Welcome to this fourth module, focusing on improving your interview technique, making sure that you are the best interviewee as well as the best candidate

Tackle the module in bite size chunks, don’t feel the need to do everything in one go. Allow plenty of time to digest and apply the information covered

The module includes helpful ‘Activities’ for you to complete, it is strongly recommended that you undertake them to get the most out of the content and the key learning points

Allow yourself time to reflect and take on board the advice, key messages and suggested tasks contained in the modules to enable you to move your job campaign forward

This module will

  • Explain the key interview technique best practice principles

  • Provide clear and simple ways to prepare rigorously for interviews

  • Enable you to perform better at interviews to ‘get ahead of the pack’ 

  • Ensure presentations and psychometric tests are managed effectively

Key interview technique principles include

  • All of the principles in this module apply to every format of face to face interview

  • They also apply to the increasingly used remote interview formats including  

  • Telephone interviews – the key additional points being

  • Vocal tone is even more crucial as it is your sole means of communicating 

  • It has the advantage that you can have and use brief notes in front of you 

  • Careful listening and responding is key in the absence of any visual signals

  • Audio visual interviews – the key additional points being

  • Make sure in advance that the technology and online access are working

  • Ensure the camera background, lighting and your attire are all appropriate 

  • Log on a few minutes early to settle in - remember you're already on camera!

  • One Way interviews – the key additional points being

  • This is where you are invited to go online and record your question responses 

  • Establish if you can re-record your responses or if it is a 'once only' recording  

  • Either way, prepare and deliver assuming you're going to get it right first time  

  • Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – structured preparation is key, don’t try to 'wing it'

  • You only get one chance to make a first impression – perform well right from the off

  • Listen carefully to questions – it’s crucial to ensure you provide the right evidence

  • Stay in control of yourself in interviews – you’re in charge of what you say and do

  • Use positive body language and eye contact – much info provided is non-verbal

  • Respond to questions, don’t answer them – like school maths, show your 'workings '

  • Respond to questions in the first 'golden' minute – when interviewers are most attentive

  • After interviews, review what you have learnt and keep improving your performance

  • Understand, recognise and respond to the eight groups of interview questions

  • Using the STAR model to prepare your evidence – Situation, Task, Action, Result

Let's now have a look at some of these principles and how to apply them in a bit more detail

The STAR model provides a simple and effective way to prepare your evidence when responding to interview questions

  • Situation – spend as little time as possible providing the background to your evidence, just enough to provide context

  • Task – explain the task but don’t dwell on it, give enough info for the audience to understand what you did

  • Action – provide a clear visual picture overtly explaining what you did to make a difference and to make it happen

  • Result – ensure you articulate and demonstrate the qualitative, quantitative and other measures of your success

All questions fall into one of eight groups of questions

Let's have a look at each group of questions and how to prepare for them


Also, you can access a bank of interview questions across all eight of these groups of questions by CLICKING HERE

'Opening' questions

  • Are asked at the beginning of the interview, usually after the introductions

  • Are often asked to settle you in and relax you – in reality they’re a vital stage

  • Your response is your first impression – and you only get one chance to make it

  • Interviewers’ subsequent judgements are influenced by your first impression

  • Your preparation needs to highlight what you most want them to know about

  • Briefly mention a few key skills, strengths, experiences and qualifications

  • Focus on what is important to the listener and most likely to differentiate you

 

 

Example ‘Opening' questions include

  • Please summarise your career

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself?

  • Talk me through your CV

'Can you do it' questions

  • Are about providing strong evidence of your ability and expertise to do the job

  • Prepare STAR responses for every skill, strength or experience they want

  • Use the job advert, job description, person specification, etc. to list them

  • Include academic and professional qualifications in your responses, if relevant

  • Give them the evidence that proves you should get the job ahead of others

  • It’s a big task, but the most straightforward group of questions to prepare for

  • Your key message to the interviewer(s) – ‘I did it for them and I can do it for you’

Example 'Can you do it' questions include

  • What are your most important skills and strengths?

  • Describe a work problem and how you solved it

  • What was your proudest achievement?

'Will you do it' questions

 

  • Focus on motivators and drivers and also what de-motivates you too

  • Spend time identifying past motivators that have enthused you at work

  • For each one, prepare STAR examples that give a clear visual picture

  • Identify past de-motivators and show how you have turned them around

 

 

  • Show energy and enthusiasm in your body language and vocal tone

Example 'Will you do it?' questions include

  • What are your ambitions?

  • Describe a time when you felt highly motivated

  • Why do you want this job?

'Will you fit' questions

  • Look at personality, character, relationships and how you relate to people

  • Include preferred management style and your spectrum or range of styles

  • Use successful past relationships e.g. colleagues, bosses, customers, etc

  • Demonstrate how the relationship worked and will now work in the new job

  • Prepare STAR examples that give a clear visual picture of how you will fit

  • When expressing values show how they fit the organisation’s culture and values

  • Example 'Will you fit?' questions include

  • Describe, with examples, your management style

  • How do you ensure positive stakeholder relationships?

 

  • How do you manage difficult relationships?

Your questions

  • Towards the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions

  • Prepare questions and listen during the interview for more questions to add

  • Ask questions that will help you to make an informed 'buying’ decision

  • Your questions are a 'double edged sword'

  • You need info to make your 'buying decision' if the job is offered to you

  • What you ask and how you ask it must reinforce your other responses

 

  • Don’t ask if it contradicts your 'can you', 'will you' and 'will you fit' responses

  • If they’ve answered your questions, reinforce your key 'selling' messages

Negative questions

  • Designed to test self-awareness and seek evidence you have learnt and changed

  • Are sometimes used to test your reaction to pressure or hostility or aggression

  • With 'weaknesses' type questions, always answered in the singular as follows

  • Choose an appropriate, no fundamental, past example

  • Explain how you overcame it e.g. training, coaching , self-help etc.

  • Confirm that it is no longer an issue

  • Then stop speaking! Even the question is asked in the plural

  • Another technique to deal with negative questions is to replace the STAR model with the SOAR model 

  • Situation – keeping it a short as possible

  • Obstacle – explain what it was that you needed to overcome

  • Action – describe what you did to overcome the obstacle 

  • Result – showing that  you overcame it and have learnt for the future 

Also, you can access a bank of interview questions across all of the above eight groups of interview questions by CLICKING HERE

Negotiation questions

  • The only group of questions where it is OK to respond to a question with a question

  • If asked 'what salary' type questions it’s OK to bounce it back e.g.

  • 'Perhaps you could explain the remuneration package elements?'

  • 'Does the role fall into a salary band or range and, if so, what is it?'

  • If they persist, it is OK to give yourself 'negotiating room to manoeuvre' e.g.

  • 'Depending on more package details, I’m looking for between X and Y'

  • 'The opportunity the job offers me is the most important issue'

  • Useful links to research salaries can be found by CLICKING HERE 

During the selection process, and especially once you get to the job offer stage, you need to proactively try at all times to keep yourself in the 'win-win zone'

The 'win-win zone is where your wants, needs and preferences overlap with the recruiter's needs, wants and preferences.

Perhaps the principle is best explained by the diagram below

If you have been successful and selected for the job, then either at the interview, or much more likely sometime after the interview you will receive either a written or verbal job offer

As illustrated in the diagram below, once you have got to the 'job offer' stage, there are five phases to negotiating a deal

  • Acknowledge  regardless of the offer's attractiveness to you, always thank them for it

  • Clarify  confirm any elements of the job offer that are unclear, unwanted or missing

  • Assess  if you can do so on the spot then fine, however, if you need time, ask for it 

  • Negotiate  open, positive conversation, always keeping the door open  

  • Decide  be clear on your decision and the rationale so they understand your reasons

Agreeing a deal in the 'win-win zone' will mean that both you and your new employer are happy with the deal and will significantly increase the chances that you will stay and enjoy the job for a significant period of time

 

 

Conversely, agreeing a deal outside of the 'win-win zone' will mean that one or both of you are dissatisfied with one or more aspect(s) of the deal and create issues and possibly truncate the longevity of the job

Before the interview finishes, you need to ask a few questions so that you understand

  • What the ongoing selection decision making process is

  • What, if any, further selection stages there are and, if known, any timings for them

  • If there are no further stages in the selection process, you should

  • Ask for clarification, if you don't already know, of when a decision is likely

  • Check that they do not have any concerns about any of your responses

  • Take the opportunity, if appropriate, to reinforce your key messages

Before the interview, research the

  • Original job advert, job description, person specification and any other documents and double check your response preparation

  • Skills, strengths, experiences, attributes or values they are looking for and make sure that you have prepared a strong STAR response for each of them

  • To assist you in preparing your STAR evidence you may find it helpful to use the 'Evidence Log' document by CLICKING HERE 

  • Organisation offering the job – particularly information about their financials, range of products/services, culture and values

  • Interviewer(s) – it is useful (if possible) to know something about their current role, career background/progression and qualifications via LinkedIn etc.

  • Logistics – the route to get to the interview, timing of your travel to the interview, ensuring you allow plenty of time for possible delays

After the interview

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for giving you the opportunity to meet

  • Make notes a.s.a.p. afterwards of any key info or learning points

  • If appropriate, send a follow up email to reinforce key messages

Appearance

  • A clean and pleasant personal appearance is key

  • Know the dress code and wear appropriately

  • Better to be slightly 'over' than 'under' dressed

  • Be congruent, don’t make a 'fashion statement’

Breathing

  • Arrive early to avoid breathlessness or exertion

  • Controlling your breathing will help enormously

  • Breathing releases energy and reduces stress

  • Take a few slow deep breaths before the start

  • Exhale slowly to calm your nerves if you need to

  • Focus on breathing out slowly, not gulping in air

Head

  • Frequent smiling at the right times is a good positive

  • Even a nervous looking smile is better than none

  • Ensure facial expressions are consistent with words

  • Nod to agree when pertinent, but don’t overdo it

  • Tilt the head when relevant to indicate interest

Eye contact

  • Essential that it is regular and comfortable

  • Being genuine and sincere doing it is key

  • Little or no eye contact is a huge negative

  • If you struggle, look at their ear instead

Upper body

  • Shake hands firmly, with appropriate eye contact

  • Use your hands sparingly to express yourself

  • Keep your hands at, or below, elbow level

  • Find a natural, relaxed position for your hands

  • Don’t cross your arms – it indicates negativity

  • Learn forward judiciously and only as applicable

Lower body

  • Choose a comfortable leg position e.g. a low ankle cross under the chair

  • Fidgeting legs indicates discomfort or unease, so stick with one position

  • Sit back in the chair, not on the edge of the seat and don’t slouch either

If you receive a rejection after an interview

  • Don’t be disheartened, it isn’t personal, its part of a process

  • Remember, it means you are one step closer to a job offer

  • Send another application out a.s.a.p. afterwards to replace it

  • The only bad experiences are the ones you don’t learn from

  • Ask for feedback, so that it becomes a learning experience

  • If you don’t learn from the experience you may repeat your mistakes

In the event of receiving negative feedback

  • Accept the feedback at face value and don’t be offended or defensive

  • Take the information with openness and as an opportunity to learn

  • Take time to reflect and fully digest the information

  • See the feedback as a learning and growing experience

  • Be led by your thinking response, not emotions, during feedback

  • Ask for specific examples in an open and non-defensive way

You will successfully differentiate yourself from other candidates by

  • Being better prepared than the other competing interviewees

  • Feeling confident with your preparation and your evidence

  • Listening to questions and responding rather than answering

  • Articulating your skills, strengths and achievements effectively

  • Using the STAR model consistently to present your evidence

  • Demonstrating good eye contact and positive body language

  • Focusing on the three key questions in the interviewer’s mind

  • Can you do it?

  • Will you do it?

  • Will you fit?

Prepare yourself the same way using the STAR model and the eight question groups regardless of any 'label' that is attached to the interview e.g.

Reduce repetition by having a different STAR example for each skill, strength or ability

 

 

But don’t worry if you end up using the same example or evidence more than once

Don’t feel intimidated by panel interviews

  • Focus on the person asking each question

  • Include the other panelists with eye contact

Prepare for remote interviews (e.g. Skype, Zoom, MS Teams, etc.) with practice runs with somebody to get comfortable with the format and the technology

More example interview questions can be accessed by CLICKING HERE

Many of the interview technique principles we have already covered also apply when presenting during a selection process, the key additional points to emphasise being

 

Before

Prepare from the audience’s perspective – not yours – and in particular

  • Understand what they have both asked for and are looking for

  • Maximum one slide per two minutes – better still, fewer slides

  • Include plenty of white space and avoid overly complicated or distracting artwork

  • Use large easily readable fonts and simple key messages

  • Use short punchy bullet points and avoid long or complicated sentences

  • Use easy to understand and relevant diagrams and visuals

  • Rehearse your presentation in front of a 'friendly face or two' or the mirror

During

Be enjoyable and informative – entertain and impress – and specifically

  • Your target audience will be relaxed and enjoy your presentation if you are relaxed too

  • Stick to the timing they have stipulated, don’t go over it

  • Bring your slides to life – don’t just read them word for word

  • Use as few words as needed to paint a clear visual picture

  • Slow down, allow spaces and vary your pace as appropriate

  • Have a fifteen word core message – in case you get stuck

  • If appropriate, use personal stories, anecdotes and experiences

  • Appropriate 'good humour' can be fine, but avoid risky or controversial jokes 

  • Use strong eye contact, positive body language and dynamic voice projection

  • Audiences remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of the words actually said 

  • Avoid talking to the screen, make sure you focus on talking to your audience

  • Don't stand in front of your presentation slides and block the audience's view

After

At the end of the presentation, make sure that you

  • Ask the audience if they have any questions or issues they would like to discuss

  • If appropriate, seek constructive feedback and take the opportunity to learn  

  • Understand what the next steps (if any) are including any action points for you

Underlying all of the principles concerning interviews and presentations we have covered in this module, there is a further intangible yet important issue - likeability

Ultimately and invariably, it is extremely rare that an employer will appoint somebody to a job unless they like them, unless they are desperate or are filling a short term gap 

Or, to put it another way, if two candidates are very similar and difficult to separate to make an appointment decision, then invariably an employer will pick the one they like the most 

Similarly, if you have two job offers to consider and they are difficult for you to choose between, then you it is likely that you will go the job with the people that you liked the best

Likeability is a potentially complex subject area so, to keep the issue practical and easy to apply, we are just going to look at nine important components of likeability, namely

  • Authenticity  this attribute is about whether, or not, you are perceived by others as being genuine and sincere in your words, behaviours, actions and attitudes

  • Congruence  do your words, behaviours, actions and attitudes 'marry up' in a coherent and consistent fashion or, alternatively, do they contradict each other and leave people confused about who you are, what you believe in and and what you represent?

  • Respect  is about the extent to which you are accepting of other people's points of view and can maintain positive regard for their point of view, with the ultimate measure of respect being the ability to maintain unconditional positive regard 

  • Empathy  true empathetic understanding is about having the desire to try to understand and respond to other people's feelings plus the skill to project your understanding

  • Relatability  at the core of this attribute is the ability to build rapport and establish positive relationships 

  • Values  the issue here is not what your values are but, rather, how they match up (or do not match up) with the values of other people

  • Ego  we all have an ego (a sense of self) which, to a greater or lesser extent, drives our words, behaviours, actions and attitudes, however, in the context of likeability, the issue is the extent to which others warm (or not) to our sense of self

  • Alignability  to what extent do you already align to the likeability factors of others or are prepared to shift yourself to be more aligned with them

  • Intent  at a very basic level, others will perceive you as either fundamentally of either benign or malign intent and, depending on their intent, will either warm to, or distance themselves from, you


If you have ever encountered people in the past who have disliked you, or that you have disliked, it may well be because one or more of the above factors was possibly involved

Likeability is not about trying to pretend to be somebody your are not or being dishonest, quite the opposite, it is about being true to yourself and being honest with yourself

Managing your likeability is about

  • Being self aware of how the above nine likeability factors relate to you generally and especially concerning interviews, meetings, presentations and selection processes

  • Understanding what they mean in terms of your relationships with others generally and, in particular, in relation to how you manage recruiters and prospective employers​

Tests can be a single activity or, alternatively, a series of activities - sometimes called an assessment centre. Either way, the most common test instruments used include

  • Personality tests – assess typical behaviours, preferences, thinking and judgement

  • Ability tests – measure general or specific skills, strengths, capabilities and acumen

  • Aptitude tests – examine potential capacity to learn or apply key capabilities

  • Specialist tests – explore particular areas e.g. motivation, leadership, strategy etc

  • Case studies or in-tray tests – look at analytical, organising and prioritising types skills

  • Role play exercises – testing your responses to specific work situations or problems 

  • Group or team exercises – probe interpersonal, relationship and social abilities

  • Drafting exercises – testing how well you 'tune-in' to and deal with issues and people

  • Situational judgement exercises – testing how you behave in different work scenarios

Top tips for managing whatever tests you undertake include

 

  • Don’t panic – be calm, be methodical, be in control and don’t be afraid

  • Be clear – if possible, in advance, find out the test purpose and format

  • Be prepared – practise via books/online if they are using standard tests

  • Don’t rush in – on the day, allow time to acclimatise before 'diving in'

  • Follow the instructions – make sure you know the 'rules of the game'

  • Keep track of time – ensure you progress at a rate to complete the test

  • Pressure tests – be aware that some tests can’t be completed by design

  • Some tests – don’t have right/wrong answers, go with your 'gut reaction'

  • Don't worry if a test doesn't go well – it's your overall performance that is being judged

  • It's OK to ask questions if you need to clarify your understanding, but do it sparingly

  • Avoid making assumptions or trying to second guess the test or the testers

  • After the completion of the psychometric tests, spend some time

  • Reflecting on what you feel you have learnt from the tests and what you will do differently the next time you undertake any of them


 

  • Seeking feedback from the test administrators on your performance so that you can learn and improve your performance next time

  • Reflecting on what the tests and the test process have taught you about the organisation and the job on offer

  • More detailed information on psychometric tests and the opportunity to complete some sample tests can be found by CLICKING HERE 

This module has enabled you to

  • Understand and apply key best practice interview technique principles

  • Prepare yourself and your evidence rigorously and thoroughly for interviews

  • Perform confidently and well at interviews to ‘get you ahead of the pack’

  • Prepare for and handle presentations and psychometric tests effectively

Well done on completing module four, you now have the key info to ensure that you are both the best interviewee ‘in the room’ as well as being the best candidate

In the next module we will look at where to source job opportunities and how to raise your profile to ensure you are 'on the radar' with decision makers, somewhere out there is your next job and you need to find out about it and it needs to know about you 

Go to the next module by CLICKING HERE

Go back to the Job Hunting main menu by CLICKING HERE