What to expect during interview

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Each job interview you attend will vary in its style and content. However, it is helpful to be aware of the basic job interview structure and some of the techniques widely used.

  1. The interview structure
    A good interviewer will always have a clear structure planned for their job interview to ensure they acquire all the information they need to whilst you are with them. A simple way of structuring interviews that is widely used is called the WASP structure:

    • Welcome
      This will usually last about 5 minutes whilst the interviewer greets you, offers you some refreshments and asks some easy, less job relevant questions to relax you, such as "how was your journey?" This is also your opportunity to generate some good first impressions.
    • Acquire
      The main part of the job interview will be spent in this stage of the interview with the interviewer asking you a wide range of questions to find out about your potential suitability to the job role and the organisation.
    • Supply
      Time is normally allocated here to provide the interviewee with information about the job as well as the opportunity to ask questions to the interviewer. Should you feel at this stage, the interviewer has not asked you questions about an aspect of your past experience that is relevant to the job you are being interviewed for, it would be relevant and appropriate to mention it here.

      You could also provide any evidence of past achievements here focusing on the key points and without taking up too much time. The interviewer may also take you around the organisation so that you can see the facilities and potentially meet some of the people you could be working with.

      The format and style of information giving will vary from employer to employer as well as the stage of job interview you are attending, i.e. you are more likely to receive more information at a second interview as opposed to the first initial interview.

    • Plan and Part
      Once the interviewer has answered all of your questions, they will usually inform you of the next steps in the interview process, including how and when you should hear the outcome of your interview. If they omit to tell you, then ask the question.

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  2. Biographical interviews
    Most interviewers will want to ask you questions about your career to date, particularly around jobs that you may have had that are particularly relevant to the job role or specific behaviours and skills they are seeking.

    If you have had experiences outside the world of work that may be relevant, the interviewer may also enquire about these experiences. If not, and you think they are relevant, you may wish to highlight this at the appropriate stage in the job interview.

  3. Competency based interviews
    Many employers today use a technique known as competency based interviewing to help them acquire evidence of your past performance, based on the premise that past performance is one of the best indicators of future performance.

    The evidence they seek centres around the core competencies (skills and behaviours) that are critical to the success of the job. You may be told which competencies these are in advance of the interview allowing you to effectively prepare.

    Whilst using the technique, the interviewer will ask you to describe a past situation you have been in, for example, when working on a team based project and then ask you more specific questions about how you worked as part of that team. The key here is to stay focused on this specific example and fully answer the question. Here are some example questions:

    • Can you think of a specific occasion when you have had to work as part of a team?
    • What were the goals of the team?
    • What was your role within the team?
    • What did you personally do to ensure the team goals were achieved?
    • How effective were you in being a team member?
    • What in hindsight could you have done differently to help the team achieve its goals even quicker?
    • How have you applied this learning when working in other teams?

    With questions around teamwork it is very easy to fall into the trap of saying "we did this" when the interviewer wants to know what your specific contribution was.

    So starting your answers with the word "I" will help you to avoid falling into this common trap, except for situations where you are describing a collective effort with one person contributing more or differently.

    Whilst the interviewer asks you competency based interview questions, please be aware that they are likely to ask you questions around occasions when things went well and when they didn’t go quite as well. They are looking to see how you have dealt with the difficult issues, what you learnt from the experience and how you have applied the learning.

  4. Assessment methods

    There are a number of different assessment methods in use that will enable your interviewer to measure your potential ability to do the job. These could include:

    • Psychometric questionnaires and tests (see our SHL Candidate Help Page for further information)
    • In-tray exercises, case studies, role-plays (see SHL’s website for further information)
    • Making a presentation on a job related matter
    • Preparing and presenting a written report on a job related matter
    • Conducting a job related task

    Whatever the task, it is advisable to find out as much as you can beforehand about the task, and provide sufficient time for you to practice the task.

  5. Panel interviews
    Panel interviews where several interviewers interview an individual at the same time, still take place in some organisations. Whilst they can be quite off putting to the interviewee, they can save time if managed effectively.

A good job interview panel will ask their questions in sequence and you should be able to focus on the particular interviewer asking the questions at the time. More frequently, you are likely to come across job interviews where there are two interviewers with one taking the lead in asking questions whilst the other takes notes.

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