Tales from the job interview front – our weekly career column

We survey our clients after they have attended job interviews to see what they are discovering when they sit in front of interview panels. It is a very insightful exercise.

Based on surveys thus far this year – and notwithstanding that the sample size is relatively small –  I will outline here some discoveries we have made. I hope they might help you in some way as you prepare for a forthcoming interview.

  • Forty-five per cent of interview panels comprised three people. The second most common panel size was two people (34 per cent). Occasionally there were more than three people, and occasionally there was just one person.
  • In 65 per cent of cases, the candidate concluded the interview panel did not include a professional recruiter. Twenty five per cent felt it did include a professional recruiter, while the remaining ten per cent couldn’t be sure.
  • Seventy-five per cent of candidates felt the interview panel was ‘very well prepared’.
  • Questions that come up are always an interesting part of our survey. Here are some findings:
  • Seventy per cent of candidates were asked ‘have you got any questions for us’ or some variation thereof?
  • Fifty five per cent were asked about how they handle conflict in the workplace.
  • Twenty five per cent were asked to ‘tell us a bit about yourself.’
  • And, the old chestnut, ‘what’s your greatest weakness’ – just five per cent had this question thrown at them.


We asked candidates what surprised them most about the interview. Here are some interesting responses (again, they can’t be taken as dead certs to come up – but it will get you thinking about the kind of left-of-field stuff that can come your way in an interview):


  • They asked me what do you think a referee would say about you?
  • The amount of questions – I hadn’t time to say what I wanted to say.
  • The level of depth in the questions. I would be better prepared in the future for the technical questions about my sector.
  • There were no warm-up questions on the day. The interviewer didn’t allow interviewees to discuss their CV. The interview involved an aggressive form of probing.
  • I felt rushed in that it appeared they had allocated a certain amount of time for each section and when they asked me what challenges I envisaged, I had only started when the interviewer passed me onto his colleague.
  • It was a scenario-based interview.
  • I was consistently asked about conflict in the workplace.
  • It was more structured than I expected.
  • It went by very quickly.
  • The disconnection between the interviewers. There was no flow to the questions.


Which of the above do I find most interesting? It’s the part about 75 per cent of interview panels being ‘very well prepared’. I would have predicted this figure to be lower than this: however, the better prepared the interview panel is, the greater the chance a good candidate has of performing well.

While you should not go into the interview totally dependent on the interview panel to ask you the right questions, but it’s a nice bonus when they do.

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