WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS? No two interviews are ever the same, but anyone who has been looking for a job knows that some questions seem to come up tine and time again. Here’s our guide to the top interview questions, the best responses, and more importantly, what not to say. CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF? DO SAY The interviewer is looking for a quick summary of who you are and what you’ve been doing. Talk briefly about the experience you’ve had which is relevant to the job, mention your top achievements, and say why you think you’d be perfect for the role. DON'T SAY Don’t ramble on about your entire life history, mention your family, where you went on holiday or hobbies. Just stick to facts and experience relevant to the position. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR WEAKNESSES ARE? DO SAY This is the question people are most afraid of. The key is to identifying something you know you’re not strong with, but are addressing. Saying you aren’t as up to speed with software or presentation skills as you might be, but are looking into training to brush up your knowledge is the sort of answer employers are looking for. DON'T SAY Don’t trot out the clichés about being a perfectionist or not having any faults at all. Don’t be too detailed in pulling yourself down either; no interviewer wants to hear that you’re poor at time-keeping, disorganised and struggle to work effectively in a team. TELL ME ABOUT A TRICKY SITUATION YOU DEALT WITH AT WORK WHICH INVOLVED CONFLICT DO SAY Employers are looking for a concrete example from your work life involving negotiating or personality clashes with colleagues. Lay out the basic situation, how you resolved it, and what the outcome was. If you don’t have a work example, you can draw on something from a volunteer role instead. DON'T SAY It’s never a good idea to tell a story which involves you as the protagonist causing the conflict. The interview will just get the impression that you’re a trouble maker. WHY DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR CURRENT POSITION? DO SAY The best response is something involving new challenges, or highlighting aspects of the new role which aren’t available with your current employer. Be specific, referring to items in the job description. DON'T SAY Even if you hate your boss and are bored to tears in your job, the interview’s not the time to mention it. WHAT SALARY WOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR? DO SAY Most job adverts will include a salary band and this is a good starting point. If not, you can use comparison sites to see roughly what similar roles are paying. Justify what you’re asking for, and tell the interviewer about the experience and knowledge you have which justifies your figure. DON'T SAY Don’t umm and ahh, say you’re not sure, or whatever the interviewer thinks will be fine. DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US? DO SAY Ask something specific about the role, or the company. If you’re read something in the press about a new product or announcement, asking about that shows you’ve done your research. DON'T SAY Don’t say that you have no questions, or ask about holidays, or what time you finish on a Friday.
GETTING READY FOR A BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEW IN TECH Increasingly, employers are moving away from the traditional interview focusing on what you’ve done in previous roles and talking through your experience. Initial screening weeds out the people without the qualifications for the role. At interview, it’s more about assessing your personality, behaviour, and how you react in certain situations. DO SOME RESEARCH The initial job advert should give you some clues about the sorts of questions you can expect in your interview. Scan the posting for words like “efficient”, “self-starter”, “organised”, “attention to detail”. This should tell you a lot about the sorts of questions you will be asked. Take a look at the organisation’s website and see if there are profiles of people doing similar roles. If the company is a large multinational, you might also find unofficial posts from other people who have had interviews in the past. Make a list of all the qualities you think they are looking for on a piece of paper. LIST YOUR EXPERIENCE Go through each of the personality traits or competencies which you have listed. Think about what you could say if you are asked to “give an example of a time when…” for each. Remember that your examples don’t have to come from your present position. You can draw on experience from a past position, or any voluntary role you have had. Look for situations which you found challenging or difficult, but which ultimately had a positive outcome. Make a brief note of the relevant situations against each word in the list as a memory prompt. THE 'STAR' METHOD The useful STAR acronym is worth keeping in mind when deciding what to say at interview. S and T stands for situation or task, where you outline briefly what was going on. A stands for action; what did you do to move things forward? And finally R is the result of your actions. Following these steps should reduce the temptation to ramble, or get sidetracked during the interview with irrelevant detail. Each response should be no longer than two minutes. Time yourself speaking aloud if you’re worried that you might be speaking for too long. PREPARE FOR SURPRISES Although it’s usually easy to predict that an interviewer is going to ask you about a time when you showed leadership or dealt with conflict, other questions are harder to predict. Some employers like to throw a random question into the mix to see how you think on your feet. Some might ask you to tell them a joke, or ask what type of animal represents you best. With this sort of question the answer itself isn’t as important as keeping your cool, not getting flustered and being able to come up with a response. EVALUATION GOES BEYOND THE INTERVIEW Expect to be evaluated from the second you walk through the door of the organisation. Many interviewers will ask receptionists for their opinion of candidates, so if they try to strike up a conversation make relevant small talk. Similarly, if you’re offered a tour of the site, take up the offer and appear engaged and interested.
GETTING A HEAD START IN YOUR TECH TELEPHONE INTERVIEW Companies are increasingly using telephone or Skype interviews in their initial screening of candidates. It’s much more cost-effective than having staff tied up interviewing dozens of candidates and means only the best candidates proceed to the face to face interview. If you’ve never had an interview by phone, it can be a daunting experience. Not being able to see the interviewer and gauge their reactions can be tricky. Here’s our top guide to nailing a telephone interview. PEACE AND QUIET Most interviewers will give a specific time and date when they are going to call you. Ensure that you have peace and quiet when they call, and that you won’t be disturbed. Make sure your mobile is fully charged, or give a landline number if the coverage in your area isn’t great. Try to be at home, or at least in a quiet space when you take the call. Being interrupted by traffic noises or noisy children isn’t going to sound professional. BE PREPARED Make notes before the interview in exactly the same way as you would for a face to face interview. Looking at the job advert or person specification should give you lot of clues about what you can expect to be asked. Try to think of some specific examples which you can use if asked about a time when you resolved conflict, or faced a tricky situation. You are free to refer to these notes as you talk, but don’t just read out pre-prepared answers. TAKE NOTES If it doesn’t distract you too much, try to take notes about what you’re asked and how you answered as the interview progresses. If this isn’t possible, try to record the conversation. If you’re successful and go through to the next stage, it can be a useful record of what you said and which examples you used. If not, listening back to the interview might give you some clues about where you went wrong. STAND UP AND SMILE It sounds ridiculous, but studies have shown that people sound more confident and assertive on the phone when standing up. So rather than doing the interview slouched on the sofa or even worse, lying in bed, get up, get dressed and stand up while answering. You can also “hear” a smile in someone’s voice and this can instantly help strike up a rapport with the interviewer. DON'T GET INTO SPECIFICS A telephone interview is the first part of the recruitment process and often carried out in a very prescribed fashion. The interviewer will have a set list of questions to work through, and will be noting your responses. Don’t feel that you have to fill any silence while they’re writing with chat. Similarly, telephone interviews aren’t the time to get into specifics about salary, working hours and opportunities for training. If you are selected for a face to face interview, save the specifics for that point. However, asking when you’re likely to hear about the next stage is a valid thing to ask at the end of the interview.
WHAT TO WEAR IN YOUR TECH INTERVIEW Dress codes in all sorts of organisations are becoming rapidly more casual. The tech industry is at the leading edge of this move; we’ve all seen figures like Mark Zuckerberg in his jeans and blue t-shirt, or Steve Jobs in his black polo-neck jumper. Many candidates feel that an interview for a technical role is more about what you know than how you look. But is this really the case? REMEMBER IT'S AN INTERVIEW Even for a company which has a very relaxed dress code, you should remember that you are trying to make a great first impression. That doesn’t mean having to wear a power suit or even a shirt and tie. But on the other hand, it doesn’t mean turning up in your ripped jeans, flip-flops and a T-shirt with an offensive slogan on it either. Whatever you choose to wear, your clothes should be neat and clean. WHAT TYPE OF ROLE IS IT? To complicate matters further, different roles within the same organisation might have different dress standards. If your tech developer role means you spend your day in the office with other tech developers, your dress code may be very casual. However, if you are being interviewed for a sales role where you’ll be going out and pitching to clients, you may be expected to dress more formally. The company’s website or social media feed are usually good sources of information about what people employed by the organisation are wearing. WHAT IS 'SMART CASUAL' ANYWAY? Lots of tech companies operate a smart casual dress policy. That’s the dress code you should adopt too when going for interview, but what exactly does smart casual mean? It’s perhaps easiest to state what it isn’t. Smart casual usually rules out jeans, shorts, trainers and anything you’d wear on a beach. At the other end of the extreme, smart suits, shirts and ties are too formal for 'smart casual'. The ideal smart casual outfit for a tech job would be something like a pair of cotton trousers or skirt with a shirt or smart top. If it’s cool, wear a jacket too if you wish. You don’t need formal business shoes, but avoid trainers. COMFORTABLE IS KEY Interviews can be a high-pressure situation and the last thing you want is shoes which pinch or an uncomfortable shirt distracting you. Comfort is key, so wear clothes you feel confident in, and can relax in. Make sure that your clothes are clean and stain-free, with no missing buttons or hems coming down. Ask a friend for their opinion on your interview outfit if you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate or not. SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY Interviews are also designed to gauge your 'fit' with the organisation and working out what sort of person you are. Don’t be afraid to show your individuality in your clothing choices. A brightly coloured shirt or unusual jewellery will make you stand out from the crowd. However, you want the interviewers’ focus to be firmly on your experience and what you’re saying, not your unusual choice of hat or trousers.