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Skill Up: Using job Interview techniques to succeed

Love them or loathe them, interviews are an essential part of the job searching process. The bad news is that, until you're running the company, you can't get out of them. The good news is there's a knack – and through plenty of preparation and the right job interview techniques, you can find it.

That's why we've put together the most useful job interview techniques, plus some key questions and how you can tackle them.

Why do we have job interviews?

Job interviews are about more than showing an employer that you have the knowledge and skills to do the job, they also help them discover things like:

  • Are you an open and friendly person? Will you fit into the team well?
  • Can you help them solve problems - like organisation, speedier service or motivating others?
  • Do you have a genuine interest in the role and the organisation?
  • Can you bring new skills or ideas to the job?
  • It's also a chance for you to prove yourself beyond what you've put down on paper. If you don't already have the skills they're asking for, can you show that you can pick them up quickly?

Types of job interview

Broadly, there are two kinds of interview:

  • Screening: Informal telephone interviews, timed tests or written / creative tasks, to check you meet the basic job requirements.
  • Hiring: One-to-one interviews, panel (where several people interview you at once) or group (where you are interviewed or observed in discussion with other interviewees) after which you could be offered the job. 

Telephone interviews

Follow these basic job interview techniques in your telephone interview to get through to the face-to-face stage.

Before you take the call

  • Write down your skills, accomplishments, goals and strengths
  • Write down an example of when you worked well as part of a team - it could be a group project at school, a sports team, after-school club or job
  • Research the company and make notes on why you are interested in working there, plus any questions you would like to ask them.

When the phone rings

  1. Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed
  2. Have your CV or application form in front of you plus the other notes you made
  3. If you are nervous, take some deep breaths and sip water before you answer
  4. Speak slowly and be clear and concise with your answers
  5. Avoid slang words and avoid using, 'umm' and 'like' while you're thinking
  6. Be positive about your achievements, don't say 'I can't do this' or 'I don't know', say 'I'm building my skills in this area', or 'this is what I do know and I'd like to continue learning more'
  7. For more CV writing advice, check out our post on How to Write the Perfect CV.

These days, a lot of job interviews are conducted online using services like Skype. Viking have put together a great infographic giving you the lowdown on how to succeed:

Skype interview infographic

How to Prepare for Face-to-Face Job Interviews

So, you made it through the screening stage, now it's time to prep for the main event. Follow these job interview techniques to make sure you show them your best!

Before your interview

  • Do some more research into the company and the job you are applying for in particular
  • Work out how you will get to the interview before hand and plan to arrive early
  • Get a good nights sleep and eat well 
  • Figure out what to wear, keep clothes smart and avoid trainers, short skirts and jeans

Types of job interview questions

Question time: Typical questions

Many interviewers will ask you the same things:

  • 'Why are you interested in our company/programme?'
  • 'What is important to you in a job? What motivates you?'
  • 'Describe what kind of situation you find stressful. How do you handle the stress?'

These are to check general points like: have you read the job description? Are you enthusiastic about the job? And do you have the right temperament to handle it?. Because you are so likely to be asked these things, give yourself a head start by preparing your answers before the interview:

Write down answers to these common questions:

  1. What are your achievements at school? (i.e. subjects, exams, activities and prizes) 
  2. What is your work experience, including school or community volunteering?
  3. What are your main strengths? (think about communication, effort, learning new skills, team work)
  4. What are your career objectives?

Note: When answering, you should draw mostly on work- or school-related experiences, knowledge, skills, and abilities rather than experiences from your personal life and friendships.

Behavioural questions

These questions focus on the idea that your past behaviour and performance can predict future behaviour and performance.

Job interview technique: The STAR method

  • ST = Situation or task: Provide an example of task/situation, at work or school, where you helped to create a positive outcome.
  • A = Action taken (or behaviour): Talk about the action you took and the behaviour you showed e.g calm under pressure, fair and unbiased in the way you treated someone.
  • R = Results: Describe what happened as a result of your actions e.g. you made that deadline, or the conflict was resolved.

Activity: Now try answering these behavioural questions (and remember to STAR)

  1. 'Talk about a time when you worked as part of a team to solve a problem' 
  2. 'How do you organise and plan for major projects or exams?'
  3. 'Tell me a time when you had to lead a team of people.'

The killer question: 'What is your greatest weakness?'

This is a tricky question but it's not a trick question... Here's how to approach it:

  • Don't say none.
  • Don't choose a skill or attribute that was listed as essential in the job advert.
  • Don't say something completely negative like 'I just can't get up in the mornings'.
  • Do think about things you struggle with and balance them with your positive strengths e.g. if you are spontaneous, you might say 'I sometimes act very quickly, but when I work in a team I always listen to others before I act' or 'I'm working to improve my number skills and because of this I always pay extra attention to what I'm doing'.

Your turn: Questions to ask during a job interview

The best job interview techniques are not just the right answers. At the end of the interview you'll usually be able to ask a few questions of your own. Take this as an opportunity to find out more about the job and make sure that you feel it's the right move for you too.

Example questions:

  • Who is the direct supervisor for this position and what is that person’s management style?
  • What type of training is provided?
  • How well do students succeed in this program?
  • What do you look for in a candidate? 

And finally, remember...

  • You've already done really well to get to the interview stage, well done!
  • The employer will be trying to impress you too and this is your opportunity to assess whether the job and firm are right for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask how the interview went.
  • Follow up for feedback, this is the best way to improve.

We hope these job interview techniques help you get the role you're passionate about. Good luck!

Other useful resources

Top 10 interview questions and answers

What to wear for job interviews

Job interview checklist: Essential dos and don'ts

Jobs interview tips: Your complete guide to succeeding in interviews

For teachers

In the classroom? Teach your students job interview techniques using this interactive presentation with added notes.

If you can't see the presentation in your browser, click here to view on Prezi.

Image credits

Skype infographic: http://www.viking-direct.co.uk/specialLinks.do?&ID=blog_uk_article_how-to-ace-a-skype-interview