The Questions

You will probably get asked a wide variety of questions at interview but they will broadly fall into one of three categories:

  1. Do you understand the role?
  2. Can you do the job?
  3. Will you fit into the organisation?

Each question will be structured to find out one of the above. Listen closely to the question and ask for clarification if you are unsure of what the panel are looking for.

Motivation questions 

These type of questions are designed see how motivated you are to do the job and work for this employer and in this industry.  Examples include: Why do you want to do this role? Why do you want to work for us? A common mistake here is to be too brief. Try and link your reasons back to you – you need to be convincing and show you have researched the company / role.

Open questions 

Common examples include:

  • What can you bring to the position?
  • Tell us about yourself
  • What relevant skills and experience do you have?

This style of question gives you a lot of freedom and control and provides a real opportunity to sell your skills and abilities. When answering open questions concentrate on your skills, knowledge and experience that directly relate to the job role. Think about the job description and person specification and use them as a basis for your answers. 

Technical questions

If you have applied for a role that requires technical knowledge be prepared for very specific and knowledge-based questions. You may get asked about projects or modules that you have studied on your degree, or asked how you would approach a hypothetical problem or situation. If you don't have the knowledge be honest about it, but go on to describe how you have developed new skills or knowledge in the past, and how you might go about finding out the answer to this question.

Knowledge-checking questions

These are assessing your knowledge. Examples include: What do you know about our company? What do you think you will be doing in this role? What would you need to know about your target audience when planning a new mobile app? What current issues are you are of in the film industry? This is where effective prior research comes in!

Difficult questions

Interviewers may ask challenging questions to see how you respond and to measure your self-awareness. You may be asked about your weaknesses, past failures or what you perceive to be challenges for the future. When answering these questions consider:

  • describing past weaknesses or failures and how you overcame them
  • choosing weaknesses that could be seen as a positive, or that are not integral to the role
  • talking about skills you feel less confident about and your plans for developing them further

Competency questions

Competency questions allow you to demonstrate your skills and abilities by talking in detail about how you have utilised those skills in the past. If the organisation does not supply you with a list of competencies you should use the job advert, or person specification, to anticipate what they might be. Example questions include:

  • How do you effectively solve problems?
  • What do you think makes a successful team?
  • Tell us about a time when you successfully influenced the outcome of a project

Providing detailed examples is the key to answering competency questions and the STAR technique is a useful tool in structuring your answer.

Strengths-based question

Strengths-based questions are becoming more common and designed to look at what you enjoy doing and have an aptitude for, rather than what you can do. An example is: What are you main 3 strengths and how could they help you in this role? Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?

Scenario-based question

Scenario-based questions try to find out what you would do in specific situations and are usually linked to the role you would be doing. Try and provide a logical step-by-step answer. An example is: Imagine you're working on a project with 3 other colleagues and a member of the team doesn't seem to be doing much work. What would you do?

Curve-ball question

Some employers like to assess your ability to react on the spot. An example is: If you were a cartoon character, who would you be? Top tip: embrace the question and try and give a full answer. In this example, try and explain why and how it links to you!

Some interviews may focus more on one type of question (e.g. competency or strength-based), whilst other will utilise a combination of different types of questions). The above are just some examples of common question styles - we can't know exactly what employers will ask, but if you are well-prepared you will stand a good chance of being able to answer whatever they decide to ask you.

Using the STAR technique

The STAR approach is useful for giving structured, focused and effective answers to interview questions based on past experience. Having a clear structure allows you to be concise and avoid rambling!

  • Situation (What was the context? Where were you and what were you doing?)
  • Task (What goal did you set yourself? What was the problem or challenge?)
  • Action (What action did you take? how did you display the specific competency or attribute in question?)
  • Result (What was the outcome?)

When using this technique you should:

  • spend at least 50% of your time talking about the Action
  • concentrate on your individual contribution to a situation (avoid 'we')
  • choose examples that are the most relevant - whilst it is good to talk about recent situations, the relevancy of the example is most important
  • try and talk about a situation with a positive overall outcome - if not, explain what you learned from the process and what you would do differently next time

Questions for the panel

It is common practice for you to ask questions at the end of an interview. Rather than asking nothing, or thinking up a question on the spot, it is a good idea to prepare some suitable questions in advance. Depending on how the interview has gone you can choose the most suitable ones to ask. Ask questions that demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in the job and the company. Cover topics such as:

  • things you've seen in your research - new developments or products
  • how the role will develop
  • the structure of the team or department

Avoid asking about:

  • what the company does - you should know this already!
  • pay, holiday and perks - these should only be discussed once you have a job offer
  • how soon you will be managing the company - ambition is good but don't make the panel feel you are after their jobs
Last modified: 
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 16:31