Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Interview Preparation - What Questions Will I Be Asked?

When I have contact a candidate with the good news that a client has shortlisted them for an interview, after the initial pleasure often comes an email or call full of questions, or even panic.  What questions will I be asked?  Will they be competency ones?  What are competency questions?  Help!

There are innumerable questions that you could be asked in an interview; one guide that I saw in the past listed 90 different questions!  However, they tend to be grouped into questions focused on a few core areas:

·         Relating to educational achievement

·         Probing work experience and skills

·         Ascertaining personality and attitudes

In any of these areas, the questions could be competency based or not.  Competency based questions are those intended to elicit evidence that you have exhibited certain behaviours that the employer feels are important to carry out the work successfully. 

Typically the employer will have several levels of competence in mind for each behaviour;

1.       Basic understanding of the concepts in a familiar setting

2.       Ability to apply the concepts in a new setting

3.       Detailed understanding of the concepts and integration into workflow

4.       Expert understanding and application in any setting

 They may have positive and negative indicators (example) in mind for each level, for each competency.

Here are some example questions (competency based ones have a (C) after them):

Relating to Education

·         What were your favourite and least favourite subjects in college/university?  Why?

·         Why did you decide to go to university?

·         If you had the opportunity to attend college/university again, what would you do differently?  Why?

·         Describe a time when you were juggling several assignments/priorities (C)

Relating to Experience and Skills

·         Describe your ideal manager / colleague / subordinate

·         What is the greatest accomplishment of your career to date?  Why did you select that one?

·         Tell me about a time you worked as part of a successful team (C)

·         What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

·         What would your last manager describe as your greatest strength?  Weakness?

·         What experience have you had that qualifies you for this job?

·         Tell me about a time when you managed a group to achieve something (C)

·         Describe a situation when you saw an opportunity to change/improve something (C)

Relating to Personality and Attitudes

·         What are your immediate and long-term career goals?

·         What are you looking for in an organisation?

·         Who would give you your best / worst reference?  Why?

·         What did you like most / least about your last job?

·         Tell me about a time when you took a risk (C)

It’s also important to remember that interviews should be a two way conversation – the interviewer will probably ask you whether you have any questions for them.  Having none at all indicates to the employer that you aren’t really interested in their organisation/job!  Make sure you prepare a long list before you go, as they will probably answer some of them during the course of the interview (use the job description and try and imagine doing the work described – lots of questions will probably spring to mind).

There is no way to rehearse answers for all the potential questions you might be asked.  Instead, prepare by working through all your skills and key experiences, matching them up to the requirements of the job description, and having several example situations to hand, ready to use in answer to whatever questions come up.  Preparation is 9/10ths of the way to success!


  1. Hi

    Tks very much for post:

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    Source: Library director interview questions

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  2. Hi Tevez

    Thank you for your comment and for including the link to the Library Director interview questions page, which I'm sure people will find very useful.