“Congratulations! You have been invited for interview!” These are wonderful words to receive; but they still mean you are only half way towards getting that great new job. What do you need to do next? The answer is of course: Preparation.
It might seem impossible at first, but actually it is not too difficult to predict the questions you will be asked at interview, especially in larger, professional organisations. In fact, the first two questions are very easy to predict. They are asked in one form or another at almost every interview. They are:
Please never go to any interview unless you are able to answer these two questions fairly fluently.
After those two openers, many people make the mistake of assuming that the remaining questions will be based on the Job Description that they were sent when they first inquired about the job. But that is rarely true. The questions are far more likely to be based on the list of criteria that you will find under the heading “Person Specification”. Most of the things on that list will say they are “Essential”. And this means you simply have to be able to produce the evidence that you have ALL these particular attributes or you won’t be offered the job.
Items on a “Person Specification” can usually be grouped into two main categories:
For each of these soft skills, you should anticipate being asked a question that will begin with “Tell me about a time when…” or “Share an example of a situation when you…” In the language of HR these are called the competency questions. Effective preparation means you will have thought through and decided on an example from your life that you can use for every single “Essential” criteria.
The technique to remember when preparing your answers is called the STAR technique. Ideally you should prepare a different answer / example for every criteria on the “Person Specification” list. Here is an example: If one of that criteria states that you must be able to meet tight deadlines, your answer should be based on giving an example from the past, beginning with:
S: The SITUATION you were in – For example the organisation and the department where you were working at the time, or the University course you were studying, etc.
T: The TASK you were set – For example the specific job you had been asked to do, the deadline you had been set, and why it was important for you to meet it.
A: The ACTION you took to meet the deadline – For example, working late, asking others to help, delegating or deferring other tasks, etc.
R: The RESULT – In other words, what happened as a result of your actions, and what people said to you afterwards.
Another way of looking at it is that your answer should take the form of a mini story with a beginning, middle and end – ideally with you as the hero! And the more interesting your story, the more the interviewer is likely to be impressed with you as a candidate.
Following this simple technique will not be a guarantee that you will be offered the job. Other candidates may simply have more appropriate experience and/or qualifications than you do. But it will mean that you will leave the interview feeling proud that you have done your very best to be selected.
How Coaching Can Help
Career Coaching is not just about helping clients identify the best next step on their career journey, although this can be very important. But it can also be about providing practical support in writing an engaging CV, completing a great application form, preparing for interview or rehearsing your presentation.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to talk through your own situation in more detail and explore how coaching could help, including becoming a STAR at your next interview. Click here to see my contact details. I look forward to hearing from you.