For some people, the thought of being interviewed is a terrifying prospect as they believe that all the authority and power lies with the potential employer and that they are just a helpless victim in the process.

This is not a healthy mind set to be in, as the approach to an interview should be that this is a business meeting where both parties are equal. The employer wants to fill a position it has vacant and has invited the candidate to attend an interview to discuss their suitability for the position.

The interview is, therefore, an opportunity to make a case for being the best person to fill the vacant position.

In an interview the potential employer is looking for someone who:

   can do the job – the person is skilled and competent

   wants to do the job – the person is motivated

   will fit in – the person will fit with the role, the team and the company culture and values.

The first impression that the interviewee makes is very important, so in the first few seconds the candidate should make sure that they:

   make eye contact with the interviewer


   shake hands, if offered.

   be positive and enthusiastic 

   avoid fidgeting and fiddling 

   keep focused and listen.

The interviewee should never be late for an interview and never say anything rude about their previous employer, manager or colleagues.

Different types of Interviews

Telephone interview

From an employers perspective, telephone interviewing is a growing trend and has distinct advantages as they minimise cost, are relatively easy to organise and the approach is that they usually work from a set of standardised questions. The format also allows them to screen a large candidate pool and enables them to be able to screen suitable candidates across a wide geographical area.

There are different telephone interviews, which can range from a simple conversation to a highly structured competency-based activity. These interviews are usually conducted by the recruitment company, but sometimes an agency or head hunter could be involved.

Panel interviews

This type of interview is more common within the public, education and voluntary sectors and may consist of between three and eight panel members, all of whom have an interest in the appointment of the right candidate. Most members of the panel will take it in turns to ask questions and the candidate should address their response to the person asking the question and briefly glance at the other panel members so that you include them in the answer as well.

A panel interview can be a fair process to each candidate as they are generally conducted so that everyone is asked the same questions in the same order. All candidates are then scored which should assist in removing any personal bias on behalf of the interviewers.

Competency-based interviews

Many companies use competency-based interviews as part of their selection process as research has shown that past behaviours are the best predicators of future performance. The interview is based around analysing the job and then questions based on the relevant skills required for the job.

The questions require candidates to focus on specific examples and describe situations where they can demonstrate the required behaviour. The interviewer may then probe further in order to build up a picture to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Questions will begin with phrases such as: 

   Tell me about a time when…?

   Describe an occasion when…?

   When has it been important to…?

The interviewer will be looking for specific behaviours associated with each competence and the candidate’s responses will either be positive which will score well or negative which will loss the candidate marks.

The interview will probably focus on four to six key competencies which can be identified from looking at the job description and the interviewer will probe to find out to what extent the candidate can provide evidence in terms of examples they have been involved in during the past. The candidate can draw on examples from:

   projects in which they have been involved

   relationships they have built up with customers, managers, peers or staff

   challenges and problems they have faced

   dealing with a difficult situation at work

   times when they have influenced a decision.

Assessment centres

An assessment centre is an organised event and can last for anything from two hours to two days, where a group of job applicants are asked to carry out a series of tests and exercises under observation in either a group situation or working alone.

The assessment can be used to assess the suitability of candidates and may include any of the following:

   written or computer-based tests

   group exercises which could involve a discussion or a problem-solving task

   interviews which are often competency-based

   in-tray or e-tray exercises to test prioritising, delegating and time management

   role play, especially in sales and customer service roles

   paper- and computer-based fact¬finding exercises


Psychometric testing

Psychometric tests fall broadly into two categories as detailed below:

Ability tests which test skills such as verbal and numerical reasoning, diagrammatic and spatial awareness, mechanical reasoning. Most of these tests are timed and can be completed via the internet. In order to prepare, a candidate should practise the test and should request a practice sheet from the recruiting organisation in order to gain experience of the type of test they will be required to carry out.

Personality questionnaires are a series of questions which do not have a right or wrong answer but help to give a profile of a trait or personality type. The best advice for these tests is to be relaxed, honest and spontaneous. 

For further support with this or any other HR issue, BVNA members can call the BVNA Members Advisory Service Helpline on 01822 870270


Nicky Ackerley BA(HONS)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA Members Advisory Service (formerly known as the Industrial Relations Service) since it began in 2002.

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 29 • February 2014 •