Be prepared. Be honest. Be yourself!

Prepare sample answers

You should prepare five or six strong, specific, examples that best demonstrate your skills and abilities. Think of experiences from your past you are proud of. These can be from your work experience, personal or social life, etc. Do not use examples that ended negatively, e.g. “despite my best efforts it didn’t work.” It also makes sense to know about the company – so do your research beforehand!

Consider following the ‘STAR’ method for each experience that you will be describing to the interviewer:

Situation: what was the situation? What was the background and context?
Task: what specific task did you need to accomplish?
Action: what did you say and do? What actions did you take? How did you do it? Why you did it?
Result: what were the results of your actions? What was the impact? What did you learn?

Keep your answers focused. You’ll need to think of at least one or more specific examples for each identified competency demonstrating your skills and abilities.

Don’t bluff. If you don’t understand the question then clarify it with the interviewer and if you don’t have an example don’t make one up! Don’t use an example that isn’t yours. This often becomes obvious when the interviewer asks for more detail.

Ask questions. this is your opportunity to find out more about the organisation you could be joining. Remember it is as much us choosing you as an employee as it is about you choosing us an employer. Think about those things that are important to you in advance, e.g. working hours, training, lifestyle, support, salary, travel, etc.

Different types of interviews

Competency interviews

The purpose of a competency-based interview is to get evidence of how you’ve behaved in the past to indicate how you’ll behave in the future. The more recent and long-standing the behaviour, the greater its predictive power.

Telephonic or ‘tele-chronic’?

Typically a first round interview but don’t underestimate it. This is normally used as a ‘screening out’ tool where most organisations will look to reject approximately 60% of candidates via this method. Make sure to:

  • Have your application/CV and covering letter in front of you as you might be questioned about it.
  • Print it out but don’t read it out: have notes but what you say should come across as natural, not scripted. Add your own comments/observations/insights to demonstrate your understanding of what you have obviously read in advance.
  • Tell your examples well: research has shown that people remember a well-told story better than simple facts and figures. Look at the difference between the way a story is told on the radio versus the way it’s told on TV.
  • Find a quiet place: don’t take call where there will be planes flying overhead, in a taxi, on a train or in a call centre!
  • Good phone signal/battery power: or better still use a land line. The calls are normally booked in advance so prepare.
  • Have a glass of water handy: in a good interview you will talk for 80% of the time.

Face to face interviews

Typically a second round or final interview, ensure you:

  • Turn up on time: check your transport route in advance. Allow for traffic/rush hour. Print a map if required. Or use the company’s own directions as these are usually written by employees who know the area well. Better two hours early than two minutes late!
  • Dress appropriately: partly whatever makes you feel comfortable, partly to look like an existing employee. It’s easier to take a tie off then to put one on.
  • Are happy to be there. Don’t say “this place is hard to find”, “is this it?!” or “it took me ages to get here!”
  • Build a rapport with the interviewer taking advantage of what is a less scripted interview.
  • Make the interviewer’s job easier. They’re human too and simply want to find the best candidate for the job.

Common interview mistakes

According to a recent survey of hiring managers the most common and detrimental mistakes candidates have made during an interview are:

  • Dressing inappropriately – cited by 51% of hiring managers
  • Speaking negatively about a current or previous employer: 49%
  • Appearing disinterested: 48%

Other mistakes include:

  • Appearing arrogant (44%)
  • Not providing specific answers (30%)
  • Not asking good questions (29%)