How to Prepare for an Entry Level Interview

Your first interview can be extremely nerve wracking!! Everyone around you is suddenly an interview coach and is giving you tips and advice. There’s a lot of pressure on you to land that job – especially if you’ve told all your friends and your family. As the candidate you’ll be expected to do all the same preparation as in any other interview, review the job description carefully, research the company, on the day dress smartly, act professionally and be punctual etc.

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I must admit it’s been a while since I had my first interview. However, it’s irrelevant anyway as interviewing techniques and styles have changed so much over the decades.

There are two key main topics for consideration relating to the entry level interview today and that’s your CV and your motivation for that job. Keep in mind that you’ve been invited to interview and this is great news. The interviewer / hiring manager or recruiter like what you’ve written and want to hear more.

See also: How to Prepare for a Job Interview [INFOGRAPHIC]

Curriculum Vitae



For an entry level interview the questions are likely to focus heavily on the information you’ve included on your CV – so make sure you are very familiar with the information and can back up everything (I mean everything!!). If you’ve claimed a big achievement the recruiter will pull you up on this in the interview and ask you to provide lots of detail.

The types of questions are likely to focus on gathering and understanding your motivational fit – what subject did you really enjoy at school and explain the reasons why? Were there any subjects you didn’t like and how did you cope with the lessons? What were the main reasons for choosing the school subjects, college course or university degree? What module’s did you exceed expectations and what did you do to achieve a good result?

If you are a regularly follower of my blogs you’ll know I’m a big advocate for the traditional behavioural competency style interview. However, I’m always on the lookout for any new methods or styles coming onto the market.

The Strength based interview is a particular style of interviewing featured in People Management Magazine and is gaining some momentum for interviewing graduates or candidates with limited or no work experience.

Here’s some further information on this style of interviewing, what to expect and how to start to prepare.

What is a Strength Based Interview?



The strength based interview is used mainly with candidates applying for entry level jobs and graduate vacancies and is focused on gathering information on a candidate’s motivation – what they really (really!) enjoy doing at work.

See also: How to Research a Company to Prepare for an Interview

It’s an attempt to achieve the perfect fit between the candidate and the organisation. What motivates a candidate in a job and what type of organisation they prefer to work in and the organisation hiring a candidate that fits with the corporate culture and job demands.

Behavioural Competency interview questions = what CAN you do?
Strength based interview questions = what do you ENJOY doing?
Who’s already using the strength based interview style?
Barclays, Nestle, Ernst & Young, Unilever and Standard Chartered are currently using this interview method in their graduate recruitment process.

What are Strength Based Questions?



Here are some typical examples of strength based questions that you may be asked during the interview. Prepare some examples ahead of the interview by writing down some notes at first. Then practice reading out loud the answers and timing yourself. This is really important – you want to get the balance right here, not waffle on and on but not keep answers so short you make the interviewer work really hard to get any useful information from you.

1. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
2. Tell us about something you are particularly proud of?
3. What do you find is always left until last or un-done on your to-do-list?
4. What would you say is your biggest weakness?
5. When would your friends & family say you are at your happiest?
6. Tell me about an activity or task that comes easily to you?
7. What were your favourite subjects at school, college, university?
8. What unique qualities could you bring to the company?
9. Describe a situation in which you feel most like ‘yourself’ – what are you doing or taking part in?
10. What has to happen during the day to make it a successful day?

How do you prepare for a strength based interview?



Well I’ve read that you as the candidate don’t really have to prepare – the whole concept of this type of interview relies on having an honest conversation about likes and dislikes and that a person’s motivation should come from the heart! It’s supposed to generate a genuine response from the candidate and their individual motivators.

See also: Five Questions You Should Never Forget to Ask on Your Interview

However, I still believe it’s possible to prepare yourself for these questions by giving some serious thought and consideration about the type of tasks, the environment, particular working conditions, management style and corporate culture you prefer to work in.

In fact it’s good practice to build these factors into your continuous development plan or career goals and important to understand and align your values with your career.

I particularly think it necessary and sensible to prepare to answer adequately the strengths and weaknesses question.

What are the benefits of using a Strengths Based Interview?



The questions lend themselves well to identifying suitable candidates that are a better fit to the corporate culture and the job. Candidates feel more comfortable talking about likes and dislikes and what they enjoy and find frustrating. They report that they prefer this style of interviewing compared to behavioural competency style interviews.

What are the potential disadvantages of using this method?



Assessing a candidate’s motivational fit is obviously very important and if the research is correct then having motivated staff directly impacts productivity – highly motivated and engaged staff means highly productive staff and that’s obviously good for the organisation.

However, it still seems to me that the process is missing a fundamental part - assessing a candidate’s ability not just their motivational fit. The test of this method having a high predictive validity (a measurement of how well a method predicts the future performance) comes down to understanding if preferences at work equal capability or ability.

Ernst & Young seem to have blended the two – strength based and competency style together and claim it’s given them a more authentic candidate because they are less prepared. It gives their candidates a more positive interview experience.

They felt the change was necessary due to candidates being too polished and rehearsed and they wanted to differentiate themselves from the other big accountancy firms in the city.

Have you had experience of strength based interviews? Please tell us your experience whether you are a candidate going through the process or a hiring manager putting this method into practice?

photo by: newsusa
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