Job interviews can be a daunting prospect. However, the best way to banish the butterflies is through preparation.
To help you with this, I’ve outlined the 3 most common types of interview questions, and how you should be answering them.
We have broken down the 3 most common types of interview questions. Crucially, we have also explained why these questions are asked. This means you can prepare answers which provide the type of information the interviewer really wants to know.
Hypothetical situations form the basis of these questions. They draw on your previous experience and instinctual approaches towards specific scenarios that might occur day to day in the role.
These questions are related to the exact skills and experience the candidate has acquired in their career thus far. These might be with specific technologies, industry standards or service management, for example.
Questions that aim to gauge what kind of character you possess by asking about your thought process when approaching challenging, practical work-based situations.
As previously mentioned, situational interview questions are based on specific, practical scenarios that you might encounter in the new job. These are somewhat difficult to prepare for as they are designed to evoke a natural, kneejerk response - encouraging you to think on your feet. Scripted, generic statements are of no real use here, as the situation may be new to you.
It’s easy to feel under pressure if you think the interviewer is trying to test you with this kind of question, but there’s no need to panic. Before you go to answer, take a minute to understand what kind of response they are looking for – if it’s a situation you have never faced what they are most likely trying to do is gauge your ability to stay calm under pressure, willingness to take the lead or ask for help if necessary and ability to take positive action to overcome the challenge.
Example situational interview question #1: “You’re working on a number of high priority projects with hard deadlines. How do you go about determining what to prioritise?”
Example situational interview question #2: “You’re tasked with increasing market share for a product without an increase to the existing marketing budget. Describe how you would go about solving this problem in a creative way.”
The aim of competency-based questions is to gauge the specific skills you possess, using the reasoning that your existing experience can be used as an indicator of future performance. They often require you to answer in the context of actual events, demonstrating some overlap with situational questions. Systematic in nature, each question will likely target a different competency, such as communication, commercial awareness or teamwork.
The key to answering these is to use real-life past examples, using the STAR technique:
Situation/Task: Describe the task you were assigned to or the situation you faced.
Action: Explain exactly how you met the challenge and why you did what you did.
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and the positive effect it had on your business.
Example competency-based interview question #1: “Describe a situation in which you led a team.”
Example situational interview question #2: “We all make mistakes and wish that we could have done things another way. Tell me about a time you wish you’d handled a situation differently.”
Interviewers ask behavioural questions in order to elicit information about your character, based on descriptions of the ways that you have approached similar challenges in the past. Whereas situational questions decipher your immediate, practical approach to certain scenarios, and competency-based questions are designed to gain information on the skills you possess, behavioural questions ascertain if you have the character traits they are looking for.
Example behavioural interview question #1: “Tell me about a time you had to work on a project with someone whose working style clashed or didn’t align with yours.”
Example behavioural interview question #2: “Think about an occasion when you were faced with a completely new situation and had to learn everything from scratch. How did you approach that?”
By becoming familiar with these three types of interview questions, you will be find it easier to position yourself as a rounded candidate who is adaptable, able to think on their feet and willing to apply lessons they have learnt to future situations. Answering these questions competently means that you’ll be able to demonstrate the value you can bring to the role that would not have been possible just using generic, templated answers.
Roddy joined Hays in 1999 as a Recruitment Consultant. In 2012 he took over operational responsibility for Hays in Scotland, managing dedicated teams providing expert temporary and permanent recruitment services for a wide range of sectors and professions. From 2017, he has been the lead for Hays Personal & Executive Assistants business across the UK, providing strategic leadership to over 200 consultants.
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