Interviews

So you have gotten your foot through the door and now it's time to dazzle them with your brilliance! There is no way around this, preparation is key

Before you put down the phone to your recruitment consultant, be sure you know exactly what type of interview you will be having, when, with whom and how long they anticipate it to last (you want to make sure you have allowed enough time). You should ask if you will be meeting with them separately or as a group. Also ask if you will be expected to take tests or prepare a presentation. Knowing what i€™s to come will allow you to mentally prepare!

Check parking arrangements. It sounds silly but if you arrive and find it is a park and display and only takes coins and you have only a card, you are likely to go into major panic mode and that i€™s the least conducive way to start an interview!

And lastly, check on what the dress code is! Your idea of business smart may not be the same as the companies and as casual as a coffee chat may sound, the normal expectation is that it i€™s actually pretty formal. First impressions absolutely count!

Competency Based Interviews

This is probably the most used interview type and focuses on the past so employers can attempt to predict future behaviour. For example, they may say:
  • Describe a time when you didn€™t get along with a colleague.
  • Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond for a client.

Choose one example, and briefly describe the situation, how you handled it and what you learned from it.

The competencies asked will usually be specific to those identified on the job specification so always ask for this from your recruitment consultant to ensure you are prepared.

In answering use the STAR format - we will help you understand this so you can give the best examples based on your experience. For example: "Tell me about a time that you solved a problem to a tight timescale." Here's how you could structure your response:
  • Situation -  Set the context for your story. For example, "We were due to be delivering a presentation to a group of 30 interested industry players on our new product and Stuart, the guy due to deliver it, got stuck on a train from Birmingham."
  • Task -  what was required of you. For example, "It was my responsibility to find an alternative so it didn't reflect badly on the company and we didn't waste the opportunity."
  • Activity -  What you actually did. For example, "I spoke to the event organisers to find out if they could change the running order. They agreed so we bought ourselves some time. I contacted Susan, another member of the team, who at a push could step in. She agreed to drop what she was doing and head to the event."
  • Result -  How well the situation played out. For example, "Stuart didn't make the meeting on time but we explained the problem to the delegates and Susan's presentation went well – a bit rough around the edges but it was warmly received. Stuart managed to get there for the last 15 minutes to answer questions. As a result we gained some good contacts, at least two of which we converted into paying clients."

There are a few things to note with this response: it's important to speak in specific rather than general terms and quantify your success. In this example, we mentioned 30 delegates, the names of the people involved and quantified two contacts converted to clients. From a listener's perspective, this makes the story more interesting and they are more able to gauge your success. Nameless figures and undefined successes can make the answer less feel less convincing. Secondly, as there are likely to be many questions and interviewers have short attention spans, it's important to keep your answers concise: convey the maximum achievement in the minimum time. Finally, it's important to finish on a positive note so the overall impression is strong.

The competencies asked will usually be specific to those identified on the job specification so always ask for this from your recruitment consultant to ensure you are prepared.

One last thing, if you a€™re a natural team player, you will often automatically refer to "we completed/we accomplished"€. It can be a hard mind-set to change but in an interview, it is essential you focus on you and your personal role, as the interviewer will be looking for evidence of how your skills were used to achieve your objectives.

Here is a useful link which lists frequently asked questions for skill sets.

http://www.interview-skills.co.uk/competency-based-interviews-questions.aspx

Situational Interview

Typically, situational questions concentrate on future performance rather than past performance, which is the focus of behavioural interviews. The interviewer will give you a problem and ask how you would deal with it. For example:
  • Your boss is on a whirlwind business trip. He assigned you a report to write for a client while he is gone, and he expects a first draft in two days. You thought everything was clear, but when you look back through your meeting notes and emails, there are outstanding questions that will make it difficult to complete the report. What do you do?

Employers want to know how you would likely solve a problem, and in some cases, they want to measure your expertise. Always be honest and specific. Address the problem, and describe your solution and the action you would take. If it is a question that probes at your expertise in an area, include something applicable in your answer to show you know your stuff.

Case

Case interviews are used mainly in management roles and focus on how you would solve specific business issues and interpret data. For example:

"As per the data provided, this is the data on your team's performance, what can you learn from this and what actions would you take?"

You wi™ll want to talk aloud as you consider your answer, because the interviewer is looking for insight into your thought process and an interactive conversation rather than an exact answer. As you talk through it, you will come to an estimate. This is a skill you are wise to practice in advance if you will be interviewing with a company that uses this technique.

Presentation

Some interviewers will challenge you with a business issue and ask you to present solutions to one or more employees. You may be given 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes or less to present.

The key here is to put pen to paper immediately to get thinking fast. In the first five minutes or less, outline the problem and as many solutions that come to mind in words. Drawing diagrams or pictures may help, too. Next, circle the solutions you think are the best or the ones for which you have the most ideas on how to implement. After that, brainstorm what resources you need to apply to each solution in under five minutes. Use the remaining time to prepare. If you were asked to use a whiteboard or computer for the presentation, transfer your ideas to the board or screen. Don't worry about being fancy, because you don'€™t have time for that. The logic and contents of your thought process are most important.

Panel

Perhaps you will be interviewed by five people at once. Each person may have a list of questions to ask you -  perhaps in varying interview styles. Or maybe each interviewer came up with his or her own questions in advance based on your background. Use the techniques above under competency based situational and case interviews.

In all types of interviews, eye contact, smiling when you can and leaning forward to show you a€™re engaged in the conversation are all fundamental to scoring likeability points! Chemistry is something all interviewers are looking for. If they don't like you, it is unlikely you will be hired“ no matter how smart or experienced you are.

In every case, while you a€™re trying to sell yourself to the employer, you want to always be yourself. The last thing you want is to give a false impression or erroneous information and end up in a job that i€™s not a good fit for you or the company.