Congratulations! Your CV or application form have proven that you have the right qualifications, skills and experience required for the job, but now at interview stage most employers will want to interview you against the following criteria:
The criteria for interviews will vary from job to job but will typically include:
- Your intellectual qualities
- Your level of enthusiasm
- Your ability to get on with people
- Your ability to express yourself
- Whether you’d be a good fit for the company
For most job roles there will be a selection process which may involve anything up to three interview stages, aptitude or technical tests, behavioural profiling and potentially a presentation.
Types of interviews
Chronological or biographical
This type of interview is largely based on your CV or application form and allows you to explain and expand on what you have written. Very few interviews are still like this as recruiters and HR professionals find that a structured competency based interview is more effective in terms of finding out about your real strengths and achievements. You will probably have an opportunity to talk through your CV at the beginning of the interview so make sure you are fully prepared to answer questions about anything you’ve put on it.
If the job requires technical skills, then you can expect to be asked about your specific knowledge related to the position. You might be asked to interpret a diagram, financial report or decipher a line of code. Not only does this type of assessment give you the chance to showcase your technical knowledge but it also allows you to show how you approach a problem and how well you can communicate your knowledge to both a similarly technical person and someone who doesn’t have that same level of expert insight. Being able to do this is key for any business.
If the role you’re applying for is a client-facing one, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll be asked to deliver a presentation as part of the interview process. You should always be given a clear brief in advance so you’re able to tailor the content and duration of your presentation. You can use good old MS PowerPoint or something a little snazzier like a Prezi depending on the type of company you’re interviewing with.
Delivering a presentation to a group can be pretty daunting but it’s important to see this an opportunity to show off skills such as:
- Organisational skills – how well prepared you are
- Your level of insight
- Time management skills
- Verbal communication and how well you engage with people
- Your ability to think on your feet – you can expect follow up questions!
Criteria or Competency Based Interviews
Nowadays, most interviews are criteria / competency based. Candidates are asked the same questions and are matched against 6 - 8 criteria, normally by 2 or more interviewers who will each score your answers before comparing scores after the interview.
Competency questions will normally begin with a phrase such as, “Tell us about a time when…” or, “Give us an example of how…” which means that your answer will always be based in real past experience. A lot of people find the idea of a competency based interview pretty frightening but, in reality, once you know how to prepare your answers and put a bit of time and effort into getting ready, these can be the best interviews for really showing how good you are!
Most companies that use this type of interview will make sure to include the key competencies or behaviours on their job spec. This allows you to get prepared well in advance and be confident before you walk into that interview room.
You’ll be asked questions that focus on competencies or behaviours (criteria which the organisation requires for the job). Examples of competencies are teamwork, responsibility, communication, leadership, problem solving, influencing and decision making.
Here are some examples of competency based questions:
- Tell us about a time when you have dealt with a customer complaint.
- Tell us about a specific time when you feel you have worked effectively as part of a team.
- Tell us about a specific time when you have had to put forward new ideas or initiative in the workplace.
- Tell us about a specific time when you feel you acted with the ‘customer’s satisfaction’ as top priority.
- Tell us about a specific time when you learned about things beyond the scope of your current job.
- Tell us about a specific time when you successfully completed several projects within challenging deadlines.
You need to answer these types of questions with specific, real life examples using the STAR technique.
STAR TECHNIQUE: STAR = Situation, Task, Action, Result
Situation: The interviewers want you to present a recent challenge or situation in which you found yourself. Make your example concise and informative, concentrating solely on what is useful to the story. For example, if the question is asking you to describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult person, explain how you came to meet that person and why they were being difficult. If the question is asking for an example of teamwork, explain the task that you had to undertake as part of a team. This is your chance to set the scene for the rest of your answer.
Task: What task were you required to carry out? The interviewer will be looking to see what you were trying to achieve from the situation. If the task was part of a team project, make sure to detail what exactly your scope of responsibility was within that task.
Action: What did you do to complete the task or how did you approach the problem? The interviewers will be looking for information on what you did, why you did it and what the alternatives were. This is the most important section of the STAR approach as it is where you will be able to demonstrate and highlight the skills and personal attributes that the question is testing. Now that you have set the context of your story, you need to explain what you did. In doing so, you will need to remember the following:
- Make it personal. Talk about you, not the rest of the team and say “I” rather than “we”.
- Go into some detail. Do not assume that they will guess what you mean.
- Steer clear of technical information unless it is crucial to your story.
- Explain what you did, how you did it, and why you did it.
What you did and how you did it
Above all, the interviewers will want to know how you reacted to the situation you are describing. This is where you can start selling some important skills. You may want to describe how you used the team to achieve a particular objective and how you used your communication skills to keep everyone updated on progress for example.
Why you did it
For example; when discussing a situation where you had to deal with conflict, many candidates would simply say, “I told my colleague to calm down and explained to him what the problem was”. However, this does not provide a good idea of what drove you to act in this manner. How did you ask him to calm down? How did you explain the nature of the problem? By highlighting the reasons behind your action, you can make a greater impact. For example, “I could sense that my colleague was irritated and I asked him gently to tell me what he felt the problem was. By allowing him to vent his feelings and his anger, I gave him the opportunity to calm down. I then explained to him my own point of view on the matter, emphasising how important it was that we found a solution that suited us both."
This revised answer helps the interviewers understand what drove your actions and reinforces the feeling that you are considering the consequences of your actions, thus retaining control of the situation and seeing the bigger picture. It provides much more information about you as an individual and is another reason why the STAR approach is so useful.
Results: What was the outcome of your actions? What did you achieve through your actions and did you meet your objectives? What did you learn from this experience and have you used this learning since? A lot of the time, people skip over this part of their answer which can be a huge mistake. You need to be able to communicate what you feel you did well, how happy any other stakeholders or colleagues were or any areas you felt you could have handled better. Showing self-awareness and the fact that you’re constantly learning and developing your skills is really important as part of any competency interview.
Your Corvus consultant will work with you throughout your interview process to make sure that you have all the information you need to be fully prepared.