Interview preparation is probably the single most important differentiator between good candidates - the one who is best prepared invariably gets the job:
Preparation is the evidence of professionalism, interest in and commitment to their company but above all it is indicative of the way a candidate is likely to work.
You should know the following about the organisation before you attend the interview:
Who is the company owned by - Private or public?
Is it part of a larger group - are there subsidiaries you should be aware of?
Gain an understanding of the business the
company is in, who their main competitors
are and where they are positioned in the market.
How are they viewed in the market place?
Read recent press
cuttings. Having done your research
you can use it to develop
questions and points of view ' I noticed in a recent article in the FT that you are
expanding into a new market - What are the implications of this expansion for the
business unit in which you are being interviewed for.
Visit the company's website.
Read the annual report, accounts and corporate brochure.
What services or products it has to offer.
Look at current growth to date and what the potential for the future is.
Ensure that you know the
exact location, the time of your interview, who you are
seeing, what their position is within the company and how you pronounce their name.
First impressions are very important.
Rehearsal - having
collected your information and thought about it you need to
practice delivering it.
You will be expected to know in detail about your current/former employer. Bring yourself up to date with the facts and the figures.
Essential Dos and Don'ts
Do be on time
Do smile and maintain good eye contact throughout.
Do dress smartly and professionally.
Do have an easy topic of non-work conversation ready as an ice-breaker.
Do ask questions throughout the interview (not just at the end).
Do listen as well as talk
Do keep the information positive - don't give bad news unasked.
Do concentrate on selling
yourself and pick up and respond to signals the interviewer
Do evidence your abilities by discussing them particularly in response to questions.
Do come prepared with a list of questions to ask.
DON'T interrupt the interviewer
DON'T answer a question with a question
DON'T suggest personality clashes
DONT give clipped answers
or answer questions with just a 'yes' or 'no' - always
back up answers with examples.
DON'T breach confidentiality
DONT be the first one to bring up the subject of salary.
DONT condemn your current/previous employer.
Think in advance about what the interviewer is trying to do e.g. they probably have a list of things to evaluate such as motivations, thought processes, technical skills, personality traits etc. Give them what they need to tic each box as it comes up. For instance, if you are asked about how you handle a difficult situation, have an example ready.
Do not underestimate the power of body language. The way in which you present yourself will tell an employer much more about you than your CV ever could. You should be aware of any bad habits you are prone to.
Your handshake should be firm.
Do not slouch; always maintain good posture.
Be a good listener as well
as an orator. Acknowledge the interviewer's comments with
nods, and if there is more than one present, switch your glance between them at regular
Try not to gesticulate too much, as it suggests nervousness.
Competency Based Interview Questions:
Knows how businesses work, knowledgeable in current and possible future policies, practices, trends and information affecting his/her business and organisation, knows the competition, is aware of how strategies and tactics work in the marketplace:
Give me an example of when you had to sacrifice a short-term goal for a long term gain.
Describe a time when you had
to make a risky or tough decision that you felt
confident would have a positive impact.
Relishes leading, takes unpopular stand if necessary, encourages direct and tough debates but isn't afraid to end it and move on, is looked to for direction in a crisis, faces adversity head on, energised by tough challenges.
Describe a situation where your leadership skills were rejected. Why were they rejected? What did you do to manage the situation?
Tell me about a time when you managed a highly sensitive or critical situation. What made it highly sensitive or critical? Why did you choose the course of action you choose?
DEALING WITH AMBIGUITY:
Can efficiently cope with change, can shift gears comfortably, can decide and act without having the total picture, isnt upset when things are up in the air, doesn't have to finish things before moving on, can comfortably risk and uncertainty.
Describe a situation when you had to make a decision even though you did not have all of the important information. What was the situation? How did you overcome your lack of information?
Tell me about a situation where you had to face multiple demands or where priorities kept changing. How did you deal with that?
Has the functional and technical knowledge to do the job at a high level of accomplishment.
Tell me about a time when you misapplied your technical skills to a problem? What did you do to correct the misapplication? What did you learn from the situation?
Tell me about a time that you felt your technical skills were not up to the level needed to successfully complete a project or resolve an issue. What did you do to upgrade your skills?
INTEGRITY AND TRUST:
Is widely trusted, is seen as a direct, truthful individual, can present the unvarnished truth in an appropriate and helpful manner, keeps confidences, admits mistakes, doesn't misinterpret him/herself for personal gain.
Describe a time when you had to present material or implement a process that you were not in full support of. Did you voice your concern of non-support? How did you do this? Who did you voice your concern to?
Tell me a time when you demonstrated personal integrity in a business situation. What led to your decision to act in accordance with your beliefs? What challenges, if any, did you face? How did you integrate your personal values with what was needed for the business?
Is bright and intelligent. Deals with concepts and complexity comfortably, described as intellectually sharp, capable and agile.
Tell me about a time when you set a challenging goal for yourself and what you did to achieve it. How did you overcome any obstacles you encountered?
Describe the most complex problem or issue you have dealt with on the job. How did you arrive at the solution?
Why are you looking for a new job?
If you want to leave your present job for negative reasons, be very careful in how you express this to an interviewer. Turn it around to sound positive. Being negative or even rude about your current/previous employer or company can be seriously detrimental. Mention that you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility or a change of environment, but do not speak of remuneration in connection with your desire for a new job.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Your strengths should always be backed up with examples. Weaknesses should always be turned into strengths. For example: 'I am a perfectionist, which means I set very high standards. If I am working as part of a team and someone is not pulling their weight, it will frustrate me. I will handle this by approaching the individual and discussing with them how it can be resolved, rather than letting the frustration build up, and losing my temper.'
What can you offer our company?
The key to this is not to use cliches. Any company will ultimately be looking for someone who can help increase their profits, so bear this in mind when responding. You need to prove you have an exceptional talent, so answers such as 'I love selling', or 'I'm a good communicator' will not wash. Back up your response with quantitative examples e.g. you may have done a similar role in the past and can bring the experience you gained there to your new role, you may already be in a similar industry sector so will have that as an advantage.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Try to use a work-related example, and identify the skills you used and the benefit it gave the company. For example: 'I noticed that our company was spending an awful lot of money on travel, so I organised a tender. I found a new organisation which saved us in excess of £50,000 in a year.'
What do you dislike about your present job?
The interviewer is trying to find out whether the job in question involves tasks you dislike. Answer this one with extreme caution. If you're too specific you may draw attention to weaknesses. A safe approach is to play up a characteristic of your present company that's different from the company you're talking to. For example, if your corporation is large, you might say you are frustrated with slow decision-making. Or if it's small, you could say that a lack of opportunities makes you feel unfulfilled.
Why are you looking to leave?
Competency Based Interviewing
Oral and Written Communication:
What is the worst communication problem you have experienced?
What differing approaches have you employed in communicating with different types of customers? Give me an example.
How do you evaluate the effectiveness of theses approaches.
Tell me about the preparation for, and results of, meetings you have been responsible for conducting.
Oral communication - skills will be observed throughout the selection process, similarly there will normally be an opportunity to assess written communication - (application form, CV, written exercise). In many ways, this type of evidence is at least as powerful as questioning the individual, therefore freeing up time to question more fully on other competencies.
What report that you are currently preparing (or have recently prepared) is the most challenging? Why?
What kind of writing have you done? Give me an example. How do you approach it? Tell me about it - content, reaction.
What is the extent of your participation in major reports that have to be written? Give me an example.
When have you had to go against general feelings or policies to accomplish a goal? Tell me about it.
Our company had an unwritten policy not to promote active union people, such as a union steward, to foreman positions. Well I needed a foreman and the best man for the job was the union steward. Both my boss and boss's boss were against the promotion, but they let me do it. I knew that if it did not work out my job would be jeopardy or at least a raise would be. Anyway, that guy is now one of my foreman. (high independence response)
Well, my boss pretty well establishes both policies and goals. It's not always wise, to try and initiate something on your own. Anyway, I generally agree with my boss.
Can you think of a recent problem in which old solutions wouldn't work? How did you solve the problem?
We were having problems marketing our new product. We all thought we could market it the same was we've marketed everything else in that product line. After little success. I suggested we deal with this product as if it were the only one in a line of its very own. We did this and came up with a completely new marketing approach
which has been very successful. Let me describe it to you
(high creativity response)
I can't think of a problem that has really needed a new solution. Most new problems and situations are very similar to others I've encountered. Names, times and places change, but the solutions remain pretty much the same. You have to be able to match the right solution to the problem. (low creativity response)
Under what conditions do you display imagination and innovation in your work?
How much opportunity for innovation and imagination is there in your present position?
What kinds of problems have people recently called you to solve? Tell me about what you devised.
Have you participated in a reorganisation of your work situation? If so tell me about your contribution.
Describe the last problem in your organisation that was solved in a highly imaginative manner. What part did you play?
Can you think of a change in your organisation which your peers (or superiors) would recognise as being developed principally on your own initiative?
What have you done differently from your predecessors in the position?
Can you give me examples of experiences on the job that you felt were satisfying. Can you give me examples of experience on the job that you felt were dissatisfying? What about you job most turns you
What do you like best/least about your job ?
What has been the most important event (or person in your own development.
Describe when you worked hardest and felt the greatest sense of achievement.
How do you get your work assignments? Do you have the flexibility to generate some projects on your own? If yes, can you give me an example of one you've started recently?
My responsibilities are specific in terms of the goals I have to achieve. How I achieve those goals is up to me. I have a lot of flexibility, and I like it that way. I have just developed a system so my agents can keep accurate records more efficiently. Also, my new systems gives the agents an opportunity to exchange information with one another instead of my receiving the information and sending it back to the appropriate agent. We've all benefited from it. (high initiative response)
My responsibilities are specific in terms of the goals I have to achieve. Supposedly, I could change the procedures but I don't think the company cares for changes in areas where things are working. (low initiative response)
Have you found any way to make your job easier or more rewarding?
One thing I've done recently has made the job more rewarding, but not easier. I've been trying to help some of my associates set some career goals relative to the organisation. This is particularly important for some of our younger associates whom we might lose if they don't see some future in the company. (high initiative response)
I've tried delegating more, but it's generally more trouble than it's worth. (low initiative response)
Give some instances in which you found your results were not up to budget or company expectations. What did you do to rectify the matter?
List the new ideas and suggestions that you have made to your superior in the last six months. (The interviewer then picks one to explore in more depth).
Which of your ideas have been adopted in your department during the past years? How id you get it (them) accepted? If none were, what ideas did you try to get adopted?
If you had more spare time, what would you do with it?
NOTE: Look for the history of past involvement. Note past advancement up-the-job-
ladder to increasingly better jobs. Look for self-initiated, self-development actions such as going to school on one's own rather than at company instigation. Determine the amount of effort expended to reach a career goal, e.g. getting a college degree under difficult circumstances.
Note the number of frequency of past changes in career direction as an indication of current ambition.
Do not be fooled by protestations of career ambitions. Some people have been 'going to finish their school education' for the last 10 years.
Planning & Organisation:
How do you schedule your time? Set priorities?
What do you do when your time schedule is upset by unforeseen circumstances?
What is your procedure in keeping track of matters requiring your attention?
Describe how you developed your unit's operating plans or goals. How do you use them?
Which of your immediate subordinates are going to progress in the company? What plans have you made for
Describe any short or long term plans you may have for developing your subordinates.
What did you do to get ready for this interview?
Have you identified and overcome resistance of changes you have made in your organisation? Give examples.
What organisational changes have yon made in the last year? What were your reasons?
How have you improved the planning system in your organisation?
How do you plan your daily activities?
Do you have a work backlog in your organisation? if none, why? If so why?
Tell me how you have adjusted to an instance of sudden constraints on your operations. (Look for prior
Describe a reorganisation that has significantly affected you. Discuss your part in it.
What were your objectives for last year? Were they achieved?
What were your objectives for this year? Who else knows them? What are you doing to see that they are
reached? How are you progressing?
Describe a typical day/week.
What are some of your recurring problems? What do you do about them?
Explain your biggest mistake in delegating.
Explain your biggest mistake in not delegating.
What keeps you from delegating more?
Describe the type of decision-making that you delegate to your subordinates.
Describe your criteria for delegating assignments.
If the degree of delegation varies among subordinates, explain how and why.
When did you have a major problem requiring staff help? What action did you take? Why did you ask particular people to assist you?
How do you familiarise yourself with the current situation after being away for several days?
Could you site an example in your experience where you have been faced with delegating authority and/or responsibility? How did it work?
NOTE:The interviewer should establish the purpose of each delegation mentioned.
What did the interviewee want to achieve, and why was the particular person chose to handle the matter.
What was the best idea you ever sold to your superior/peers/subordinate? Why did he or she buy it?
What was the best idea you tried to sell to your superior/peers/subordinate that was not accepted? Why wasn't it and what did you do?
Describe your most satisfying (disappointing) experience in presenting to. and gaining the support of, top management for an idea or proposal.
Tell me about your toughest 'selling' experience.
Tell me about your most satisfying ''selling' experience. What were the steps you took to be convincing?
What kind of 'selling' situation gives you the most trouble? Why? Give an example.
Tell me about a new policy or new idea which was considerably different from the standard procedure that you recently implemented. What approach did you take to get your associates to go along with the idea?
The company recently asked that we provide a lot of product information that we never had to provide before. I called a meeting of my group to discuss the easiest and most effective ways we could collect the data. They had a lot of ideas that we thrashed around until we came up with the best technique. I wrote up the final guidelines, but they were all pretty well committed to it since they had all been involved in designing it. (high leadership response)
How frequently do you meet with you immediate subordinates as a group? Why? What do you do in preparation? At the meeting? After the meeting?
I generally meet my foremen as a group once a week. I like to keep (hem informed of what*s happening in the organisation, particularly those things that may affect us. So, I generally prepare to provide them with appropriate information and also d9iscuss the past week's performance and what's coming up that particular week. The remaining time is spent discussing mutually pertinent problems or situations. Also, it gives them a chance to co-ordinate and communicate as a group. (high leadership response)
I generally meet with my foreign foremen once even- quarter. It's pretty informal session where we discuss what's happened during the past three months. My foremen have been around a long time and don't get much out of the meeting. If there's a problem, I go directly to the man. (low leadership response)
What recent problem have you had in which you included your subordinates in arriving at a solution or approach to the problem? What approach did you take to get them to accomplish the task?
How did you do about setting objectives for your unit last year? (Look for involvement of subordinates).
What was your career goal upon leaving college? How did you pursue the goal?
How are you capitalising on your strengths? What are your qualifications? I what areas do you lack qualifications? What are you doing about it?
Why do you want a position as ? What type of self-development activities are you
engaged in to obtain the qualification you lack?
Have you taken any skills development course recently? If yes, when? Where? Why? Who suggested it?
What has been the most important person or event in your own self-development?
Sometimes we have to be members of groups and go along with activities that are not of any interest. Describe one such incident and the role yon played.
Tell me about a situation where you have been part of a group working toward a specific goal.
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