Interview Techniques – The Basics

If you are preparing for your first ever interview for a role in the recruitment industry, or are a seasoned recruiter looking to refresh your interview skills, we have compiled a handy guide to help you to get through that first stage:

Interview Techniques and Question – The Basics

  1. Prior to attending an interview make sure that you have researched the Company and have found out what it is that they do, who they are and what they stand for. Most companies have a website and this is usually the best place to start. Give yourself plenty of time to research their values – it never fails to impress.
  1. Make sure that you know exactly what position you are going for and know how it fits into their organisation. Rec2Rec Search will have discussed the position with you prior to putting you forward. It is essential that you make notes and pointers. If you are in any doubt, ask again.
  1. Rec2Rec Search will always send you interview confirmation via email. This will include; interviewer names, titles, address, website details, dates and times. Sometimes interviews have to be arranged at short notice. Make sure that you write down the name of the interviewer(s) prior to attending the interview. Sometimes the mind can go blank at the worst possible times.
  1. Make sure that you have made reliable travel arrangements and that you have a good map. This is the one area that can badly let you down. Most smartphones have a Google Maps App. Put the postcode into this prior to departure. Sometimes no matter how well you plan, things can go wrong. Make a note of our telephone number (01484 604604) and take it with you. We may be able to help you out with directions or can call the client to put them in the picture.
  1. Make sure that you know the time of the interview. Arrive 10 minutes early this will give you time to relax and will impress the interviewer.
  1. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Always wear a professional suit and don’t overdo it with jewellery, make-up and scent. Stay away from fashionable items (heavily patterned tights, comedy socks and ties). Ensure that you have appropriate footwear on. Trainers and casual shoes are not advised. An interviewer will make up their mind on whether to employ you based on more than your CV and your capabilities. They are assessing your suitability from a cultural perspective.
  1. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol prior to an interview.
  1. Try to pre-empt any questions that the interviewer may ask you about your CV and have well thought out answers. Be sure that you can confidently explain any gaps or work experience.
  1. At first interview, stay away from contractual / company policy questions such as sickness policy, leave entitlement, policy on leaving early etc. as it may not give the right first impression. All of these questions will have been answered by the end of the entire process.


  1. First impressions are very important. It is said that 90% of interviewers decide the outcome of the interview within the first five minutes so clearly your initial conduct and appearance are vital. It can be very difficult to recover from a bad first impression where as the good one will give you the confidence to build on your initial success.
  1. A strong handshake while maintaining eye contact is a good start. Keeping eye contact will show that you are interested and alert. A winning smile will also help to create the desired impression
  1. Wait to be seated. Sit upright and look interested and maintain good eye contact
  1. Do not ramble – keep your answers concise and clear. Always describe your experiences in a positive way. Don’t be overly negative about your present or former employers – even if you do feel quite negative towards them.
  1. If you do not understand a question, please ask for clarification
  1. Give the interviewer space to talk to prove that you are a good listener as well as a good talker.
  1. Prepare yourself to relay your appropriate background and skills accordingly, whilst following the interviewers leads.
  1. Never answer questions with a yes or a no. Always try to elaborate but remain concise
  1. Don’t exaggerate or lie. You will never secure the position if your interviewer thinks that you are lying.
  1. During the interview if you become unsure about the position do not show it. Remain positive. You may change your mind about the post as more information becomes available throughout the interview.


What is the vision for the company?

Why are the company recruiting for this post?

What training do they offer?

Do the company actively encourage employees to undertake further training?

How will my performance be assessed and monitored?

What are the long -term opportunities?

What attributes do they believe will lead to success in the company?

How long has the interviewer been with the company and how have they progressed?

How does the role fit in to the department and how does the department fit in to the organisation as a whole?


Why did you leave/are you leaving your previous/current job?

What formal training have you received?

What were your daily duties?

Who set your KPIs’?

What were your daily/weekly targets (activity and financial)?

What did you achieve against targets set?

What do you wish to gain from your new role?

Average weekly billing/Average timesheet value/Average perm fees

What was your client base?

How many new clients have you converted?


Competency consists of three parameters- Knowledge , Attitude and Skills.
For example- I might have excellent interpersonal skills or people skills, but I will not be competent to join a company as a Recruitment Professional unless I possess adequate education/experience (Knowledge) and the right temperament/ behaviour (attitude).
When rating skills, you have to determine what abilities are required to perform a job practically but when rating competency, you have to determine the set of abilities/ skills required along with the knowledge and attitude needed for the correct candidate to be employed.

During a competency based interview the questions that are asked are highly role specific and significant, and it is essential that you answer them in the most direct way possible:

You should not drift away from the point while answering these questions, because this will imply that you are inventing your answer or answering without integrity.

You must ensure that you make the interviewer understand the problem (s) that you were facing.

Make sure that you inform the interviewer about the steps that you took as an individual and as a team to ensure that the problem was sorted out effectively

No negativity! You need to ensure the interviewer receives the right impression. Do not apportion blame for the scenario/outcome

You may also tell the interviewer about the successes and achievements that you experienced with these steps.

You can also inform the interviewer as to how you would have handled it differently (given for example further training or experience that you have since received) as opposed to your handling method employed in the scenario

A Frequently used example of the Competency Based Interview:

The interviewer has asked a candidate the following question: “Please describe to me a situation when you have helped a colleague who was in trouble. What was the situation and how did you try to tackle it?”

On the face of it, it seems a fairly straightforward question to answer. However, an experienced interviewer will interrupt you at any point and follow up with all sorts of supplementary questions. Look at the following sample candidate’s response. You will see certain underlined words and phrases, which indicate points at which the interviewer might want to interrupt to ask for further information.

The candidate’s response might go along the lines of the following: “There was a time when Dan, the sales manager, came to me with a problem about his sales performance. He asked for some advice, so I tried to be supportive and make some suggestions. I also helped him on some site visits to customers. And, over the course of the next few months, he listened to my advice and managed to bring his performance up to satisfactory levels again.”

Further questions might include:

  • Time – “When did this happen?” The candidate responds: “This was three years ago, when I’d just moved from the sales department to being the marketing manager. When I left the sales department, they recruited a young sales manager to take over my old role.”
  • Came to me – “Why did he come to you?” The candidate responds: “He came to me because we had good working relationship by that point. It was a small company, so I always tried to meet with new colleagues and explain to them that I was there if they ever needed any help.”
  • Problem – “And what was the sales manager’s problem?” The candidate explains: “Dan wasn’t hitting his sales targets. Dan was a really bright person who was willing to learn – but didn’t have that much sales experience. This may have affected his confidence”
  • Sales performance – “What exactly was wrong with his performance?” The candidate replies: “Dan had two major targets. His first target was that he had to cold call enough companies every month to set up five meetings with prospective clients. His other target was to convert 50% of prospective clients into real customers. He was failing on both of them.”
  • Supportive – “How were you supportive?” The candidate explains: “Dan was on the verge of tears and really frustrated about his poor performance plus he was worried he was going to get fired. The first thing I did was to get him to calm down. I took him out of the office and bought him a coffee and tried to listen to him without judging him.”
  • Suggestions – “So what were your suggestions?” The candidate responds: “After talking to him and understanding that he was failing to meet both of his targets, my first suggestion was that I might listen in on some of his calls. So I spent a few hours one morning listening in on his calls. I discovered that he was telephoning customers without first doing enough research on them. He called them up without knowing anything about their business needs. So I worked with Dan to think about the sorts of facts that he would need to collect before making a call. (this may raise further questions to qualify facts)’
  • Site visits – “Tell me a bit more about what you did on these site visits.” The candidate responds: “I also talked Dan round to letting me attend a couple of sales meetings with him. I observed him and gave him some constructive criticism regarding what he was doing wrong. For example, he was being a bit too aggressive in trying to get the customer to sign on the dotted line there and then. So I persuaded him to give customers more thinking time – which resulted in more of them signing up in the end.”

As you can see, a candidate who did not actually experience that situation would have found it difficult to provide so much detail. From the initial question then, the interviewer could have asked any number of supplementary questions – all of which you would need to be able to substantiate.

Think clearly about the scenario you wish to present for each question – you will need to be able to go into minute detail regarding how you managed the situation and what the outcome was.




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