Like many things in life, interviews present themselves in all shapes and sizes, with no two interviews being the same.
This makes an already stress-inducing affair even more stressful with the uncertainty of what to expect. However, the key to a successful interview is preparation, so with that in mind, discover some top tips for getting through the interview process in one piece, perhaps even with a job offer at the end.
Initially, it is important to note that interview styles fall into different categories; structured, unstructured, competency-based, problem-solving and stress. For each category, the kinds of questions asked will differ, as well as the length and overall ‘feel’ of the interview. Before attending any interview, you should always get a clear idea of what type it will be and how you may prepare, including what attire you will be expected to wear.
Typically formal and organised, a structured interview is one where you may be expected to attend in smart clothing, such as a shirt and trousers or a work-appropriate dress. It is important that you present yourself professionally in order to make a favourable first impression.
After introductions, the interviewer may open the discussion with an icebreaker question, such as ‘How are you?’ or ‘Did you come far?’. These are utilised to help place you at ease before moving onto more important questions. The interviewer will then go on to give a brief description of the role and information about the company.
It is nearly impossible to predict the exact questions that will be asked in an interview, however, this is not an excuse not to prepare. Generally they will run through questions relating to your CV, such as your educational history and your previous jobs. Additionally though, they may ask questions relating to the job, such as why you may be a suitable candidate and what skills you have to support the role.
At the end of the interview, you will be given the opportunity to ask your own questions. Whilst it is not mandatory that you ask a question, it is an excellent way of highlighting your interest in the role. Furthermore, if you come up with a particularly interesting question, it may place you in a more memorable light. An example of a question you may ask is, ‘What would a normal day look like here?’
This category of interview is typically more conversational and informal, in fact it may feel very much like a conversation as opposed to a traditional interview. However, it is important that you maintain a level of professionalism.
Whilst questions may vary from a structured interview, it is still very important that you sell yourself. Go into the interview with a good idea of what points you want to put across, what skills and experience you have to match the job specification, and ensure you put those points across, even if specific questions are not asked.
In unstructured interviews, it is likely that the interviewer is keen to see your personality shine through to assess whether you would be a good fit within the workplace. It is really important that you make an effort to build up a rapport with your interviewer by allowing your personality to show and engaging in an appropriate level of eye contact. Here, there is ample opportunity to showcase your passion for the role, and the business.
Much like structured interviews, these are usually in a more formal setting. However, where they differ lies in the nature of questions asked. Interviewers will usually focus on questions relating to past professional experiences, such as ‘Tell me about a time when you…’. The idea behind questions of this nature is to determine your suitability for a role based on how you have conducted yourself in past roles.
The most effective way to prepare for a competency-based interview is to assess what skills are required for the job and then consider times in your professional life when you have exercised these skills. For example, they may ask about a time when you’ve had to work as a team, therefore, you will need to think of a specific scenario where you worked effectively as a team in order to highlight your leadership, personal and communication skills.
Whilst less common, this is a style of interview worth understanding as otherwise it could take you off guard. This is typically used when being interviewed for a job that could be high stress on a daily basis, as the aim is to understand how you are able to cope under extreme amounts of pressure.
The questions do not differ from what may be expected from a structured or competency-based interview, however the overall demeanor of the interviewer will be drastically different. They may appear to be distracted, contrary or indifferent, in order to assess your reaction to indifference, rejection and stress.
Another hallmark of a stress interview is the use of a strange or unexpected question, seemingly open-ended, vague questions or repeating the same question numerous times. Due to the unconventional nature of these questions, it is hard to completely prepare yourself, instead it is much more important to remain calm and act as you would in any other interview.
Problem-solving or Case Interview
This style of interview tests a candidate’s analytical ability and communication skills. It will typically begin with a real or simulated problem to understand, consider and solve. The aim is not necessarily for you to reach the correct answer, but more for the interviewer to evaluate your thought processes and how you approach the problem at hand.
In order to effectively approach an interview of this kind, it is important that you remain calm and take time to fully understand the task ahead of you. Giving yourself time to compose your answer before speaking will help ensure that your answer is concise and clear. The interviewer will be interested in someone who is able to break a problem down into manageable pieces and think clearly under pressure, so you are more likely to be successful if you take your time and clarify your thought process.
Of course, interviews are difficult, no matter the style! However, through research and preparation, and the help of our in-depth guide, there is no reason why you can’t go into an interview feeling confident and ready to impress.
- Always remain professional
- Dress appropriately
- Be prepared & do your research
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Try your best to keep calm
If you're ready to tackle your next job interview, click here to register for job alerts in your sector and location.