked a few, “why, what, where, when, which and how” questions before you leap in.


Your first few weeks are probably not the best opportunity to try out the Dinosaur tie, the pink socks or the T-shirt that says “Who is Jack Schitt?”! To be safe, try and be the best dressed person in your department. Generally speaking nudity, fetish clothing and white disco suits should be saved until after your probationary period!

From my experience the way companies support their own dress codes is often extraordinary and it normally comes from the top. I has an employer who had specific rules about what shorts the men could wear on casual day. Just be careful, because you might be upsetting the big cheese without even knowing it.


Remember that you were hired (almost certainly) for your technical skills and background; make sure you prove your technical ability. If you made anything up in the interview, then make sure you remember what you made up and buy a book!


A new job is like new shoes, they need wearing in, before you get the floating on a puffy cloud feeling. If you were with your previous company for many years, then you probably knew the company, staff, procedures, way of life, inside out.

Remember it will take some time to settle in and know your way around. It is possible that your arrival may put some people’s noses out of joint, or that you have better technical skills than some, or that you just feel left out.

Ask questions if you are unsure, be pleasant and friendly to everyone, don’t show off – and allow people to get used to you. Change can be hard for your new team too.

Most importantly be as cheerful, positive and optimistic as possible. Like every manager, the person who hired you wants an easy run, they want someone who is:









If you are going to be driving to the same place everyday find a large map of the area, and stick it onto a piece of cardboard, the bigger the better. (I know it sounds Blue Peters but…) then you can see all the possible options, main roads, side roads, motorways and cut-throughs. This has worked especially well in London. Whenever you try a different route it is much easier to get the overview of your route. I have found that this method of learning the journey if the fastest way to becoming a local expert. And there is nothing worse than taking the wrong route for 3 months and the realising you could have saved 30 minutes everyday!


If you are joining in a consulting role, you will probably be going out on site and there is every possibility you are going to get the worst location ever. 6 months at Selafield in a Nuclear fall out suit! Grin and bear it, try and be as optimistic as possible, don’t moan every time you talk to your boss. Try and find out when the next decent project starts, then try to get agreement that if you manage to finish on time, and to budget you can get onto the one you want.


Most importantly remember to tell them how fabulous Ambrose Resourcing are!


There is no hiding from the truth that resigning is just about the least fun thing to do.

To try and help I suggest you visit  (where do they think of the names?).

There are 8 options and please have a look and see what you think. From a personal perspective as someone who has had lots of resignations and also had to resign to amongst others: a current girlfriend, my sister’s ex boyfriend and an MD who had the week before spend £150 on dinner with me, it is never easy.

But whatever you write is going to go in your file and if it is rude, poorly written or unflattering that is going to be the impression you leave, with them and with whoever opens your file to give to a reference in the future.

Employers always feel that you are shafting them, they believe that they have gone the extra mile to help you and develop you and encourage you.  They always think that you are at fault not them, a resignation letter is not the time to explain how they are the most incompetent, moron to ever wear the mantle of manager. Just swallow your pride!

Once you have resigned your boss is going to have to tell his or her boss. The first questions they get asked will be:  “Can we turn them around? What can we do to keep them?”

It the job market place today, they are going to try to keep you, they will appeal to your loyalty and make you feel guilty about leaving them at “Just the wrong time.”

They will offer you more money, promotion, training, new projects and MBA and partridge in a pear tree, all of this magically becomes available because you resigned. Yet all the times you told you boss, how unhappy you were…nothing. All the times you asked for more money…zip.

When you do resign, you can avoid having the counter offer discussion by using the firmest words possible:

Chance of a life time

  • Dream job
  • Unmissable opportunity
  • Something like this only comes along once
  • Life changing opportunity
  • Giant career leap

They finality of these means they are more likely to accept it and let you go easily.

In 9 out of 10 cases people who accepted a “counter-offer” are back on the job market with 3 months. Put simply your boss wants to keep you so you can be replaced at their leisure, they win kudos from their boss and save the day. But it never quite works out, the promotion, training and everything else never materialise, so, 3 months later you will be back on the job market.


Companies sometimes ask people to take gardening leave, which is where the employer  pays you your full salary and benefits but asks you to not work for any one else. They can only enforce this if there is a clause in the contract that stipulates it.

Very few people have that clause in their contracts so it is rarely enforceable.


 When you resign you may be asked if you want to work your notice. If you say no then your employer is not obliged to pay you. So they can let you go and only pay you up until the time you left.

However, if you say you would like to work your notice and they say you don’t have to, they are “depriving you of office” which means they have to pay for your full notice period plus all salary and benefits.

Obviously the ideal is that you leave and get full pay! But be careful of the question “Do you want to work your notice?”

Good luck and be brave!

Different letters:

1. Straight to the Point

2. Moving to another company

3. Waiver of Notice Period

4. Going back to College

5. Extension of Notice Period

6. Request Shorter Notice Period

7. No Written Contract

8. Leaving to have a baby (and not coming back)

9. Leaving due to Sickness

Dressing for an interview

Like it or not, your appearance will be judged as an expression of who you are and your approach to your work. And before you get disillusioned and think interviews are just a beauty parade; they aren’t. However, the reality is that your clothes, hair and shoes will all be viewed as indicators of your status, self-confidence, self-care and self-worth.

Get the image right, and it will get you noticed. Your prospective employer will just feel that you “look right” and that they can see you in the job. However, get it wrong and you could find it difficult to overcome any negative preconceptions.

A well-groomed, professional appearance can demonstrate that you are serious about a position, as you’ve taken the time to prepare and look your best. Loud, flashy clothing and gaudy jewellery can give the impression that you are too much of an individualist and that you may have difficulty conforming to a company’s culture

  • Ladies, no tight or sexy clothes! Let the interviewer see that you are professional.  Dark-coloured suits featuring skirts or trousers are acceptable for interviews. If you wear a skirt, be sure it is at least knee-length and no shorter when you are standing. A tailored blouse that blends well with your suit is a good choice, and make sure your heels are not too high!  Your make-up and jewellery should be conservative; and if you wear a dress, choose plain, neutral-colour tights with no discernible patterns. 
  •  Men, remember that personal grooming is as important as what you’re wearing, remember to have a shave, hair cut and make sure your clothes are clean and well-ironed. Men should typically wear a matching, solid, dark blue or grey suit, avoiding lighter colours or earth tones. Stick to jackets featuring two or three buttons, and avoid vests or double-breasted jackets. White shirts are preferable, although pale blue is also acceptable. Avoid shirts with stripes or other designs or patterns. Choose a tie that works well with your suit, Wear dark-coloured (preferably black) shoes, belt and socks.


  • Do have your outfit ironed and ready the night before.  You don’t want to find yourself panicking about what to wear on the morning of the interview you want to be focused on the job and your experience.


  • “Smart casual”. Some interviewers now ask for the smart-casual attire. This look allows you to create a professional image but also show your own personality and feel more confident in your appearance. You still want to look smart so definitely no jeans or trainers!

LinkedIn & Job Board Updates

As recruiters we often come across great CV’s from candidates on job boards or linkedIn, only to find the address or phone number details (etc) are out of date!!
Please remember: if you move or change your number- UPDATE your details!!
Whilst on the subject of job boards  – PDFs are our pet hates! Not only do we as recruiters encounter uploading issues- remember: when we do key word searches they won’t find your key words in your CV.
Please make our lives easier by converting PDFs into word, thank you!

Preparation for interview

Preparation is the first essential step towards a successful interview.

Clients are continually amazed at the number of candidates who have not prepared and possess little or no information about the company.
 1.       Ensure that you know the exact location and time of interview, the interviewer’s full name, the correct pronunciation and title held.

2.       Find out specific facts about the company – where its offices are located; what its products and services are; what its growth has been; and what its growth potential is for the future.

3.       Refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your PRESENT/FORMER employer.  You will be expected to know a lot about a company that you have previously worked for.

4.       Prepare the questions you will ask and remember that an interview is a ‘two-way street’.  The interviewer will try to determine through questioning if you have the qualifications necessary to do the job.  You must determine through questioning whether the company will provide the opportunity for growth and development that you seek.

5.       Probing questions you might ask….
(a)       A detailed description of the position?
(b)       Reason the position is available?
(c)       Culture of the company?
(d)       Anticipated induction and training programme?
(e)       What sort of people have done well?
(f)        Advanced training programmes available for those who demonstrate outstanding availability?
(g)      Company growth plans?
(h)      Best-selling products or services?
(i)        The next step?

Negative factors to watch for

During the course of an interview, the interviewer will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes.  Listed below are negative factors frequently evaluated during the course of an interview and those which most often lead to rejection:

  • Poor personal appearance.
  • Overbearing, aggressive, conceited ‘superiority complex’, ‘know-it-all’ attitude.
  • Inability to express thoughts clearly, poor diction or grammar.
  • Lack of planning for career – no purpose or goals.
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm – passive and indifferent.
  • Lack of confidence – nervousness.
  • Over-emphasis on money – interested only in remuneration.
  • Evasive – makes excuses for unfavourable factors in record.
  • Lack of tact/maturity/courtesy.
  • Condemnation of past employers.
  • Failure to look the interviewer in the eye.
  • Limp, fishy handshake.
  • Failure to ask good questions about the job and company.
  • Lack of preparation for interview – failure to get information about the company, resulting in an inability to ask intelligent questions.

Other Interview Questions

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

People ask this for one of two reasons, either they are useless at interviewing and cannot think of anything else, or they are brilliant at interviews and know that this question shows how well you plan and prepare.

Think of an answer that is based on a strength like working too hard, being too diligent, getting too involved, too quality.  Or something that technology has over come, poor spelling (spell check), organisation (PDA) or getting lost (sat nav). Then tailor your answer so that your “weakness” happens to be a positive thing.


  1. What is your favourite colour?
  1. What is your favourite animal?
  1. If you were an animal / car / colour what colour would you be?

All these questions are the same, the answer you give is irrelevant, it is the supplementary question that is the killer. Why is that? Describe the car, colour animal?

I once asked “What is your favourite colour?”

“Yellow” said the 25 years old, female candidate

“Can you describe that colour?” I asked

“Flirty sexy, crazy, funky, silly and mad”

“Does that describe you?” I asked

“Yes it does” she replied, super embarrassed and blushing!

How would you handle … this situation?


The temptation is to leap in with the solution, but asking a question about the scenario buys you a little bit of thinking time and it might help clarify the problem.


Give the most professional answer you can give, I can think of few occasions where a flippant answer wins the job.


You only get one chance to make a first impression, so look sharp!

 A suit and tie always create the best first impression for a man. My Dad always reckoned that you could get away with a cheap suit if you had a good shirt and a nicely knotted tie.

 And let’s not forget the “Three N’s”

  • Nasal hair
  • Nails
  • Nice shoes

 If you make the effort it will never go against you. 

Telephone Interviews

Quite often the process starts with a telephone interview. This is much harder than a face to face because so much of normal communication is visual. To make a good impression you need to make sure that you treat a telephone interview with as much importance as a face to face interview.

First impressions:

Answer you phone professionally and smile

Make sure your answer phone or voicemail have a decent greeting

Make sure you can hear and you can speak clearly

Sit up straight and speak as if you were in an interview, it will make a real difference.

In my experience telephone interviews with bad reception never go well, if you cannot get to an area with good reception, you are not going to be able to communicate effectively. If possible use a land line. Remember spending 2 minutes calling back from a different phone or location might make the 30 minute interview worthwhile.

If you are sat waiting for the call but you can’t call anyone because it will block the line…text me on 07815 786 485 and I can chase up the interviewer and find out what is going on.

An example of a dire result on a telephone interview is this beauty:

 Email from candidate: “The interview went reasonably ok I think. I had bad reception at times but seemed fine overall. Unfortunately it was very noisy where I was because I was on site.”

 The feedback from the client was: “Not for us, thanks Steve”

 If they could have spoken to each other properly, would the outcome of the telephone interview have been different?  

Good luck with telephone interviews, they are a very tough part of the recruitment process.

Any questions?

At the end of the interview you will probably be asked if you have any questions. Please ask something, as saying “No!” is a disaster.

It is difficult to prepare a question beforehand because it could be that the interview has covered some of the questions you were thinking of asking. Some subjects that you might consider:


Company history

Interviewer’s history at the company

Interviewer’s background

What happened to the person doing the job previously?

Why do their customers chose them?

Show enthusiasm & interest

Demonstrating that you have enthusiasm for the role and a genuine interest in working for the company are both vital for the successful outcome of the interview.

Body language is important, smile, lean forward a little, keep eye contact and nod gently when someone is talking.

Asking questions about the role, team, company, clients and projects, these all show that you are interested. If you turn them into “involvement questions” then they are more powerful:

“Tell me about the team I will be working with?” smile

“What can you say about the type of projects I will be working on?”

“Where will I sit?”

“Who will I work with?”

“Who would you say would be the best mentor I could have from the current team?”

You must show that you are interested in the answer, to be really “ace it”.


Talk about a project

 You need to demonstrate your competence for the job you are going for. The simplest way is to talk about a project, as an example to highlight your experience.

Start off by talking about the size and scope of the project

Man days or project length, or project value or team size.

Then talk about the project

What type of company was it for (shows off your experience of verticals)

What was it, implementation, upgrade, whatever

Then talk about what you did.

I did this part of the project and this part and this part. Be specific, this is your chance to shine

Then tell them what software you used.

Finish it off with a tie up.

What the client said, what the users said or something that makes it look like you did a good job.


If you are asked about money, it is best to go with the:

“It is the job not the money.” And then if you really want to, you can say “And I want this job”.

The reality is that you are interviewing through Ambrose and your CV will have a figure on it. Let us handle the negotiation and it avoids you having to cheapen the interview by haggling. But if the client really wants to haggle then you have to, so be prepared to talk about money.

Cheer up!

It is a difficult time, but discussing the woes of the economy and the misery of Britain is going to kick your interview off with a glum start. Try to avoid starting off the meeting with any pre amble about gloom and doom.

If you get asked:

“How are you?”

“I am fantastic and looking forward to sitting down and talking about this role.”

It would probably be preferable to:

“Well I am OK, considering the circumstances and the weather and the cold and the rain and the economy and the NHS and the crime statistics”

You are selling yourself so start with being positive!

Ghost of the stairs!

The French have an expression something like “’esprit d’escalier” which is the dumber than dumb feeling you get when you walk onto the stairs and you realise what you should have said.

In normal life you just have to accept that you can’t always say that stunning line at the right time every time, but for interviews you should be able to find the right words more often. The reason is that you know most of the questions that are going to be asked. These interview notes are your guide to lots of the questions and themes that happen at interview so you can be prepared. Hopefully you will be “Rocky at the top of the stairs” and not a ghost in sight

From the interviewer’s perspective

If you are being invited for an interview they want to hire you. There is no other option.

You might be nervous, you might be late, you might be any number of things but if you can do the job, you are in with a really good chance, the interview is your opportunity to prove that you can do the job.

You might be interviewed by someone who is an accomplished interviewer who asks insightful, thought-provoking questions or you might be interviewed by a complete beginner. Either way if you demonstrate that you have the skills do the job, they will be interested.

As an employer they want an easy ride, they want to hire people who are easy to manage, people who are punctual, people who are enthusiastic & positive, ideally people who have potential to progress. They are probably not that interested in moaning, groaning,  sickies who hate their previous employers, have never been promoted and blame everyone but themselves!

As an employer I have hired 100’s of people, but I never hired anyone who wasn’t positive, simply I only wanted to work with positive people.