A ‘RECRUITERS’ Guide to Interviewing

A ‘RECRUITERS’ Guide to Interviewing

If there's one thing job seekers tell us again and again, it's how good our interview guide was at helping them land their dream job. So we thought we would publish it for every to access and to hopefully benefit from. The thing is, you can have all the experience in the world, but if you can't explain it in a clear and structured way, you're going to lack confidence and potentially undersell yourself.  Take a good look at the description of the STAR technique and use this list of questions to cover all angles, so you know you’re ready for anything. 

Criteria based interview

A criteria based interview is a structured interview designed around the key competencies of the job, or group of jobs, you are being considered against. The style may be unfamiliar, as it is not designed to explore your career history in detail. Rather, the purpose is to collect information about how you behave at work. All candidates being interviewed for a particular position are asked the same structured questions. This provides a fair basis for comparison.

How to structure your answers

Your interviewer will be looking for you to provide examples of your actual behaviour at work rather than hypothetical ideas about how you may do something. Do not worry if it takes you a short while to think of a suitable example, as you will be given this thinking time.

On most occasions you will be advised of the competencies being explored as you progress through the interview. This will help you to focus your answers to ensure the best use of your time. At all times try to answer the question asked and remember it is the quality rather than the quantity of your response that counts.


Before the interview you may find it useful to reflect on your career to date, focusing on key work experiences and any projects you have been involved in, as well as the way you typically approach your work. It will probably be useful to make a mental note of key achievements that you may want to refer to at some stage.

Note: Your interviewer will provide more details about the structure of your interview on the day itself. Even if they find the interview itself stretching, most people find they learn a lot about themselves from the process regardless of the outcome. This is particularly the case if they take advantage of any feedback offered. The best advice is to relax and be yourself. The process is not designed to trick you but to find out as much information as possible.

How to Respond to Competency Based Questions

Interview Response Strategy

Competency-based interviewing, also known as behavioural interviewing, requires you to draw on past experience and describe specific examples of incidents that demonstrate your competence in a particular area. The most effective way of answering these questions is to use the STAR technique:

Situation             Briefly describe the background to the situation

Task                    Specifically describes your responsibility

Action                  Describe what you did

Result                 Describe the outcome of your actions.

We suggest you add in a final element to the STAR structure and that is: LEARNING OUTCOME. So, after RESULT, you would say, “if I were to do it again, I would do x/y differently…”, and the purpose of this final instalment to your story is to display self-awareness; that you are always learning and developing as your career progresses and continually bringing new wisdom to your next project whether internally or in a new organisation.

Here is an excellent answer to a competency-based question that is testing teamwork as a competence:

Q: Team work is very important in our organisation. What evidence do you have to prove that you are a good team player?

A: I have a number of examples I could share with you. In one instance, when I was working as a business analyst at ABC Company, the sales team was pulling together a bid for a large piece of work and the analyst that normally helps them out with their IT information was on leave. I offered to help them and worked late every night for two weeks to ensure they had all the information they needed. They took on my suggestions regarding technology. As it turned out we won the bid and I was promoted as a result.

NOTE: You may be required to provide between one and three real-life examples to validate one particular competence.

Be prepared with answers and supporting examples to standard HR questions such as:

  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What interests you about our product/service?
  • Of your previous jobs, which did you enjoy most and why?
  • How have you managed conflict in the past?
  • Describe what you have done in your career that shows your initiative.
  • What are your weaknesses? Your strengths?
  • What does teamwork mean to you?
  • What style of management gets the best results from you?
  • What have been your major achievements to date?
  • How would your manager describe you?

Remember you are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody not because he wants to trip you up or embarrass you. He will be searching out your strong and weak points, evaluating you on your qualifications, skills and intellectual qualities and he/she will probably probe deeply to determine your attitudes, aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity. YOU WILL BE JUDGED ON THE QUALITY OF THE QUESTIONS YOU ASK!

Here are examples of probing questions you might ask:

  • What would a normal day in this role look like?
  • Why is the position available?
  • How would you describe your organisational culture?
  • What induction and training programs does the organisation offer?
  • What sort of people have done well in this team/organisation?
  • How is the company positioned against its competitors?
  • What is your vision for the future? What are the plans, if any, for growth or expansion?
  • What are the three things that would make someone an outstanding success in this role?
  • How well do you think I match the requirements of the role?
  • What is the next step in the process?

Questions you should be able to answer before you go into an Interview

Spend some time practicing your answers to the questions below. If you can answer them, it is unlikely you will be faced with a question at your interview that you cannot respond to effectively.

An interviewer will want to know what motivates you, ways of discovering this are by asking:

  • Would you describe yourself as self-motivated? If yes, why?
  • Can you give an example of a time when you made a suggestion to improve something at work?
  • What happened? Was it implemented?
  • What was the level of supervision in your last job?
  • What was your relationship with your supervisor/manager like?
  • How would your last manager/ current manager rate your performance and how would you rate it yourself?


  • If I was to ask your last supervisor or a colleague to describe you, what would they say?
  • What gets you out of bed in the morning? (and the answer is not an alarm clock!)

They will want to get an idea of how organised you are:

  • In your last job, how did you go about organising your day?
  • Can you describe a time when you were under pressure at work? How did you go about handling the pressure?
  • Would you describe yourself as organised? What makes you describe yourself in this way?

Most jobs today require at least basic computer knowledge:

  • What IT systems are you expert in?
  • What training have you completed recently?

To succeed in business today, we all need to be Team Players:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you helped a team you were part of achieve its goals?
  • Can you tell me about a time there was conflict in a team you were in? 
  • What happened and how was it resolved? 
  • Do you prefer to work alone on a task or with others?
  • Does anything frustrate you about working with other people on a daily basis?
  • Are you a member of any teams or groups outside work?

Perhaps you will need to demonstrate some sales experience:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you persuaded a customer or potential customer to buy something?
  • As a customer have you ever experienced a good sales person in action?
  • What made the experience stick out in your mind?

An interviewer will want to know about where you see yourself in the future:

  • Would you describe yourself as ambitious? If yes, why?
  • If we were to hire you, how long would you see yourself staying with us?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years’ time?
  • What are you going to do to ensure you reach those goals in 5 years’ time?
  • Do you plan to study further in any particular area?

Then there are the awkward questions:

Why should we choose you for this position?
Could you tell me a bit about yourself?

What did you think of your previous manager (shows attitude)
What three words would you use to describe yourself? OR

  • If I was to ask a friend to describe you what would they say?
  • What do you feel are you specific strengths?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What do you think you would bring to this role?
  • Why do you want to work for the company?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How would colleagues or boss describe you?
  • How do you deal with difficult people in your office?
  • Can you tell me about a project that you completed? Where did it go wrong?
  • How did you deal with the problem and what did you do to resolve it?
  • What are the 2 most significant accomplishments in your last assignment?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is wrong with your current position?
  • Have you kept up in your field with additional training?
  • Career goals?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • If you took the job, what would you accomplish in your first year?
  • What will you bring to us/company that no-one else will?
  • What other positions are you applying for?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • How have you achieved your targets?
  • How have you influenced customers?
  • Do you have any other questions?*

*Always aim to have one or two questions prepared as this is a great opportunity to show off that you have researched the company. Don’t ask specific questions about salary or the number of holidays during the 1st interview, save those that until you have been offered the job and then you can negotiate details.

Questions for you to ask!  Unless you already know the answers or they’ve been spelled out as the very reason for the position being open.  Just be smart about what you ask.

  • Why is the position open?
  • If I was taken on, what is the most pressing objective for me in the next 3/6 months?
  • What type of support will I be getting in terms of people support?

Note: Never talk money unless asked directly!
**Probably ask relevant Q’s based on your insight and knowledge of the local telecoms industry, MVNO landscape, etc.  I think the questions you come up with yourself will be better.**

At the end: In your parting comments be sure to thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet you. Reaffirm your interest in the job and company. You will stand out from the other candidates interviewing for the same role, if you end strongly by telling them you want the job and would be delighted to progress to the next round. 

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