A job interview is an unusual situation, one we don’t take part in very often. It is a conversation with an imbalance of power and one where the candidate is required to confidently articulate their strengths and abilities. Therefore, it is very important to practice as best as you can beforehand. While every interview is different the most common interview types are:
- Competency Based: are based around a series of competencies or skills that have been identified as critical to job performance. This is the most common type of interview style.
- Traditional/ Biographical: are generally less structured and more conversational
- Screening interviews: used to ensure that candidates meet the basic qualifications required for the job and are typically conducted over the phone or using pre-recorded interviews
- Group interviews: used to understand how candidates behave and stand out amongst peers.
Interview questions are typically designed to find out if the candidate has the knowledge, skills and ability to do the function of the job and competency-based questions are based on the premise of providing examples from previous experience to demonstrate future ability. In order to ensure you are answer the question to the best of your ability, the STAR technique should be used for each answer you provide.
The STAR technique is an easy to remember formula to answer for competency-based questions that ensures clear, concise and logical answers.
The STAR method is:
Situation – give the context to the example you are providing, where are you working, what role do you hold
Task – describe the task you needed to do, i.e. what was the problem or issue at hand
Action – what actions did you take, be specific to what you did and why you did it
Result – what was the outcome? What impact did you have on the situation? Give tangible results that showcase your abilities in this final step.
The STAR technique is only as successfully as the example you choose so ensure you prepare a number of examples beforehand. An important point to keep in mind is that the interviewer may probe for more information if you have not given them what they were looking in your answer. This is a sign you may need to give further details in your answers next time.
Preparation is key
Before any interview ensure you do your research. As a candidate you have a lot of tools at your disposal to prepare you for the interview. Start with looking up the company on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as well as their own website. Remember to also utilise your network; do you know someone working at the company who you can ask open-ended questions on the company culture and organisational values. This will allow you to get to know the basic information about the company as well as the nuances that will help you succeed at interview. Look at recent news article which you can reference in the interview to show your genuine interest in the company.
Figure out the company culture. Doing this will allow you to identify which part of your skillset to showcase the most in your answers. If it’s a start-up that is all about innovation and creativity, those two areas are what you will want to showcase in your answers and that small tweak will put you ahead of the rest and cement your status as the right fit for the company.
The job description for the post you are applying for should also guide and aid your preparation. While you may not have worked directly in the same role previously, you may have acquired transferable skills from another role – it’s up to you to show that to the interviewer and demonstrate your proven adaptability and flexibility.
Online Interview Tips
We are currently in a time where most things need to be done online and the job interview is no different. If you are shortlisted for an online interview, the research and preparation remain the same with some added steps.
A key step will be to ensure you have the technology to support the interview prior to the day it is scheduled. The moment you receive an invitation to an online interview check the software being used on your device – all interview websites and applications can carry out a test and this will give you peace of mind. Doing this as early as possible allows you and the company to come up with an alternative way to interview should the software not work for you.
Find an appropriate location which you will use for the interview. Keep in mind the following: potential distractions; potential light changes – if you’re sitting near a window ensure the blind is down to prevent a moment of blinding sunshine; the noise levels; the internet connection and your background! Ideally you should have a clear background behind you so that the interviewer is not distracted and can focus on you. Inform others around you so you are not disturbed during the interview.
Before the interview, practice speaking to the camera and ensure it is at eye level to aid this. A benefit of the online interview is that you can keep some small notes near you – however be careful not to read from them, they should act as a memory aid not a script.
Dress professionally and put on the whole outfit. While the interviewer will only see your top half, putting on a full outfit will focus your mind and make you feel more prepared.
General Tips and Tricks
- Remember to keep to the point and be concise with your answers.
- Quantifying as much as possible. Instead of saying ‘’I managed to increase sales significantly.’’ say ‘’ I increased sales by 20% in the first year”.
- If you say you are a quick learner, give some concrete evidence. This will avoid the sentence sounding like an old cliché and give the interviewer no doubt about your ability.
- Don’t interrupt the interviewer and listen carefully – show them just how good with people you are!
- This also applies to everyone you encounter in the building – the person walking into the building with you could very well be the person interviewing you
- If you are being interviewed by a panel, bring a notebook. If you know the names prior to the interview write them down and make a plan of how the room will look. As they introduce themselves at the start, jot down where each person is sitting so that you can refer to them by name later. You can also do this if it’s just one person interviewing you as it will ensure you don’t forget their name or get it wrong.
- When answering questions listen carefully and if you feel the question is unclear, ask for clarification. Pause before answering to consider all facts that may substantiate your response. Tailor your answers to the exact question.
- Always offer positive information and avoid negativity.
- At the end of the interview ask what the next steps are (additional interviews etc.) and clarify anything you may be unsure about.
So, while there are various approaches to job interviews, preparation is the key to success. Try your best to relax and enjoy it – it’s just a conversation about how great you are!