Mary Murphy Counselling, Psychotherapy and Career Services in Cork

Introduction

The purpose - both parties are there to offer the best impression of themselves and gather the information (evidence) they need to decide if there is a good match. The employer is assessing a candidate’s competency to do the job, technically (knowledge, skills and experience) and interpersonally (teamwork, communication). In addition, an employer is hoping to find a candidate who fits the organisational culture and values.


Interview Styles

Typically, interviewers tend to combine biographical data gathering and competency based interviewing. A biographical interview is concerned with establishing the factual and chronological history of your career. This type of interview is often used by recruitment agents.

However, more and more recruiters use competency or behavioural based interviewing as standard, where the focus is on establishing your competency for the job through gathering evidence of past examples. The belief being that past achievements are the best indicator of future performance. The interviewer will be interested in establishing how you carry out your responsibilities.

Providing evidence requires advance preparation.


Anticipating Questions

If you have the information you need to prepare for the interview then it is possible to anticipate most of the interview questions in advance of the interview.

  • Go through the job description with a fine-tooth comb
  • Highlight skills, competencies and experience required
  • Identify your specific examples of competency

  • Structuring your answers

    When answering questions tell the interviewer(s) about what you did, focusing on ‘I’ not we. The interviewer will want to know about your contribution and references to ‘we’ can dilute your message and leave the interviewer uncertain about what you did. Competency based interview questions tend to be ……. ‘can you give me an example of….’ ‘tell me about a time when …..’ ‘how do you, would you or did you…..’. A structure to follow when answering such questions is the STAR technique.

    Situation – give the interviewer a bit of context (in other words what were the circumstances). Were you under any constraints or pressure, time, co-operation, unfamiliarity etc). E.g. “I was part of a team of four and I had been in the department a month when my line manager was taken ill and I was asked to take on responsibility for y”.

    Task /challenge (what did you need to achieve, what was the overall goal or target)
    “I was faced with the challenge of taking over the management of a project to introduce a new xyz system”.

    Action – describe what you did (e.g. analysed, designed, produced etc).
    Avoid the detail (if the interviewer wants more details he/she will ask). Describe the key steps; there are likely to be half a dozen or so. Your answer should be a description of how you approach your work (communication style, structure, informing, documenting, logical, influencing etc. Whatever is relevant in the situation.)

    Result – describe the outcome, did you save time or money, improve satisfaction, efficiency, morale, systems etc. There may have been a mixture of results but focus on the best. If you are asked about the failures, focus on what you learned and what you subsequently did with that learning.

    This structure is useful for keeping candidates on track and helps to provide a complete evidence based answer.


    Contact

    Mary Murphy Plunkett Chambers, 21/23 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork
    083 3518131 Click here to email


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