How to be A.S.T.A.R in interviews

With redundency becoming more and more common, and jobs in short supply, many people are looking for employment sometimes at a lower grade then their previous position. employers are sometimes reluctant to employ someone, who they feel frustrated taking a lower position or may thing the job beneath them. They may wonder if you will resnet taking instructions frok someone less experienced then you, so the question you may be asked is: 

Are you overqualified?


While you may think how this possible, look at this form the employers prospective. Don’t forget recruitment is a cost in both management time and money, this investment, they want to recoup in employment.

Don’t forget the key employer’s questions:


    1. Can you do the job?
    2. Are you willing and able to do the job?
    3. Will you ‘fit in’ as one of the team?


The first one seems obviously simple, but not necessarily so. If your experience is at a higher or managerial level, your operational skills may be rusty or out of date.

The next two questions are the main ones. Do you actually want this job, or are you just ‘killing time’ until a better position comes along? Will you resent working with and under people less qualified then you, will you work with and take a advice from people who, while less qualified, have current operational experience and knowledge of your operational policies and procedures.


Possible answers:

  • Rather than overqualified, I would say fully qualified, and as you are a growing company, ready and able to grow with you. I see your potential and the way I see it, if I can prove myself in this position, in a few years, I can advance.
  • I have enjoyed my time in management, but the reason I entered this field was to actually do the job (i.e. nurse, be a social worker, sell product, write copy) and am actually looking forward to this. I think I am mature enough to see beyond job titles and position.

N.B. be careful, saying that financially you don’t need the money of a higher position or you don’t want responsibility or prefer an easier position are not selling points, a manager may think you can’t be bothered with this job.


Why did you/are you leaving your last job?

This is crucial, the employer wants to know you are positive about this job, and you are not just jumping ship. Whatever you do, do not badmouth the boss or the company.


Possible answers:


  • While they are an excellent company, as a smaller operation they can’t offer me the potential [responsibility, promotion, career potential] that you can offer me.
  • I have worked hard to achieve my qualifications and want to put them to use
  • I have been informed that restructuring means a transfer to a new department and I feel my skills can be put to better use
  • Company restructuring has reduced both my work load and its variety, I need to be challenged
  • I wasn’t actually looking for a new job, but I saw the ad and was excited by your offer
  • While I still enjoy my job, you can offer me [better terms, local employment] and I want this opportunity


This up and coming year, we have a number of projects that you will ask a lot of us all in both time and flexibility, how do you feel about that?

There may be a hidden meaning in this if you are a single parent, as they cant ask you outright about your childcare arrangements, however it may be a general good question, asking if you are up to the challenge in a growing business.


Possible answers:


  • I have read your brochure and researched your company on the internet (shows you are genuinely interested in this job not just after a job anywhere or only here under threat from the jobcentre), so I know about your new [contract/plant/expansion programme] and I am exited that I can play a part in this.
  • I am so lucky I have such a supportive family, I know the demands this job will place on me and have no worries there


What to do or say if you left your last job on bad terms


Firstly be positive in your letters and application forms, don’t be negative and mention any problems yet. There are two basic rules to follow:

First, don’t lie, this can come back to haunt you, and if offered the job, it may be used to end your employment. You don’t want any of these problems raised until you are able to defend yourself.

Secondly, don’t rubbish your former employer or company. It shows disloyalty and your interviewer and ex-employer may know each other through trade associations or other organisations.


Remember employers are often influenced in the first 2 minutes of an interview. If these have gone well, it may be time to bring up the negative first before they do and give a positive spin, before moving on to the rest of the interview. Remember that whatever happened, they have asked to see you so you already have something they want to see.


If you were asked to resign or accept redundancy, it is best to find out what sort of reference would they offer. If there were no documented issues then an employer may be reluctant to be totally negative, they may be worried you may sue if they can’t prove what they say. A letter of reference to take away with you is useful to keep on file, as any negative reference later on can be balanced against this one.


Before we go any further I want to say that I didn’t leave my last job on the best of terms, I regret that, and now looking back I wish I had done some things differently and addressed the problems, I didn’t realise were there until too late as I don’t want them to affect my future.


Now to specific areas:


  • If your employer said you weren’t up to the job.

Your responses:

I was like a square peg in a round hole, I didn’t realise until too late that my skills weren’t right for that job, unlike this one, but I wanted to work so badly I didn’t look into it objectively, I definitely learned something from that. It was a learning experience for me and I would never consider applying for anything I didn’t feel sure I could handle

We had a new manager with new ideas that I wasn’t up to speed on and didn’t realise until it was too late. By the time I realised that my skills were wrong it was too late, with hindsight I would have asked for a meeting to discuss how I could retrain to get support.

The new [manager/owner/foreman] had a team she wanted to bring in and unfortunately people had to go to make way. 


  • Trouble maker

Your responses:

The team I was in originally I got on really well with, but when we: [merged/I was transferred/a new management team took over/we gained-lost a contract] which meant everyone was moved. I hadn’t realised how much things had changed and by the time I realised I was like a fish out of water. The others had bonded but I was on my own

I was moved from one job/role/section to another and I had difficulty adjusting, I was so used to my original job/role/section I had trouble adjusting and wanted to go back, I didn’t realise that that option wasn’t available to me.

While I was protesting, I was mainly concerned about safety and the reputation of the company. I would hate to see an organisation I was proud to work for, have its name undeservedly dragged through the mud. It was funny but at the end, I had a few senior people who didn’t want to make waves say they wished they had done what I did

At the end of the day, as a union representative, I was there to represent the interests of my members. Like a lawyer, I didn’t always agree with them but I had a duty to represent them and I take my responsibilities seriously.

I felt bad about complaining about another member of staff, I tried everything I could to resolve the matter quietly but eventually felt I had no recourse to take it higher. Looking back I still felt I did the right thing, but regret deeply what happened.


  • Stealing time, or goods falsifying timesheets

Your responses:

While I agree it was technically theft, it was custom and practice and I just did what everyone else was doing, I felt uncomfortable being the only one who wasn’t.

Clocking off late was something our old manager allowed us to do as a thank you as he couldn’t give us anything for working hard, and we never took advantage. When the new manager started, I realise now I shouldn’t do it without his say so, but I didn’t think and carried on.

I was under a lot of stress and did it without thinking. Now I feel really bad about it and realise what I did was wrong and I won’t let this affect the rest of my career, I feel so stupid that one thoughtless act could affect the rest of my life. I certainly won’t make that mistake again.


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