Career Networking

Interview Skills

Being able to answer questions clearly, calmly and professionally in a job interview is a key employability skill. This chapter introduces practical tips and strategies to help you get the job you want.

Organizations are increasingly creative in their approach to hiring. KPMG, for example, offers applicants a game-based application tool that “provides candidates with an opportunity to showcase their unique strengths by completing interactive, skill-testing challenges.”[1]

McCarthy Tétrault guides applicants through its hiring process, and offers hints and tips.[2]

Whatever the process, at some point you’ll have to convince interviewers that you are the right fit for the position. This is where impromptu speaking skills are important.

What is Impromptu Speaking?

Impromptu speaking is speaking without preparation, the way we do in conversations, classes, meetings and job interviews. In such situations we typically don’t know what questions will be asked, or every topic that will be raised. We answer spontaneously, without preparation. Most of the time this is easy and relaxing. But in job interviews and at work, we need to be able to respond quickly, correctly and professionally.

Impromptu speaking strategies​

When you’re in an impromptu speaking situation don’t panic! There are strategies you can use to buy time and formulate a professional answer.

Two excellent strategies are HKCC and BRACE Yourself. They’re described below.

HKCC Method

  1. Headline: Say the most important thing you want the listeners to hear.
    • For example, Our team is on track and ready to present.
  2. Key Points: 2-3 key points that support the headline.
    • For example, We’ve completed the research, analysis and report.
  3. Close: Quickly summarize your headline and key points, optimistically.
    • For example, We’re excited and looking forward to the conference.
  4. Call to Action: Tell the listener what you want them to do, or ask if you’ve answered their question.
    • For example, Can you please tell us what time we’ll be presenting?
    • For example, Does that answer your question?

BRACE Yourself​ Method

  1. Breathe​. Before doing anything, ​take a breath and calm yourself
  2. Repeat the question​​ or prompt (and comment on it if you want to).
    • For example, You’d like to hear about a weakness I have. That’s a great question; thanks for asking
  3. Answer, directing the conversation to what you want to talk about.
    • For example, if you’re asked about your weaknesses, mention one briefly then describe how you manage it or turned it into a strength​
  4. Conclude professionally​ by repeating the question, using a concluding statement, or asking a question.
    • For example, repeat the prompt​: And that’s where I see myself in 5 years
    • For example, use a concluding statement: In conclusion…
    • For example, ask: Does that answer your question? or Is that the information you’re looking for?
  5. Examples Use personal stories and examples because they add precision and interesting detail. Also you know them well; they’re easy to remember, even when you’re stressed. Prepare 3-5 stories that include a challenging situation, lessons learned, and/or professional successes.

Look Confident & Professional

  • Avoid filler words such as um, ah, like, you know ​
  • Use professional language (friendly, respectful, clear & precise)​
  • Define unfamiliar or complex terms​
  • Include confident body language: sit up confidently, make frequent (but not constant) eye contact, use gestures, smile​

Breathe.
It calms you and gives you time to think.


Preparing for your interview

Although impromptu means without preparation, always prepare for job interviews!

  • Read the employer’s website and social media platforms
  • Review the interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles
  • Search for news and events related to the position, organization or industry
  • On employment sites like ranstad, Monster, Workopolis and LinkedIn, search for and prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions
  • Bring with you about 10 questions to ask the interviewer. Not sure what to ask? Search the sites above (and Google) for questions to ask in a job interview
  • Know exactly how to get to the location of your interview, if it’s in person
  • If you’re interviewing by phone or video, test the connections and setup before the interview. Have a backup plan in case technology fails
  • Plan what you’ll wear, based on your knowledge of the organization’s culture
  • Be there (online or in person) 5-10 minutes early, with a copy of your resume, your list of questions, and something to take notes with


  Canadian Workplace Quiz 


 


  1. KPMG, KPMG Ready, Last accessed September 17, 2020, https://home.kpmg/ca/en/home/careers/students/kpmg-ready.html
  2. McCarthy Tétrault, Application Process, Last accessed September 17, 2020, https://www.mccarthy.ca/en/careers/students/vancouver/application-process

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Professional Business Practice by Lucinda Atwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.