Preparing Your Interview Answers

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Many questions can be anticipated in advance and it is wise to have some well constructed answers that you can tailor more closely on the day. It is advisable to at least have a number of key phrases available to use.

Some interviewers use very broad questioning techniques such as “Tell me about yourself?” This can present the most difficult challenge of the interview. You need to perceive whether the interviewer wants an exhaustive resume of your career to date, or just a brief overview. You may need to confirm which it is with a question back before you make an assumption. If you feel you need to go into more depth, don’t hesitate to stop and ask if the interviewer would like you to expand on the point.

When being asked questions, the candidate is tasked with two things – giving a strong example of demonstrable behaviour but also, a structured response that clearly shows an individual’s approach to a situation and how they have modified their behaviour as a result of what they have learned.

When presented with a competency based question, the answer you provide should always be delivered in the following format: 

  1. Situation (or task) 
  • Describe the situation (or task) confronted with or that needed to be accomplished.
  • Set context, it needs to be concise and informative – concentrate only on what is relevant to the ‘story’.
  1. Options 
  • Able to demonstrate a clearer understanding of a situation by describing the range of options available to them. 
  • Shows a thinking process that is logical, creative and intelligent.
  1. Action 
  • Able to explain the chosen course of action of what, how and why you did that. 
  • Explains their own actions, what was their own personal contribution. 
  • Gives detail and sensible/rational reasons behind their actions. 
  • Can demonstrate that they are calculating their actions and the potential results in order to remain in control of the situation.
  1. Result (or response) 
  • Explains what happened eventually and how it all ended. 
  • What was accomplished is described here – can the candidate demonstrate that they saw it through ‘to the end’?
  1. Learning 
  • Perhaps the most crucial part of the answer – what did they learn during this event? 
  • What will they use/do differently as a result of their experience (for the better) in future? 
  • Can they evidence their behaviour has changed at all?

By having a fair idea of what you are going to be asked and by rehearsing your answers, you will have greater confidence during the interview.

Some frequently asked questions include:

How you see yourself:

  • Tell me about yourself? Or how would you describe yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Impress the interviewer by saying that you look upon weaknesses as challenges you seek to work on, not bad points! If you can give an example of how you’re already trying to self improve that weakness e.g. attending a course or doing online learnings, even better! 

For example:

  • Make a list of your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to this particular job.
  • Can you turn any of your weaknesses into strengths? Avoid weaknesses that would impair you in doing the job. 
  • Make a list of the reasons why you want the job.
  • How do you behave in a crisis/when under pressure?

How you see and interact with others:

  • What sorts of people do you like working with? Consider who you will be working with in this role and try and use that to show how well you will fit in. 
  • How have you handled a difficult colleague/boss in the past?
  • What role do you naturally take in a team?

Your current/previous role:

  • What was the most interesting/rewarding project you’ve ever worked on?
  • What was the most difficult aspect of your job? How did you overcome the difficulty?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • Why did you choose to study that course?
  • Why did you leave your last job? Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why have you frequently changed jobs?  Why have you stayed so long with one employer?

What you want from your role:

  • What do you see as the next step in your career?
  • What are your long term aims/where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
  • What are the most important factors you require in a job?

Research and fitting in:

  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you wish to work for the client?

Personal Development:

  • What training have you done in the last year?
  • How do you keep up to date with changes in technology?

Outside Work:

  • What are your hobbies and interests?