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You are likely to participate in many kinds of interview in your working life both as interviewer and interviewee. This page focuses on your role as a job applicant. The Models page has video clips of actual  interview questions and answers.

The expectations of employers vary a great deal and you should always seek the best advice before attending an interview. The Careers Education and Placement Centre is able to offer expert advice to HKU students on interviews with specific employers and on specific kinds of interviews. Take advantage of it!


Interview roles

Your role in an interview will determine what you will try to do during the interview and the kind of language you will use. Interviewer and interviewee may share a common purpose, but they may also have specific goals. In a job interview, both interviewer and interviewee share the purpose of finding out if the candidate and the job are well matched. But the interviewer will be looking for the best candidate, whereas the interviewee will be trying show that she is the best person for the job. Whether you are an interviewer or interviewee, begin by thinking about your own goals and the goals of the person opposite you.


Interview roles

Preparing for a job interview

In order to be a successful interviewee, you need to know what the interviewer is looking for. Selection criteria vary from job to job and from employer to employer. To prepare for an interview, you should therefore do as much research as you can and try to work out what kind of person the employer will be looking for.


Brainstorming questions that are likely to come up in an interview will help you put on a better performance. Remember that the employer wants to know if you are the best candidate for the job. The question underlying every other question is: "Why should we hire you?" General questions are designed to find out about your personality and attitude to work. Job specific questions are designed to assess your suitability for the job.

Many employers ask questions based on your resume. They may appear to structure the questions on (1) your report of work experience, education and extra-curricular activities, or (2) their criteria for the job. Either way, both factors play a part and you need to consider both as you prepare for your interviews.

The random interviewer


Some questions seem simple but are actually designed to give you an opportunity to show yourself in a positive light. Avoid giving short, obvious answers and take the opportunity to talk. Make sure that your answer is relevant, interesting and allows you to show off your strengths. Your answers should not sound like they have been prepared in advance and should be delivered naturally and convincingly. 


During interviews, candidates sometimes come across situations where they are lost for words. So, apart from anticipating general and job-specific questions, you need to develop strategies for handling difficult or unexpected questions. At the end of an interview, the interviewer usually invites the interviewee to ask some questions. Prepare some questions appropriate to the post. This is not the best time to to clarify queries about the job requirements and salary, which can be done later if you are actually offered the job. Ask questions politely and do not seem critical of the company or the job. If you cannot think of a question, or your prepared questions have already been answered, just decline to ask questions politely.


Handling difficult situations

The language of job interviews

The language you use in a job interview will create an impression on the interviewer. Below we offer two tips.


Choice of words

The same information can be presented in a positive or negative way. For example,

  • I am keen to acquire new skills to apply to the job
  • I don’t know how to do that so I would need training

The former is more likely to create a favourable impression than the latter. When preparing answers to questions, think carefully about the impression your choice of words will make.


Positive language

Verb tenses

When you make a statement about yourself it is important for the employer to understand whether what you are describing is:

  • Something you did in the past but are no longer doing (past tense)
  • Something you did in the past and are still doing now (present perfect tense)
  • Something you are doing now and intend to do in the future (present continuous)
  • Something you do habitually (present tense)
  • Something you intend to do (future tense)

The wrong tense can be confusing or create a false impression. When preparing answers to questions about yourself, think carefully about your choice of tenses.

This module is adapted from materials written by English Centre Staff for the Resume and Interview Skills in English (RISE) course. Video materials were made with the support of PriceWaterhouseCoopers.


Verb tenses

The EPC web has been created by the ITIP team at the English Centre, The University of Hong Kong. Please email comments or questions to the ITIP team.