You will never know exactly what questions you will be asked during your interview, however there are a number of areas and questions that you can think about and prepare for in advance. We’re not talking about learning answers by rote, but thinking through some of the potential areas you might be asked about, so that you feel confident going into the interview and you have facts, figures and examples ready to bring into your answers.
Review your CV. Have a look back over the CV, covering letter or application form you submitted. Make sure you know all the relevant dates, jobs etc, and are aware of what you have said in the covering letter. You may be asked by the interviewer to talk through your CV, so make sure you know what’s on it.
Interviewers will often pick up on particular projects, jobs, degree subjects or even interests that you have, so be prepared for this and think about what you might say. This is where you will be found out if you have embellished your CV with exploits of bungee jumping or travelling solo through the Arctic tundra.
Take a dispassionate look at your CV. Is there anything unusual about it, anything that you would want to probe deeper if you were an interviewer? Interviewers are often interested in the reasons for leaving your current and previous jobs, any gaps in your CV, unusual length of time taken to complete a qualification, or frequent, short term job changes. Think about how you will explain these things, and put them in a positive and professional context if there is any negativity surrounding them.
Think about the job. The bulk of the interview should focus on your past experience, skills and abilities and how these make you a suitable candidate for the job. The interviewer will try to get this information out of you by asking detailed, job specific questions. The best place to start is with the job advert or job description. Have a look again at what the job involves, and really focus on the selection criteria, ie what skills, experience and qualities (competencies) the employer has stated the jobholder needs to have. For each of these, jot down examples from your past work experience, study, voluntary work etc, which show how you meet the criteria.
For example, if project management skills are required, think back to a project you have managed in the past. Be prepared to describe the project and your role in it; its scope, timescale and goal; exactly what you did; if it was successful; what you might do differently next time. If you think around the examples you choose, you will be prepared for questions from any angle.
You are much more likely to be asked about what you have done in the past, as opposed to what you would do in the future, as past performance is the best indicator of suitability for the job. Remember that employers are looking for evidence of what you have stated on your CV. For each competency, think of two or three examples which you could draw upon - don’t be limited to the same example for all the questions.
Think about the organisation. You should already have done some research when deciding to apply for the position. Find out as much as you can, through internet research, talking to contacts with first hand knowledge of the employer, or through reading information provided by the organization. Find out about the mission and values of the organization, and bear these in mind when answering questions. Your research here can also feed into your questions for the interviewer.
Prepare your own questions. Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions, usually at the end of the interview. It is always a good idea to have prepared some questions, and to have thought carefully about these, rather than ask for the sake of it. The extent to which you have understood the job and the organisation can be reflected in your questions, so this is a chance to impress as well as to get more information. Some general areas to ask about might be:
Don’t ask about pay or benefits at this stage. Tailor your questions for each interview - if you just have a standard list you may find that some of your questions have already been answered during the interview or in the company’s literature - and prepare quite a few in case some of your questions are pre-empted.
You may be asked some more general interview questions which we cover in the next section.
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