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NewDay Technology

Interview Techniques

Pete King
Technology leader with over 22 years experience. Always taking engineering to the next level.
・4 min read

Introduction

Interview techniques, it's a subject that we don't like to really talk about, but in reality we should, it is a skill many of us need to learn; not everyone is born with it.

We will go through the what, and how of the usual, famous last stage interview, the behavioural / competency-based interview.


Behavioural, competency-based interview

What is it?

Competency-based interviews are based on the premise that past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance. During an interview, the interviewer will ask questions where you will be required to answer based on your previous experience.

Do not talk about what you would do, it's more geared towards what you have done, what you have experienced.

These style of questions could include challenges you have faced and how you have handled them, opportunities you spotted and taken advantage of, or successes and failures and what you have learned from them.

It's important to be honest, even in failure, showing humility, recognising those failures, and how you'd react to such a situation in the future is something you can lean on; turning a negative into a positive.


How?

First of all, acknowledge the fact you need to prepare, prepare, prepare!

Be prepared

Remember, the competency-based interviewer are seeking answers that are based on your past experience in certain situations, and you need to have a detailed answer.

One method you should consider utilising is known as, STAR.

  • Situation - Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work.
  • Task - Describe your responsibility in that situation.
  • Action - Describe how you completed the task or deal with the challenge.
  • Result - Explain the outcome/result. It may be helpful to emphasize what you accomplished, or what you learned.

It may feel quite repetitive as you answer the ongoing questions from the interviewer, but it's a good method to keep focused, on-track, and to the point; being concise in this style of interview is a good thing.

When a question is asked, you can structure your response something like the following (by no means this is the only way of course):

"The Situation I found myself in was X, and because of this situation, I was responsible for X; given my objective of O. The Actions I took for these where, A, B, and C. After taking these decisive actions, the end Result was Y (and I learned Z).

You can of course mix it up and use different words than I to keep it slightly less repetitive, more your own style and a lot less rigid, but please ensure you use the STAR method in sequential order.

The example phrases I give is small, but remember you are telling a story, make your interviewer feel that way, express the actions you took, and ensure there is a connection to the situation you've described in just enough detail.

If you can attribute any metric in your story, make sure you highlight it in your situation and in the end result, again so there is a connection between the two.

Your goal is to help your interviewer understand the situational context all the way through to the end result.


Once you understand this method, it's time to put in a real effort to prepare yourself.

Open up your favourite word processor etc. and find a bunch of sample questions, and go through and answer each one using the STAR method.

Below is a small list, but there are many you can Google for, and over time, you can build your back catalogue:

  • Tell me about an occasion when you provided exceptional service to a client or stakeholder.

  • Tell me about a time when you failed to deliver.

  • Give me an example of a time when you successfully persuaded others to do something.

  • Describe a situation where you have identified the need for change in a business.

Why do this?

  • This will help reinforce the STAR method

  • Provide yourself a good sum of situations you've been in in the past. It's important to have a back catalogue if you will, of ready situations you can draw upon.

You of course cannot prepare for everything, which is why putting in this effort now will give you the tools at your disposal to be more agile on day.

Be prepared for follow-up questions, some, but not all questions, the interviewer may dive further into a situation you have described, this is just a warning, and another thing to prepare for. It's hard, because you may not remember further information about that particular situation. Be honest with the interviewer if that is the case; otherwise, describe another thin layer of detail that you believe will satisfy the follow-up question.


Final thoughts

I cannot stress enough that preparation is quite necessary, if however, you are sitting many interviews, you may not need to prepare as much each time. This is where your previous preparation becomes a valuable asset.

Before each competency interview, scan through your prep-material the night before and/or just before the interview.

Utilise the STAR method, yes, it's repetitive (I keep saying that :P), I know, but interviews for a lot of people can be stressful, by utilising a method that you can follow each time can really relieve a little bit of stress.

Your back catalogue will prove useful for years to come, you can refer back to your content and it will help you recall situations that occurred in previous job roles you've held.


Now, go on, prepare yourself, you can do it!

You can do it


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