Finish strong: How to end a job interview on a positive note

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Psychologists suggest that it does not matter how well we spent a certain period of time - like an out-of-this world vacation: Should it end on a negative note, that’s probably how we’ll remember it. The same is true the other way around.

And the same applies to job interviews. It is important to remember that your interview is only as strong as how you finish it.

So here are a few tips on how to stand out at the end of the interview.

Broaden your research

Research the organisation, sector, countries of operation and recent related news on any changes to the laws and regulations in those countries that may affect your work if you got the job.

Read your potential future employer’s latest annual report and dig around for information about their changes in operations, funding and fundraising mechanisms.

If you know who will be interviewing you, scan their profile on Devex or other websites. Build all this information into your interview preparation sheet.

Prepare to ask

Prepare to ask questions in four categories and write out at least five for each of them in advance. This may seem like a lot, but more often than not, a majority of them will get answered during the interview:

Category 1: Start broad

Ask one or two questions addressing broad phenomena that concern the organisation. Check out the main countries of operation or the biggest legal issues that may affect it.

If you were applying for a U.K.-based role with Plan International in 2010, for instance, you may have asked:

How is the organisation preparing for the possible change in government from Labour to the Conservative party? Does Plan have in-roads with both left and right-leaning politicians? Will your lobbying and advocacy strategy change?”

Get this right and you will come across impressively up to date on current affairs.

Category 2: Impress with data

Demonstrate that you have gone above and beyond. You do not have to read governmental filings in full, but being able to quote one or two figures from an organization’s annual report will surely impress. Look for changes, special announcements or anomalies in it and build it into your question. If you are applying for a fundraising role, then something like this may work:

I noticed in your annual report that fundraised income increased by 11 percent last year and it was private donations as opposed to large corporate sponsorship that drove this change. Can you tell me more about that?”

Category 3: Focus on the job

Your third set of questions should pertain to the role you would have if hired. Occasionally, candidates skip this common part of a job interview because they feel that all of their questions have been answered. This is dangerous: There should always be more you’d like to know about a job you’re applying for.

Ask questions about the team, about advancement opportunities, about development-related training, about opportunities of working with other departments or perhaps about the flexibility of the role and the likelihood of your duties changing.

For ideas for questions in categories 1-3, check out our list of ”Twenty Questions an Aid Worker May ask at a Job Interview.

Category 4: Get personal

Remember one golden rule: Most people like to talk about themselves. In international development, this is particularly true. And so it should be, since development professionals do incredible work and have astounding stories. Your last set of questions may get personal. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, but keep them focused on work.

If you were applying for a role in monitoring & evaluation with an HIV/AIDS NGO, you may ask somehing like this:

How did you get to where you are? Why did you choose [this organization] at this point in your career?”

I noticed on Devex that you were recently promoted to head of global M&E. First of all, congratulations. What are your plans for upward mobility now and how have you found the progression opportunities to be at [this organization]?”

What have been your personal highlights working at [this organization]? Have there been any downsides?”

Do not settle for yes or no answers and short responses; dig a little deeper and follow up with more questions expressing your enthusiasm and your ability to relate. Not only will you look incredibly interested, but, for most interviewers, being able to relax at the end of an intense process and talk about themselves for a few minutes will lift their mood. True to human nature, ending on such a positive note could turn around even the most wilting of interviews.

Read last week’s Career Matters.

About the author

  • Ioulia Fenton

    Ioulia Fenton advises job seekers on resume writing as part of the Devex CV Writing Service. She also blogs about international development career matters. Ioulia has worked as a headhunter in London and now serves as assistant editor of the Global South Development Magazine. She has worked with the Institute of Advanced Development Studies in La Paz, Bolivia, interned with UNESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand, and is currently based in Guatemala.