Listening to and Answering Questions in Interviews

Listening to and Answering Questions

You need to concentrate and listen very carefully to the questions. Make sure you understand the question before offering any answer. Allow the interviewer to finish asking the question before offering an answer.

If you miss the question or are not sure about it, rephrase the key words and ask the interviewer to clarify. Do not attempt to answer without fully understanding the question.

If you do not anticipate a question and have not prepared an answer for it, pause and think before offering one. It is better to think carefully for an appropriate answer than to offer an answer in a hurry. Make sure you do not spend too much time thinking.

If you do not anticipate a question and have not prepared an answer for it, pause and think before offering one. It is better to think carefully for an appropriate answer than to offer an answer in a hurry. Make sure you do not spend too much time thinking.

You need to take the initiative in providing useful information for the interviewer in order to evaluate your suitability for the position. Do not give Yes/No answers only. Give your answer directly and support it with relevant evidence from past experience because interviewers do not have time to listen to your long and comprehensive replies.

Although you should prepare your answers for interview questions beforehand, you should not recite them directly from your memory in front of the interviewer. You should memorize the main ideas and offer the answers in a natural and spontaneous way.

You should attempt to offer positive responses to every question in the interview. Even when your answer is negative, you should stress your present situation and discuss your future plans or inclinations. Offer clear and positive explanations of why some of your accomplishments are less than satisfactory. Do not try to put blame on others or offer an excuse for yourself. Be honest and sincere about your weakness or shortcoming, and turn it into something positive.

Language Use

If you cannot hear the question, do not ask the interviewer to repeat directly using

"Pardon me" or
"Excuse me, can you repeat the question again?"

They make the interviewer feel that you have not been paying attention. Use key words the interviewer has used and rephrase the question to ask for clarification. You can use, for example,

"Do you mean...?" or
"Do I understand correctly that you mean...?"

Be careful in using expressions such as

"Of course"
"No problem"
"As you know"

They make the interviewer feel you are conceited and arrogant. Offer answers that are factual and modest. You can rephrase your answer in other equally positive ways, for example,

"I believe that..." or
"I don't see a major problem in..."

Be careful in using expressions such as

"To be frank" or
"To be honest".

They imply that you have not been honest in answering previous questions. You should only use these expressions when you want to turn something negative into something potentially positive, for example, negotiating salary and terms of employment or discussing your weaknesses.

When you cannot avoid a negative answer, you should soften the tone of the reply first, then offer affirmation to reassure the interviewer of your ability and eagerness for the job. For example,

"I do not have the answer to that question at this moment, but my past experience shows that I can learn fast. I believe I can acquire knowledge of that field on the job."

End your answers promptly when you have offered all necessary details. Do not end by saying

"That's all."

You can indicate the end of your reply by nodding your head lightly to assure your interviewer.

Body Language


Shaking hands with your interviewer is good practice although it is not common in Hong Kong, even in the business field. It helps you create a friendly and professional image. Make sure your handshake is prompt and firm.


You can place your portfolio or briefcase on the side of your chair or on your lap. Make sure you feel comfortable with your posture. You may sit upright or perhaps lean forward a little to project an eager and confident image. You should not fidget. Make sure you are seated properly in your interview suit and that it is not creased.

Eye Contact

You should look at all interviewers when answering questions. Don't just maintain eye contact with the interviewer who asked you the question you are answering. Make sure you look sincere and honest.

Facial Expressions

You can keep a friendly smile on your face to show your enthusiasm. Be careful not to look too eager for the job or so relaxed that you don't seem to care. Try to project a serious and professional image on your interviewers.


You should speak clearly and relatively slowly. You can pause when you are thinking of appropriate replies before answering questions. Make sure you do not pause for too long. Be careful not to pause too often in the middle of your answers or fill your pause with too many fillers such as

"Em..." or

They make it difficult for your interviewers to follow what you are saying.


You can use humour appropriately in an interview to lighten up a tense atmosphere in the interview room. You can demonstrate your leadership quality by showing that you are a confident person who is relaxed and capable of controlling a tough situation.

Be careful not to be overly humorous. Your interviewers may feel that you are not serious enough for the job.


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