Interview Tips from BJD
The interview is the most common form of selection technique used by organisations. A recent survey in 2017 by the CIPD found that just under four-fifths of companies make use of competency-based interviews. These are predominantly face-to-face, although there is an increased use of “distance interviews” (telephone, video/Skype). For this brief guide, we will focus solely on face-to-face – although most of the principles apply to any kind of interview.
Preparing in advance
- Location and transport
Make sure that you know exactly where your interview is going to be held; Google the postcode, and use “Street View” to find the exact building if it’s in an unfamiliar area. This will make it much less stressful when it comes to the day of the interview – don’t just put the postcode into an iPhone or smartphone and hope for the best. If you are using public transport, allow for connections and delays. Plan ahead.
- Researching the organisation
A good basic knowledge of the company, their market and competitors is crucial to reassuring an interviewer that you want to work for them – and not just anyone. Has the company been in the news recently? What challenges are they currently facing? You don’t need to know the business inside-out, but you should be able to demonstrate a professional interest.
- Prepare documents in advance
Have your CV and any notes printed out and ready to take in advance. We always recommend taking some ID along too – you may not be asked to show it, but some depots require photographic ID from all visitors before being allowed on-site.
Always dress smartly and appropriately for the role that you are applying for. It is always better to be slightly overdressed than under-dressed. It’s always safer to avoid wearing perfume or after shave, but if you do - apply it very sparingly; make sure that this isn’t the first thing that the interviewer notices when you walk into the room!
Arriving 5 minutes early is arriving on-time. Give yourself time to sign-in, relax and compose yourself before being called for your interview.
- First impressions
They say that the interview begins as soon as you walk into the building, so always be polite and courteous to everyone that you meet (but don’t overdo it!). When called, greet your interviewer politely with eye contact and a firm handshake.
If you have never had a competency-based interview, you might find this a bit daunting at first, but there really is no reason to worry. Competency-based interviews are actually easier to deal with than other types of interviews, because they are the easiest to prepare for. They are also a very fair way for an employer to assess candidates against each other.
For any given role, an employer will have a list of essential competencies, or skills. They will then ask you to demonstrate, using examples, that you have that particular skill, and they will ask you more in-depth questions based on that example. They will often then score each answer and it will give them a way of ‘measuring’ each candidate.
A good way to answer these types of questions is by using the STAR technique:
Situation: What was the situation? What were the specific circumstances?
Task: What tasks did you need to complete?
Actions: What did you do?
Results: What was the end result? What did you achieve? What went wrong - and if something did, what did you learn from it?
You can prepare for competency-based questioning by making a list of the skills that you think are essential to the role you have applied for and thinking of good examples that will demonstrate that you have those skills. Refer to the job advert/description for these or contact your Consultant for guidance. Typical competencies might be:
Delivering under pressure
Handling difficult customers
Most importantly, listen carefully to the question and make sure you provide an example of what is being asked, not just telling the interviewer what you want them to know. But don’t be afraid to be specific and talk about what you did e.g. “I spoke to lots of different individuals” not “we spoke to lots of different individuals”.
Tips for participating in a competency-based interview
Before attending the interview:
- Think about what kinds of behaviours may be important to perform well in the job
- Think about times in the past when you have demonstrated your abilities e.g. successful projects, interactions with other people, convincing a difficult audience, analysing a large amount of information.
- Think through exactly what you did in these scenarios and separate your own actions from those of any team you were a part of.
- Don’t be restricted to purely job-related examples, you may also have good examples from school/university or hobbies.
During the interview:
- Listen carefully to the question and make sure you provide an example of what is being asked, not just telling the interviewer what you want them to know.
- Talk about a specific example, not about how you generally act.
- Talk about what you did e.g. “I spoke to lots of different individuals” not “We spoke to lots of different individuals”.
- It is never a good idea to speak badly about a current/previous employer either.
Do you have any questions?
It is always recommended to ask questions yourself; this could be at an appropriate point during the interview, or usually at the end when asked. Asking well-thought out and sensible questions shows that you have a genuine interest in the role, and that you are taking the application process seriously. This is a good chance to ask about company expansion plans, what the size of your potential team will be, or what career options might exist after 12 months etc. Questions about holiday entitlement, overtime payments, dress code etc. can be directed to your Consultant after the interview.
It is always courteous to thank the interviewer for considering you in their recruitment process.
Once you’ve finished, call your Consultant and tell us all about it. This is an important step and allows us to listen to your feedback before we hear from the interviewer and discuss whether you have been successful at this stage.
Prepare thoroughly, dress smartly, talk professionally, be positive about yourself and your achievements, and show enthusiasm for the role that you are applying for – and you’ll perform well!