Often cited as everyone’s least favourite part of the job hunting process, the good news is that interviewing well is a skill just like any other and can be learned. Research the company first, particularly the department where the role you are interviewing for sits. Don’t forget to check the company’s social media feeds and look up your interviewers on LinkedIn if you can.
The skills or competency based interview
This is the most common type of interview. The premise is that past performance is the best indicator of future performance so you should expect to answer questions about how your previous experience relates to job description of the role you are applying for. You should expect to be asked to give examples of what you have done in certain situations and like those in your cover letter, these should be specific, include reference to the results achieved and focus on your contribution (not your team’s). Don’t be afraid to use an example where something went wrong – how you learn from your mistakes is just as important as how you’ve achieved successful outcomes. If you don’t have direct experience to give an example from, own up to it and explain what you would do in a certain situation and why.
The good news about competency based interviews is that you can thoroughly prepare for them. Re-read the job description and your application and make notes of the examples you want to give to meet each of the criteria.
Strengths based interviews
These are more common for junior and graduate level roles (although they are by no means universal, you’re still more likely to have a competency based interview) and rather than focus on past experience, look at what applicants enjoy doing and feel that they are good at. The premise is that this is a better indicator of future performance and enthusiasm for a job than past experience, particularly for candidates with less formal experience.
Strengths based interviews rely on you answering questions honestly and openly, aside from doing some self-reflection, there is little formal preparation you can do for these. You should expect to be asked questions such as “What do you enjoy?”, “What do you learn quickly?” and “Describe a successful day for you.”
Telephone and Skype interviews
Prepare for these exactly as you would for a face to face interview, but make sure you also check your technology beforehand. Shut yourself in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted. If you’re using Skype make sure that your microphone and webcam are working, your internet connection is strong and doesn’t keep dropping out and that you have a list of the relevant phone numbers to hand if something does go wrong.
Top interview tips:
- Never answer a question with just ‘yes’ or ‘no’, always give an example or explanation
- Try to be concise in your answers and keep to the point, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question if you feel you’ve gone off topic.
- Have some questions ready to ask your interviewers at the end. This shows that you’re interested and engaged in the company and the job. Something like “What do you see as the company’s biggest challenges in the next 5 years?” or “Why do you enjoy working here?” is a good place to start.
- Don’t be late! Make sure you know where you’re going, who you’re meeting and how to get there. Leave extra time to make sure you arrive on time and ensure you have the relevant phone numbers with you in case disaster strikes and you get stuck on the M6/a South Eastern train going nowhere.