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What employers really want from you at an interview

Chris Roach | 01.06.2005

In the second of two articles on how to succeed at job interviews, management trainer Chris Roach shows the exact qualities and skills that interviewers want to see from candidates. Not all interviews will assess all these areas, so draw from them what you need to prepare in your own situation.

In my previous article I said that people who can show they are productive, dependable and honest will have the best chance of success at interviews, because these are the most important things employers look for. Now, by following an interviewer's checklist you can decide where, if anywhere, stuttering prevents you from meeting the employer's measurements.

Interpersonal skills


  • Enjoys socialising
  • Looks forward to being around people
  • Likes doing things with friends
  • Creates good first impression
  • Smiles readily


  • Takes charge of projects or tasks
  • Follows up repeatedly
  • Pushes herself into situations to make an impact
  • Leans forward in the interview


  • Can work alone or in groups
  • Bothered by people who slow down work or who make mistakes
  • Likes collaborating
  • Displays positive emotional facial expressions when talking about working with others

Verbal skills

(Okay, so here's our first hurdle...)

  • Gives straightforward answers (...not necessarily fluent answers...)
  • Uses words correctly and is grammatical (...the right words, not just fluent ones...)
  • Clearly explains ideas, situations and events (... explains, not speaks perfectly...)
  • Phrases complex statements in easy-to-follow manner (...that's easy-to-follow, not perfectly spoken...)
  • Confident and clear ( these are the people who stammer I know!)
  • Shows ease in finding right words to use (... again, the right words, not right-sounding words...)

Now, let's go back to your ability to shine and show your cognitive capabilities.


  • Makes comments that persuade the interviewer
  • Displays mannerisms that interviewer finds convincing
  • Gives answers that satisfy interviewer that candidate is right on some potentially controversial topic
  • Sells his/her qualifications for job
  • Looks the interviewer in the eye


  • Disagrees tactfully
  • Shows respect for others' viewpoints
  • Says they are bothered by other people's bad or rude manners
  • Takes the 'politics' of a situation into account before taking action
  • Is polite and shows consideration
  • Treats everyone with respect before, during and after interviews
  • Is pleasant with receptionist or secretary
  • Does not act bothered if interview schedule does not go according to plan where does stuttering penalise us? Aha! I didn't think so. Read on...


  • Openly acknowledges problems or mistakes
  • Answers questions about his/her weaknesses
  • Readily admits difficulties
  • Does not try to hide potentially negative information
  • Does not hesitate before admitting problems
  • Does not flinch or look uncomfortable while discussing errors he/she made

Personality traits


(Talk about an incredible advantage for PWS! Persistence. Here's where we can shine.)

  • Completes long-term projects
  • Is tenacious despite encountering roadblocks
  • Resolves to finish whatever he or she starts
  • Shows pride in completing long-term or difficult project
  • Looks for work experience that rewards the persistence needed to earn a degree or to attain certain positions


  • Generates imaginative solutions
  • Reports tackling projects in innovative ways
  • Mentions completing tasks without always following the procedures or rules laid out
  • Enjoys creative endeavours
  • Plays with ideas and alternatives
  • Smiles confidently when describing innovative methods
  • Spends more time reporting on imaginative problem solving than on uncreative problem solving

Okay, so maybe we coverts do have a little advantage here. Most people who stutter have found creative solutions in their lives to break through and overcome barriers. Emphasise these strengths and strategies.

Handles obstacles well

  • Mentions bouncing back from defeats or downfalls
  • Is emotionally objective when discussing hurdles
  • Views problems as opportunities in disguise
  • Develops skills through overcoming roadblocks
  • Relishes chances to show resilience
  • Looks confident about tackling obstacles

Wow! Talk about an opportunity for us PWS to show our best! What a perfect chance to show how we manage our stuttering instead of letting stuttering manage us.


  • Focuses on solutions rather than the problem
  • Happily grapples with solutions to any problems
  • Has a can-do attitude
  • Enjoys overcoming obstacles
  • Does not mention feeling burned out or overly stressed
  • Expresses enthusiasm and exuberance
  • Appears confident
  • Shows pride in describing accomplishments

High energy

  • Does not indicate feeling worn out even after putting in long hours at work
  • Exerts effort with vigour and great stamina
  • Likes physically moving, not just sitting in one place
  • Maintains high energy level throughout interview
  • Exudes zest and vitality

Once tell me where our stuttering keeps us from being competitive so far?

Poise under pressure

  • Describes thriving under pressure or stress
  • Doesn't mention feeling burned out or overloaded
  • Never indicates getting upset or out of emotional control
  • Won't focus on anxiety or nervousness
  • Seems to enjoy the interview
  • Doesn't twitch, tremble or blink excessively while talking

Even our secondary characteristics of stuttering can be done with a sincere smile and natural eye contact.

Being a self-starter

  • Tackles tasks and projects without being prompted
  • Sets goals and goes on to achieve them
  • Expresses no need to be told what to do by others
  • Exudes pride when talking about showing initiative

Desire to increase knowledge

  • Loves doing research and learning from job
  • Goes out of his/ her way to uncover data or other information
  • Asks interviewer for information on a variety of work-related matters, e.g. company facts and figures, history of job.
  • Shows alertness to new information
  • Expresses a curiosity for knowledge.

From the Summer 2005 edition of Speaking Out