Interview question bank

  • A bank of generic questions which can be tailored to support your forthcoming interview.

  • Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Have you experienced a department/company re-organisation?
    • Tell me about your experience?
    • Why did the organisation need to change?
    • How did you feel about the changes?
    Change focused
    As a manager/team-leader have you experienced a department re-organisation?
    • How did you prepare your team for this re-organisation?
    • What challenges did this re-organisation pose to you and your team?
    • How did you handle it?
    • From your experiences what would you do differently next time around?
    Change focused
    Tell me about the last time you had to cope with a significant change to your daily activities.
    • What led to the change?
    • How did you feel about it?
    • What did you do to cope?
    Change focused
    Give me a recent example of when you have experienced a set-back.
    • Describe the situation.
    • How did you react to the problem?
    • To what extent did others see how you were feeling?
    Change focused
    Can you think of an example where your plans have been upset by sudden changes?
    • Describe the situation.
    • What did you do to cope?
    • Could you plan to reduce the likelihood of it happening again?
    Change focused

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Can you give me an example of when communication has broken down?
    • How did you deal with this?
    Communication skills
    Can you give an example of a time when you faced a conflict situation at home or work?
    • With hindsight, how might you tackle a similar situation in future?
    Communication skills
    Give me an example of a time you challenged someone's authority?
    • What was the background?
    • What did you do to show you disagreed?
    • What was the outcome?
    Communication skills
    Give me an example of a time when you were unfairly criticised.
    • Why was this?
    • How did you respond?
    • What was the outcome?
    Communication skills
    Tell me how you prepare for a meeting?
    • What do you do?
    • How much time do you take to prepare?
    • How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the meeting?
    Communication skills
    Tell me how you prepare for a presentation?
    • Can you give me an example of a presentation where you were highly praised?
    • What do you think were the reasons for that praise?
    • How did you ensure your presentation was suitably persuasive?
    • What did you do to handle any opposition or difficult questions from the floor?
    • How did you go about conveying complex information?
    Communication skills
    This job requires a fair amount of giving presentations to staff from other departments, and sometimes to members of the public. Which aspects of your experience to date would help you take on this sort of responsibility?   Communication skills
    How do you ensure that your team is fully briefed about latest developments?
    • Can you give me some examples?
    • How do you check that your communications have been received and understood?
    Communication skills
    Give me an example of a time you had to communicate some bad news to your team/colleagues?
    • How did you prepare?
    • What was the reaction to the news?
    • How did you deal with those reactions?
    • As a result of your experience were there any key learning points you would apply the next time round?
    Communication skills
    Can you tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak up in order to be sure other people knew what you thought or felt?
    • How did you prepare?
    • What was the reaction to the news?
    • How did you deal with those reactions?
    • As a result of your experience were there any key learning points you would apply the next time round?
    Communication skills

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    How much contact have you had with customers?
    • What do you like about dealing with them?
    • How do you look after their interests in the organisation?
    Customer focused
    Give me an example of when you put a customer first?
    • What sacrifices did you have to make?
    • What impact did this have on your other activities?
    • How was this seen by others?
    Customer focused
    Describe a time in the last six months when you had to help a customer?
    • How did you find out about their real needs?
    • Why did they come to you?
    • How well did you manage to meet their needs?
    Customer focused
    Tell me about the last time that a customer made an excessive or unreasonable demand of you?
    • What made them so demanding?
    • What did you do to assist them?
    • How much time did this take?
    Customer focused
    What experience have you had dealing with difficult customers?
    • Can you give me a specific example?
    • What happened?
    • How did you handle the situation?
    • Why were they difficult?
    • What did you have to do to resolve the situation?
    Customer focused
    Give me a recent example of when you negotiated a successful customer transaction?
    • What did you negotiate?
    • How did you win the person round?
    • How did you know that they were really convinced?
    Customer focused
    Give me an example of when you have had to respond to a customer's objections?
    • What were their objections?
    • How did you challenge their views?
    • How effective were you?
    Customer focused
    Can you give me an example of when you have had to resolve a customer complaint or issue?
    • How did you handle it?
    Customer focused

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    What are the difficult decisions you face in your current job?
    • When making a decision, what do you consider?
    • What are the implications of your decisions?
    Decision making
    You mentioned earlier having to make some difficult decisions in that role.
    • What was the most difficult decision?
    • Why was it particularly difficult?
    • How did you weigh up the various options?
    Decision making
    How do you deal with the pressure of deadlines/extra work/decisions?   Decision making
    Can you describe a situation when you had to take a calculated risk?
    • What was the outcome?
    • What did you learn from your experience for the next time?
    Decision making
    Describe the last time you had to make a spur of the moment decision.
    • Why did it have to be made so quickly?
    • How did your decision affect others?
    • What would you do differently if you could do it again?
    Decision making
    Give me an example of when you have had to work without any guidance.
    • Why was this?
    • How did you cope?
    • What feedback did you receive?
    Decision making
    Describe an occasion when you took responsibility for making a key decision.
    • What was your decision?
    • How and why did you defend your position?
    • What was the possible impact of a poor decision?
    Decision making
    Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to be as objective as possible when reaching a decision.
    • What were the facts you had to review?
    • How did you weight the different pieces of information?
    • Looking back, what do you think of your decision?
    Decision making

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    How do you ensure that your people have and maintain the skills to do their work?
    • How do you measure this against their performance?
    Developing people
    Tell me about someone you have helped to develop who has subsequently gone on to achieve career advancement?
    • What did you do?
    • How do you feel about developing people?
    • Has there been anyone you feel you have been unable to develop?
    • Why?
    Developing people
    Can you tell me about a time you treated a team member’s mistake as a learning exercise?
    • What was the response from the individual concerned?
    • Did you have to justify your approach to a higher manager?
    • What was their reaction?
    Developing people
    How do you go about ensuring that newly appointed members of your staff settle in as quickly as possible?  

    Developing people

    Motivation

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    When was the last time you learnt a new skill at work?
    • What was the skill?
    • How did you apply your learning?
    • What feedback did you receive about your performance?
    Developing self
    What particular strengths and knowledge would you bring to the department?
    • What areas do you want to develop?
    • Why?
    Developing self

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    What do you find de-motivating?
    • Give me an example of a situation in which you felt strongly de-motivated?
    • What did you do?
    • How did you react?
    • What happened?
    Emotional resilience
    Think of a time when you were under a great deal of pressure and had to work really hard to get on top of the situation?
    • What was the cause of the pressure?
    • How did you feel and react?
    • What impact did this have on your work?
    Emotional resilience
    Describe a crisis you have handled recently?
    • What caused it?
    • What did you do to resolve it?
    • What were your feelings at the time?
    Emotional resilience
    Tell me about a time recently when you have had to make an unpopular decision?
    • Who did it affect?
    • Why did the situation arise?
    • What did you do?
    • What was the result?
    • What did you learn?
    Emotional resilience
    Think back to the last time someone criticised a piece of work you did?
    • What was the criticism?
    • Did you think it was justified?
    • What did you do about it?
    Emotional resilience
    Most people find that sometimes they have to face up to disappointments.
    • Tell us a time when that happened to you?
    Emotional resilience
    Describe a time in any job you’ve held when you were faced with problems or pressures which tested your ability to cope.   Emotional resilience
     

    Please tell us about a time when you made a mistake at work. 

    • How did you feel when this occurred? 
    • What did you do? 
    • What, if anything, did you learn from this experience    
    Emotional resilience 
    Please describe an experience in which you were faced with a difficult dilemma at your job, a situation where you found it hard to decide what to do. What factors did you consider? 
    • What did you do? 
    • What, if anything, did you learn from this experience?’ 
    Emotional resilience 

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    What strengths do you think you have which allow you to influence people?
    • Can you illustrate this with any examples?
    Influencing
    Give me an example of a time recently when you have needed to influence someone?
    • What were you trying to achieve?
    • What did you do?
    • What was the result?
    Influencing
    Describe a situation when you were unable to persuade someone around to your point of view?
    • What did you do?
    • Why didn't it work?
    • What feedback did you get about your approach?
    Influencing
    What are your strengths in terms of influencing people?
    • How often do you find yourself influencing others?
    • How do you compare to others in this area?
    • Are there areas where you could make yourself more effective at influencing others?
    Influencing
    Tell me about the last time that you won a group of people round to your way of thinking.
    • What was your opinion?
    • How did this contrast with the group's original position?
    • What were the key things that you did which persuaded the group?
    Influencing
    Tell me about the last time that you persuaded someone to your point of view?
    • How did you put over your ideas?
    • What kind of agreement did you reach?
    • On reflection, what would you do differently next time?
    Influencing
    Can you give me an example of an occasion when you had to ask someone to do something they didn’t want to?
    • How did you get them round to your way of thinking?
    Influencing

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Everyone finds some people easier to work with than others.
    • What types of people do you find easier to work with?
    • How do you approach people who are less easy to work with?
    Interpersonal skills
    Describe an occasion when something at work was causing you to feel negative or fed-up.
    • What had caused these feelings?
    • How did you approach your work at the time?
    • What impact did this have on you, your friends or colleagues?
    Interpersonal skills
    Give me an example of a sensitive problem you have had to deal with?
    • How did you go about it?
    • What was the result?
    Interpersonal skills

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    How do you go about ensuring that newly appointed members of your staff settle in as quickly as possible?  

    Developing people

    Motivation

    What motivates you?
    • Give me an example of a time when you felt particularly motivated.
    • What most strongly motivates you to work hard?
    • How does this show itself?
    • What de-motivates you?
    Motivation
    Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get the job done?   Motivation
    How do you motivate others?
    • Give me an example?
    • Tell me about a time when someone has motivated you?
    • What did they do?
    Motivation
    All work has its tedious/monotonous/repetitive elements and this department may be no exception. Tell me about a situation when you had to complete a particularly tedious task?
    • What did you do?
    • How did you feel?
    • What did you learn?
    Motivation
    Can you give me an example of a time when you had to motivate your staff to do a job which they found boring?
    • What did you do?
    Motivation
    How do you go about ensuring that newly appointed members of your staff settle in as quickly as possible?   Motivation
    How would you describe your approach to work?
    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your work style?
    Motivation
    Thinking now about the position in question, what made you apply?
    • What aspects of the job appeal to you most?
    Motivation
    How does this position fit in with your career plans?
    • Where will you be in five years time?
    • What elements of this job will satisfy your career aims?
    Motivation
    How do you define success in your current role?   Motivation
    Describe the most creative work related project which you have carried out.   Motivation

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Tell me how you normally cope with a lot of work.
    • Where do you start?
    • What do you do to ensure it all gets done?
    • How do you feel when you have so much to do?
    Planning and achieving
    How do you go about planning your daily tasks?   Planning and achieving
    How far ahead are you able to plan in your existing position?   Planning and achieving
    Give me an example of when you have had to work to an important deadline?
    • How manageable were your timescales?
    • What did you do to ensure that the deadline was met?
    • How would you organise your activities differently next time?
    Planning and achieving
    Describe an occasion when you have had to schedule activities to a timetable?
    • Why were you scheduling/organising activities?
    • What problems did you face?
    • What did you do?
    • What was the outcome?
    Planning and achieving
    Have you been involved in co-ordinating several activities or tasks at once?
    • What did you do?
    • How well did it go?
    • What were the problems?
    • What did you do to overcome them?
    • What happened?
    Planning and achieving
    Give me an example of a time when you were under pressure to complete several projects quickly?
    • What basis did you use to tackle priorities?
    • What happened as a result?
    • How did you feel about that?
    • What have you learned?
    Planning and achieving
    How do you organise/plan for major projects?
    • Give me an example.
    Planning and achieving
    Describe an example of when you have had to plan something for yourself?
    • How did you schedule your time?
    • How did you set priorities?
    Planning and achieving
    Describe a situation when you have been solely responsible for completing a task that was new to you?
    • How did you go about it?
    • What happened?
    Planning and achieving
    Describe the last time you missed a deadline to complete a task.
    • Why did this happen?
    • How responsible were you for this?
    • What did you do to try to overcome the problems?
    • What lessons did you learn?
    Planning and achieving
    Tell me about a situation in which you had to cope with a particularly demanding task.
    • What did you do to ensure you coped?
    • How did you feel?
    • How often do you get asked to achieve difficult goals?
    Planning and achieving
    Tell me about the last time you exceeded your personal targets.
    • Why do you think you exceeded the targets?
    • How did it compare with other targets you had set yourself?
    • How well did you do?
    Planning and achieving
    Tell me about your most important achievement in the past two or three years?
    • Why has it been important to you?
    Planning and achieving

     

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Describe a recent technical problem you dealt with and its solutions.
    • How did you notice it?
    • What did you notice?
    • What was the result of you efforts?
    Problem solving
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Which is most important; technical project management skills or softer management skills?    Project Management
    What other business skills do you bring to the role of project manager apart from project management?   Project Management
    You have to deliver a large scale business change project, what's the first piece of information you would request?   Project Management
    How do you resolve conflict in your project team?   Project Management
    How do you get the best out of your project team?   Project Management
    Describe a difficult situation that with hindsight you could have handled better?   Project Management
    What would your project sponsor/ major stakeholders / project team say about you?   Project Management
    Describe how you have undertaken the practical application of project methodology for a programme or project?   Project Management
    Give an example of how you tackle the initiation of projects?   Project Management
    Can you give an example of when it has been difficult to maintain your own effectiveness due to external changes or pressures?   Project Management
    How do you manage your customers and stakeholders expectations?   Project Management
    How do manage conflicting resource demands on your projects?    
    What will be your key target/key performance indicator in this job if we appoint you?   Project Management
    Describe the steps you take when starting to plan a project for the first time?   Project Management
    How would you go about tracking the resource requirements and ensure resources are in the right place at the right time?   Project Management
    Describe your method of risk analysis and planning.   Project Management
    Tell me about a project you were working on that had a significant change – how did you go about re-planning and which tools assisted you?   Project Management
    How do you manage a team member on a project who is not meeting deadlines?   Project Management
    Tell me about a project you managed that wasn’t quite as successful as you would have liked.
    • What were some of the reasons it fell short of your expectations?
    • What are some of the things you would do differently now?
    Project Management
    What are some of the creative things you’ve done to reward people on your team for good work?   Project Management
    What are the most effective ways to prevent / address scope creep?   Project Management
    How do you go about estimating the size of a project?   Project Management
    How would you cope with complexity and ambiguity?   Project Management
    How do you envisage the majority of your time will be spent in this role?   Project Management
    Have your ethics as a project manager ever been challenged?
    • Describe the situation and the action you took.
    Project Management

    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    What sort of professional standards have you had to adhere to in the past?
    • Why were they important?
    • What difficulties did you encounter maintain them?
    • How did you ensure that others also complied with these standards?
    Quality focused
    How do the standards which you set yourself compare to those of others?
    • Which activities do these relate to?
    • How do you evaluate your performance?
    • What feedback have you received from others about the quality of your work?
    Quality focused
    Give me an example of when time pressures prevented you spending a lot of time on a task?
    • What implications did this have for the quality of your work?
    • How did you ensure that the task was done properly?
    • What would you do differently in the future?
    Quality focused
    Describe an occasion when you questioned some information before making a decision.
    • Why was that important?
    • What questions did you ask?
    • What did you do with the new information?
    Quality focused
    Give me an example of when you had to be extremely careful when checking your facts.
    • What were the critical details you had to check?
    • How much did you probe the information given to you?
    • How much time pressure were you under?
    • What suggestions did you come up with?
    • What did others think of your ideas?
    • How well did they work in practice?
    Quality focused
    Give me an example of a time you have improved the efficiency or quality of something at work?
    • What was the situation?
    • How did you notice the opportunity?
    • What did you do?
    Quality focused
    Can you give me an example of when you have improved processes and suggested a better way of doing something?   Quality focused
    Can you give me an example of when you have had to improve standards in your job to meet either customer or department objectives?   Quality focused
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Give me an example of a time when you had to use your fact-finding skills to acquire information in order to solve a problem.   Research
    What has been the most difficult situation in which you had to collect information?
    • Why was it difficult?
    • What questions did you ask?
    • What did you do with the new information?
    Research
    What are your best four research publications since 2008? (Note: four post-2008 outputs will be needed for the Research Excellence Framework submission in 2013 unless they have only just started their academic career.)
    • Which one do you regard as your very best - the one you are most proud of?
    • And why?
    Research
    Can you outline your publication plans for the next year or two?   Research
    What is the strategic direction of your research i.e. overall goals/ambitions?   Research
    What research grant applications are you planning for the next 2-3 years?   Research
    Could you cite some examples of your national/international esteem?   Research
    What experience have you had in supervising PhD students to completion? (Note: applicants are not always very clear in their application about this.)   Research
    What support do you consider needs to be in place to ensure research students complete ‘on time’? (Note: full-time research students should aim to complete within 3 years, or soon after.)   Research
    In regards to research contribution what will you bring or add to the department? (Note: this checks whether the candidate done his/her homework to find out about colleagues’ research areas or the key areas of research strengths to which they could contribute and complement.)   Research
    Can you give an example of a collaborative research project with which you been involved or taken the lead?
    • How do you ensure that a collaborative project is successful?
    Research
    How would you approach the role of mentoring and developing early career researchers?   Research
    What is your experience of managing research project budgets?   Research
    What strategies can you suggest would increase the number of research students in the department?   Research
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    What is the most important thing you have done to increase revenue?
    • What prompted you?
    • What long term impact did you have?
    • How could you have increased this further?
    Revenue focused
    What sort of opportunities do you have to reduce costs?
    • Tell me about a time when you made some cost savings in the past.
    • How did you choose where to make the savings?
    • How much money do you think you saved?
    Revenue focused
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Give me an example of a time when you saw and acted upon a a good opportunity for your area.
    • What was this opportunity?
    • Why did you think it was so worthwhile?
    • What was the result of your effort?
    Strategic thinking
    What are the key factors do you feel may have an impact on higher education in the next three years?   Strategic thinking
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Tell me about a previous job in which you have worked as part of a team?
    • What was your role and contribution?
    Team working
    What did you do in your last job to make a contribution towards teamwork?
    • Can you give me an example?
    Team working
    How would describe the way you work in a team?
    • What role do you usually take on?
    Team working
    Tell me about a time someone in your team wasn't pulling their weight?
    • How would you handle it?
    Team working
    When covering for others, how do you go about handling enquiries when you don't know the answer?   Team working
    Give me an example of when you had to organise a team and rely on them to perform a complex task?
    • How many people were involved?
    • Over what period of time?
    • What deadlines were there?
    • Was there any external pressure?
    • What happened?
    • Did you have any problems?
    Team working
    As a manager/team leader have there been any difficult issues involving other team members that you have had to deal with?    
    Main question Follow-up questions Category
    Give me a recent example of when you showed initiative.
    • What were the circumstances?
    • How did you show initiative?
    • What was the result?
    Using initiative
    Describe the last time you had to make a spur-of-the-moment decision.
    • Why did it have to be made so quickly?
    • How did your decision affect others?
    • What would you do differently if you could do it again?
    Using initiative
    Give me an example of when you have had to work without any guidance.
    • Why was this?
    • How did you cope?
    • What feedback did you receive?
    Using initiative
    Tell me about a time when you referred upwards for help.
    • What was the background?
    • Why did you need help?
    • To what extent do you still seek advice in this area?
    Using initiative