The Questions

You will probably get asked a wide variety of questions at interview but they will broadly fall into one of three categories:

  1. Do you understand the role?
  2. Can you do the job?
  3. Will you fit into the organisation?

Each question will be structured to find out one of the above. Listen closely to the question and ask for clarification if you are unsure of what the panel are looking for.

Open questions

These questions are normally asked at the beginning of the interview and common examples include:

  • Why did you apply for this post?
  • What can you bring to the position?
  • Tell us about yourself

This style of question gives you a lot of freedom and control and provides a real opportunity to sell your skills and abilities. When answering open questions concentrate on your skills, knowledge and experience that directly relate to the job role. Think about the job description and person specification and use them as a basis for your answers.

Technical questions

If you have applied for a role that requires technical knowledge be prepared for very specific and knowledge-based questions. You may get asked about projects or modules that you have studied on your degree, or asked how you would approach a hypothetical problem or situation. If you don't have the knowledge be honest about it, but go on to describe how you have developed new skills or knowledge in the past.

Difficult questions

Interviewers usually ask difficult or challenging questions to see how you respond and to measure your self-awareness. You may be asked about your weaknesses, past failures or what you perceive to be challenges for the future. When answering these questions consider:

  • describing past weaknesses or failures and how you overcame them
  • choosing weaknesses that could be seen as a positive
  • talking about skills you feel less confident about and your plans for developing them further

Competency questions

Competency questions allow you to demonstrate your skills and abilities by talking in detail about how you have utilised those skills in the past. If the organisation does not supply you with a list of competencies you should use the job advert, or person specification, to anticipate what they might be. Example questions include:

  • How do you effectively solve problems?
  • What do you think makes a successful team?
  • Tell us about a time when you successfully influenced the outcome of a project

Providing detailed examples is the key to answering competency questions and the STAR technique is a useful tool in structuring your answer.

Using the STAR technique

The STAR approach is useful for giving structured, focused and effective answers to interview questions based on past experience. Having a clear structure allows you to be concise and avoid rambling!

  • Situation (What was the context? Where were you and what were you doing?)
  • Task (What goal did you set yourself? What was the problem or challenge?)
  • Action (What action did you take?)
  • Result (What was the outcome?)

When using this technique you should:

  • spend at least 50% of your time talking about the Action
  • concentrate on your individual contribution to a situation
  • choose examples that are the most relevant - whilst it is good to talk about recent situations, the relevancy of the example is most important
  • try and talk about a situation with a positive outcome - if not, explain what you learned from the process and what you would do differently next time

Questions for the panel

It is common practice for you to ask questions at the end of an interview. Rather than asking nothing, or thinking up a question on the spot, it is a good idea to prepare some suitable questions in advance. Depending on how the interview has gone you can choose the most suitable ones to ask. Ask questions that demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in the job and the company. Cover topics such as:

  • things you've seen in your research - new developments or products
  • how the role will develop
  • the structure of the team or department

Avoid asking about:

  • what the company does - you should know this already!
  • pay, holiday and perks - these should only be discussed once you have a job offer
  • how soon you will be managing the company - ambition is good but don't make the panel feel you are after their jobs
Last modified: 
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 09:32