Interviews - On the Day

In our second part of interview advice we look at the interview itself; interview scenarios and reacting to different types of questions

Interviews — On the Day!

Interview scenarios
Interviews for jobs generally involve a tour of the business and possibly some refreshment. You will probably be questioned by a panel. Each member of the panel should be introduced to you and their position in the business made clear. If not, you are justified in tact-fully asking. There are distinct advantages in panel interviews as personal biases are less likely to be strong deciding factors.
The practice of asking interviewees to perform a task has become the norm in some businesses. This can be of limited value in terms of determining which candidate will be most suitable in the long run unless your interviewers are highly skilled in their interpretation of results.
If you are asked to perform in your interview you should have been given plenty of advance warning. Anything sprung on you unexpectedly, besides the usual panel questioning, is not acceptable practice and you may even consider the implications for your possible employment. Do you want to work for this type of Management Team? Assuming you have been given prior warning of anything you might have to do, you owe it to yourself to prepare thoroughly and gathering resources where appropriate. View it as an exciting challenge.
Questions Intro

Questions to answer and questions to ask
Every interview offers the opportunity to show your appropriateness for the job through the answers you give and the questions you ask. However, there are two golden rules that should always be remembered:
• listen carefully to every question and answer so you don’t misinterpret what is being said
• Never begin your answer until you know how you intend to end
If you do find you have not understood a question or have allowed your mind temporarily to wander, there is no harm in asking for it to be repeated. Likewise, if you begin an answer and lose your thread, own up as soon as possible to avoid an embarrassing ramble. When putting your answers together, try not to use vague, tentative, colloquial language like ‘sort of, you know what I mean, right?’

At the same time, avoid appearing to be dogmatically fixed in your beliefs to the point of becoming argumentative with questioners.

A balance must be struck through the use of appropriate language delivered at a steady pace and moderate pitch and volume.

Be yourself and be honest. Don’t say anything that can be challenged or contradicted (worst of all by you!) at a later date.
General Questions
There are two basic types of questions that are generally used. These are Open and Closed questions.

Open Questions
These types of questions can't be answered with a simple yes or no and require the candidate to give a longer answer.
These give the opportunity to add depth to your answers and expand on ideas.
These offer the chance to reveal aspects of your character.
These can trip you up if you have misunderstood the question and lead you to ‘waffle’.
These could show that you can be sidetracked off the key issues and that you haven’t thought your answer through.
Closed Questions.

These require short, factual answers. They are not trick questions!
Example: How long have you lived in ……?

These don’t demand creativity or the ability to ‘think on your feet’.
These allow the interview to move on at a pace.
these don’t allow you to expand and justify answers you give.
These can make you feel as though you were on a programme like ‘University Challenge’!
Although you will be expected to do most of the talking in an interview, apparently the more your questioners talk, the more likely it is that they are impressed with you. So if you can’t get a word in, you’re doing well!
The following lists of general questions and questions for recent graduates contain some of those that are being asked in teaching interviews today. A list of tricky questions has also been included, with some suggestions on how to tackle them. Expect to be asked a variety of questions. You will also be asked specifically about specialism, so be up to date with recent developments.
General questions you may be asked
• What are your major accomplishments?
• What are your career aspirations?
• What interests you most about this job?
• How do you handle stress?
• What do you feel about taking work home?
• Are you a team player?
• What is your greatest strength?
• What can you offer outside your specialism?
Tough Questions

Tell me about yourself.
This is a tricky question. ‘How long have you got?’ might be on the tip of your tongue. Rather than begin a soliloquy on your best characteristics, it might be better to ask, ‘Is there a particular aspect that interests you?’
What did you dislike about your last role?
This is the one situation when honesty may not be the best policy. ‘I hated my manager – he was amoral,’ is probably not going to win you favours. Even if your experience of the business showed it to be run by mavericks, say something tactful about what you learned there and express your desire to expand your horizons.
Why did you take a job … strawberry picking?
Every job, no matter how apparently menial, has given you experience and taught you some skills. Formulate an answer that reflects this and shows that you can extract positive benefits from every situation.
Why did you choose to train at … institution?
Avoid answers like, ‘Because my Dad went there’, ‘because it was the only one that would have me’ or ‘it meant that I didn’t have to leave home’. You have spent at least a year there so speak about its strong points and how much you enjoyed being a part of the institution.
Why do you think you would like this post?
Regardless of the truth, you must relate your answer to the job specification. Tell the panel what they want to hear. When you have done that, there is no harm in injecting a little humour into the proceedings and admitting, for example, that it would allow you to live on the doorstep of your favourite football team. At this stage they will have made a decision and you can afford to reveal more aspects of your character.
What do you know about this business?
Be honest about what you know. Do not be tempted to bluff. If you have to think on your feet, mention aspects you have learned since being at the school for the interview. Outsiders’ perceptions are always very helpful for a business to understand how it is viewed by the world. The key words here are honesty, tact and diplomacy. There is also a great amount you can find out from a businesses web site. (Even if they don’t have one- that tells you something!)
What aspects of the job are most crucial?
Do not focus on the parts you would most like to do. They are looking for tendencies towards task avoidance and your abilities to prioritise.
What are your energy levels like?
Everyone goes through periods when their energy levels are low; it is in our nature to experience these fluctuations. However, prospective employers, some of whom think that because you are (probably) young, you will be able to keep a consistent pace indefinitely, do not always understand this. Rather than speak about how you have a tendency to get tired if you work too hard, focus on what you do to maintain good health, such as eating sensibly, taking regular exercise, going to a relaxation class etc.
How long do you think you would stay in the job if we offered it to you today?
This is a really difficult one! How could you possibly know or answer with any accuracy? You could say something like, ‘I intend to commit to this job and work conscientiously. I would be delighted if it was offered to me and do not envisage any need to move jobs in the foreseeable future.’
Illegal Questions
Interviewers have a moral and legal duty to avoid unfair discrimination on the grounds of disability, race, ethnic background, religion (with the exception of church-aided schools), marital status, political preferences (including trade-union membership), sexual orientation and gender.

In order to ensure that this is adhered to as far as possible, it is illegal for you to be questioned on any of these areas. However, many candidates are asked such questions and are happy to answer.
The best policy if you are asked a forbidden question is to take one of two options. Either answer it, taking care to remember the context in which the question was asked for future reference, or politely explain that you would rather not answer that question. Only if your interviewers persist should you offer further explanation of your decision.
Questions for you to ask
At some stage in the interview you should be offered the opportunity to ask some questions. It is wise to have some ready to show how well you have prepared and your interest in the school and the job. Alternatively, if absolutely everything has been discussed and you can think of no further comments to make, say that you are happy that all of your questions have been covered. This implies that you had thought of some in advance!
The following should give you some ideas:
• Will you be offered the chance to come into the business before starting work if you are successful?
• What would your starting salary be (if this has not been made clear)?
• When do you envisage the successful candidate commencing employment?
• Will there be an induction for the successful candidate?
It is always better to ask one utterly appropriate question than a flurry of non-specific ones.
Lastly, be calm, stay focused and all the very best with your interview!

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