Do you want to learn the techniques which will help you to smash your job interviews out of the park and get you the offer? Learning how to answer any interview question, even those tricky behavioral interview questions begins with plenty of preparation. In this article, I will share my 15-minute guide to a successful interview.

My name is Gordon Berridge, and I am the UK Partner and President at N2Growth, a global, multifaceted professional services firm. Over the years, I have partnered with many senior HR leaders, business line leaders, and CEOs while working in the executive search practice. I’ve had the good fortune to learn why they ask the questions they ask and the structure behind those questions. Simultaneously I have witnessed many candidates achieve their interview goals and many more failing to make the grade.

So why do so many candidates flop during the interview? Sadly, most people don’t know what it is they said during their conversation that cost them the job. Whether you are just starting or seasoned in your career, the 15 minutes you will invest here today will serve as your guide to master the basics of interviews- and hopefully help you land your dream job. Now, let’s get into the tips on how to win your next job interview!

It is essential to know that interviewers use various interviewing techniques and questions to determine if you will be a suitable employee. Interviews are generally made up of 3 sets of questions: HR questions, behavioral, and identity. A typical interview will have a mixture of all three, and research suggests the following breakdown:

  1. HR and Task questions make up about 10-20% of the conversation
  2. Behavioral questions are roughly 40%
  3. Identity questions carry the most weight, sometimes up to 90%

The outcome of your interview depends on how you answer a few key questions, and whether or not you get a call-back can sometimes come down to how you responded (or rambled-on) to just one question. As an example, if you just focused on preparing for behavioral and common questions alone, you will likely not set the right tone. Though you might feel you did well because you answered a lot of questions, you must be careful not to confuse talking activity with delivering an articulate response that is satisfactory to the interviewer. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. This has likely happened to most of us at some point in our careers; the good news is that most of this is preventable with adequate preparation.

Lets deep dive into the three types of questions. Before we do, you need to note these questions must be answered calmly and confidently back to your interviewer. Your responses must be crisp and concise, and to make that happen- you must do your part and prepare.

HR Interview Questions

Common HR questions vary from ‘Tell me a little bit about yourself’ to ‘what do you know about the company’ and ‘why have you applied for the role.’ These should be simple and straightforward questions to answer. However, you should take some time to prepare your answers for these questions; stumbling around on these questions will hinder you as you move through to the more substantial questions later in the interview. This is an excellent opportunity for you to convey the following to your interviewer:

  • Why you want to work for the company
  • That you have the relevant skills
  • That your experience to date aligns with the role
  • That you highlight niche area and achievements which will benefit the company if they hire you
  • That you fit well with their culture
  • WHY this role excites you

BONUS: One HR question which will undoubtedly come up is, ‘Why did you leave your last job.’ Whether you were released or it was an amicable parting, keep this brief, honest and to the point. If you are dishonest, you’ll eventually be found out. And there is no sense in mudslinging, its unprofessional and won’t win you any points.

Behavioral Interview Questions

When answering behavioral questions, it can be valuable to use the S.T.A.R method, a formula for answering any behavioral question. Behavioral and competency interviews are designed to help the interviewer understand what your strengths are. Behavioral interviewers will look at the problem (S.T), the action (A), and the result (R) of your answers. So how do you answer behavioral interview questions? Here is a breakdown of the acronym, S.T.A.R – Situation, Task, Action, and Result(s).

  • First, describe a work-related situation or problem needing to be solved.
  • Second, describe the task you were responsible for or carried out. Or a job that you needed to execute. Here you need to be concise.
  • Next, describe the action you took. Avoid telling the interviewer what you might do or would do. Tell them what you DID!
  • Then, describe what happened or the result. What you achieved, what you learned, what quantifiable factor or figures can you provide here.
  • Lastly, put a beautiful bow on your story- briefly recap how this made an impact or solved the problem you just described in the situation/task.

STAR preparation before the interview is critical. Think about your experiences, your situations, and tasks, think about the actions you took and the results you achieved. Write them down.

Identity Interview Questions

Your traits, your beliefs, what motivates you, and what you like and dislike, your answers to these questions, paints the picture of you. The answers you give creates an image in your interviewer’s mind of who you are from the things you say, what you do, the books you read, the people you associate with and know, what you do in your spare time, the projects you’ve worked on, accomplishments, ambitions, etc. Interviewers know that you are who you are, based on the feedback you give to the questions around these subjects.

Think of it as a blank tactics board in a football or rugby coach’s room. The best coaches (in this case interviewers) will build up a picture of the game before it starts. The coach sees the game in their head before it kicks off, and depending on what you have done in training (preparation/interviewing/answering questions) will determine whether or not you take part in the game (get the job). If they don’t see you on the field, then wave goodbye to that game (role). This is why some of the most unlikely people are offered jobs. It’s because they know how interviewers think, they know how to present themselves, and paint the picture in their interviewer’s mind.

The following are some key considerations:

  • Remember to think long-term; it is more important than any skill you possess. Employers will rarely want to hire short-term employees; they want to hire folk who want to work with the company for many years, contributing to the overall growth of the company. Employers know this is how their company will be successful and competitive, not by frequently hiring, creating the dreaded ‘revolving door,’ and having that stigma attached.
  • The way you answer the identity questions describes who you are, and determines if you have the skills they’re looking for. It’s not always about giving the right answer; you need to provide the interviewer with a solution that allows them to visualize you working for them. This is a powerful and charismatic trick!
  • You now can create a picture in your interviewer’s head. Remember, at all times, you must be yourself, be genuine, but be aware of what you are saying.
  • Figure out how you want to come across to your interviewer before your interview, paint the picture in your head of the image you want to paint in your interviewer’s head.
  • The right answer to an identity question depends on you, your goals, your culture, and many other things. The idea is to be natural. The purpose here is to show you the elements which need to be in your answer.

Strategies which may help during your next interview

  • Always listen to the questions your interviewer is asking. Allow them time to complete what they are saying, resist the urge to answer the question before they finish speaking. You don’t want to jump to the wrong conclusion.
  • Sometimes repeating the question helps you to think about your answer and gives you a little extra time to deliver.
  • Always start your answers with the most crucial part; it is human nature to care about things that matter most. It also keeps your interviewer interested.
  • Using the right language or industry terms makes you sound more like an expert. Carefully consider this before you give your answers.
  • It may be beneficial to research keywords, buzzwords, and terms which the company uses to come across better. Finding common ground and connecting the dots is fundamental.
  • When giving, answers remember brevity is everything. Necessary details only, please! The interviewer will ask you for more detail if they want it.
  • Be sure you know the examples you want to give the interviewer before you say them. Don’t hinder yourself by providing incomplete information or, worse still, false information.
  • Do NOT blame anyone else for any failures. Keep the interview positive.

Conclusion

I do hope some of this information helps you in your next interview. I would be grateful if you could pass this on to a friend, colleague, or someone you know who is interviewing for a position soon. Feel free to share this on social media too. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you would like additional support leading up to your interview, please get in touch, and I will happily assist you in the following areas:

Interview Preparation: 

  • What to bring, what not to bring
  • Techniques to remain calm
  •  Researching the company, including the main things you must know
  • Things they need to know about you

Answering Interview Questions:

  • Understanding the strategy behind the question
  • What the interviewer is trying to uncover from you
  • Spotting ‘Red Herring’ questions
  • Responding to questions with relevant ‘Real-life’ stories

Strategic question-answering techniques:

  • How to directly answer the interviewer’s questions (Coaching to keep you focused and from talking too much)
  • How to make adapting answers to personal experiences easier and sound natural

 

I would also love to hear stories from those of you who have had recent interview success. Why do you think you succeeded? How did you prepare, and what advice would you offer? Also, to those who missed out on the job, what do you feel let you down? All the best to those interviewing today!