Preparation for your interview is time well spent. Here are some of the frequently asked questions.
Which types of interview are there?
If you’ve not had an interview for a while, it’s worth knowing that organisations use different types of interview for different types of job. Some of the most common are:
These interviews focus on the skills and attributes needed for the job. You’ll have to relate your skills and experience to the job in question.
These are for technical positions such as IT or engineering jobs. You will probably be asked to display your technical knowledge of a certain process or skill. They may ask you to do this by talking about your previous experience or by asking you hypothetical questions, such as “what would you do if you were working on this project?”
This is where the interviewer meets with the candidate in person.
Some organisations use these as the first stage of screening. You may be warned in advance or contacted out of the blue. First impressions count, so you should prepare for a telephone interview just as much as you would for a face-to-face interview. But unless it takes place on a videophone, you won’t need to put your interview suit on!
This is an interview where more than one person interviews you. Usually, one person chairs the interview and panel members take it in turns to ask you different questions. You should direct your answer mainly towards the panel member that asked the question.
How do I negotiate salary?
For some jobs (usually in the private sector) where a salary is not stated, you may have to negotiate your salary. This will usually happen when you are offered the job. Here are some tips:
- ask them what the salary range is for similar jobs in their company
- get an idea of what the going rate is for the job – check other job ads
- if you’re asked what salary you are expecting, say it quickly and assertively – don’t dither
- start high, and meet in the middle if necessary
- don’t ask about salary or benefits before you’ve been offered the job.
Which questions should I ask at the end of the interview?
At the end of the interview you usually get the opportunity to ask your own questions. You should always ask at least one question, to show your enthusiasm and interest in the job.
Here are some examples:
- Can you describe a typical day?
- What training do you offer?
- Ask about something you read about in your research – such as a new product or service
- Who will I be working with?
- Who will my manager be?
- Where do I fit into the organisational structure?
- How much of my time will be spent on this task?
- How do you see the role developing?
- When will you let me know the outcome of the interview?
What if I get asked about skills or experience I haven’t got evidence of?
You can face questions like this if you’re applying for promotion or going for a career change.
As a general rule, you should apply for jobs you’ve got most of the skills for, but it’s ok if you haven’t got a couple of them. Remember that the person specification is an ideal, and no one person might meet all the points.
However, you will have to show that you have the potential to develop these skills. You can do this by describing times when you’ve:
- been given extra responsibilities
- been left in charge
- showed this skill on an informal basis, either in work or at home.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as an ambulance care assistant, you’ll know that for this job you’ll need to know how to carry patients and secure them in the vehicle. You could mention how you’ve done this with small children or elderly relatives, so you are aware of the need for safety. You need to show that you’re aware of the need for the skill, and show that you’re capable of developing it.
If you have no related experience like this to call on, you could describe how you would act if you were placed in this situation. For example, if you had to deal with a difficult customer you could explain how you would approach it: stay calm, be polite and be clear on what your roles are.
Explain how you approach learning new skills, and that you are a keen and efficient learner. You may also score points if you describe how you handle tasks that don’t play to your natural strengths. This shows you are willing to be adaptable and take on tasks that don’t come that naturally to you.
What should I do the night before the interview?
It’s important to prepare for interviews. But the night before the interview you shouldn’t put in too much work – you might want to do something that relaxes you, such as watching a film or having a bath. Last minute “cramming” might only stress you out.
What if I was fired from my last job?
If you were laid off as part of a general reduction in the workforce, be honest about it but then move on quickly. But if you were fired for misconduct or not fulfilling your responsibilities as laid out in your contract, deal with this differently.
You can admit to occasional failings if you show that you’ve learnt from them. For instance, if you lost motivation, became lazy and got caught, describe how you intend to stay motivated in future. If you broke company policy, you could say you were going through personal or financial problems at the time, but that now they are resolved.
You should check out your references. If it was your last boss who fired you, and you have to list your last boss as a reference, phone them up to try and clear the air. Say you understand why they had to fire you, but you’ve learned from the experience and are looking to start afresh.
Explain that you’re looking for a reference as you’re looking for work. Ask what they would say about you. Ask if they would say you were fired or if they would say you resigned. Not many bosses would keep giving you a bad reference to prevent you getting new work.
So even with these questions, honesty is the best policy. But always end with a positive, and show how you learnt from a negative experience.
What if I get asked why I’ve been out of work for a long time?
Firstly, stress any positive activities you’ve undertaken during your period out of work, such as:
- voluntary work
- keeping up with developments in your field
- treating job seeking as a full-time job
- keeping fit
You can also say that you were being selective, and not taking the first job that came along. Stress you were waiting for the right opportunity, such as the job being offered by the employer interviewing you.
What if I voluntarily left my job?
Make sure you state positive reasons for leaving. The best reason is to say that you wanted a fresh challenge, and you wanted to fully concentrate your efforts on finding your next opportunity. Reflect positively on your time in your previous job – describe how you developed in the role and say you were grateful for the opportunity.