Interview style guide

Recruitment companies use a number of different interview styles. It doesn’t take too much effort to learn to recognise the styles. If you can do this, you can adapt your interview technique to the style demanded and come out winning.

When you’re interviewed, it’s likely that the interviewer will use on of just a few standard interview techniques. Knowing more about them can help you to shine.

The SOAR Interview Technique

This is particularly useful in behavioural, situational or competency-based interviews. You can spot these interviews easily because the interviewer will usually ask something like “Tell me about a situation where you were....”

You should answer these questions with a little 2 minute (not 10 minute!) story following the SOAR technique.

S stands for Scenario. Begin your story with a brief description of the scenario you were in. Don’t bore them to death with it. It needs to be brief and clear. You just need to give them the big picture.

For example, take this question framed from the competency, ability to manage a small team of professional staff: “Tell me about a time a couple of your team members were not working well together and you had to intervene.”
Answer: “I was managing a team of five recruitment consultants who generally worked on separate accounts, but needed to work together as a group for preferred supply contract.“
“When we were putting together the recruitment plan, I realised that two of the team members just didn’t work together well. They’d had an argument at a five-a-side game and now they wouldn’t share information and were creating a lot of tension in the team as a whole.”

O stands for Ownership. This is where you explain very clearly, that it was your responsibility to get things resolved. “It was my responsibility to get the recruitment plan prepared by the end of the following day, so I had to do something immediately.”

A is for Action. Tell them what the action you took, but don’t go into too much detail. An example could be: “I only had 24 hours to get the recruitment plan prepared, so I called a quick team meeting and gave different tasks to the two guys who didn’t get on so there were no collaboration issues, I arranged to meet them at the end of the week to deal with the wider problem.”

R stands for Results. Tell them what your action actually achieved. For example: “The recruitment plan was put into place before the deadline, the tension between the conflicting pair had eased and the customer loved the plan. It also increased my credibility with the other team members as they could see that I had handled things really well.”

Behavioural or competency-based interviews

The basis of behavioural interviewing otherwise known as “targeted recruitment” is “past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour”. Questions asked of you will relate specifically to your experience. Expect questions like:

  • “Tell me about an account that you developed from beginning to end.”
  • “Describe a problem you have solved. What was your approach and what was the outcome?”

When confronted with a behavioural interview, you will be glad you practiced your SOAR stories.
If, during a behavioural interview, you find yourself beginning answers with, “Well, what I would do...”, stop!!!!

Think about a specific example and begin an answer with, “Well, what I did was...”.

If you have detailed information about the role you are being interviewed for, you can do some very specific preparation by aligning your experiences with the job’s key competencies.

Preference-based interviews

(The preference-based interview is usually the preference-based ‘part’ of an interview.)

This method is used to find out what individuals really want out of a career. It is based on a theory, for example, a recruiter could be interviewing an accountant who would love to be a HR manager.

If you don’t convince the interviewer that you really know what you want out of life and out of a job, you will probably fail the interview, so brush up and have your answers ready!

The sorts of questions that are likely include:

  • What are you looking for in the future?
  • What sort of company would you like to work for? 
  • What branch of recruitment do you want to specialise in? 
  • Where do you want to live? 
  • Why are you exploring other options outside recruitment? 
  • Who had the greatest impact on your life? 
  • Describe your past mentors.

Ad hoc interviews

If a line manager in an organisation is interviewing you, or the interview is a one or two stage process, there is a good chance that no pre-ordained method will be followed.

It is still really important in this situation to know your CV and the organisation. You will need to develop answers so that you are prepared for the following questions:

  • Why did you choose this particular role?
  • What do you really want to do in your next career move?
  • Why would you like to work for our organisation?
  • What do you want to be doing in your career, five years from now?
  • What was your last salary and bonus?
  • How did your commission scheme work?
  • Go through your past performance figures.
  • Relate them back to your last salary and bonus / commission scheme – do they add up?
  • What style of management gets the best from you?
  • Can you get references from your previous employers? What would they say about you?
  • What have you learnt from some of the jobs you have had? Which did you most enjoy?
  • What have you done that’s shown initiative?
  • What is your major weakness? What are you doing about it?
  • What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
  • What does teamwork mean to you?
  • What type of books do you read?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What can you bring to this role?

Answers to some of these questions will call on self-knowledge from two sources: the assessment of your ideal next career move and your CV. Whenever possible, use SOAR to demonstrate your achievements in answers to these questions. However, other questions can only be well answered if you have anticipated them and prepared an answer beforehand, for example, questions about salary.

It is important in an ad hoc interview to be prepared to answer questions about weaknesses or areas of development. Ensure your weaknesses are acknowledged but it is paramount that you state your intent to do something about these, for example:

  • Q: What are your weaknesses?
  • A: I’ve got loads of energy and enthusiasm. I really enjoy meeting people and I’m very pro-active. However, I don’t always follow-up paperwork so that’s really something I should be looking to improve on.

Two commonly asked questions at the start and end of interviews provide you with the opportunity to give an impression summary to the interviewer:

  • “Why are you here?” and later, maybe last, in the interview:
  • “Do you have any questions for me?”

Don’t leave these to chance. Have your answers prepared beforehand and know them off by heart.

Don’t forget, first impressions and last impressions count for a lot. Make sure you make the most of these opportunities to sell yourself.


“Tim Goodwin is the best kind of rec-to-rec for a very simple reason: he listens to his candidates! After our first conversation, I was presented with a range of different opportunities and, after an additional chat, Tim and Futura had clearly understood my needs and what I was really looking for. There was only one option left on the table and that was the right one. ”

Futura candidate