Employers use job interviews to gather further information about applicants’ skills, knowledge, experiences and values. The interview provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your awareness of your key attributes, and your ability to communicate that information effectively.

An interview seeks to find out in more detail:

  • Can you do the job? Do you have the skills, knowledge and experience appropriate for the role?
  • Will you do the job? What’s your motivation for applying? Are you enthusiastic about the position and the organisation?
  • Will you fit in? Do you fit within the organisation’s culture and workplace environment?

There are four types of interviews employers may use:

  1. phone interviews
  2. one-on-one interviews
  3. panel interviews
  4. behavioural-based interviews.

You need to be familiar with these different interview formats and prepare well for them.

One-on-one interviews

This is the most common form of interview where one person such as a manager, a recruitment consultant, or human resource manager interviews you. The interview might be highly structured, where they have set questions they will ask, or it may be more informal where the employer tries to get to know you and your skills.

Panel interviews

These are very common in larger organisations. The panel may consist of between three and five people, usually the line manager, a HR representative, a team member, or even a person from another department. Each panellist will ask one or more interview questions. Employers use panel interviews to help them make the best decision by getting a range of people to assess the candidates, rather than relying on one person.

Behavioural-based interviews

The idea behind behavioural-based interviews is that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour. Generally the employer is assessing candidates against a range of competencies, such as team work, problem solving, communication, customer service, etc. You’ll know when you are being asked a behavioural question as it will start with ‘Tell me about a time when …’, or ‘give me an example of …..’.

For behavioural questions, your responses need to demonstrate how you have developed or used a competency in the past. It should be relatively easy to identify the competency the employer is interested in, as it will form part of the question, for example, communication skills; organising ability; problem-solving. Use examples from your past experience that demonstrate each skill. Most of your examples will come from university or work, but don’t be afraid to draw on volunteer work, participation in sporting teams or community activities if they provide a good demonstration of your skills. Most importantly, focus on what you did, not what you could have done, or what others did.

You’ll need to structure your responses to tell a story about a real situation that you were involved in (preferably a work example, but you may use examples from university or other areas of your life). The STAR method is the best way to structure your response:

Describe the Situation or the Task/Problem that needed to be performed/solved

Explain the Action you took and what skills you used

Specify the Results/Outcome

Examples of behavioural interview questions

  • As a member of a team, how have you handled someone who wasn’t pulling their weight?
  • Tell me about a situation that you have been in that has required excellent communication skills.
  • Give me an example of your organising ability.
  • Tell me about a recent problem you have faced and how you dealt with it.
  • Think of a situation when your plans have been upset by unforeseen circumstances. What did you do?
  • Has there been a time when you were unhappy with your performance? What did you do about it?
  • What has been your biggest disappointment and how did you handle it?
  • Describe a recent situation when you have been under a lot of pressure. How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever had the opportunity to use your leadership ability? What challenges did you face?
  • Give me an example of when you have motivated people.
  • Have you ever had to make an unpopular decision? How did you handle it?
  • What have you done that shows initiative?
  • Describe a situation that has required you to do “that little bit extra”.
  • How can you demonstrate your flexibility to me?
  • Please describe a situation when you have had to deal with a difficult customer.

Group interviews

In group interviews, you will be put in a room with other candidates. These interviews test your communication, leadership, and teamwork skills, amongst others. You are not only judged based on your response to the questions, but also based on the ways that you interact with your peers.

TIPS

  • Be confident and assertive, without dominating.
  • You should listen to other candidates, allow them time to speak, and be respectful if you don’t agree with what they have said.