Interviews during a job application

Interviews are often used in assessment centers and are designed to get an insight into your personal and professional background. They are also meant to be useful for the applicant: it’s a good way to find out more about the job and company you’re applying to. There are several types of interviews:

There are several types of interviews:

  • Competency interview
  • Technical interview
  • Partner interview
  • Panel interview

Competency interview

A competency interview is often used to evaluate a candidate’s key skills. Therefore, this type of interview is very much scripted and often written by psychologists who know how to frame questions that will provide revealing answers and insights into your competencies and capabilities. Competencies are particular qualities that a company’s HR department has decided are desirable for employees. During this interview, assessors rate and evaluate the applicants. The skills that are sought depend on the position you are applying for, but analytical competencies, interpersonal and motivational competencies are often tested. A typical competency-based interview will usually last for an hour.

The STAR-technique

You can use the STAR technique to structure your answers in the interview. STAR refers to Situation, Task, Actions, and Results.

  1. Think of a situation where you applied the competency in question;
  2. Explain what the tasks were;
  3. Describe the actions that you took to fulfill those duties;
  4. Highlight the results that were achieved.

Typical competency-based interview questions are:

With regard to communication skills:

  • Tell us about the biggest change that you have had to deal with. How did you cope with it?
  • Can you describe a situation where you had to explain something complex to a colleague or a client? Which problems did you encounter and how did you deal with them?
  • Which change of job did you find the most difficult to make?
  • Can you describe a situation you were involved in that required a multi-dimensional communication strategy?
  • Can you give us an example of a difficult situation that required extensive communication?
  • Can you tell us about a situation where you failed to communicate appropriately?
  • How do you prepare for an important meeting?

With regard to client focus:

  • Can you describe a situation where you had to deal with an angry customer?
  • Can you give us an example of how you provided service to a client beyond their expectations? How did you identify the need? How did you respond?
  • Describe the most rewarding experience you have had dealing with customers.
  • Can you tell us about a time when you had to handle an unreasonable request from a client? What did you do?
  • Can you give us an example of an occasion where you had to deliver results to a customer within a given timescale? How did you manage it?
  • Can you give us an example of an effective customer relationship you have developed and maintained? What was the situation like? What did you do?

With regard to flexibility/adaptability:

  • Can you tell us about a time a significant change was made within your company or organization? How did this change affect you?
  • Can you give an example of a time where you had to balance multiple responsibilities at once? How did you prioritize your tasks? What did you do to keep organized?
  • Can you give an example where you had to change your approach halfway through the task? What changed? How did you manage? What did you do?
  • Can you describe a situation where you were asked to do something that you had never done before? What did you do?
  • Can you give us an example of a situation where your initial approach failed, and you had to change your strategy?

With regard to organizational awareness:

  • Can you give us an example of when you used your knowledge and network within the organization to get what you needed?
  • Describe the steps you take in assessing the viability of a new idea or initiative.
  • To the best of your ability, describe our company and what you think makes it unique.
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Where do you think the biggest challenges lie for this company?

With regard to problem solving and judgment:

  • Can you describe a time when you had to analyze a problem and generate a solution?
  • Can you give us an example of a time you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem?
  • Can describe a situation where you had to identify an underlying cause to a problem?

Technical interview

Technical interviews are commonly used by employers recruiting for IT, engineering or science roles. This type of interview is used to assess your technical ability which is usually related to the technical knowledge that is required for the particular role in the organization that you are applying for. Some questions focus on your technical expertise, but also questions that focus on your thinking process. This test is designed to evaluate how you approach real-world problems, how you solve problems, and how skilled you are in the field in which you’re applying for a job.

As mentioned before, it is likely that most of the technical questions in the interview will relate directly to the job. Therefore, before you have the interview, you can already get a good idea of what questions they might ask, based on the given position information. Most job descriptions will specify a set of essential technical skills and competencies, and the assessors want to see those in action during the interview.

Partner interview

Partners are senior members of staff at a company. This interview will concentrate on your values, what is important to you and how that aligns to the specific organization. The purpose here is to see if your personality fits in with the team and company you potentially join. You should come prepared. Think about what you can bring to the business regarding your core drivers and values.

Questions likely to be asked are:

  • Why do you want to join this firm and not a competitor?
  • Why have you chosen this particular line of work?
  • How do you think you will benefit from working here?
  • What do you think you can bring to this firm?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • What do you do in your spare time?

Make sure you are confident during the interview, but not too confident. Do not try to show off. A partner has had many years of experience and is likely to know much more about the subjects discussed than you. The partners are trying to determine whether you are a trustworthy person who can deal with the organization’s clients. Give them the right impression. Be genuine during the interview and make sure you are personable, friendly, open and relaxed.

Panel interview

A panel job interview is where a group of interviewers interviews a candidate.  The main characteristic of these interviews is that there is a standard set of questions for all applicants. What you need to realize is that the panel is not one entity, but several individuals that come together with the common goal of hiring the best candidate for the job. They all will consider you through a different perspective. 

For these interviews, it is recommended to study the specifications of the job, know your CV and prepare for possible questions. Be ready to provide a short pitch or summary of who you are and what your career goals are. Also, the interviewers will expect you to have knowledge of the job, the company, and its products, services, and competitors.

Examples of Psychometric test exercises:

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