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Job candidates failing to prepare beyond first impressions

  • Candidates urged to think beyond their appearance when preparing for job interviews 
London, 20th August 2012 – New research from leading global recruitment consultancy, Michael Page, has found that many jobseekers are failing to thoroughly prepare for interviews, despite searching for work in a hugely competitive jobs market. 
The survey of 1,000 consumers found that the biggest concern for the majority of candidates ahead of job interviews was simply ‘making a good first impression’, according to 39% of respondents. Appearance is a key concern here with 40% of people confessing that this is the area they spend most time on ahead of interviews. Just one in four (27%) of candidates said they spent a lot of their preparation time practising interview questions and 26% confessed they spent little or no time at all researching interview advice. 
Dean Ball, regional managing director at Michael Page comments: “First impressions are important, so definitely take time to think about your appearance. However, most interviews last for about an hour so you need to be prepared for the other 59 minutes as well.” 
After making a good first impression, the second biggest worry, according to 24% of people, is being asked a ‘weird’ interview question that seems entirely unrelated to their experience or the role in question. Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they would be baffled by a ‘weird’ question such as ‘how would you get an elephant into a fridge? or ‘why are manhole covers round instead of square?’. 
Of those surveyed, 41% have been asked a weird interview question at some point but this particular tactic is bamboozling many jobseekers. One in four (27%) said they would feel ‘surprised’ if asked a weird interview question, 27% would be ‘amused’ and 20% would feel ‘panicked’. Worryingly, a third of respondents (33%) said they either didn’t know how they would respond, would simply tell the interviewer ‘I don’t know’, would try to change the subject altogether and some said they would directly challenge the relevance of the question with the interviewer. 
While some candidates are clearly confused by weird interview questions, it seems many are also unsure of their significance in an interview process. One in five (20%) said that they didn’t understand why they were relevant and a further 20% said they didn’t like the idea of being put on the spot by them. Almost two-thirds of respondents (59%) said they didn’t think that weird interview questions were significant in helping an employer decide on a job candidate’s suitability for a role. 
Ball comments: “It’s understandable that weird interview questions are unnerving for some candidates but they are becoming increasingly common in interview situations so it’s important that candidates are prepared for them. Being able to tackle these questions confidently can help candidates stand out to prospective employers, who are looking at ways to differentiate between similarly qualified candidates. They can also provide a moment of light-heartedness in an otherwise formal situation so should be embraced by candidates as a chance to show their originality, creativity, how they apply logic and their sense of humour.” 
When it comes to interview preparation, one in four people (26%) said they were most likely to seek advice from their partner; a fifth (19%) would ask a family member and 17% said they would ask a friend. Just 15% would ask either an employer or a recruiter for interview advice. 
Interview techniques are changing all the time. To ensure that you are fully prepared for your next interview opportunity, Michael Page has the following advice: 
   1. Whilst it’s useful to practise with friends and family and learn from their experiences, it’s important to 
seek advice from outside of your immediate networks so you get a complete picture of what your 
interview could involve. 
   2. Practice answering difficult questions – anything from ‘where do you want to be in five years’ through to explaining a gap in your work experience. 
   3. Get a friend to test your lateral thinking by asking you weird, unexpected questions – even if they don’t have an obvious answer. The important thing is to demonstrate your creativity, logical thinking and ability to confidently make decisions on the spot without getting flustered. 
   4. Interviews are a two-way street – as much as you need to answer a future employer’s questions, you also have the chance to steer the conversation to really show off your potential and make sure all elements of your experience are covered. 
For more top tips and to put your ability to answer weird interview questions to the test, visit: We’re giving away a kindle each week, for the next five weeks, to the person who provides the best answer to our ‘weird’ interview questions. Runners–up stand to win their lunch for a week. 
Join in the debate on Twitter using #preparebetter 
Notes to editors: 
Media contact 
Sophie Tudor, Communications Executive, PageGroup
T: 020 3077 8177
About the survey 
The ‘Prepare better’ research from Michael Page surveyed 1,000 consumers about their interview preparation habits, from the amount of time they spend preparing for interviews to their reactions to ‘weird’ interview questions. 
About Michael Page International (
Michael Page International is one of the world’s best-known and well-respected professional recruitment consultancies. Established more than 35 years ago in the United Kingdom, we now span 164 offices in 34 countries. We are a leading provider of permanent, contract and temporary recruitment for clerical professionals, qualified professionals and executives. 
Through organic growth we have become a FTSE 250 company with more than 5,321 employees globally. We operate a consultative approach to professional recruitment combining local know-how with global expertise, to find the best fit between client and candidate.