Interview ideas ...

→ Give yourself an advantage over other candidates?
→ How often should I follow up - and when?
→ Group Exercises
→ Telephone Job Interviews
→ What Is The Purpose Of A Job Interview?
→ Types Of Job Interview
→ Speaking Aloud
→ Personality Profiling Tests
→ Follow-Up Strategies
→ Job Interview Tests
→ Psychometric Tests

Give yourself an advantage over other candidates?

It's really worth reading these job interview ideas, before you go to your interview.

Gone are the days where the entire selection process was based on a single interview. Nowadays you could face multiple interviews, psychometric tests and group exercises; all designed to filter out weaker candidates and allow the strongest to shine.

But a good interview will often make up for less-than-perfect performance in other areas. So it pays to prepare properly and be aware of interview technique.

Here we discuss some of the most common features at a job interview, to help you know what to expect.

What Is The Purpose Of A Job Interview?

You might view it as an interrogation or even an examination. But it doesn't have to be that way. Find out why your attitude is more important than your work experience.

A job interview is the first stage in employment screening.

Why should you care what the purpose of a job interview is?

It's typically seen by the interviewee as an interrogation or even an examination.

A good interview should be a two-way conversation between the applicant and the potential future employer.

The purpose of a job interview is for you to get to know each other and find out whether there's a good fit of skills, experience and attitude.

It's an opportunity for you to market yourself and let your future employer see the benefits you could bring to the role.

It's also your chance to find out whether you want to work for them.

Organizations are always on the lookout for the right attitude.

They will often make allowances for your skills (they can train you) and your experience (if you can prove you pick things up fast), as long as you have the right attitude
So what's the "right" attitude?

Someone who is genuinely interested in the company and who they think will fit in with the culture and the team.

All the more reason why you should make sure you are relaxed and natural in the job interview. It really isn't the place for putting on a different personality - most interviewers will spot it.

At the end of the day, you're either the best person for the job - or you're not. But there are things you can do to weight the odds in your direction.

What's The Typical Job Interview Process?
With the right preparation you'll be able to sail through the interview. Knowing what to expect is the first step.

Common Features of the Job Interview Process

  1. Invitation to the interview

    This is usually a letter, though it may be a phone call. Double-check the date, to make sure you're free. It's embarrassing to accept the appointment and then have to rearrange.

    If you're not available that day, a good employer will arrange an alternative.

  2. Length of Job Interview

    This can vary, but a face-to-face interview is typically an hour. Interviews for senior roles can be longer. Assessment centres might take a full day - or more.

  3. Who Is The Interviewer?

    The interviewer is usually either the manager recruiting for the role or a representative from the company's Human Resources team.

    Sometimes it may be one of your peers - someone you'll be working with.

    Occasionally it could be someone who might report in to you. It's ok to ask the interviewer what they do and how they fit into the departmental structure.

  4. Multiple Job Interviews

    The first interview is usually a "screening" interview, to narrow down to the strongest candidates.

    It's common to have a second or even third job interview.

    Second and third job interviews add to stress levels and the inconvenience of job-hunting. Each one means more time off work and more preparation. That's why it's essential to apply only for jobs you really want. Otherwise you're wasting everybody's time.

  5. Don't expect a quick decision

    Companies usually underestimate how long recruitment will take them.

    A vacancy may take 3-6 months to fill. It's ok to ask them to estimate when they're going to make a decision. Read the tips on how to chase them, without hassling. If you have any questions about the job interview process, phone the recruiter and ask.

Follow-Up Strategies

Did you know that by following the right job interview follow up etiquette you can almost double your chances of getting a job offer?

The recruitment process doesn't finish when you leave the company's offices.

There are subtle, yet effective, job interview follow-up techniques you can use afterwards, to increase your chances of success and address anything you think didn't go so well.

"Thou Shalt Always Follow Up" should be the number one commandment for anyone serious about getting a job offer.

When you decide to remind the interviewer who you are, you give yourself TWO chances to make a first impression.

Getting in touch after the interviewer gives you a chance to:

  • follow up and questions you might still have about the job
  • remind the interviewer who you are
  • address anything that didn't go so well in the interview

If they're still making their mind up on who to hire, then the person who contacts them again and makes a good impression will jump up the hiring list.

Find out more about making a follow up call or send a job interview thank you letter.

How often should I follow up - and when?

The general rule is: follow up, but don't pester. Yes, we know you're keen, but it's a fine line between reminding the recruiter who you are and driving them crazy.

Post job interview etiquette means being keen, but not annoying.

If possible, get an idea of the timings for decisions during the interview. Then be aware that recruitment always takes longer than companies expect.

Just because you haven't heard anything, doesn't mean they've turned you down. So use your common sense.

After the follow-up call or letter, give them until their stated deadline.

Whatever you do, don't try to back the company into a corner to make a decision.

Unless you truly have a deadline on a different job offer, don't try to force their hand. Sometimes it will work, but often it will make the recruiter pick your strongest competitor - particularly if they resent being "manipulated" or rushed.

If you are genuinely in a time-pressured situation and applied through a recruitment agency, then getting the agency to make this call for you often comes across as more professional.

Types Of Job Interview

What Types Of Job Interview Are There?

You can't predict the exact format you'll encounter. If you understand the most common types, you're on the road to job interview success.

Employers are constantly developing new types of job interview.

Knowing about the main types of job interview can give you an advantage over other candidates.

You can't predict the exact interview format you'll encounter, but if you understand the most common types of job interview, you're on the road to success.

Structured Competency-Based Interview

Behavioural / Situational Job Interview

Telephone Interview

Panel Job Interview

Technical Job Interview

Types of Job Interview How To Handle Them

Structured Interview - Competencies

The employer identifies the competencies (skills, abilities and experience) required for the role.

They design the questions to test whether the candidate has these competencies. The questions are often phrased, "tell us about a time when."

Review the job description / advert.

Identify the types of skills, abilities and experience required for the role. (This may need lateral thinking).

Think of examples in your career where you have demonstrated these. It may help to make notes.

This means you'll be well-prepared for any competency-style question they ask.

Behavioural job interview (situational job interview)

Behavioural interviews are trying to suss out how you would act in certain situations.

The interviewer wants to be able to predict how you would behave in the role, if they recruited you.

So they ask hypothetical questions. These might be about a time in your past, or asking you to imagine yourself in a future situation.

It's difficult to second-guess which questions might come up. So the best advice is to:

  1. Prepare as for Structured Competency Interviews
  2. Listen to the question. Make sure you have understood it. Take a moment to think about what they're looking for.

Give an honest answer, but make sure you remain positive. If possible, back up your answer with an example.

Telephone Interview

This type of remote job interview can be a first point of employment screening.

Although this may seem daunting, it's actually a good thing. It means your CV or resume impressed the recruiter enough to want to find out more.

If you're called to a face-to-face interview, it means they're serious about you and not wasting your time.

Find out more about telephone job interviews.

Prepare as you would for a face-to-face interview.

Dress smartly and arrange a time for the call when you're not at work and can finish the interview without interruptions.

Be able to clearly explain why you think you're a suitable candidate.

Pay special attention to the interviewer's tone of voice.

Make sure you focus your attention on the interviewer and don't get distracted by other things in the room.

Panel Job Interview

Sometimes employers want candidates to be seen by a number of managers or peer-workers. A panel interview simply means a candidate meets multiple interviewers at once.

They may play the "Good cop / Bad cop" routine, where one of them is aggressive and another sympathetic, to see how you perform under stress.

Prepare as for a normal interview. Don't let the thought of multiple interviewers stress you out.

Focus on the person who asked you the question, but make good eye contact with all of them.

Don't be put off if one of them seems grumpy. But don't be lulled into a false sense of security if one seems very friendly.

Technical Job Interview

This usually refers to a "hands-on" interview. For example, an engineer might be expected to do some analysis of an engineering problem; a market researcher might be asked to analyse some data; a sales person might be expected to make a mock sales call.

This type of interview is designed to predict how you would perform in the role.

As long as you have the relevant experience, you should be fine with this type of job interview.

Make sure you've fully understood the brief and keep your cool.

If in doubt, ask them to clarify what they're looking for.

Job Interview Tests

Knowing what to expect is the key to success.

Job interview tests are commonly being used in addition to traditional interviews.

Employers are often nervous about employing someone on the basis of interview performance alone, so you can expect to undergo or more job interview tests.

Some people get nervous about these, but there's no need. As long as you know what to expect, you're half way there.

It's ok to ask the recruiter which tests they'll be using. They're not obliged to tell you, but most will. This can help you mentally prepare.

Here are some of the most common job interview tests.

Power Point Presentation

If the role you're applying for includes regular presentations, you might be asked to give one as part of the recruitment process.

Note: you might be asked to use flip charts or a different computer package, instead of Power Point.

If you were given the topic beforehand...

...they'll expect a polished presentation with insight into the topic.

If you're given the topic on the day...

...they'll make allowances for a less polished presentation.

But they will expect a good flow with clear conclusions. Often the time allowed for preparation is too short, to put you under pressure and check you can prioritise.

In both cases, the interviewer is looking for:

  • How concisely you present (do you waffle?)
  • Your presentation style - is it easy to understand the flow of your arguments?

Your ability to analyze information and present a structured argument

Make sure you have understood the brief fully. Ask for clarification if you need to.

Pace your preparation - complete the overview first, in case you run out of time. It would be embarrassing to have a great first half of a presentation, only to miss out the conclusions.

Group Exercises

These usually involve a group of candidates applying for the same job. You're normally asked to complete a task together, with too little time.

It's designed to test how you perform under stress. Do you support the group to achieve its objective? Or do you turn into a lone crusader?

How to do well in a group exercise:

  • Read the brief carefully
  • If you've got questions, ask the others what they think
  • You don't have to be the leader, but you must play an active role
  • Make sure you encourage quiet members to share their opinions
  • Don't lose track of time - or the exercise's goal

Assessment Centre

A fancy term for "a bundle of employment screening tests".

It might be a full day or include an overnight stay.

It's ok to ask the employer what you should expect on an assessment centre. Usually they're happy to tell you.

Few candidates bother to go back to basics and think about what they want. This really shows in job interviews and applications. Think about it: why do you want to work here? and where do you see yourself in 5-10 years time? are typical interview questions. Don't you want to be able to give compelling answers?

The aim of "Where Do I Start?" is to offer you a challenge and an opportunity: Find out what really motivates you about your work and move closer to your dream job.

But why bother?

  • Recruiters like to employ people who are genuine and enthusiastic. If you know what you want to do, this shines through in your application and job interview.
  • If you know what you want, you're much more likely to get it. Isn't life too short to waste it on a job you hate?

Sometimes we realize we don't really want to leave our current job ... we just want to change it. And, if that's possible, it can save a lot of time and effort.

Speaking Aloud

The thought of speaking aloud frightens most of us at one time or another and the tips below will help ease your speaking anxiety.

Word Pictures

We may not be aware of it but when we are speaking aloud we have images in our mind that we'd like the listener to share.

If I say 'Christmas Tree' every one listening to me gets an image of a Christmas tree in their mind. My tree might be six feet tall and pink - yours might be three feet tall and green. It's my job, as the story teller to try and get you to have the same picture in your mind as me. So I'll add some more words, I'll say ' Six feet tall , pink Christmas tree'. Now we have similar pictures and you know more or less what I am talking about. As the speaker I have to try and achieve this for every thought or picture that I have.

Although the words are important when speaking aloud, I can also use my voice to get my meaning across to you.

Slowing Down (or Pace)

Most people talk much too quickly when speaking aloud, so the first thing you have to do is slow down. It may feel painfully slow to you but you must give the audience listening a chance to take in what you're saying.

There are two easy ways to do this.

First, just make sure that you open your mouth a little wider than you do in usual conversation. This makes it a lot easier for the sound to come out and means that you speak just a fraction slower. Look at yourself in a mirror as you speak and see how wide you open your mouth. If you go and do it now I guarantee you'll be surprised at how small the opening is for the sound to come out of. When you're practicing you should be able to get three fingers vertically in your mouth!

Another foolproof way of slowing down only works when you are reading your speech aloud - which I would highly recommend. There's enough to remember without having to worry about words of a speech! Anyway - every time you come to a full stop or comma in your speech, just say 'full stop' or 'comma' to yourself - it's easy and anyone can do it! This is particularly effective when you've been asked to read something out loud (school classroom, interview, audition etc) and you're extremely nervous.

If I had to give just one tip to people speaking aloud I think this would be it!

Try it now - just pick up a magazine or book that happens to be on the desk next to the computer. Now read aloud a couple of sentences, remembering to say the 'comma' or 'full stop' to yourself. Easy!

Another way to slow down when speaking aloud is to practice these exercises which will help you to open your mouth correctly. They'll also help your facial muscles stay in shape and keep you looking young!!

Try saying the following out loud:

"Writing a speech is not as difficult as people first think. As long as you have an introduction, middle and a conclusion you'll have a speech. Remember to write the speech in language that the audience will understand. When you practice make sure that you practice out loud and remember to underline all the important words."

It should take between 20 and 25 seconds - any faster and it's too fast, if it's much slower your audience will fall asleep waiting for the next word.

Although in general, the pace needs to be slow, if you're speaking a particularly exciting or angry passage, speed up a little to convey this change in mood.


Obviously, you need to speak loud enough so that people can hear you. Don't be frightened by the sound of your own voice. If you're too quiet the listeners will have to strain to listen to you and you'll also give the impression that you think that what you have to say isn't important.


If your voice is going to sound interesting when speaking aloud you must alter the pitch (high or low) of your voice to suit the mood of your speaking. In general terms a voice which is low in pitch gives a feeling of seriousness and authority - think of a giant talking. The opposite to this would be a little fairy talking with a tiny high pitched voice. This would sound very sweet but wouldn't be very authoritative.

Remember though, that a voice that is always at the same pitch is very, very monotonous. Even if you want your speech to sound serious you will need to raise the pitch of your voice on exciting and important words.


I can't over emphasize the importance of the pause. Whether you're giving a speech, reading from a book or just conversing with a friend,the listener will need time to take in what you've said. Hopefully you're going to say or read something that should make them think - so give them time to think!

If you just carry on without a break they'll be considering your last thought while you have started on the next thought.

Pausing when speaking aloud also gives you the chance to take a breath and perhaps give your audience a quick glance to see if they're understanding what you are saying. If you're looking at an audience with blank faces perhaps you need to start again or explain a few thoughts more thoroughly.

If you're saying something funny you might want the audience to react with laughter - stop and give them time.

If you're explaining - give them time to work out what you've said.

If you show a picture or graph etc give them time to look at it!

Psychometric Tests

The term "psychometric tests" covers numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning and psychological personality profiling tests.

"Psychometric" means "the process of measuring mental capacities and processes" (Oxford English Dictionary). They are also called aptitude tests.

They're used by employers to provide an objective measure of your personal reasoning ability or an indication of your personality.

You usually visit the employer to take the aptitude test under controlled conditions. However, it's becoming more common to sit them online before being offered an interview - especially with graduate recruitment.

What To Expect

  • You'll sit in a room with other candidates. On your desk you'll have a printed booklet and a pencil.
  • A qualified member of the company's HR team will supervise the tests.

They will explain the format of the test and take you through the sample questions.

There are 3 main types of psychometric test:

  • Numerical Reasoning Tests
  • Verbal Reasoning Tests
  • Spatial Reasoning Tests

Numerical Reasoning Tests
These test your math's skills. You are given data to analyze. It's often slightly ambiguous or you're expected to fill in the gaps.
If the role you're applying for requires analysis of numerical data, you should expect this test.

Sometimes you'll be given a calculator, but sometimes you'll only get a pencil and paper. Don't let this phase you - everyone else taking the test does it under the same conditions.

How can you improve your performance in this test? Just practice mental arithmetic whenever you can, to exercise that part of your brain. It may have lain dormant since school!

Verbal Reasoning Tests
These test your verbal skills. You are given passages to read and asked questions about them.
If the role you're applying for requires understanding complex written information or writing reports, you should expect this test.

How can you improve your performance in this test? Read quality newspapers - or the online equivalent. This will exercise the part of your brain that is responsible for understanding complex information. Test yourself: after reading an article, check what was actually stated vs. what you have assumed.

Spatial Reasoning Tests
These are designed to test your spatial awareness - your abilty to construct images in your mind. This type of psychometric test is used less frequently than verbal or numerical reasoning.

You will normally be shown a series of abstract shapes and be asked to pick which of the answers would best fit with the series. The idea is that it tests a useful branch of strategic intelligence.

How Are They Marked?
Results are "standardized", which means your mark is compared to a large group of similar people and you're given a mark based on how your performance compares to theirs.

Marks depend on both on the number of correct answers and the number of questions you attempted. It's critical not to guess. Few people will answer all the questions, so don't worry if you run out of time.

The multiple choice answers often include the most common incorrect answers, so double-check your response.

Telephone Job Interviews

Being offered a phone interview is a really good sign.

A telephone job interview means the company is seriously considering you for the job. It also saves you the time and expense of traveling to a face-to-face screening interview.

Phone interviews are usually used as the first stage in the screening process.

Although people sometimes get nervous about them, they're actually a chance for you to make a great first impression.

Telephone interviews are normally quite basic, without too many trick questions. Typically, a company will want to get to know you a little - get a feel for the personality behind the CV. They'll probably ask you a few questions about your CV, work experience, skills, background and why you want the job. It's easy to prepare for this type of question, before they call you.

It's really important to take a telephone interview seriously. It's more than just a chat: the interviewer will be deciding whether to invite you to a face-to-face interview. You should treat it as seriously as any other type of job interview.

  1. To prepare for a phone interview, it's critical to:
    Set the call up for a time when you're able to relax and not be disturbed.
    This might mean asking to be called outside of office hours.

  2. Don't do it at work.
    You'll be too nervous to do yourself justice. And what would happen if your boss walked in?

  3. Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview.
    Sit upright in your chair and hold the phone as you would at work. All of this helps you present a professional image. If you're at home, in your jeans and lounging on the sofa, you could come across as being too laid back.

  4. Really listen.
    You can't see the interviewer, so you'll need to concentrate on their tone of voice and what they're saying. You might be surprised how much information a "pregnant pause" can give you.

  5. Think about your body language.
    Try to imagine the other person sat on their end of the phone and move your body as though you were looking at them in a normal conversation. If you would normally smile, then smile. This will help you avoid sounding "wooden" on the phone.

How Are They Marked?
Results are "standardized", which means your mark is compared to a large group of similar people and you're given a mark based on how your performance compares to theirs.

Marks depend on both on the number of correct answers and the number of questions you attempted. It's critical not to guess. Few people will answer all the questions, so don't worry if you run out of time.
The multiple choice answers often include the most common incorrect answers, so double-check your response.

Personality Profiling Tests

These are used as an indicator of the type of personality you have, so the recruiter can predict your behavior.

Opinion varies on the validity of these tests, but employers seem to like them.

The key is to give your gut response. Don't think too much about your answer. Don't get hung up on "that depends..."

How can you improve your performance on this test? It's not really a question about improving your performance - it's more about being aware of how others see you. Doing a sample personality profile to get feedback can help you predict any tricky areas and address them in the interview.

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