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The Job Interview Process | Interview Questions and Answers

 

When you get to the job interview you have achieved your goal. You are now face-to-face with a prospective employer and are competing with other applicants that are equally qualified to win the job.

 

Don't blow the interview by being ill-informed about the interview process, the different types of questions used and how to

answer them.

 

This section will assist to recognise various job interview processes, and questions used in professional interviews. We will show you how to quantify and qualify your answers to the interviewer's satisfaction.

 

Designed to be read in conjunction with Job Interview Tips, which is the more practical side of the interview with more comprehensive information about the interview process and valuable interview preparation tips.

 

 

Introduction to the job interview process

 

Invariably there are core interview questions the employer will ask. These relate to your ability to get along with colleagues, how you work in a team, how you handle stress, how you solve problems and how you deal with the public. A common question, for example, relates to handling aggressive clients.  Usually they will ask you for an example of a situation, where you had to deal with an aggressive client. They are asking you to outline the processes you used to go about handling or defusing the situation. Asking for an example from your past work history is called is behavioural interviewing, which will be discussed further, and is a technique you must learn if you want to succeed.

 

On a higher skill level the interview questions will be more complex.  Nevertheless, they will want to test these same qualities and a lot more including your leadership style/ability, how you handle conflict with a range of people, questions relating to organisational goals, initiative, and any qualities that relate to your job, such as negotiation, performance, outcomes etc. Technical skills are often secondary.

Look at all advertised jobs, not just those in your field, and you will see that in the job criteria the personal qualities and interpersonal skills required outnumber the actual work skills and work experience.

These are the interview questions job seekers don't give much thought to.

No matter what your occupation, communication and interpersonal skills will be tested at the interview. The interviewer will look for good clear thinking and some theoretical knowledge of how you communicate with others. So all applicants must be able to answer these questions adequately. They are just as important or even more so than your work experience. Some of the interview resources on this site will assist you to structure your answers to these hard questions.

 

To reiterate this point, the following information has been taken from Shell Company’s website for Graduate Recruitment.

 “The person you are is more important than what you studied”.

Types of Job Interviews

Unstructured Interview

The unstructured interview still occurs across many industries, even in middle management positions. It is often conducted by the decision maker (even though this may be the manager of a department), and it is the best situation for you to be in.  In this scenario, you need only listen to the employer, assess their needs and convince him/her that you can fill those needs and that you are the best person for the job.  This is the sales approach to answering job interview questions.

By using effective listening skills you can encourage the employer to talk about the company and his/herself.  You want to find out more about the job and organisation to determine if they are able to match your needs, and if you can fill their needs. 

The structured Interview

This is the formal interview approach where questions have been pre-set to test your work skills, knowledge, communication skills and your ability to handle stress, teamwork, etc., and to find out what sort of person you areThe interview will generally be conducted by the Manager or the Human Resource Manager/Officer.  It may also be a panel interview, or an interview  where a person from your area of work is present.  Be prepared to answer a wide range of questions, especially case study questioning (situational interviewing and behavioural interviewing - see later).

If a Human Resource Officer conducts the interview there may be a second interview with a technical person or someone from within your area of work - even if this was not stated in the beginning. 

Job Interview Preparation - Interview Question and Answers

Informal unstructured job interview

Use the sales approach in a one-one job interview by:-

  • Listening  80% of the time and speak  20% of the time. 

  • Encouraging the interviewer to talk about him/her self and the company, so you can establish their needs.

To do this you use the “W” questions used by children when they are leaning - what? when? who? where? why?  The trick is to know when to stop them talking. Once they start it may be difficult to get them to stop talking about how good they are that you hardly get a chance to talk and ask questions.  In this case you must :-

  • Redirect the interview and bring the interviewer back to listening to you. 

  • Come in at an appropriate stage, i.e. “that is an interesting point, I can assist you here. For example, in my last job we had the same problem."

  • Jump in with a question of your own.

  • Be diplomatic and let the interviewer know that you have had previous experience and understand the difficulties they are having.

You may say, “at  xxxx company we had the same problem and I came up with some ideas and I was able to solve the problem.” Don't be specific. You want to show you can problem solve and demonstrate a few of th processes you used. Don't give them free advice and the benefit of your experience. Also it may be confidential information.

At the informal interview use the 20% of time you spend speaking, to addressing the important issues the employer has uncovered, and to ask your own questions.

  • Don’t boast, and certainly don’t be a know-all and do not indicate that you know more than the interviewer.

  • Don’t say you can do it better unless he/she has presented all the facts, so ask questions to clarify the issue.

  • Give them solutions, insofar as you have the expertise to solve their problemsBe succinct and keep to the point. 

  • In any sales situation the prospective buyer wants to know “what is in it for me”.  An employer is a buyer and is not different in this respect.

By using sales principles at the interview the seller need to sell the benefits of employing you.  If a benefit statement can be answered with a “so what” answer, it is not a benefit. You may want to look at some sales books to show you how to use features and benefits effectively.

The formal structured job interview

Having gone through the ideal job interview situation , you may be faced with a different scenario. The organised, structured approach is one where the interviewer controls the interview process. However, the theory and reality of how a job interview should be conducted, can be quite different.  Based on the ideal theory of interviewing (from the employer’s perspective), the purpose of the job interview should be to establish: -

·         Whether the applicant meets the job criteria, which could include a lot of interpersonal skills and attributes and information the employer sees as being important.

·         How well he/she could handle the responsibilities of the job.

·         To select the most suitable applicant.

Source: Winning Staff the EEO Way, Director of EEO in Public Employment. 

If these Equal Employment Opportunity principles are adhered to, it may be harder to implement the sales approach.  The interviewer is well organised and has a set of pre-arranged questions designed around the job and the job advertisement.

In A Formal Job Interview Two Main Question Types Are Used

Behavioural Interviewing – the process of doing the tasks/duties

Example: “ What did you do when…”?

This looks at past behaviour as opposed to beliefs and feelings.

The idea behind the behavioural interviewing strategy or model is that you can assess past performance to predict future performance.

Situational Interviewing

Example: “What would you do if”?

In both the above examples you will have to demonstrate how you went, or will go about performing the task or duty.  What processes did you, or will you, use?

The problem with behavioural interviewing is that it doesn’t allow for maturity, experience or further training etc.

If you can’t come up with a really good example, give them a situation you handled badly and admit that you learned from this and given the same situation you would now do it another way and give them a scenario.  In other words turn it around to a situational scenario.

To reiterate, your interview answers must demonstrate the processes you used to arrive at a decision.  The subject of behavioural and situational interviewing is too specialised to go into it further in this section.  Resources can be found on this site. Nevertheless demonstrating processes used in answering most interview questions is generic.

You need to learn, or brush up, on these techniques if you want to perform at the level the employer expects. Behavioural interviewing, in particular, is used for public service and more senior positions. However, the interviewer who is not experienced, may have done some "reading up" on interviewing and will tend to use these questions for the less professional applicant, when sometimes they don't have the skills to interpret the answers. This is always a problem when dealing with unqualified interviewers.

How the formal job interview is structured

In theory, the professional job interview will usually be conducted in three parts.The beginning, the middle and the end.

Beginning: Introductions and small talk to make you comfortable. This is an ideal opportunity to build rapport, however be brief in your response. The interviewer will supply you with information about the company and the job and tell you how the interview will be conducted.

The middle:  This will centre on you - questions and answers.  Ask if you can refer to your notes (see further on about taking in a notebook).

The end:  Winding up the interview. Conditions of employment.  The interviewer will ask if you have any questions.

Questions to ask at the interview

There is not much time set aside for questioning because the middle usually goes for longer than the allocated time.  Make sure you check the time before you ask too many questions. 

 

Making the interviewers late for the next interview may be detrimental to you, even if it was their fault that they went over time.

You need to say that you did have some questions but you noticed they had gone over time so you will be brief.  Let them know that you were interested to know more. They will appreciate this.

In this case you can summarise the job, as you understand it. Then say that you are very interested and you would like to know more about a particular part of the job and ask if you can ring them the following day. 

This will give you the opportunity to review your performance and if you feel that the interview didn’t go your way, or you can improve the impression you made and you will have time to think of questions that may impress them. 

Nevertheless, if time permits, you need to ask some questions to ensure the job is for you and to show them that you are interested. Make sure your questions are intelligent and add to what was already discussed. Seek clarity on some points if you wish. You can ask about career path, training etc. But do not ask any technical questions that the interviewer may not be able to answer.

 

You have the right to ask questions about salary and conditions, but it is not wise in  a tight employment market.  In a better employment market, a question about salary is expected, as naturally you expect to better your previous salary. But don't make it your first question.

If you have any misgivings about performing well at the interview, here are a few tips about note taking.

  • Write yourself some possible questions to ask.

  • Use only use keywords or you will get confused. 

  • A small notebook is acceptable to take into a job interview and in some cases a larger notepad. 

  • Ask if you can refer to your notes and this may apply to the middle of the interview as well.

  • In a panel interview some public service agencies will give you time to prepare by giving you the interview questions in advance, so make sure you bring your own small notebook because they will want the questions back. 

  • When you are answering questions that have a theoretical base such as conflict resolution, or effective listening skills, write some prompts using keywords.

If it is not a public service job interview, play safe and use a small notebook. 

At this point be prepared for all these questions aimed at demonstrating your interpersonal skills.  If you have client contact these sorts of questions will come up. Teamwork is another one. These all have a theoretical base. These are the questions many people, even at high levels tend to do badly.

A very useful book that is not directly related to interviews, but rather selection criteria and panel interviews, is equally  good for general interviewing if you need to analyse what is meant by conflict resolution and other questions that demonstrate interpersonal skills. It analyses questions and gives you the type of answers the employer want to hear to demonstrate that you have a theoretical understanding.  See Lloyd Whites book on selection criteria writing here

Anticipate questions and practice your answers

No matter what your occupation is you need to practice, practice and practice if you want to perform successfully in a job interview.  You must take that first step and verbalise your interview answers.  Don’t just write them down.          p everything the employer will - tone, pace of speech, passive responses and fillers such as the “um and “ah”.  Role-play with someone you trust.

Handling negatives in a job interview

You must always be prepared to handle negatives, i.e. being fired.  Whatever you do don’t speak badly about your former employer no matter how much you think you were hard done by. The employer may try and encourage you to “bad mouth” a former employer. Don’t fall for it. Keep all bitterness out of your voice and watch your body language.  It is a dead giveaway. Rehearse with a sympathetic friend.

Don’t volunteer information unless you are asked. Tell the truth and be brief. If there is anything you have learned from the experience, let the employer know.

Having said that, don’t tell the employer that you “punched your bosses lights out because you don’t take any xxxx  from anyone”. Yes,  I have heard everything.  These people, of course, wouldn’t be pro-actively looking for work, although they complain that they can’t get a job and it is all a waste of time trying. I wonder why?

See Job Search Articles for information on how to handle being fired questions.

Illegal discriminatory job interview questions

For example, “How old are you?”

How do you handle this question? This is a question that is of great concern for older job seekers. My advice is that if you give your age you are dammed and dammed if you don’t.  If you make a fuss and tell the employer the question is discriminatory you definitely won’t get the job. On the other hand, you don’t really know what the result will be if you do answer honestly. Try not to show your negative reaction.  Go into every interview visualising your response to this question.  Smile and say I am 55.

The important lesson, which we touch on later, is that if you think age is a problem you need to look at your behaviour and appearance that may age you.   Up to the Top of the PageSee the older worker checklist in Interviews

Open and closed job interview questions

·         Open interview question

·         Closed interview question

Open questions give you the opportunity to control your responses and will be used by most interviewers.

Examples of open questions

What method would you use in gathering data about accident rates?  (Situational interview question)

Give me an example of a time when you had a problem with a co-worker and tell me how you handled it? (Behavioural interview question)

Examples of closed questions

Closed questions narrow the range of responses and may only allow for a yes or no answer.  Sometimes there is a legitimate use of closed questions when the interviewer needs to check information, although many interviewers still slip into this mode of questioning out of habit, laziness or ignorance, and you need to retrieve the situation.

An inexperienced interviewer may ask a closed question and you can turn it to your advantage by offering more information and take control of the situation. 

Examples of a closed question to illustrate this point.

Do you have a drivers licence?

The answer is clearly yes or no - or is it?   Sometimes closed questions are used to clarify a point, or they may be just poor interviewers. As stated, you must decide if the question is important to the interview or not.

The question will be important if you are being interviewed for driving job, for example, or a job as a Sales Representative. You need to expand your answer. You could say, “Yes I have a C class licence with no restrictions” - or I hold a clean C class licence and I am proud of my driving record.  In 10 years and have never had more than one restriction at any time/never had an accident”.

Another interview answer for this question. “yes I have held a C class licence since 1995 and I have no restrictions.  I fact, I still have a 100% no claim bonus on my insurance policy”.

If, on the other hand, the licence is not needed for the job there is no need to say anything more than the class of licence you hold.

This is just an example to alert you to the possibility that you may be losing a chance to sell yourself.  Recognise poor interviewers and act immediately. 

Learn more about job interview answers with these excellent resources.

Job Interview Success System

Best Interview Strategies              

   Ace the interview

Bonnie Lowe Introduces you to a simple, step-by-step system that shows you how to get the job and change your life. Simple but powerful interview strategies that will get you hired. Download now, and start preparing your interview answers.

Go to Job Search Resources for more excellent books on interview skills and learn how to prepare for an interview to land the job. If you want to succeed at anything you need to use the best resources available to assist you. In this case, you need to  differentiate yourself from your competitors. It isn't always the best qualified candidate that gets the job. But you know that, don't you?


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On this page

Introduction to the Interview process

Types of Job Interviews

Interview Preparation / Questions and Answers

Informal unstructured interview

The formal structured interview

How the formal interview is structured

Open and closed questions

Behavioural Interviewing

Situational Interviewing


See 137 interview answers

 

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How to answer any question a Job Interviewer could possibly throw at you!

Revised Edition 2009

The Guide is 81 pages long (over 25,000 words) and it includes 87 intelligent and effective Job Interview Answers, 10 Closing Power Statements, 43 questions for you to use to uncover the interviewer's hidden needs, 13 desirable behavioural competencies  interviewers look for. Received a 5 star ranking from readers.

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