An essential step in the employment process is interviewing qualified candidates. An interview is a structured conversation where one participant asks questions, and the other provides the answers. It refers to a conversation between an interviewer and an interviewee.
The interviewer’s main task is to collect reliable, complete and high-quality information, for instance, the candidate’s demonstration of knowledge and suitability for the role being filled. The interviewee, also known as the respondent, is selected to answer the questionnaire posed by the interviewer, or a panel of interviewers. But what is the best way to answer these questions? Below are a few pointers to consider:
The inevitable question that many interviewers ask is “Tell me about yourself?” Here the interviewees must state what qualities make them a great fit for this position, and share some positive or unique attributes about themselves. The response to this question can set the tone for the rest of the interview. The interviewee should:
State past experiences and successes that are related to the role;
Mention how their current job relates to the position;
Focus on strengths and their abilities that can be supported with an example; and
The order of the answers can either be: Present, past, future or past, present, and future.
“Tell me about your greatest weakness.”
Interviewees need to answer this question intelligently. If they are applying for a job at an accounting firm, they should not state a weakness that is a critical success factor for that role, such as saying they are not detail orientated, as this may be a core competency for this type of industry. Interviewees should instead focus on relevant areas of concern that they are actively working on, which will not affect their ability to do the job. For example, for accounting, they could say that they are not necessarily a creative person. This is the better answer because accountants should not be innovative about numbers, but factual.
“What is your biggest strength?”
Interviewees need to communicate confidently without being boastful by keeping their response to the point. For instance, they could say their most significant strength is the ability to focus and complete assigned tasks within the deadline.
The questions that most people struggle with during interviews are undoubtedly related to past experiences and their behaviour. For these questions, a Context Action Result (CAR) technique can be the solution. It is important to note that an interviewee will be required to provide an example of how this has been demonstrated. They should be mindful to provide recent examples within the last two years.
‘Context’ is about describing a situation and setting the scene for a relevant example from the past. ‘Action’ is about explaining what action is taken, while the ‘Result’ is about detailing the outcome of that specific action. An example of the CAR technique is listed below:
Interviewer: “Share an experience where you were inundated with several tasks at once, ahead of an important deadline. How did you manage the situation?”
Context: “It was during the third quarter, and all accounts had to be reconciled by the end of the week. We had more customers in the business than any previous quarter.”
Action: “While I prefer balancing the accounts myself, I made a quick decision to allocate 50 percent of the workload to three colleagues and implemented a time-plan to meet the deadline.
Result: “We were a day ahead of the deadline and were rewarded a bonus for our efforts.”
In the above response, the interviewee demonstrated three transferable skills: decisiveness, delegation, and time management.
Towards the end of the interview, interviewers will ask respondents if they have any questions. This is where interviewers will assess an interviewee’s preparedness for the vacancy. The interviewee should ask a couple of questions, but they should not ask about salaries and time off, which are details that should be discussed more during the next phase of the recruiting process should they be the successful candidate. The right question to ask could be: “Is there anything else I should add about my job experiences and what is the company’s culture?
Lastly, interviewees should be aware that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviours. In interviews, they should highlight how well they behaved to showcase how well they will perform for an employer in the future.
* Chantelle Reid is Bank Windhoek’s Recruitment Manager