questions asked at job interviews

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					                            Job Interviews
This guide is a brief introduction to interview preparation and performance. The
purpose of an interview is to give the selectors an opportunity to assess your
suitability for the job/role and for you to provide evidence of your skills and
personality. If you have an interview in the near future, you may also want to look
at the other resources we have in the Resource Area. These include files, DVDs
and reference books - a sample
list is given on the back of this leaflet.

In order to make effective preparation for your first interview, you need to give
some thought to its purpose. Just as the application form or CV is used as a way of
eliminating a proportion of candidates, so the initial interview acts as a screening
process to identify potentially suitable people.

Selectors go into interviews with a checklist of requirements. These are usually
based on the job specification drawn up by the personnel department. The job
analysis you did prior to the application should help to direct your preparation for
the interview and should mean that your expectations match those of your

An interview is a two-way process. Do not ignore your own needs in this. The
selector wants to find out about you and you need to find out about the
organisation. The selector wants to recruit the best person and you want to
convince him or her that you are that person. You cannot do either of those things
unless you prepare well and take an active role in the proceedings.

Interview preparation
Do your homework
 Show that you have taken the time to do some research and learn about the
   company or organisation
 Find out if the company has been in the news recently and why
 Look at the organisation‟s website
 What are the company‟s recent developments?
 Try and understand what you are applying for if unsure, visit Prospects: > Jobs and Work
 Plan out your journey in advance and allow sufficient time to get there without
   getting flustered.

First impressions count Dressing really smartly shows that you are taking the
interview seriously (even in an office where business-casual attire is the norm.
 Greet the interviewer confidently (this may or may not include a hand shake).
    Maintain eye contact during the interview.
    If the interview includes being shown round the office, make sure you
     demonstrate your interest to the person showing you around.

At   the interview
     It is natural you should feel nervous but show you can manage it.
     Don‟t go to the other extreme and seem too laid back.
     Be yourself.

Why ask me that?
Everytime you are asked a question ask yourself “What are they trying to find out
from this?” If you understand why an employer poses a particular question you will
answer it better. See typical interview questions later in this document and
prepare some responses.

Sell yourself
 Don‟t understate your achievements and strengths
 Speak confidently about your experiences and don‟t be afraid of talking about
   things you have already mentioned in your form or CV. Specific examples of
   how you contributed or learned something exciting are what are required. Go
   over your application form or CV, identify the highlights and try and weave
   them into your answers
 If you need a moment to think, don‟t be afraid of saying so, if you don‟t
   understand a question, ask for clarification.
Two way process
 An interview is an opportunity for you to find out about the company so don‟t
   be afraid of asking questions yourself. It shows you have done your homework
   and that you are interested
 Make the interview more of a conversation. Before the interview, make sure
   you‟ve prepared a list of questions you could ask.

Different types of interview
Interviews can take many forms, but here are a few of the most common formats
and types which you may encounter.

Telephone interviews
Telephone interviews are used extensively across the graduate recruitment
process. They are often used as a method of initial screening, but some
organisations may use them further down the line. In most cases, organisations
will pre-arrange a time with you. Always ensure that you have a quiet environment
in which to talk. One advantage is that you can have your details to hand. A
disadvantage is the absence of non verbal communication, so speak clearly, smile
and sound positive.

Competency based interviews
These are structured to reflect the competencies that an employer is seeking for a
particular job role. You will already have tackled some of these in your application.
Your competencies are then assessed by the interviewer and checked against their
selection criteria.
A competency based interview may be conducted through a telephone or panel
based interview. The panel may include several interviewers, often representing a
particular function. A chairperson will co-ordinate this panel. Try to address your
answer to the person asking the question, whilst maintaining eye contact with the
whole panel.

Case Study interviews
You could be given a business problem to discuss and analyse. You will be
assessed on your analytical thinking skills, the way in which you identify key issues
and your logical approach to problem solving. Whilst you cannot prepare for these
types of interviews, you can draw upon your analytical and lateral thinking skills
which you have developed during your academic studies. There is not necessarily a
right answer, your approach to the challenge is key to your success.

Technical Interviews
These types of interview are used when applying for a role that requires technical
knowledge e.g IT, Science or Engineering. The interviewer will ask you questions
which should enable you to demonstrate your technical knowledge and ability to
apply the knowledge you have developed through your studies and work
experiences. You may be able to draw upon your final year project, or use an
example from relevant work experience.

For further details see CCD web and
prospects web

Typical questions
Whilst you cannot predict what questions may be asked, certain types of questions
are more likely to occur. These may be based on the evidence you provided in
your application. You may find it helpful to look over some of the examples below.
When attempting to answer a specific question, be prepared to provide evidence
from at least a couple of contexts not just from your university experience. Here is
a competency based question on team work:

     “What role did you play in a team, assess your impact, and what was the

In answering this question you could select from: A team project at university, a
position of responsibility, a sporting/cultural role or from your work experience.
When preparing it can help to write down your evidence. Remember to answer all
parts of the question.

Here are some more examples:

Why have you applied for this job?
This is a great chance to sell yourself. Describe the skills you can offer which are
relevant to the role. Express the depth of your interest in the job. You might
have developed an early interest in the field, had relevant work experience
which convinced you or you may have talked to people who are doing the job.
Your answer should be enthusiastic and confident. Show you have done your
research. Leave the interviewer in no doubt that you are the perfect person for
the job.

How do you see yourself fitting into our team?
You will need to illustrate times where you were placed in a new team or group.
It doesn't matter how long or short term the role was. Show what steps you
took to make sure you fitted in, show how the group was not disrupted by your
arrival and, if relevant, describe any positive impact you had.

What are your weaknesses?
The best way of tackling this one is to pick one thing which you know has been a
weakness but you have taken some steps to overcome. For example, you may not
have been very confident about giving presentations but have now gained more
practice and have overcome your apprehensions.

Can you work well under pressure?
Don‟t just reply "Yes"! Use the opportunity to give an answer focusing on
several clear-cut examples showing your ability to cope under pressure.

Other questions you might be asked (this is not an extensive list)
   What have you learnt through your degree that is relevant to this application?
   What recent developments in your subject have interested you?
   Why do you want to be a......?
   Why do you want to work for us?
   What do you know about our organisation?
 What are the main challenges facing this organisation over the next two to
three years?
   What will you do if you don't get this job?
   What have you gained from your previous work experience?
   What is your biggest achievement to date and why?
   What has been your biggest crisis and how have you handled it?
   What are you looking for in a career?
   How would your friends describe you?
   What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
   What other careers have you considered and why?
   Describe a situation where you worked in a team to achieve a goal.
   Describe how you analysed a complex issue or problem to reach a decision.
    What steps did you go              through and why?
   Tell me about a time when you demonstrated a new approach to a task.
   Give me an example of a time when you achieved a task under a time
    constraint. How did you react? Were you successful?

Do you have any questions?
This question is almost always asked towards the end of an interview. Rather
than breathing a sigh of relief that the interview is drawing to a close, use this
as an opportunity to demonstrate your interest and observation. You may have
gleaned some new information over the course of the interview. For example:
     “You mentioned a possible business expansion into … Could you tell me a
bit more about this?”
There may be gaps in your knowledge about the job role or organisation, so this
is your chance to ask. You may also be trying to weigh up whether or not the
job is for you, so try and consider what you might need to ask prior to the
interview. Before you launch into your questions, remember not to ask what
has already been covered, and not to ask questions for the sake of asking.

Some questions you can ask them
   How do you define the training period for graduates?

   Is it possible to switch job functions - is it your policy to encourage this to

   Do you send your managers on special training courses - possibly Business

   Do you find accommodation for young graduates is a problem - where do they

   What would be a typical career pattern for a young graduate entering …..?

   Can you give me a fuller picture of your training programme? (Assuming this is
    not made clear in the literature.)

   What percentage of your graduates are in management positions - is it

   Are there any opportunities to work overseas?

   Is your firm planning a new programme of expansion or are you entering a
    period of consolidation?
Golden Rules for Answering Questions

 Always be positive. Even when things have gone badly for you, try to think
  positively about what you have learnt from the experience. Think of the
  positive, optimistic response.

 Never offer derogatory information about yourself or others.

 While you are talking, continue to look at the interviewer, this will aid

 Make it clear that you know what you're about.

 Be ready to recognise the simple question calling for a brief answer.

 Don't pretend to know something that you are ignorant of, or try to answer a
  question you haven't understood. Ask for clarification.

 Do speak clearly, and not too fast.

 Don't fidget, and try to avoid annoying mannerisms.

 Do not repeat the question you have been asked. Candidates do this to give
  themselves time to think – think quietly!

Since interview performance is all to do with selling yourself, you cannot afford to
miss an opportunity. Are there things you know about the company/organisation
which you could introduce, e.g. press reports about overseas expansion or
government white papers. Asking intelligent and relevant questions about topical
issues can earn you points.

Intelligent listening is important. If, during the course of the interview, you have
gleaned some new and interesting information, then feed it back at the end, e.g.
'You were talking earlier about a possible expansion into… Could you tell me a little
bit more about this?' Very clever. Not only does it show you were listening, but it
boosts the morale of the interviewer no end - someone who finds his or her
comments interesting!

If you are concerned about interview performance, check out what workshops are
available at the Centre for Career Development (CCD) or watch the interview DVD.

If you are successful you are likely to find yourself invited to attend a second stage
usually called an Assessment Centre - . There will
be a mixture of individual and group tasks and socialising opportunities. In the
case of the latter you could still be assessed so take care at the bar!
Individual tasks could include an in-tray exercise where you prioritise various
messages and correspondence, drafting replies and planning actions. Presentations
are often used. You may know your topic in advance or you may have to prepare
it on the day. Psychometric Tests refer to either personality questionnaires or
aptitude tests. For the former there are no right or wrong answers. The latter
show your aptitude in a range of skills relevant to the job including verbal and
numerical reasoning

Group exercises will reflect the role being recruited for. It may focus on team
working, problem solving or persuading. Finding the „right answer‟ to the problem
is often less important than how the group reaches it.

After it is all over review how things went as soon as you can. Make a note of
questions you were asked and how you tackled them. Think about what you saw
of other candidates‟ performances, were there any learning points for you? If you
are unsuccessful contact the company for feedback. Make sure you use this
information to help you prepare next time.

If you are unsuccessful it is worthwhile seeking feedback on your performance.
This may help you to improve in the future. Reflect on your own performance as
soon as possible after the event.

Information Resources

Reference Books:
The following books are available for you to use in the CCD Resource Area. We will
require you to deposit your University Smart Card with us while you are using the

   First Interviews - sorted!
   Great answers to tough interview questions: how to get the job you want
   How to succeed at assessment centres
   Pass that interview
   Second interviews & assessment centres - going all the way!
   Successful Interview Skills

The following titles are available to view in the centre. There is no need to book this
facility, although you may occasionally have to wait for a few minutes during busy
period. Enquire at reception

 Why ask me that?: first interviews
 The Assessment Centre

Applying for Jobs File Number 4 - "Interviews”
This file contains miscellaneous articles, examples and references to further
sources of information.
AGCAS Booklet – Going for Interviews

"Being Interviewed" provides an introduction to the basics of interview
preparation and performance and gives you the opportunity to do some practical

"Second Interviews" aims to provide an introduction to the format and content
of second stage graduate recruitment and like the former, it gives you some
practical exercises to complete.

Both of these publications are available to buy from the Reception. They are priced
at £2 each.

interviews.php gives you access to a whole range of resources as well as
providing links to the Internet. Many employers have their own web pages and
some of them include information on interview techniques.

CCD Contacts

For appointments:          0115 9513680
For information enquiries: 0115 9513682
Or Visit our Website on:

 If you would like this information in larger print or Braille, please ask at
reception or phone the information team on 0115 951 3680. This leaflet is
     also available on our website at

                                                                      JC June 2008

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