Employers use interviews to assess candidates experience, skills, personality and overall motivation for the job. How you answer and how you behave during the interview allows employers to consider the ‘fit’ with the team and the organisation.
It is most commonly used as an initial screening interview and at another point in the process as a chance to meet face-to-face. For graduate jobs an interview will often be part of an assessment centre.
Interviews can take a variety of forms but here are the most common methods you might come across.
You may be interviewed by one person or a panel of three or four people but your preparation and performance should be the same.
Being in the same room allows you to use your body language, facial expressions to express your personality at the same time as answering the questions fully. A face-to-face interview can involve a variety of question types including competency, strengths-based, behavioural and technical. It is important to research the organisation and the type of interview questions you can expect.
These are used by employers, who have high volumes of applications, to screen candidates using three or four questions. Usually you will be given a day and approximate time to expect a phone call.
You should try to be located in a quiet room with your application form or CV and any relevant information about the organisation with you.
Preparation for telephone and video interviews should be just as thorough as a face-to-face interview.
Seven top tips for acing a telephone interview
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Sit up straight as this will alter the way you sound
- Smile – this will change the tone of your voice
- Give concise answers while not underselling your experience. You don’t have the luxury of reading the interviewers body language over the phone.
- Avoid calling in a public place
- Check connection to the network
- Don’t use the speaker phone in case the interviewer can’t hear you clearly
Video interviews can be done in two distinct ways. Interactive and non-interactive.
- Interactive video interviews will involve e-conferencing software such as Skype or FaceTime and will involve a live feed discussion between interviewers and interviewees. These are effective in assessing your demeanour and provide better insights than a telephone interview
- Non-interactive interviews typically involve you providing video responses to a set of pre-recorded questions. The questions may appear as text on the screen or as a recorded audio clip. These can be daunting as you will not be facing a live panel and do not receive feedback; however you will generally be given a chance to practise your response and will also be able to undertake the interview at your convenience.
Non-interactive video interviews are becoming increasingly popular with employers as an alternative to telephone interviews as they can assess a larger number of candidates.
Practice video interviews
We have created two video resources to help you prepare: Part one provides advice and tips on how to conduct yourself and prepare for the interview, and Part two will give you the chance to take part in a simulated video interview.
|Part one: advice and tips||Part two: practice interview|
We have purchased a video interviewing system – Sonru – to help you practise your skills. It's free for you to use.
To use Sonru:
It may take at least three working days to set up the video interview. If you have an interview sooner than this please use the above examples.
- Structured to reflect the competencies the employer is looking for
- Your competencies are assessed against selection criteria that is often outlined in the person specification and job description
- Questions can relate to past failures as well as to past achievements, try to focus on what you have learnt from past experiences positive or negative.
- Some key competencies that an employer will focus on are, communication, leadership and teamwork. To find out which competencies are being assessed look on the employer’s website.
- Give an example of a time when you dealt with conflict in a team. How did you deal with this?
- Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time, despite intending to do so
- Give an example of when you have had to solve a problem
How to answer these questions
When answering competency based questions you need to think about real life experiences and how you can demonstrate these from past work experiences, volunteering opportunities and competencies from studying or time abroad.
A helpful technique to use is the STAR Technique.
- Situation - Describe the situation
- Task - Explain your task
- Action - Describe your actions
- Result - Explain the result
Watch our videos to help you answer competency-based questions
- The employer is looking to find out what your strengths are and what energises you
- This style is based on the concept that if employees are playing to their strengths at work they are likely to be more productive and fulfilled
- One of the reasons this style is becoming more popular, is that it allows the individual to speak about what they are good at.
- When preparing for this style of interview question research the organisations values as it is likely that the interview questions will closely match these. Relax and be open when answering these questions, try to be yourself.
Watch this video and get the answers to the following questions:
- What is a strengths-based interview?
- Why do employers use them?
- What is a strengths-based question?
- How do I answer these types of questions
- What things give you energy?
- What things are always left on your to-do list and not finished?
- Do you think this role with play to your strengths?
How to answer these questions
Talk about who you are, you know yourself best.
What are your strengths, skills and attributes that will work well within the organisation?
If you are struggling to articulate your strengths and skills, book an appointment with one of our advisers.
- Are used for positions that require technical competence, for example engineering, IT and scientific roles
- The interviewer will ask you questions that will enable you to demonstrate your technical knowledge and skills that may have been developed through your course or work experience
- Require candidates to solve actual technical problems that they would be likely to face if employed.
- How did your education help you prepare for this job?
- How would you rate your key competencies for this job?
- Tell me about a project you were most proud of, and what your contribution was?
How to answer these questions
When answering technical questions it is important to think about how you can showcase not only your technical know-how, but how you approach problem solving and construct your own thought processes into a complex situation or task.
Showcasing your personal skills and attributes will enhance the quality of your answers and give the interviewer and insight into who you are.
Behavioural or values interviews
- Involves focusing on your values, behaviours and attitudes, rather than your experience and skills
- The employer is looking at how past behaviours inform the person you are and how you deal with future decisions based on your past behaviour
- This questioning style allows the employers to focus on you as a person, how you will fit into the wider team and your values and beliefs.
- What attracts you to this role?
- Could you give an example where you actively went out of your way to learn something new in order to achieve a personal goal?
- Give an example that demonstrates your professional integrity
How to answer these questions
When answering behavioural or values based questions try not to think too deeply, think about your behaviours and values as competencies and how you are going to get these across to the interviewer.
Instead of the situation think about the context giving solid examples.
Case study interviews
Interview preparation - our top tips
Do you homework
- Show that you have taken the time to research and learn about the company or organisation
- Find out whether the company has been in the news recently, what contemporary issues are pertinent. Use social media networks e.g. LinkedIn to network with contacts in your target company
- Use social media networks, for example LinkedIn to network with contacts in your target company
- Go back to the job description and think about what skills and attributes they are asking for, and how you are going to evidence this information in the Interview process.
- Either using a mind map or writing a list, highlight evidence that can be used in the interview, this will help you to visualise and retain the important information needed on the day.
- An interview is a two-way process so at the end of the interview you will get the opportunity to ask questions that are important to you. Read our blog post:
Interview Questions: Answering "Have You Got Any Questions for Us?"
TARGETjobs - Questions you should at an interview
- Your body language can play a huge part in giving you confidence therefore making you feel calmer. You can watch this short clip which explains the theory and practice behind positive body language. You can also attend a skills workshop where you can practice these techniques.
- Music is used in many different ways including managing your career confidence. When in a stressful situation, think about a time when you felt confident and use music to represent these feelings. Devise a play list that motivates and energises you or relaxes you. Music can literally change your bio-chemistry by moderating heart rate, respiration and blood pressure making you feel more relaxed (Trends in cognitive sciences, 2013). Listening to a 50-minute blast of dance music has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol related to stress and anxiety.
- Yoga breathing is a fantastic way to relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga breathing can also work on your mental strength increasing concentration and supports you in your reflective practice.