Preparing for a Job Interview in Kenya

We have taken the time to prepare a comprehensive interview guide based on our Kenyan team’s over 20 years of experience in interview panels and preparing candidates for job interviews. This is meant to give you a general overview of the interview process, stages, the kind of questions to expect and how to respond.

We would, however, be glad to take you through a personalized interview coaching session that is tailored to the requirements of the specific job that you will be interviewing for. Since many preliminary interviews are done via video conference, we deliver the sessions via video call on Zoom/WhatsApp or phone to give you a feel of what to expect. You can do this at the comfort of your home or office at Ksh. 1,500 per hour. You only need on highly impactful session to ace the interview and you will use the skills that you will get for the rest of your life. You can book your session now by calling the number at the top of this page.

Let’s Head to the Interview

You finally made it through the preliminary selection stages and now here you are, walking through the revolving doors to the prospective employer's reception area. It's the day of the interview. You're already clad in your best business suit. Now relax, say hi to the receptionist and let her know that you've come for the interview.

Don't take this last step for granted, hundreds of interviewees get late for their sessions each day for the simple reason that they were waiting in the wrong lobby. So, if the receptionist confirms that this is the right place, sit down and keep yourself busy with a copy of the company's magazine (most modern organisations keep these copies at the reception area).

Inside the Interview Room

Once invited into the interview room, remember to switch off your phone or put it in silent mode. Enter the room with confidence, but also with a show of courtesy. Do not hesitate at the door. Wait for the panel's chairperson to show you where to sit. If offered a handshake, respond with a firm one.

Once seated, assume an alert and confident posture, avoiding the temptation to sink deeper into the seat. Although it is natural to experience a mild degree of nervousness, take control of your feelings and know that the interviewer will also be trying to make you feel comfortable before anything serious begins.

Some of the common signs of nervousness that you should avoid by all means include: hesitating to answer simple and direct questions, especially those relating to your identity; cracking your knuckles; biting of lips; sneaking glances at your watch or the wall clock; as well as beginning your responses with a sigh or expressions such as: “Oh my God!, My goodness!” etc.

Listen carefully as the chief interviewer introduces the rest of the panel to you. Take down each interviewer’s name and position in the company for two good reasons:

1. Responding to each interviewer by name brings you out as an intelligent person. Be careful though not to mix up the names as the outcome can be quite embarrassing.

2. You will need these names and positions when doing follow up after the interview.


Four Major Stages of the Interview

A typical interview consists of four main stages:
• The opening or introduction
• The interviewer’s questions session
• The interviewee’s questions session
• The end or closing

Assuming that our typical interview lasts for thirty minutes, each of the above stages could last for a period of time as shown in the discussion below:

1. The Opening
This lasts for between one and five minutes from the moment you enter the interview room. During this period, the interviewer welcomes you and asks general questions about yourself. This is also when he will introduce the rest of the panel to you.

Besides trying to make you feel at ease, the interviewer will be evaluating you on the lines of maturity of character, self–confidence, level of enthusiasm in the job, as well as on your communication skills. This is also the time when he will ask for your original certificates and other testimonials that you might have carried along. Most likely he will have, on the table, a file containing the cover letter and CV that you sent when applying for the job.

A common question used by the head of the interview panel to open this section is:

“Kindly tell us something about yourself.”

When handling this kind of question, however, consider the interviewer’s motive. He will be judging you on among other things, level of preparedness when making presentations, communication skills, maturity of character, and level of self-confidence. Most of these aspects on test relate to your own personality, but you can impress the interviewer with a well thought out response such as this:

“My name is Jane Okundi, a Nursing Psychologist by profession. I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Moi University, and a Diploma in Nursing from the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC).

I have 15 years of professional experience working as a Nursing Psychologist at various hospitals. This includes, among others: Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Thika Level 5 Hospital, and I am currently serving in a similar capacity at Nairobi Women’s Hospital.

I am however attending this interview because I wish to take my career to the next level by working with you”.

A response such as the one above shows that the interviewee is aware of the context within which the interviewer is asking for personal details. While it’s common for respondents to start with when and where they were born, religion and other details that bear little relevance to the context within which the question was asked, Jane goes directly to what she knows will interest the interviewer the most: professional qualifications and experience.

In the last paragraph of Jane’s response above, she shows that she has high regard for the interviewer’s organisation by stating: “I wish to take my career to the next level by working with you”. That’s an expression of confidence in the organisation, something that the interviewer would hardly ignore.

2. The Interviewer’s Questions
This is the second and often the longest of all sessions, taking anything from five to fifteen minutes. Questions in this section focus on the following core areas:
• your achievements
• professional experience
• specialized skills
• potential for career growth

Here, the interviewer wants to see how your performance in these areas qualifies you for the job for which you are interviewing. In order to maximize your chances of getting the job, you need to prepare yourself for this section in two ways:

1. By thoroughly understanding the needs that the employer wants fulfilled, as well as the skills required for the job.

2. By understanding your self-worth: the expertise you are selling to the company.

By understanding the specific needs that the employer intends to fulfill, you can tailor your presentation to meet those needs. In other words, you will know where you need to kick the ball in order to score.

Assessing your self-worth in terms of skills, knowledge and achievements can be tricky for some people, mainly due to their tendency to either exaggerate or underrate themselves. However, you can achieve some degree of objectivity by outlining, on a piece of paper, all your areas of training, key achievements and skills, and how they relate to the job at hand.

Once again, bear in mind that with every question that the interviewer asks, he wants you to open up and say more. For example, when he asks you:

“Can you briefly tell us something about your previous job?”

You can start by briefly giving its title, and then proceeding to describe what your major responsibilities were, and concluding by giving an outstanding achievement that you had. Such a response could go as follows:

“My previous job was a graphics designer working with Savvy Concepts. I was responsible for the design of covers and illustrations in most of the publications that were done by the company for the four years that I worked there. Besides, I won the prize for designing the company’s new logo, which captures the company’s emphasis on customer satisfaction.”

The above response contains three cardinal ingredients:
Job title: Graphics designer with Savvy Concepts.
Responsibilities: Designing of covers and other illustrations for the books published by the company.
Achievements: Won the prize for designing the company’s new logo.


The PAR Technique for Answering Interview Questions

For work related questions, the interviewer will be seeking to find our your ability to solve problems, working with others and the kind of results to expect from you. This kind of questions are best handled using the PAR technique, which is an acronym for:
Problemstate the problem that you set out to solve
Action the specific actions that you took
Resultswhat desirable outcome you got from the actions.

For example, if the interviewer asks:
“What is the greatest challenge that you have faced in your current job when working with people?”

Such a question will be testing your skills and experience in teamwork, leadership and problem resolution. You could structure the response as follows using the PAR technique:

When I took up my current role as head of department, the team’s morale was low, work was hardly delivered on time and everyone was complaining of low pay. The departmental performance stood at an average of 55% across all the KPIs.

I called a departmental meeting where everyone expressed their concerns freely. I also asked the team to describe how they felt the issues raised could be addressed within our resource constraints and within what timelines. I also asked everyone to describe what roles they wanted to play in resolving the issues that they had raised, and set new departmental performance standards.

To everyone’s surprise, the team set higher goals than had been set by the previous supervisor and the amount of resources required to achieve the turnaround was 30% lower than the management had projected.

The team developed a sense of ownership of their work processes and took responsibility for results. Since everyone had described and accepted the respective roles that they were to play in the turnaround process, the level of employee engagement grew by 43% within the first two months and departmental performance shot to 89% within the same duration. While the company’s hesitation to commit more resources to the turnaround process was based on a fear of excessively high cost of the process, this was achieved at a cost that was 30% less.

3. Questions to ask In an Interview

After the interviewer is through with his queries, a time comes for you to ask any questions you may wish to. This brief session lasts for approximately five minutes. Ideally, ask only two or three intelligent questions regarding the company and the job, such as the following:
• What are some of the major challenges that I am likely to face while working with you?
• What is the company’s policy as far as promotions are concerned?
• How will the company evaluate my performance on the job?
• What incentives exist to motivate the company’s staff?
• Does the company have any form of orientation or training for new employees?
• How does the company work in order to beat its competitors in the market?

Quoting Your Preferred Salary
It's only volunteers who work for no pay. The employer would thus wish to know what you expect to earn each month for the services that you will be providing. It's easy to under quote or even over-price yourself, and this could have serious implications on your candidature. So, the best thing is to first find out how much the company pays for the position. Take one of their employees for lunch if you must, but you just can't afford to enter the interview room without this crucial piece of information!

Other areas in which you will need to conduct further research include:
• the company’s directors and the entire top brass
• the company’s range of products
• most important markets
• major competitors

If there are more rounds of interviews expected, the question of salary may be discussed at an advanced stage if you qualify. But if there is only a single interview from which the best candidate will be picked, you can inquire about the pay package if the interviewer doesn’t bring up the issue.

In ending your questions session, make the interviewer open up and tell you something about him or herself. By revealing something personal and positive, the two of you take the first step towards establishing a bond of mutual understanding. This also shows that you have a genuine concern for others, which creates a good impression of you. You can achieve this by posing a question such as: “What do you like most about your job?”


4. The Interview Closing

Gradually, discussions will move towards a natural end. This is the closing session, and lasts for about five minutes or less. Some of the signals that usher in this phase include: the interviewer glancing at the wall clock, handing back to you your original documents, closing the file, or when he asks his colleagues for their final remarks.

It’s okay to inquire at this point how long you should wait for the interviewer’s response and whether there will be more rounds of interviews. As you close, stand up relaxed and composed, give the interviewers a firm handshake with direct eye contact, and once again thank them for spending their time with you. Smile and create the best final impression of yourself as you leave the interview room whether you like what transpired during the session or not.

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