Key tips for interviews and assessments
So, you’re over the first hurdle and have been invited to an interview or assessment. This is your chance to add personality and enthusiasm to your application, and further explain your suitability for the job.
Interviews can vary in format, from face to face, to group assessment, even some using video tools such as Skype. Whichever type you have coming up, download our interactive PDF guide to discover more about the purpose and reasons for each – and most importantly - how to stand out. The interview tips and common questions below apply to each type of assessment, review alongside the interactive PDF to boost your interview skills.
Selling yourself in an interview: transferable skills
Interviews give you the chance to showcase your skills, experiences and abilities, wherever you developed them. Think about the transferable skills you have and how they match the job description.
For example, if you’ve been running your household for the last 10 years, you’re likely to have developed skills including planning, organising, budgeting, delegating and negotiating.
Being positive at an interview makes a significant difference. If you’ve been made redundant, try to focus on the better aspects of the job you’ve just left so that you sound enthusiastic. If you’re not satisfied where you are now, identify the best parts and work out what you learned doing the role.
How to answer common questions
It’s likely that you’ll face some common interview questions. The best answers are the ones that are relevant to the job you’ll be doing and the company you’ll be working for.
Preparing answers in advance will help to ease stress you may feel on the day. It helps to practice saying them aloud – in the car, to a mirror, or a willing listener. You’ll then be ready to adapt your answers as necessary.
- Tell me about yourself
Tip: Keep it relevant by describing relevant experiences through work, education or hobbies
Example: “I’ve always enjoyed working with computers. While not working, I enrolled on an online course to learn programming skills and I’m working on a project to create a new program. I also enjoy playing football once a week with my friends – I organise hiring the pitch and commit to turning up, as I don’t like letting people down.”
- What skills do you have?
Tip: Analyse your experiences (not just jobs) as evidence of relevant skills
Example: “Three of my skills are planning, money management with accounting and communicating. I take pride in using these skills to manage a busy home at the same time as undertaking a house renovation.”
- What interests you about this job?
Tip: Explain relevant skills, experiences and interest in the company
Example: “I’m attracted to the fact that your company undertakes diverse activities, by its values and its involvement in the community. I like the fact that I’d be responsible for a number of different tasks, many of which I’ve done before.”
- Why do you want to leave your current position?
Tip: Be positive, focusing on what you want more of e.g. responsibility, qualifications and/or experience.
Example: “Although I enjoy my current job, I’d like the opportunity to develop my management skills through this supervisory role. There aren’t any suitable openings where I currently work.”
- Tell me about a time when…
Tip: Describe the Situation, Task, your Action and the Result (STAR technique)
Example: Tell me about a time when you… solved a problem
“(Situation) I was volunteering at a care home to develop my healthcare skills and knowledge before applying as a healthcare assistant. One of the residents complained that her family didn’t care about her or visit her and she was lonely. As the resident had dementia, she couldn’t remember family interaction. (Task) The care manager asked me to improve this situation.”
“(Action) I organised a wall calendar for her room and marked when her family visited for her to see; I scheduled Skype calls when family couldn’t visit and trained staff to use the technology; and I asked family to email photos and messages for staff to show her as part of her daily routine. (Result) Thanks to me, the resident felt like her family were there for her. This system has now been adopted for use with all residents, as it keeps families linked to loved ones through different methods.”
- Explain the gaps in your CV
Tip: Be honest – explain, for example, family-related breaks in employment
Example: “My break in paid employment for childcare gave me new insights and skills that I feel will support me in work, such as greater empathy, time and stress management, planning and multi-tasking.”
- What are your weaknesses?
Tip: Refer to a weakness in a relevant skill and explain what you’re doing to improve on it
Example: “I find it stressful giving presentations so now practise in front of friends and family.”
- How would a friend describe you?
Tip: Focus on your work-relevant skills and characteristics
Example: “My friend would describe me as organised, cheerful, careful with money and a good time manager. I put these to good effect when arranging social events.”
Be ready to show your curiosity for the role
Potential employers should respond well to you being curious about the role and wider company, so make sure to prepare some insightful questions that will help you be more memorable:
- Why has this post arisen?
- What training might I receive?
- What computer programs do you use?
- Could I work towards qualifications if relevant?
- Who would I report to?
- What are the company’s plans for the future?
- What is the dress code?
- What opportunities would there be for promotion?
- When will I hear from you about this interview?
It’s hard to be over-prepared for interviews. Above all, let your natural passion and enthusiasm for the role shine through. Good luck!
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