How confident would you be If at your next job interview you knew the questions before they were asked? Even better what if you had the answers. Working out what the questions will be is not that difficult once you understand the process every interview panel uses. Knowing the questions is not the same as knowing the answers but with a little effort in advance you can come up with a unique model answer. Is this cheating ? No it's just good interview technique and a little inside knowledge.
The HR procedures are very specific, questions must relate to the person specification. So questions are about the experience, skill and knowledge , specified as essential in the person specification. There may not be sufficient time for a question on each element/ line of the person specification document but the well prepared candidate will assume there will be.
You might not be able to work out the exact wording of the questions but often they are simply a rephrasing of the line in the person specification into a question. Typically a person specification for any management post in a local authority would look like this.
Person specification manager
Managing a budget
Managing a staff group
Working in a complex organisation
Excellent communication skills
Good negotiating skills
Understanding of equal opportunities in relation to service delivery and employment
Understanding of performance management - targets setting, performance indicators ,bench marking, league tables, monitoring reports,
Degree or degree standard education
Evidence of commitment to professional development (courses and conferences)
Experience of managing a ( large) budget as an interview question becomes, " Tell us how you would go about identifying ways to deliver a 3% budget cut",
"If half way through the financial year it became clear you were heading for a budget over spend what steps would you take? "
Experience of managing a (large) staff group as an interview question becomes ," How would you get to grips with absence management?" "Tell us about your experience in dealing with poor performance ?"
Experience of transforming services as an interview question becomes, " What changes in the way staff work have you introduced and how did you over come any opposition to these changes?"
Questions around communication skills, negating skills and political sensitivity could be around partnership working e.g. "Give us an example of your involvement in a partnership, what were the issues for staff, Trade Unions, politicians, and how were these resolved?". "Some times elected members vote for a strategy and then those same members lead a local campaign in their ward against its implementation. Can you explain this apparent contradiction and its implication for officers?"
Questions around equal opportunities might be " How would you increase the service take up of under represented groups?" "What are the advantages of a diverse staff group, what management issues does such a group throw up and how should these be addressed?"
Questions on performance management would be on how do you monitor performance? " How would you respond to the complaint that monitoring arrangements that made comparisons between teams was naming and shaming ? "
Any candidate might struggle to answer these questions if caught cold but all candidates should be able to come up with an answer if given time to think about it in advance of an interview as these are all situations a manager has or can expect to address. In preparing answers based on your experience one person who knows what you have done is your line manager. It's not cheating to seek their help in preparing for an interview.
The panel will have several candidates to interview, it's intense work and they will want breaks In-between candidates so they won't appreciate candidates who over run their slot. Candidates should not assume that responsibility for managing the interview time rests solely with the panel. The impressive candidate manages the time so that they are not cut off for over running or lose the panels interest by taking too long to get to the point.
Blair McPherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk