How to Ace a Skills-Based Job Interview

Skills based InterviewBetween 2016 and 2026, Information Technology jobs are predicted to grow by 13%. There is likely to be an increased focus on the cloud, security and data. If you secure a interview, whether it is over the phone or in person, skills-based questions for I.T jobs are now commonplace. These types of questions require you to demonstrate and describe certain competencies that are needed to succeed in a particular role. While skills-based interviews may well feel like a daunting prospect, if you make sure that you plan appropriately in advance, you give yourself the best chance of doing yourself justice. Here are a few tips on what to expect in a skills-based interview and how to prepare well for it.

First things first: the importance of body language

It is particularly important that your resume reflects the skills sought by the employer and that you know your resume inside out. The importance of familiarizing yourself completely with your resume is twofold. It will not only enable you to talk in a calm and confident manner, but, as a result, you are also more likely to use positive body language. The latter plays a vital role in how well you perform in an interview. Thirty three percent of employers know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire you or not. This is down to the impressions you give through your body language. So, focus on staying relaxed and not gesticulating or fidgeting too much when you are talking, as well as taking time to pause and breathe.

Focus on the skills required

Start by picking out the skills asked for in the job description and identifying specific examples where you have demonstrated these skills. The skills required will depend on the nature of the job, but the most common competencies looked for in IT include strong communication skills and the ability to adapt to new technology. You may, for example, be asked to describe a situation in which you’ve had to explain technical concepts to people who are relatively unfamiliar with I.T. Or you might be asked to give an example of when you’ve had to learn and apply new technology in your job. Whatever the question, follow the STAR approach when it comes to formulating an answer:

S: explain the situation, in order to give the example context.

T: clarify what the task at hand was.

A: Say what your specific actions were.

R: describe the end result in the situation (in a positive light).

Other types of competency-based questions might involve you being asked to define a particular competency. For example, the interviewer may ask you to define what makes a good leader. It can be helpful to think of people you have worked with you feel showed good leadership traits. Did they communicate expectations and goals clearly with you? Did they let you work independently while also being available for advice or support when needed? Did they make you feel valued and, if so, how? Preparing some definitions in your mind of the required competencies can help you be more confident in the interview, while also enabling you to give clear answers if you are asked to explain what certain competencies mean to you.

Another competency-based situation you could find yourself in during an interview is where you are being asked something that demonstrates your level of competency  in relation to a particular skill. For example, you may be asked to estimate the number of balls in a large box. What matters is not whether you get the answer right, more your ability to think on your feet, stay calm under pressure and solve a problem.

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Research the Employer and Industry Leaders

The shift in focus on things like cloud technology and big data means that it is worth making sure you try to stay abreast with the latest developments in these areas of the IT industry. With companies’ growing concerns about a lack of cloud skills among current and potential employees, for example, it is worth investing the time into developing your own cloud knowledge. In addition, it can pay dividends to do your research on your prospective employer. Explore the company website to get a clearer sense of the type of organization they are. Have a read through any blog articles or social media posts to get an insight into the type of attributes the company looks for in its employees. Look for any news on, or references to, leaders in the IT industry and think about the skills they demonstrate. Having done so, pick out ways in which you can show that you have these attributes and can make a positive contribution to the company.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It goes without saying that preparation is key to doing well in a job interview. Go through the competencies sought in the job specification and come up with questions based on these. Also, ask friends and family members to pose skills-based questions centred on the given competencies. Encourage them to give you feedback on your body language as well as the clarity of your answers. Practice in front of a mirror too, so that you can see for yourself how you come across. At the same time, don’t overdo it: some nervousness is good as it stops you from sounding wooden or scripted. Important things to focus on when practicing are the speed at which you talk and your body language.

The Takeaway: Prepare and try to enjoy it

A job interview can be nerve-wracking to say the least, especially when a really desirable job is at stake. However, you can give yourself the best chance of acing the interview by preparing for questions well, doing some research and practicing sufficiently beforehand. Try to relax as much as possible, though. Do some regular deep breathing exercises if need be and just try to enjoy the experience. This will allow the real you to come through, which is ultimately what matters most of all.

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