Seen these icons?

If we have events, jobs or news that are relevant to the page topic, you can access them by clicking on icons next to the print button.

Types of Interview | The Careers Service Types of Interview – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo
Competency interviews

This tends to be the most common interview. Questions asked are structured to reflect the competencies sought by an employer for a particular job. You should be able to find out which competencies the employer is most interested in by looking at the recruitment pages of their website. The job description usually includes a ‘person specification’ or ‘essential selection criteria’, which will list quite clearly the competencies required – the skills, experience, knowledge and other attributes that the organisation is looking for.

For example, the employer may be looking for someone with organisational skills, and may choose to ask you a series of questions designed to steadily probe not only your experience in this area, but your understanding of the skills involved. The questions may follow a pattern such as:

  • Would you describe yourself as an organised person?
  • How have you demonstrated organisational skills? What did you do? What would you do differently next time?
  • What makes a good organiser?
  • Why are organisational skills important?
  • Surely … (the interviewer challenges something you say in order to find out more)…?

Try to talk about a range of situations you have been in during your interview which demonstrate your breadth of experience and evidence different competencies. You might find the S.T.A.R acronym useful – Situation, Task, Action, Result – when you are answering questions, see our page on how to show you fit the job criteria for more information.

Technical interviews

These are used by engineering, scientific, IT, financial services and management consultancy firms.  They will test that you have the technical knowledge needed for the job. Questions may focus on your final-year project and why you are approaching it as you are, or on real or hypothetical technical problems. You will be expected to know general themes/theory, and you should be prepared to admit if you do not know the answer. Employers can tell when you are bluffing, but will be just as interested in your thought process and logic.

Academic interviews

For academic job interviews, large panels are common.  For post doc jobs four interviewers would be typical, but there can be up to ten or more interviewers for permanent lectureships or fellowships. Interviewers may be academics from your discipline but also from other departments, and from Human Resources.  Try to find out who will be interviewing you so that you can research their interests.  You may also have a number of ‘informal’ one-to-one interviews before or after your main panel interview from a number of academics. Treat these as part of the interview process but also see it as a chance to learn more about the department and job.

To prepare for the interview, review the criteria and think about how you can evidence that you meet each criterion.  Try to talk to others who have experienced academic interviews and arrange to practice with your supervisor, a colleague or a careers adviser.

Some general questions to prepare for:

  • What attracts you to this position?
  • What were the key achievements of your most recent research project?
  • How does your research fit with the department’s research objectives?
  • What opportunities for multi-disciplinary work does your research offer?
  • Does your research have any potential to serve the wider community and how do you propose to measure impact?
  • What are your plans for future research and how do you propose to fund it?
  • What research support do you expect from the institution?
  • What do you think makes a good supervisor?
  • How does your teaching experience fit you for this post?
  • What courses can you teach and develop?
  • How can you contribute to administration in the department?

If you have been invited to interview for a lectureship you will likely be asked to give a short presentation on your research, or a mock lecture for students.  Here are some general tips for preparing:

  • Keep to the brief you are given and ask if you are unsure – e.g. timing, audience, topics
  • Anticipate your audience – try to find out as much as possible who will be present and their interests
  • Practice with colleagues and invite questions/constructive criticism
  • Have a clear structure and make sure you have enough detail
  • Engage the audience with regular eye contact
  • Use audio-visual equipment if appropriate and make sure to test any movie files etc. beforehand
  • Consider taking prepared handouts for the audience
  • Invite questions
  • Thank your audience
Strength based interviews

This type of interview is increasingly being used at professional services and finance organisations such as EY, Morgan Stanley and Barclays as they understand that employees will perform best when using their individual strengths. They aim to get the best out of you by focusing on your natural aptitude, what you enjoy doing and what engages you. As defined by EY a strength is ‘an activity carried out on a regular basis, that is performed well and energises the individual doing so’.

In this type of interview, interviewers will ask a wide range of questions to get a good feel of your personal abilities and will be looking not only at what you say but also how you say it; to see if your tone, body language and expression demonstrate a genuine motivation.

They may ask questions such as:

  • When are you at your best?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What do you do well?
  • What do you love to do in your spare time?
  • How do you feel when working on a disorganised project? What do you do in situations like this?
  • How do you ensure you maximise your time to achieve your goals and targets?
  • Suppose you were trying to achieve a goal but kept encountering unexpected setbacks along the way. What would you do? How do you feel in these situations?

In order to prepare you will need to think about your personal achievements academically, professionally and in an extra-curricular capacity. What have you done that you particularly enjoyed – why did you enjoy it? Also, as with all interviews think about the organisation and the role you are interviewing for: does it allow you to use your strengths and natural talents?

A good place to find out more about Strengths based recruitment is the EY webpage on Your Strengths

Other types

Chronological interviews

These interviews will take you chronologically through your life to date, and are likely to use your CV or completed application form as a basis. You may be expected to talk about anything that you have mentioned in your application, why you have made certain decisions, what achievement has given you the greatest satisfaction or what skills you have developed in particular positions.

Case study interviews

See our separate page on case study style interviews, used particularly for consulting firms.

Portfolio-based interviews

If you are interviewing for a creative role and you have enough experience to create a portfolio of your work, you may be asked to bring it with you to the interview, and to have an in-depth discussion about the pieces you have chosen to include.

Group interviews

This is where several candidates are present and will be asked questions in turn. A group discussion may be encouraged and you may be invited to put questions to the other candidates. For further advice on group activities or exercises, please see our webpage on Assessment Centres.

Sequential interviews

These are several interviews in turn, with a different interviewer each time. Usually, each interviewer asks questions to test different sets of competencies. However, you may find yourself answering the same questions over and over. If this does happen, make sure you answer each one as fully and enthusiastically as the time before.

This information was last updated on 11 January 2017.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about Types of Interview

The Oxford Spinouts Careers Fair

Blogged by John Gilbert on February 21, 2017.
  • When: Thursday 2 March, 16.00-19.00
  • Where: Saïd Business School

Meet local startup companies at this brand new event. Organised by Oxford Entrepreneurs and supported by The Careers Service, this careers fair  is designed to offer students, graduates and researchers the chance to meet and explore potential employment opportunities with Oxford spinout companies.

Companies attending:

  • Animal Dynamics
  • Chronos Therapeutics
  • CN Bio Innovations
  • Fuel 3D
  • Mind Foundry
  • Onfido
  • Openwell
  • Organox
  • OxBotica
  • OxeHealth
  • Oxford Flow
  • Oxford Mestar
  • Oxford Nano Imaging
  • Oxford Science Innovation
  • Oxford Science Innovation
  • Oxford University Innovation
  • TdeltaS
  • The Entrepreneurship Centre
  • Vaccitech
  • Zegami

Apply to be an English Assistant abroad in 2017-18!

Posted on behalf of Annie Dutton. Blogged by Annie Dutton on February 21, 2017.

Want to move abroad after you graduate? Looking for a rewarding and well-paid placement for your Year Abroad?

The Language Assistants programme provides a unique opportunity for UK students and graduates looking to diversify their CVs, gain transferable skills, and become immersed in another culture.

All placements are paid and teaching time is limited to between 12 and 20 hours a week, giving you plenty of time to explore your new host country. The lesser known fact is that graduate students are also welcome to apply – and you don’t have to have studied modern languages, either!

Experience another culture

There is no better way to explore and experience the culture of another country than by living in it for a year. And, getting paid puts you in a great position to be able to travel, learn and pursue new interests too. In previous years, British Council Language Assistants have used their time abroad to take part in a myriad of exciting opportunities, from starting a small business to appearing on TV!

Develop transferable skills

In an increasingly competitive jobs market, it is more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Employers are always looking for transferrable skills, such as:

  • cultural awareness
  • communication and presentation
  • creative thinking and problem solving
  • time management and organisation.

Also, if you are interested in becoming a teacher, being a Language Assistant will help you enhance vital skills like confidence, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

Learn a new language

While language skills are beneficial, you do not have to be a fluent speaker to apply to become a Language Assistant (though you could be by the time you get back!). There is no better way to learn than by being surrounded by native speakers. As a Language Assistant, your skills will improve immeasurably as you interact with locals and navigate day-to-day life. You could discover Viennese German, Spanish on the streets of Buenos Aires, or French in rural Quebec to name but three!

All you need to have is minimum B1 level in the language of your host country (so, roughly AS equivalent) and to be an English native speaker – further eligibility details can be found on the website.

Applications are open until 28 February. Find out more and apply on the British Council website.

Got questions? Email helen.hardy@queens.ox.ac.uk

Ignite: career confidence for female Masters students

Blogged by Abby Evans on February 20, 2017.

The Ignite programme, for all Masters students who identify themselves as female, is an opportunity for you to explore your values, create tangible goals, practice presenting your achievements positively and build assertiveness and networking strategies. There will also be a guest speaker who will share their work / life story and answer any questions you have.

The one-day workshop is on Monday 13 March (9th week) at the Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road. Coffee and tea will be available from 9.00 and the workshop will start promptly at 9.30, finishing at 16.00. Lunch will be included.

Spaces are limited, and booking is required for this event. Book your place through CareerConnect. You will also need to upload a one or two page CV, which you will be use during the workshop.

Masterclasses and mentoring in Entrepreneurship

Posted on behalf of Oxford Entrepreneurs. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on February 17, 2017.
  • When: Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 Feb 2017, 9.00-18.00 on both days
  • Where: Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

OXFORD INSPIRES 2017 is Oxford Entrepreneurs’ flagship conference and is taking place on the 25th and 26th of February at the Saïd Business School of Oxford University. At the event, successful founders and entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors, backgrounds and countries come together to give lectures, masterclasses and one-on-one mentoring.

This is the perfect opportunity to expand your horizons and develop your understanding of a variety of different sectors. You will be equipped with the skills and experiences necessary for setting up your own business and the edge you need to be successful in a competitive environment.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Matt Clifford – The Founder and CEO of Entrepreneurs First
  • Patrick Grant – Founder and Director of Norton & Sons, and judge on BBC 2’s Great British Sewing Bee
  • Geoff McGrath – Chief Innovation Officer at McLaren
  • Jocelyn Hillam OBE – Founder and CEO of Working Chance
  • Susan Graham – CTO of BioCarbon Engineering

Tickets are on sale now, but are in limited supply, so please buy early to avoid disappointment.

Check out the Facebook event page, and for more information on speakers, masterclasses and mentors see the Oxford Inspires website.

Win a spot on a world class roundtable

Posted on behalf of Credit Suisse Research Institute. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on February 16, 2017.

The Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) Academy Challenge is open for applications, it offers you the chance to:

  1. Attend the exclusive CSRI Spring Meeting in New York, US with the Credit Suisse Chairman, Sir John Major, Dr. Ernesto Zedillo and more political figures!
  2. Collaborate for 2 weeks with CSRI experts in Zurich, New York or London and co-author a publication.

The competition is open to all students (BA, MA, MBA and PhD) and recent grads (2014 or later).

The Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) Academy has been launched to build a network of bright minded students and recent graduates to foster their knowledge, develop fresh perspectives and showcase their skills to the CSRI.

Do you like exploring answers to the most pressing global issues? This is your opportunity to engage with some of today’s most prominent thought leaders on issues of the day and earn global recognition for it.

For more information and to apply see the CSRI Academy Challenge website.

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.