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Planning a better future
Planning a better future

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8.5 Answering questions

Whatever the nature of the job, the interviewer will be focusing on three related groups of characteristics: your personal, professional and achievement profile. It’s your task to provide evidence in your answers that demonstrates these characteristics.

  • Personal profile:
    • intellectual ability
    • communication skills
    • listening skills
    • confidence
    • job motivation
    • energy and drive
    • endurance
    • development
    • financial motivation.
  • Professional profile:
    • knowledge
    • reliability
    • integrity
    • commitment.
  • Achievement profile:
    • effectiveness
    • efficiency
    • economy.

You also need to be prepared to adapt your responses to the different kinds of question:

  • Specific questions invite factual replies, often with a technical content, e.g. ‘What problems did you encounter in the early planning stage of the building extension?’
  • Open questions can be used by skilled interviewers to encourage expansive replies incorporating both facts and attitudes or feelings, e.g. ‘Tell me about the three years you spent studying for your NVQ’.
  • Hypothetical questions test a candidate’s speed and quality of thought, e.g. ‘What if the policy changed to carrying more freight by rail?’ In reply, be methodical, state the assumptions that you’re making, and say where you’d need more information, e.g. ‘Would this just be in the UK or the whole of Europe?’ There is usually no right or wrong answer – the interviewer is looking for logical, clear thinking.
  • Competency-based questions look for you to talk about your skills, qualities and competencies relating to the job. The basic idea of a competency-based question is that if you can demonstrate that you did something in the past, you can do it in the future. These questions would normally ask for an example of a situation in which you have shown that skill, and how you would deal effectively with it. Questions often begin ‘Can you tell us a time when ...’.
  • Technical questions ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of specialist language. These often feature in engineering, scientific and IT interviews.