No matter how impressive your background is, the interview will be the primary method of selection for the majority of positions we recruit. Below are some suggestions that, together with guidance from your consultant, may help you to improve your interview performance for the greatest chance of success.
What is a potential employer commonly trying to assess?
In every interview, no matter how junior or senior the position, the interviewer will likely be probing for the answers to three basic questions:
- Can you do the job well? (Your skills, qualifications, experience)
- Will you do the job? (Your motivation, attitudes and career goals)
- Will you fit into the team? (Your cultural match)
Developing an understanding of a business prior to meeting with them can be a vital component of securing a role. Often a wealth of information can be found from sources such as; the company website, annual reports, LinkedIn and a simple internet news search of the business. It is extremely common for one of the first interview questions to a candidate to be “what do you know about our organization?”. This is something that is worth devoting a significant amount of time to.
It is also valuable to spend some time reviewing your own CV and have a clear understanding of key responsibilities and achievements with your current and previous employers. Focus on the skills you believe offer most value to your prospective employer. Whenever possible, relate your skills and experience to the role requirements and always have practical examples ready to support your statements. Be aware, particularly for senior candidates, there can be an idea that “my experience or results speak for themselves”. Remember that job interviews are a competitive process, so give yourself the best chance by explaining not only what was achieved but how you made it happen.
Review some probable answers to likely questions in the interview. The goal should be to provide answers that are tailored to the position and paint a picture of you as being positive and with the potential to add value. It is also essential that you prepare your own questions so that, not only can you be sure that this is the right opportunity for you, but also so that you can demonstrate you are particular in regards to the opportunity you are looking for.
The little things
- Presentation can have a large influence on first impressions. Always attend an interview in corporate attire and if in doubt always err on the side of more formal as opposed to underdressed.
- Be clear about the exact time, date and location of the interview as well as who you are meeting and be there five to ten minutes before the interview.
- Learn to listen as well as talk. This will give you valuable clues as to the responses required.
- Be aware of your body language. Interviewers will recognize a lack of congruence between what you and your body are saying.
- Answer questions informatively but briefly. Never embellish the truth, but don’t be afraid to sell your skills and accomplishments.
- Avoid negativity in statements and body language. Interviewers look for positive, likable people and any persistent negative characteristics such as a lack of interest, enthusiasm or purpose regarding your career will reflect poorly.
What is behavioural based questioning?
Most employers now recognize the link between past and future behaviour, so they will be attempting to ascertain your future performance by enquiring about your past behaviour and actions as opposed to asking what you would do in hypothetical situations.
As such behavioural based questions simply ask what you have done in the past, so it is useful to be aware of the typical format of answering such questions. The most common method is the ‘STAR’ method and often an interviewer, particularly those with a Human Resources background will expect you to answer questions in this format or a similar variant.
The ‘STAR’ method is a structured way of describing your previous behaviour requiring you to explain the Situation, Task you were required to undertake, Actions you took and the Result that was achieved.
Situation – Broadly describe the situation to give context to your task, include when this occurred and highlight any resources that were available to you and any existing challenges.
Task – Clearly define what you were required to achieve and the timeframe you had to work with.
Action – Give a detailed description of not only what you did but why you did it covering the other options that would have been available to you that were not selected.
Results – Give a concise evaluation of the result and also be sure to include what you learnt from the experience and how this has affected your decision making since the event.
Key interview questions to think about
To increase your chances of receiving a job offer, you need to learn how to confidently and successfully respond to the questions you will be asked. Listed below are examples of common questions asked by interviewers and the likely reasons as to why they are asked. It is valuable to spend some time preparing likely answers considering answering in the ‘STAR’ format for behavioural based questions.
Q Tell me about yourself. (The interviewer is really saying, “I want to hear you talk”, it is often best to briefly summarise your career history, qualifications and career ambitions).
Q Tell me the most difficult situation you have had to face and how you tackled it. (This behavioural based question is really trying to find out your definition of “difficult” and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving).
Q Describe a time you had to adapt your style or deal with change. (This behavioural based question is exploring how rigid you are and whether you have the capacity to recognise that, at times a different approach is required eg business restructure, taking on tasks or duties outside your job description).
Q Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult stakeholder. (This question is about how well you can communicate with and influence people from a different background, viewpoint, skill set, or personality type).
Q What do you think is the greatest challenge for our business? (This question is particularly apt if you are looking to move into a new industry. The interviewer is exploring how much you know about the business and the industry).
Q What do you think would be the greatest challenge for you, should you secure the position? (This question can often be used to assess whether, on one hand you have the confidence to do the role and on the other, if you believe the role will be interesting enough for you to stay in the position for the next few years).