Interview Types

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews are used at the beginning of the selection process to gain a good understanding of what the employee can offer and whether or not they will be a match to the organisation's culture. A telephone interview is usually conducted before a formal interview. 

To prepare you should make sure you thoroughly research the company and position being offered. Like with any formal interview, make an effort to identify any areas where your skills and experience may be of particular value. Research the company's website and familiarise yourself with their offering. 

During the interview, be specific and use facts and figures to support your answers so you demonstrate your capability. Employers like to hear examples as it gives them an idea how you have applied yourself. Make sure you are fully prepared and write down the answers to any questions you think may be asked. Keep this near you throughout the interview so you can refer to it if need be. It is best to list bullet points so your answers does not sound rehearsed. Preparing answers before hand can be useful to help conquer nerves and jog your memory but remember you need to answer the question asked, not the one hoped for. It is advisable to review your CV and highlight any areas that the interviewer is likely to ask about, such as gaps in employment and reasons for leaving. 

The interviewer will want information about certain experiences that demonstrate what you can offer. Have a list of key words in front of you that you can put into context. Try to speak clearly and at a steady pace, as the interviewer needs to be able to understand you. Be friendly and polite to build rapport at the start so the interview runs smoothly. Try to answer questions concisely and do not use fillers such 'um' and 'err'. A good tip is to address the interviewer by name at the beginning, middle and end of the conversation. 

For most questions a three minute answer is a good target to aim for. Remember to always keep answers relevant and on topic. The interviewer does not want to hear your life story but does want to know what separates you from other candidates. You should keep to hand a copy of your CV and the job description for quick reference and a piece of paper to make key notes. 

If you stand or sit up straight during a telephone interview, it will make you sound more confident and helps project a professional image. It is useful to prepare any questions you may have about the company or job role to show the interviewer that you are enthusiastic. 


Competency Based Interviews 

Competency based interviews (also called structured interviews) are interviews where each question is designed to test one or more specific skills. The answer is then matched against pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly. For example, the interviewers may want to test the candidate's ability to deal with stress by asking first how the candidate generally handles stress and then asking the candidate to providence an example of a situation where they worked under pressure. 


How do competency-based interviews differ from normal interviews? 

Normal interviews are essentially a conversation where the interviewers ask a few questions that are relevant to what they are looking for but without any specific aim in mind other than getting an overall impression of you as an individual. Questions are fairly random and can sometimes be quite open. For example, a question like "What can you offer our company?" is meant to gather general information about you but does not test any specific skill or competency. In an unstructured interview, the candidate is judged on the general impression that he / she leaves and is therefore likely to be more subjective. 

Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills. 


Which skills and competencies do competency-based interviews test? 

The list of skills and competencies that can be tested varies depending on the post you are applying for. For example, for a Project Manager post, skills and competencies would include communication skills; ability to organize and prioritise; and ability to work under pressure. For a Senior Manager, skills and competencies may include an ability to influence and negotiate, an ability to lead and the capacity to take calculated risks. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the more common skills and competencies that you may be asked to demonstrate:

• Adaptability

• Influencing

• Client Focus

• Integrity

• Commercial Awareness

• Leadership

• Communication

• Leveraging Diversity

• Compliance

• Organisational Awareness

• Conflict Management

• Schedule

• Creativity and Innovation

• Problem Solving

• Decisiveness

• Resilience and Tenacity

• Delegation

• Risk Taking

• External Awareness

• Sensitivity to Others

• Flexibility

• Technical

• Independence

• Teamwork


How are competency based interviews assessed?

Before the interview, the interviewers will have determined what type of answers would score positive points and what type of answers would count against the candidates. For example, for questions such as "Describe a time when you had to deal with pressure?" the positive and negative indicators may be as follows: 

Positive indicators 

  • Demonstrates a positive approach towards the problem 
  • Considers the wider need of the situation 
  • Recognises their own limitations 
  • Is able to compromise 
  • Is willing to seek help when necessary 
  • Uses effective strategies to deal with pressure / stress 


Negative indicators 

  • Perceives challenges as problems 
  • Attempts unsuccessfully to deal with the situation alone 
  • Used inappropriate strategies to deal with pressure / stress 


In some cases, negative indicators are divided into two further sections: minor negative indicators, i.e. those that are negative but do not matter so much; and decisive negative indicators i.e. those for which they will not forgive you for, e.g. not asking for help when needed. Marks are then Allocated depending on the extent to which the candidate's answer matches those negative and positive indicators. Here's an example of a marking schedule: 

1. No evidence - no evidence reported 
2. Poor - Little evidence of positive indicators. Mostly negative indicators, many decisive 
3. Areas for improvement - Limited number of positive indicators. Many negative indicators, one or more decisive. 
4. Satisfactory - Satisfactory display of positive indicators. Some negative indicators but none decisive. 
5. Good to excellent - Strong display of positive indicators 

If the interviewers feel that there are areas that you have failed to address, they may help you along by probing appropriately. For example, in answering the question above "Describe an example of a time when you had to deal with pressure", focus on how you dealt with the practical angle of the problem but don’t forgot to discuss how you managed your stress during and after the event, the interviewers may prompt you with a further question, such as "How did you handle the stress at the time?". This would give you an opportunity to present a full picture of your behaviour. 


Techniques for Answering Competency Questions 

One interview style: 

The STAR Technique 
• Situation: This is where you would be asked to give an example of a situational question relavent to the job you are being interviewed for.
• Task: This is where you will be asked to describle a task that you had to undertake.
• Action: In this answer you need to give an example of what action you took relevant to the question.
• Result: Explain to the interviewer the outcome of the action.

Throughout the interview, think about the questions and your response to those questions. If you don't have examples from work experience think of examples of when you were at university, an internship or from a social aspect.







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Adam Phillips, Business Development Director - Rotolito Lombarda

Adam Phillips, Business Development Director - Rotolito Lombarda

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