If you’re preparing for a job interview, it’s important to plan for all eventualities – including all of the different types of job interview questions you might be asked.
So, to help you in your interview preparation, in this blog I’ll outline three different types of interview questions, why they’re asked and how you should answer them.
To keep things really simple to start with, below I break down the three types of interview questions you’re likely to encounter – and explain why they are asked. This is crucial to know, as you can then articulate your answers to address what your interviewer really want to know about you, including what you’ve achieved and how you respond under pressure.
Situational: To give you the opportunity to display your approach to a specific scenario and how you would handle it. The interviewer may ask for an example to demonstrate your previous approach to such a scenario.
Competency-based: To test how you have previously used the skills essential to the role you have applied for.
Behavioural: To assess your character – specifically how you have approached potentially challenging situations, in order to understand how you would do so again if you were to be hired.
It’s important to bear in mind that not all interview questions you’re asked will fall into these distinct three categories. There is often some overlap in the way questions are asked, and therefore the way you should answer – but the below examples will help you enter your next job interview with confidence, assured that you can answer the most common types of questions that will be directed your way.
As I said above, situational interview questions are based on specific scenarios that could conceivably await you in the new role. They seek to deter you from simply providing pre-packaged, generalised, scripted statements about your skills and experience, to focusing on a given hypothetical situation and how you would handle it.
Situational interview questions can be difficult to answer, as you are required to think on the spot – which in itself is a skill the interviewer is testing you on. Answering these questions well can prove that you are willing to take the lead or ask for help, stay calm under pressure, and make positive choices that help you to overcome any situation you’ll be faced with in the job.
Before answering a situational question, take a moment to fully understand what it is you’re being asked. For example, is the interviewer looking for evidence of your time management skills? Do they want to find out how you manage conflict?
For more information on how to handle questions that could involve you talking about mistakes. A useful piece of advice here is to reflect on a general oversight or error of judgement, as opposed to a mistake that led to more serious consequences.
Competency-based questions are designed to test your specific skills and attributes. An interviewer who wants to know more about your technical skills, for instance, may ask how you used Microsoft Excel in a previous role. Alternatively, if it is your communication skills that they are looking to assess, they may ask you to cite an example of a time when you built up a strong professional rapport with someone. While these questions may often seem to be situational (we did warn you there’d be some overlap between the types of questions!), competency-based questions are far less likely to be hypothetical, and enable you to draw directly on real-life examples.
Again, as with situational job interview questions, before answering, you should take a moment to think about what the interviewer is really asking or looking for.
Behavioural questions are asked to elicit information from you on how you would be likely to handle any of a range of real-world challenges based on your previous behaviour facing a similar circumstance. Whereas situational questions decipher how you would approach certain scenarios, and competency-based questions prove you have the skills required for the role, behavioural questions ascertain if you have the character traits the interviewer is looking for.
Such questions tend to be based on the principle that a candidate’s past behaviour is the best predictor of their future behaviour, and can touch on such aspects as your ability to work as part of a team, client-facing skills, adaptability, time management skills and more.
By familiarising yourself with these common types of interview questions, you will be able to better position yourself as a candidate who can be depended on to deliver an instant impact and make the right decisions. You’ll be able to show your value at the interview stage to an extent that wouldn’t be possible through the obvious ‘templated’ interview answers alone.
Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.
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