Another simple thing you can do, is to take a sip of water. It gives you a chance to think and, at the same time, it lets your interviewers know that you are busy and that they don't need to jump in. You could also repeat the question, which gives you another little bit of time to think. ⠀
Obviously, you can't do that for every question throughout the interview, but it works well to do this occasionally.⠀
A second way that you can demonstrate that interest is to prepare your answers for questions like:⠀⠀
Try to tune into the requirements of the role by doing more than simply reading the job description or candidate information booklet. If you are applying to an organisation that you have not previously worked for, research what the organisation does, what kind of roles they have and, in particular, see what more you can find out about the role you are applying for. Is there someone in your network who has worked there or someone who knows someone who is working there? What can you find out about the organisations values and mission? What services or products do they offer? All of this research will help you demonstrate your interest in that organisation when at interview and will also help you position your previous experience and achievements in that context. It will also help you prepare relevant questions you can ask at interview.
If you invest some time in preparing how your skills and experience matches the requirements of the role, it will help you in several ways. It helps you when writing a summary or position statement (on the application form) or when writing your cover letter (if submitting a CV). It also informs how you will answer questions at interview. Especially questions such as "Tell me about yourself", "How does your experience match the requirements of the role?" or if you are asked to "Summarise your experience". It also should underpin all of your other answers when at interview, because you need to be able to clearly articulate how your previous work experience matches the requirements of the role and to be able to do so throughout the interview. You can also use this summary of how you match the requirements of the role towards the end of the interview.
The same advise applies whether you are selecting your examples for use at interview or for use when completing your application form (required for most public sector interviews). Where possible, lead with your most recent work examples. Only use a non-work example when you have no other example that you can draw on to illustrate your competence.
After selecting your examples, you then need to remind yourself of the detail of those work tasks or projects and what you accomplished. The level of detail you provide is very important. Keep the focus on the aspects of the work that demonstrate the competency.
Some questions you could ask are:
To help keep you on track, really listen to the question. Repeat the question to yourself, out loud if you want. Take a sip of water to buy yourself a moment to gather your thoughts. Don't just start answering if you are not sure what they are looking for.
It's ok to ask an interviewer to repeat a question or to clarify the focus of a question. It’s really important that you answer the question you are being asked, so asking for the question to be repeated or clarified is absolutely ok and interviewers won’t mind doing this. Better to ask than to answer the wrong question.
Pay attention to your body language before and during the interview - our body language influences how we think and feel about ourselves, which in turn changes our behaviour and changes our outcomes. It’s a little bit of “fake it until you make it”, which research by Amy Cuddy shows is more like “fake it until you become it”.
This is where your homework will stand to you, as you really need to be clear and confident of the detail of what you have done, even if the work you are describing is from a few years ago. You need to include specifics and be concrete in the information you include in your answer.
Yes, I know for many it doesn't come naturally to say "I" and you want to show you are a team player (which I hear frequently from interview coaching clients), but it's only you at the interview and only you looking to get that role or be promoted. So if you find yourself saying "we" a lot, practice saying "I" (and then practice again)!
But if, like me, you wear glasses (even with anti-reflective coating) then facing directly into the light source can leave a glare or reflection on your glasses, especially when moving your head as you talk. I find that sitting facing the window, and then moving myself and my device so I am facing a little away from the window (not completely turning my side to the windows, but just having the window at a diagonal) seems to work best for me (and my glasses!). The picture accompanying this blog shows how I appeared on my phone's camera when following all of this advice. This video on my Facebook page shows you what I mean.
Follow this structure for your competency answer:
The interviewers need to understand about the context to help them in judging your actions and the outcome. This should be as brief as you can make it - some candidates explain far too much about the industry or organisation or section, while not spending enough time talking about what they have actually done.
The actions you outline allow the interviewers to match your experience to the definition of the competency and the requirements of the new role. This section should be the longest. Make sure you keep the competency in mind and use the example to demonstrate evidence of the competency.
The outcome or results of your actions give the interviewers some indication of the contribution you made, the impact your work had and the quality of your work.
The same advice about this structure of an answer applies when completing a public sector application form that asks you to answer competency questions on the form.