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Interview Guide

Employers use interviews to try to select the person that they think is going to be the best fit for the role.  It is important to understand that however hard most interviewers try to be objective, their views will often be coloured by their own personal preferences, values, views and opinions, and are therefore often more subjective than they should be.  With the best will in the world, interviewers will often select the candidate that they like the best, rather than the best candidate so it’s important to keep this in mind during interviews.

What to Avoid!

Understanding reasons that employers give for rejecting candidates at interview is probably a good place to start.  Here’s our top 15:

  1. Appearance (dress, personal hygiene, professionalism etc);
  2. Punctuality (or lack of it!);
  3. Poor body language (eye contact, slouching, limp handshake);
  4. Lack of interest / enthusiasm / knowledge in company or job;
  5. Lack of confidence / participation;
  6. Lack of planning – no purpose, no job goals, no personal aspirations;
  7. Unrealistic expectations of the role / career path;
  8. Bad attitude;
  9. Too much emphasis on “what’s in it for me factors” (e.g. money, benefits etc);
  10. Couldn’t answer questions / lack of preparation;
  11. Had no questions / inappropriate questions for interviewer;
  12. Condemnation/disrespect for previous employers;
  13. Evasiveness / excuses regarding unfavourable elements of track record (e.g. absence, criminal record etc);
  14. Sloppy application documents;
  15. Prejudices or trying to inflict beliefs / ethics on the interviewer (e.g. someone with a disability who tells the interviewer that they have an obligation to take on someone with a disability).

Knowing what to avoid is an invaluable tool to improving your interview performance. 

Types of Interviews

There are a number of different types of interviews:

  • Biographical interviews – where the interviewer goes through your CV and asks questions relating to your life, experience, skills & capability;
  • Competency based interviews – where the interviewer asks you to give examples to demonstrate your experience of certain key skills, abilities and behaviours (e.g. give me an example of a time when you have exceeded a customer’s expectations – tell me about the situation and the customer; what you did and what outcome was achieved);
  • Panel interviews – where there are multiple interviewers, often from different departments who all have their own set of questions to ask;
  • Assessment centres – where there may be a group of candidates attending interview at the same time, and going through a series of individual and team exercises, tests, assessments and interviews.

Interview Preparation

You will often be told by the employer what to expect at the interview and this will allow you to prepare.  To do this properly you should:

  • Ensure that you have a copy of the job description / person specification;
  • Know your CV inside out and take a copy with you to the interview;
  • Visit the employer’s website and try to commit a few interesting facts to memory;
  • Research the industry / sector / role to get a good idea of what they might be looking for.  This will also allow you to talk knowledgably during the interview;
  • Ask what to expect at the interview in advance (if you are being represented by a recruitment agency, ask your Consultant):
    • How long will the interview last? 
    • How many people will be conducting the interview?  
    • What departments are the interviewers from (HR, Operations, Partners etc)?
    • Will there be assessments?  
    • Will they use competency based questioning techniques?  
    • Is there anything they would like you to bring?  
    • What is the dress code?
  • Use the job description and person specification to try to establish what the interviewer will be looking for and try to anticipate potential questions and answers.  Here are some ideas of what you might be asked:
    • Why did you leave your last job?
    • Do you have any domestic circumstances that could impact your ability to commit to the role?
    • Tell me more about yourself.
    • Why do you think you are suited to this job?
    • Why do you want to work here / for this company?
    • What do you know about our company?
    • What are your strengths & weaknesses?
    • What experience do you have that is relevant to this job?
    • Have you done this type of work before?
    • Why should we choose you?
  • Anticipating what the interviewer will ask is particularly important if there is to be competency based element to the interview as this will allow you to think of suitable examples that demonstrate your experience of the key requirements identified in the job description / person specification.  Further information on this topic is provided in the section below;
  • You will often be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer at the end of the interview – you can prepare these and even write them down.  Here are some ideas:
    • What qualities do you look for in people who work for you?
    • How will you measure my performance?
    • What training is provided?
    • How big is the team?
    • Are there opportunities for career progression?
    • Questions relating to facts / statistics you have learned about prior to the interview (e.g. takeover, services, future plans etc)
    • Avoid questions relating to “that’s in it for me factors” e.g. money, holidays, sickness, personal questions about the company / it’s employees) 
    • When can I expect to hear the outcome of the interview?

Handling Competency Based Questions

A competency based question is one in which you will be asked to give an example of when you have done or experienced something either in work or in home/college life.  The question is likely to begin with:

  • Tell me about a time when you have… 


  • Give me an example of a time when you have…

The questions will often be structured using the STAR guidelines:

  • Situation – What was the situation in which you found yourself?
  • Task – What was the specific task you had to achieve?
  • Action – What action did you take?
  • Result – What was the outcome of your action?

Your responses should be specific and concise.  Whilst each interview will vary, here are some ideas on the general themes that interviews may cover:

  • Individual competencies – your personal attributes (e.g. flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, independence, risk taking, personal integrity etc);
  • Managerial competencies – taking charge of other people (e.g. leadership, empowerment, strategic planning, project management, etc);
  • Analytical competencies – the elements of decision making (e.g. innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, detail orientation etc);
  • Interpersonal competencies – dealing with other people (e.g. communication, persuasiveness, teamwork, negotiation skills etc);
  • Motivational competencies – the things that drive an individual (e.g. resilience, energy, motivation, initiative, achievement etc).

And finally – if you’ve still got questions about your interview – talk to your JM Legal Consultant and they will help you to prepare.