Interview Questions and Answers

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Interview questions and answers

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There are certain questions and answer which are likely to come up in interview one way or another. We can prepare for these….
This part of the site is concerned with the typical questions you may get asked at interview, and how to prepare your answers to them. Most of the time, interview questions and answers are easily worked out in advance. There are certain questions that we know the interviewer is likely to ask. These are standard questions. The second group of questions are those relating to competency interviews, and we will show you the process of preparation for these types of questions. You will find the quick approach, and a more thorough approach to help you.

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Competency based interviewCompetency Based Interview Questions and Answers – The Quick Approach

We describe below a thorough approach to answering competency based interview questions. It is the approach we recommend. However, there are times when you need to prepare quickly. The following approach will get you through the interview looking like a rounded business person who understands the implications of their objectives and actions at work. It will knock the interviewer off the back of their chair! Follow each of the following steps.

Step 1: Find the Competency Requirements

How? Really simple. They will be in the job advertisement, job description or person specification. The following example is taken from a ‘live’ advert. We have made a few changes to protect the employer. In red, we have provided the types of information to look for.

…you will be accountable for driving sales and performance across a number of high performing out of town stores.

In in a 90 minute interview they are unlikely to get through more than 6 to 8 main questions. That’s just how it is. We are making the assumption that the interviewer is professional!
As Regional Manager for this great brand you need to be very engaging, dynamic and constantly striving to achieve sales growth through effective people management, leadership and business planning.

Ultimately, you will be responsible for the profit and loss of your store portfolio and the performance management of your team. This will be achieved by delivering fantastic service which in turn will provide exceptional sales. You will be self motivated with a genuine flair for sales, passionate and a great brand ambassador with a strong coaching management style.

The successful Regional Manager will need the following:

– A proven track record in multi site management as an area manager or regional manager in an assisted retail sales environment.

– Proven leadership skills with the ability to inspire, coach, develop and motivate people to achieve and exceed KPI’s whilst delivering excellent customer service.

– A strategic thinker with the ability to execute and communicate the retail plan set by the senior team

– In addition you must be able to demonstrate a strong background in managing under-performance.

Step 2: Bring the job Requirements Together

Distilling Competency Interview QuestionsIt is easy to get lost in the text. But what are they actually asking for? The recruiter will shape example questions (asking you for an example) against these requirements. From the above advertisement, what they really want is:

  1. Exceeding KPI’s (may include other areas) + exceptional sales +driving sales + sales growth = good sales track record in a multi site environment.
  2. Performance + performance management + managing under-performance + effective people management = driving performance through people.
  3. Delivering fantastic service + customer service = improved customer service.
  4. Leadership skills + inspire, …, motivate + passionate + engaging and dynamic + communicate = developing, motivating and leading teams to success. This is the positive side of 2 above.
  5. Coaching management style + coaching + develop = developing people.
  6. Strategic (this is mentioned only once, so the role is likely to be following others strategy). We just need to cover it off just in case. Creating and reviewing against strategy.

It is the numbers that count. Do I want an employee who focuses on the task, or one that understands the outcomes for the business of that task? If you state numbers in an interview, then it shows that you are a business person rather than a functionary or simply ‘doing a job’.
Why so few? Well, if the interviewer has a main question, and also has ‘probing questions’ that are designed to get more detail from you. In in a 90 minute interview they are unlikely to get through more than 6 to 8 main questions. That’s just how it is. We are making the assumption that the interviewer is professional!

Step 3: Take each Requirement and Match two Achievements with Numbers for each

Achievement numbers for interviewsFor this page, and for brevity, we are only showing examples for 2 of the requirements. You must have at least 2 examples for all 6 areas. That gives you flexibility. For example:

  1. Driving performance through people:
    • Introduced KPI measures to 48 customer-facing members of staff across 6 shops with weekly reviews, and drove profit by £210K in the first year against the previous year.
    • Changed the management structure across 10 stores by taking a layer out of the business and replacing headcount with customer-facing staff resulting in a £56,000 saving and enhanced turnover by £138,000. the model was then replicated in other regions across a further 52 stores. It is estimated that this will increase turnover by a further £1.2m.
  2. Developing people:
    • Acted as coach to 6 reporting members of staff 2 layers down, with 100% being promoted over a 2-year period.
    • Have a portfolio for training delivery and ran 12 events (102 people) in 2014 on effective up-selling with an estimated enhancement to profit of £92,000 from randomly sampling 13 attendees sales figures as compared to the previous year.

Step 4: Remember the Numbers in your Achievements

If you have the achievement numbers in your head, then you can angle your answer to directly answer the question. Simple as that.
It is the numbers that count. Do I want an employee who focuses on the task, or one that understands the outcomes for the business of that task? If you state numbers in an interview, then it shows that you are a business person rather than a functionary or simply ‘doing a job’. Please note that estimates are fine as long as you have a rationale for how you got to the number. Banks lend Billions each year based on business planning estimates. Boards agree initiatives with little more than guestimates at times. It is normal practice.

Once you memorize the number, then you can use them to answer all kinds of questions. Competency based interviews mean that the interviewer is going to ask you:

Can you give me an example of a time that you…?

If you have the achievement numbers in your head, then you can angle your answer to directly answer the question. Simple as that.

Competency Based Interview Questions and Answers – The Thorough Approach

Our aim is that you look like you can react to any competency questions with firm and numerical examples.
You can work out the sorts of areas that the interviewer will focus on, and to some extent, the questions themselves. We cannot emphasise enough that you will need to have worked through your achievements. If you have not done this to date, go to the achievements section, and complete the exercise. This is fundamental to both CV’s and interviews.

Our aim is that you look like you can react to any competency questions with firm and numerical examples. The fact is that you should be able to prepare thoroughly for the interview, and be able to second-guess what questions they will ask you. We have documented this process for CV’s here. Apply steps 1 and 2 as described in ‘How to Tailor Your CV to a Particular Job‘. However, in this situation, you will need to rely more on memory. The process is as follows:

  1. Document all of your achievements. We need an ‘achievements bank’ that has all of your achievements so that you can call on those that are most appropriate to the question the interviewer asks. There are guidelines here.
  2. Once you have your ‘achievements bank’, you can use them for your CV for any appropriate role, and for this section of the site, you can prepare for questions the interviewer is likely to ask. In fact, this method will be so powerful, that as the title of the article states, you will knock the interviewer off their chair.
  3. Now look through the advert, person specification or job description for the role, and note the key words that are emphasised. We have a prepared example in sections 1 and 2 here.
  4. Now go through your ‘achievements bank’, and note the achievements that are closest to each competence that they have stated as a requirement. You do not need to memorise the whole achievement, but for each one, do memorise the numeric value and some of the key words. As you do this, think laterally. Please remember that every achievement required a number of competencies to complete. For example, if we take the following achievement:

Streamlined branch procedures in line with the Operational Risk Manual providing a time saving of 130 people days per year within the branch as a whole (equivalent to £14,000 saving year on year).

It shows the employer that you are switched-on, you understand the impact of the things you have done, and you could do the same for them.
This required competencies in data collection, analysis, influencing, administration, and probably training too. If you memorise this word-for-word, you will probably be script-bound. If you remember the topic and the result, you will then be more able to adjust your language to precisely answer the interviewers question.

Standard Interview QuestionsStandard Interview Questions and Answers

There are certain questions and answer which are likely to come up in interview one way or another. We can prepare for these, and if you have been using this site for a period, you may have already done this work.

Your Career History

Likely to be asked in a number of ways: “walk me through your CV” or, “Take me through your career history to date.”

Bad interviewers ask because they haven’t read your CV or resume. Good interviewers want to get you talking so they can probe some of the things you said. They may also be filling in their competency grid.

Whichever you get, the rules are the same. Prepare a 3-4 minute chronological story. Ensure, no matter what, you bring in 3-4 successes or achievements during the story with hard measures.

Have you ever been interviewed by the police? It’s the same process. They ask you, “Where were you on the night of….” They may then ask, “Take me through your evening from….” They want you to talk, and they simply write down information and notable events. They then come back and question down each line or notable event. They look for inconsistencies in your story beyond the surface story. For interviewers, they are looking for evidence against their competency grid.

How Would you Describe Yourself?

“How would you describe yourself” or, “What would your friends say about you?”

The interviewer is looking for ‘fit’. Bad interviewers want to see if you ’fit’ with them. Good interviewers want to see if you fit’ the team, culture, or working environment. They are also looking for self-understanding. If you don’t understand yourself, how cn you understand other people (staff, stakeholders, senior mangers, customers)?

What we need to highlight are your positive personality traits. You must be truthful as they are likely to ask for examples of how you have demonstrated that trait. So prepare examples as well! If you are unsure of how to describe yourself, use our Personality Questionnaire and then modify the report to more human language.

Strengths and Weaknesses – The Successful Formula

The interviewer wants to know what they are getting. Again you must be honest. They may ask for examples, so prepare them! The good interviewer is looking for someone who is ‘rounded’ and has high levels of self-awareness.

On areas for improvement (AFI) remember the formula:

  1. Admit the weakness and tell them how you know about it.
  2. Tell them what you have done about it to date.
  3. Tell them what further action you are planning on taking.

To help you define your strengths and weaknesses, use the Skills Audit, Personality Test or Cultural Fit Questionnaire.

What Could You Contribute?

This is your real chance to sell. Good interviewers know that the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Other interviewers may want to know what you can contribute to make them look good (hopefully, there are only a few of those).

What we want to do is create a vision in their mind of you doing the job successfully. Pick-off 3-4 key achievements that you feel are directly applicable to the new role and use these. Also 3-4 key skills that are applicable. Remember that ‘ghosting’ is absolutely fundamental to this (putting yourself in their shoes: their issues, their perceived team weaknesses, their personal objectives, etc).

Use the following resources to help you define what you could contribute. The Skills Audit will enable you to define your main skills. The achievements exercise will enable you to define achievements.

What Questions do you Have for me?

Fundamental stuff and this will separate you from your competitors. People remember the first and last things more than anything else during an interaction (all things being equal). This area is fraught with difficulties. If you don’t ask questions, the interviewer might interpret it as disinterest, not listening, unable to consolidate, and lots of other subjective feelings. So, you may as well structure some professional questions that stretch the interviewer and answer a few fundamental needs of your own. Remember that you already have these questions as a result of your Personal Values Inventory.

Interview Questions and Answers Conclusion

Interviews are about preparation, but also about preparing for the right things. The above method has worked well for many people that we have helped. It shows the employer that you are switched-on, you understand the impact of the things you have done, and you could do the same for them. It shows you as a rounded business person rather than someone who will simply do the job role. When you get this right, you really will knock the interviewer off their chair (in the right way).

If you are following a pathway, now move on to interview tips.

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