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The Job Interview Process | Interview Questions and Answers

When you get to the job interview you have achieved your goal. You are now face-to-face with a prospective employer and are competing with other applicants that are equally qualified to win the job.


Don't blow the interview by being ill-informed about the interview process, the different types of questions used and how to

answer them.



This section will assist to recognise various job interview processes, and questions used in job interviews. We will show you how to quantify and qualify your answers to the interviewer's satisfaction.


Designed to be read in conjunction with How To Prepare For Your Interview which is the more practical side of the interview with more comprehensive information about the interview process and valuable interview preparation tips.


Introduction to the Interview process

Types of Job Interviews - questions and answers -

Unstructured interview

Structured interview

Behavioural Interview

Situational Interview

Open and closed questions

Job interview questions and answers and other tips

Ilegal discriminatory job interview questions


Introduction to the job interview process


Invariably there are core interview questions the employer will ask. These relate to your ability to get along with colleagues, how you work in a team, how you handle stress, how you solve problems and how you deal with the public. A common question, for example, relates to handling aggressive clients.  Usually they will ask you for an example of a situation, where you had to deal with an aggressive client. They are asking you to outline the processes you used to go about handling or defusing the situation. Asking for an example from your past work history is called is behavioural interviewing, which will be discussed further, and is a technique you must learn if you want to succeed.


On a higher skill level the interview questions will be more complex.  Nevertheless, they will want to test these same qualities and a lot more including your leadership style/ability, how you handle conflict with a range of people, questions relating to organisational goals, initiative, and any qualities that relate to your job, such as negotiation, performance, outcomes etc. Technical skills are often secondary.

Look at all advertised jobs, not just those in your field, and you will see that in the job criteria the personal qualities and interpersonal skills required outnumber the actual work skills and work experience.

These are the interview questions job seekers don't give much thought to.

No matter what your occupation, communication and interpersonal skills will be tested at the interview. The interviewer will look for good clear thinking and some theoretical knowledge of how you communicate with others. So all applicants must be able to answer these questions adequately. They are just as important or even more so than your work experience. Some of the interview resources on this site will assist you to structure your answers to these hard questions.


To reiterate this point, the following information has been taken from Shell Company’s website for Graduate Recruitment.

 “The person you are is more important than what you studied."

Types of Job Interviews - Questions and answers

There are two types of interviews, the informal unstructured interview and the formal structured interview. Each presents its own challenges to the jobseeker, however the formal approach needs more preparation.

Unstructured Interview

The unstructured interview still occurs across many industries, even in middle management positions. It is often conducted by the decision maker (even though this may be the manager of a department), and it is the best situation for you to be in.  In this scenario, you need only listen to the employer, assess their needs and convince him/her that you can fill those needs and that you are the best person for the job. This is the sales approach to answering job interview questions.

By using effective listening skills you can encourage the employer to talk about the company and his/herself.  You want to find out more about the job and organisation to determine if they are able to match your needs, and if you can fill their needs. However, you need to concentrate on formal interviewing as this is harder.

How to answer questions in an informal unstructured job interview

Use the sales approach in a one-one job interview by:-

  • Listen  80% of the time and speak  20% of the time. 

  • Encouraging the interviewer to talk about him/her self and the company, so you can establish their needs.

To do this you use the “W” questions used by children when they are leaning - what? when? who? where? why?  The trick is to know when to stop them talking. Once they start it may be difficult to get them to stop talking about how good they are that you hardly get a chance to talk and ask questions. In this case you must :-

  • Redirect the interview and bring the interviewer back to listening to you. 

  • Come in at an appropriate stage, i.e. “that is an interesting point, I can assist you here. For example, in my last job we had the same problem."

  • Jump in with a question of your own.

  • Be diplomatic and let the interviewer know that you have had previous experience and understand the difficulties they are having.

You may say, “at  xxxx company we had the same problem and I came up with some ideas and I was able to solve the problem.” Don't be specific. You want to show you can problem solve and demonstrate a few of the processes you used. Don't give them free advice and the benefit of your experience. Also it may be confidential information.

Use the 20% of time you spend speaking, to addressing the important issues the employer has uncovered, and to ask your own questions.

Things you shouldn't do

  • Don’t boast, and certainly don’t be a know-all and do not indicate that you know more than the interviewer.

  • Don’t say you can do it better unless he/she has presented all the facts, so ask questions to clarify the issue.

  • Give them solutions, insofar as you have the expertise to solve their problemsBe succinct and keep to the point. 

  • In any sales situation the prospective buyer wants to know “what is in it for me”.  An employer is a buyer.

By using sales principles at the interview the seller need to sell the benefits of employing you.  If a benefit statement can be answered with a “so what” answer, it is not a benefit. You may want to look at some sales books to show you how to use features and benefits efectively.  Benefit statements are covered in Job Application Marketing Techniques

Structured Interview

This is the formal interview approach where questions have been pre-set to test your work skills, knowledge, communication skills and your ability to handle stress, teamwork, etc., and to find out what sort of person you areThe interview will generally be conducted by the Manager or the Human Resource Manager/Officer.  It may also be a panel interview, or an interview  where a person from your area of work is present.  Be prepared to answer a wide range of questions, especially case study questioning (situational interviewi and behavioural interview)

If a Human Resource Officer conducts the interview there may be a second interview with a technical person or someone from within your area of work - even if this was not stated in the beginning. 

Having gone through the ideal job interview situation , you may be faced with a different scenario. The organised, formal structured approach is one where the interviewer controls the interview. However, the theory and reality of how a job interview should be conducted, can be quite different.  Based on the ideal theory of interviewing (from the employer’s perspective), the purpose of the job interview should be to establish: -

  • Whether the applicant meets the job criteria, which could include a lot of interpersonal skills and attributes and information the employer sees as being important.

  • How well he/she could handle the responsibilities of the job.

  • To select the most suitable applicant.

Source: Winning Staff the EEO Way, Director of EEO in Public Employment. 

If these Equal Employment Opportunity principles are adhered to, it may be harder to implement the sales approach. The interviewer is well organised and has a set of pre-arranged questions designed around the job and the job advertisement.

In a formal job interview two types of job interview questions are used.

Behavioural Interview–  the process of doing the tasks/duties

Example: “ What did you do when…”?

This looks at past behaviour as opposed to beliefs and feelings.

The idea behind the behavioural interview strategy or model is that you can assess past performance to predict future performance.

See behavioural interview examples -resource

Situational Interview

Example: “What would you do if”?

In both the above examples you will have to demonstrate in your answers how you went, or will go about performing the task or duty.  What processes did you, or will you, use?

The problem with the behavioural interview is that it doesn’t allow for maturity, experience or further training etc.

If you can’t come up with a really good example, give them a situation you handled badly and admit that you learned from this and given the same situation you would now do it another way and give them a scenario.  In other words turn it around to a situational scenario.

To reiterate, your interview answers must demonstrate the processes you used to arrive at a decision.  The subject of behavioural and situational interviewing is too specialised to go into it further in this section.  Resources can be found on this site. Nevertheless demonstrating the processes you used in answering most interview questions is generic.

You need to learn, or brush up, on these techniques if you want to perform at the level the employer expects. Behavioural interviewing, in particular, is used for public service and more senior positions. However, the interviewer who is not experienced, may have done some "reading up" on interviewing and will tend to use these questions for the less professional applicant, when sometimes they don't have the skills to interpret the answers. This is always a problem when dealing with unqualified interviewers.

How the formal job interview is conducted

In theory, the job interview will usually be conducted in three parts. The beginning, the middle and the end.

Beginning: Introductions and small talk to make you comfortable. This is an ideal opportunity to build rapport, however be brief in your response. The interviewer will supply you with information about the company and the job and tell you how the interview will be conducted.

The middle:  This will centre on you - questions and answers.  Ask if you can refer to your notes (see further on about taking in a notebook).

The end:  Winding up the interview. Conditions of employment.  The interviewer will ask if you have any questions.

Questions to ask at the interview

There is not much time set aside for questioning because the middle usually goes for longer than the allocated time.  Make sure you check the time before you ask too many questions. 


Making the interviewers late for the next interview may be detrimental to you, even if it was their fault that they went over time.

You need to say that you did have some questions but you noticed they had gone over time so you will be brief.  Let them know that you were interested to know more. They will appreciate this.

In this case you can summarise the job, as you understand it. Then say that you are very interested and you would like to know more about a particular part of the job and ask if you can ring them the following day. 

This will give you the opportunity to review your performance and if you feel that the interview didn’t go your way, or you can improve the impression you made and you will have time to think of questions that may impress them. 

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