To succeed at interviews you need the following:
- An excellent understanding of yourself and in particular your strengths (we recommend jobmi.com to identify your strengths), your motivations (what drives you to succeed and make career decisions) and examples to demonstrate skills and achievements. You need to be the professional version of your usual self and not an actor who has rehearsed lines.
- An excellent understanding of the company, industry/sector and role.
- Good interview skills and technique developed booking a practice interview with https://business-bham-csm.symplicity.com/students/
Career Motivation questions
You need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the company and the role. Don’t just recite information from their website. Also, don’t be negative about former employers or colleagues, but focus on the positive reasons for applying for this job. You may also be asked about how you see your career developing and what motivates you in your career.
These are the questions with a typical format of “Tell me about a time when you have demonstrated xxx skill”. If you are well prepared there should be no surprises with these questions. Make sure that you describe what you did in a positive way which gets across your contribution, level of responsibility and achievements. Draw on a variety of examples for different questions. Don’t exaggerate (the interviewer will spot it and will ask further questions), and keep your answers structured, focused and relevant by using Situation, Task, Action, Result.
- Situation – briefly describe the situation
- Task – if applicable, outline your objective/aim
- Action – using active language e.g. I managed, organised, resolved – detail what you did
- Result – finish with the outcome
Commercial / Business Awareness questions
You should be ready to demonstrate knowledge of current business issues and current affairs affecting the organisation and the sector. Reading newspapers and business/finance news sites such as The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg, Reuters, E Financial News, The BBC, will give you a good overview. However it's important that you are also reading business to business publications for your particular sector, see our examples below. If you can't find the relevant publication for your industry, email us at email@example.com. Most often recruiters are looking for evidence that you have an opinion on what is going on in your sector and that you understand how macro-level issues might impact on your role, department, company or clients. They want to see that you understand how their business works and fits together and that you are genuinely passionate about your sector/industry. They may expect you to have a view on your ideal client and be able to talk about companies performing well or not. Preparing for all of this the night before will be hard so make sure following the business press and/or your particular sector's publications and news is a weekly part of your activity.
Here is a great article containing some excellent resources for industry research; 10 Tools for Understanding and Dissecting an Industry.
Here are sector specific examples:
- Marketing/Digital/PR: Brand Republic, EConsultancy, The Drum, Marketing Week, PR Week, The Guardian Marketing & PR & Media, Mashable.
- HR: Personnel Today, People Management, HR Grapevine, Recruiter.
- Accountancy: Accountancy Age, The Accountant.
- Investments: All of the business sites mentioned above and Investment Week, Euromoney.
Questions about your experience
These are more direct questions about, for example, your professional experience and achievements, technical expertise, academic progress and career/academic choices. If you have anything that might be considered unusual e.g. a low academic grade, a major change of direction or any unexplained time gaps, be prepared to explain these.
These require you to talk about the skills you can bring, your achievements, disappointments, areas for development etc. A thorough reflection of your experiences to date will help you prepare for these questions. Try to be positive, even when talking about something negative that happened – think about what you learned from the experience
Case study and problem solving questions
Case studies – Where you are given a business problem to discuss with the interviewer. Listen carefully (make notes if appropriate), ask questions (make it clear why you are asking them), communicate your thought process, don’t make assumptions, use your common sense. It is more about showing a sound approach to solving the problem rather than reaching a perfect solution. The McKinsey & Co website, www.mckinsey.com, has some advice on how to approach case studies, plus some examples and a video on their ‘Careers’ pages.
Additional resources can be found as follows: Boston Consulting Practice Case. | Oliver Wyman Practice Case. | Bain & Co Practice Case. | Victor Cheng's Case Frameworks. and his website.
Estimation questions – Looking at your problem solving skills but using questions like “How many disposable babies nappies are sold in the UK each year?” You cannot predict the topic, but you can apply a common sense approach. Listen carefully to the information and think logically how you would approach the problem. You may be asked to work it out in your head. Use round numbers and make sensible assumptions. It is not about getting an exact answer – it is about demonstrating a logical and analytical approach.
Questions which should not be asked
You should never be asked about your religion, sexuality, political affiliation or personal circumstances (including marital status and whether or not you have children or plan to start a family). If you are asked questions like this, you can decline to answer.