Jobs at UWA

Interview questions

Selection panels are likely to ask at least one question of several types.

They are particularly encouraged to ask behaviourally based questions which ask you to provide examples of what you've done in the past.

The questions will be based on the selection criteria for the position.

Questions the selection panel may ask

Open, general questions

Examples of open general questions include:

  • Why are you interested in this job?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Tell us a little about yourself.
  • What special skills can you bring to this job?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is important to you in a job?
  • What do you think makes you the best person for this job?

The selection panel will often start off an interview with these kinds of questions. They usually ask such questions to encourage you to open up and talk.

You need to be careful that you don't end up talking too generally or for too long. The selection panel is looking for relevant information.

To help focus your answers, try to relate them to the selection criteria and the duty statement. For example, if asked what your strengths are, talk about them in terms of the selection criteria by mentioning your 'excellent communication skills', 'organisational ability', etc. Be brief and concise.

Behaviourally based questions

Examples of behaviourally-based questions include:

  • How did you ensure that you met deadlines in your last job?
  • Describe a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult client on the phone.
  • Could you give us an example of when you have had to work as part of a team on a particular project?
  • In your previous jobs, how have you gone about organising your workload?

Selection panels ask these types of question to try and find out what you've done in the past that might indicate how well you'll perform in a future job.

They will expect you to talk about relevant details of a particular situation: your role, what you did, and what the outcomes were. Try to give the panel a picture of how you operated in the job, focussing on relevant details so that your answer is not too long.

Behaviourally based questions give you the chance to provide specific, factual information about your experience, and to focus on situations that you handled particularly well.

Hypothetical questions

Examples of hypothetical questions include:

  • What would you do if you had an urgent deadline to meet, the telephone kept ringing, and you were suddenly asked to arrange a series of important meetings for your supervisor?
  • If you were the departmental safety officer and an electrical fire started in your work area, what would you do?

Hypothetical questions are similar to behaviourally based ones in that the selection panel is trying to get an idea of how you would function in particular situations.

Often you can make up an answer to a hypothetical question without having had experience of the situation you've been asked about. Try to avoid giving text book answers (e.g. 'I'd establish priorities and remain calm'). Endeavour to give the panel a picture of how you operate under similar circumstances, if possible giving an actual example of how you dealt with a similar situation.

However, some hypothetical questions are tied to specific situations or procedures which you must know about in order to answer the question properly, .e.g. 'If these two chemicals were mixed together, what would happen?'.

Philosophical questions

Examples of philosophical questions include:

  • What are your feelings about students today?
  • What do you think the role of the Faculty should be?
  • What is your opinion of the present education system?

Here the panel is trying to find out your views on issues and to assess how you might fit in with the culture of the department or section. This type of question is asked less frequently than other types of questions. People tend to give the kind of answer they think the panel wants to hear.

Philosophical questions are often easier to answer if you've done your 'homework' in finding out a bit about the department. As with open, general questions, try to relate your answers to the selection criteria and the duty statement.

Specific, closed questions

Examples of specific, closed questions include:

  • Can you operate a Macintosh computer?
  • Will you be able to work overtime occasionally?
  • Are you familiar with the University's accounting system?
  • Do you have experience in using spreadsheets?

Here the selection panel is trying to assess your specific task-related skills.

Although such questions tend to elicit a 'yes'/'no' answer, it is much better if you can expand a little by saying how much/what level of experience you have, and give examples.

Further examples of interview questions related to specific selection criteria can be found in the Human Resources Policies and Procedures Manual, copies of which are available in every department.

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