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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


CONTENTS



Introduction


This interview question dictionary provides a wide range of sample ‘lead-in’ questions.  For ease of use they are categorised under key competency areas and, in some cases, by level i.e. ‘Junior / Entry level’ and ‘Management level’. It is recommended that the questions are used in conjunction with the approach to the questioning model presented in Section 6.

These questions are intended to provide interviewers with ideas on how to shape and construct questions that are relevant to the specific job in question.

As noted in Section 6, it is worth keeping the following points in mind when developing questions:

  • Use open questions (starting with who, what, where, when, how & why);
  • Keep questions short;
  • Keep questions focused on job relevant issues & skills;
  • Use questions to identify what the candidate’s personal approach is,  would be;
  • Ensure questions are challenging.

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Overview of Career


Overview of Career


Education

  • Why did you choose to take those particular subjects/ that particular degree/ postgraduate course?
  • What areas were of most interest to you?
  • How have you applied the learning from your education?
  • What do see as your key development areas over the next couple of years?

Work Experience/Career History

  • What responsibilities/ essential functions did you have in your last role?
  • What are/were your responsibilities and accountabilities?
  • Describe the working environment in your present job.
  • What do you spend the most time doing in your present/past positions?
  • Who did you work with/ who worked with you at this stage?
  • What resources did you have to manage?
  • Who did you report to? / Describe your reporting structure in your previous roles? How did you find that structure?
  • What has been the hardest or most difficult part of your present job?
  • What were the most satisfying/ challenging aspects of the role?
  • What were the things you learnt from this job/role/period?
  • How has your work experience prepared you for this position?
  • Describe the most creative work-related project that you have carried out.
  • What was your most rewarding / challenging posting to date?
  • What factors influenced your decision to move?

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Thinking Style


Problem Solving

Analytical Skills

Decision making

Strategic Thinking


Problem Solving / Analytical Skills / Decision Making

Junior / Entry level

  • Describe a specific time at work when your problem-solving skills were tested. What did you do?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to use your fact-finding skills to get information to solve a problem - then describe how you analysed the information to come to a decision.
  • Give an example of a problem you faced on a job and describe how you solved it.
  • What has been a stubborn or recurring problem area you would have liked to solve in your current job, but haven't yet?
  • What process do you follow in solving problems?
  • What are some examples of important decisions or recommendations you were/are called upon to make in your past/present position?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to make a quick decision.
  • Most of us can think of an important decision we'd make quite differently if we could do it again. Any examples from your experience?
  • Give an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job. How did you solve it? Follow-up:
    Why did you choose that method instead of another solution?
  • What kinds of decisions do/did you have authority over?
    Which ones do/did you have to check with your manager before making?
  • Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the information you wanted? Give an example. What did you do?

Management level

  • Give an example of a time when you had to carefully analyse a situation in order to make an effective decision.
  • Describe how you solve difficult problems?
  • Describe how you approach the analysis of complex information / situations?
  • What types of analytical studies have you conducted?
  • Describe what you would consider a creative solution you identified for a problem / situation?
  • At which point do you find it necessary to bring others into your decision-making process? Why?
  • Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. Why do you do it this way?
  • When you recommend / propose something , what approach do you usually use? Please give an example.
  • How much scope do you give your employees to make decisions? How do you still maintain control?
    Please give an example.
  • How do you assemble relevant data to make your decisions? How do you know when you have enough data?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Thinking Style


Strategic Thinking / Judgement

Management level

  • Tell me about any strategic review initiatives you have personally been involved in?
    • What issues did you identify?
    • What measures did you recommend?
    • How did you decide on the implementation arrangements?
    • How successful were your efforts?
  • Describe the extent of your responsibility in policy formulation.
    • What were the key issues?
    • Who were the key stakeholders?
    • What sources of information did you draw on?
    • What were the implications for other areas?
    • What was the most difficult issue / aspect to deal with?
    • How successful were your efforts?

Future Focus / Dealing with the Key Challenges

  • What are the key strategic imperatives for the Civil Service / for your Department that need to be advanced over the next 3 – 5 years?
  • If you were the CEO /Head of the Organisation, what is the one issue you feel needs to be addressed?
  • What is the potential impact of this/these on the Department’s agenda? (Follow up this question by challenging their thinking by exploring their analysis).
  • What are the core issues?
  • What is your particular perspective on how it will develop?
  • What are the key interdependencies with other sectors / bodies etc?
  • What are the consequences of this for different stakeholders? (Follow up on one of these e.g. members of the public or staff)?
  • What can we learn from other areas?
  • What are the benefits of your approach?
  • What are the key environmental or external issues relevant to advancing the strategic direction of the organisation / department over the next number of years?
  • What threats and opportunities do these present? (Follow up by looking at the impact of these)
  • What is the one area where you feel the organisation / department need to make progress on …?
  • What would you see as the key elements of developing / shaping strategy?
  • What interdependencies with other bodies / agencies etc. are there?
  • How would you ensure strategy is implemented?
  • What personal contribution have you made to the development of strategy?
  • What is the real strength you bring to the table in strategy development?

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Managing for Results


Management style

Organisation / Planning skills

   Planning & Goal setting

   Business & Planning

   Budget & Financial management

Evaluating Performance


Management style

Junior / Entry level

  • What in your opinion is the most important function of a manager?
  • What kind of direction do you prefer from a manager?
  • What do you consider to be important attributes of a manager?
  • What kind of manager do you enjoy working for most? Least?
  • Give an example of a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.

Management level

  • How would you describe your management philosophy and style?
  • How has your management style changed in the last few years?
  • How would you deal with an employee who was not doing his or her job properly? Please give an example.
  • Have you ever had to initiate corrective action for an employee? If so, what steps did you take?
  • How do you motivate and energise your staff? What influences & guides your approach?
  • How do you think your staff would describe your style of delegation?
  • How do you get your employees (or others) to follow you?
  • Give an example of how you delegated responsibility for a recent assignment; for instance, how you delegated the assignment, and what you did to monitor it.
  • How do you ensure that objectives are achieved / assignments are completed?
  • How would you deal with an employee who does not appear to measure up to increasing demands of the job?
  • What is the most difficult decision you have had to make as a manager?

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Managing for Results


Organisation / Planning Skills

General

  • Give me an example of a time when you had a number of competing priorities?
    • What challenges did this present?
    • How did you decide on a specific course of action?
  • Please give me an example of an event you personally had to organise?
    • Where was it? / When did it happen?
    • What were the main issues to be dealt with?
    • What did you do?
    • What did you learn?

Junior / Entry level

  • Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give an example of a plan you have implemented.
  • How do you keep track of your paperwork, schedules, etc.? Please be specific.
  • In your last job, if something wasn't due for several weeks, when and how did you approach getting it done?
  • Describe a way you have improved the organisation of a system or a task at your last/present job.
  • How do you organise your daily tasks? How do you prioritise them or decide what you should work on next?

Management level

  • How would you describe your planning skills? budgeting skills?
  • Describe any new plans or programs you've developed.
  • In what way have you improved your planning over the last few years?
  • Have you ever had to reorganise an existing system? If so, how?
  • How would you organise work assignments for several part-time and full-time staff members?
  • What assignments would you reserve for yourself?

Planning & Goal Setting

  • How far in advance do you typically plan activities for yourself and your employees? By what method?
  • Give an example of a change you saw coming, or something you thought was necessary to change.
    How did you go about planning for it?
  • How do you assess priorities? How do you then assign them?
  • What would you say are some of your more important accomplishments? We'd be interested in your operational results and any other accomplishments you consider important. Considering these accomplishments, what are the reasons for your success?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Managing for Results


Business Planning

  • What are the main elements involved in a business plan?
  • Please give me an example of a business planning process you managed?
  • What was your role?
  • What issues were important for the organisation to address as part of the business planning process?
  • In your experience what is the most effective approach to business planning?
  • What can go wrong?
  • It has been suggested that long-term business planning is obsolete in view of the current pace of change – what are your views?

Budget / Financial Management

  • What responsibility do you have for budgeting?
  • What budget are you personally responsible for?
  • What budgeting method do you use?
  • How do you go about estimating expenses and budgets?
  • What recent decision have you made that had an impact on finances? How did you assess its impact?
  • What experience have you had with long and short-term budget projections? Please explain.

Evaluating Performance

  • How would you describe your standards of performance? What would your staff say? What would your supervisor say?
  • What do you do to ensure objectivity when you evaluate the work of others?
  • What sort of performance standards have you held employees to? Were they written?
  • How long does it take you to write a performance evaluation? What steps do you go through?
  • How do you get your employees involved in their own evaluations?
  • How do you plan for performance improvements?
  • When you evaluate someone's performance face-to-face, what approach do you take?
    What if their performance has been exceptionally good? Marginal?
  • How do you conduct an evaluation process?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Interpersonal / People Orientation


Interpersonal / Communication / Influencing Skills

Leadership Skills

Employee Relations / Organisational relationships

Managing Relationships


Interpersonal / Communication / Influencing Skills


Junior / Entry level

  • Name one recent success you've had in dealing with an unhappy customer, co-worker etc. How did you deal with it?
  • How do you persuade others to get what you want?
  • When you have started new jobs, how have you established good relationships with your co-workers? With management?
  • Have you ever had a situation when you found it necessary to confront someone at work? How did you handle it?
  • What role do you usually take in a group meeting or discussion? Please give an example.
  • What did you do to support your colleagues in your last job? Please give a specific example of a time when you helped or supported a co-worker.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. How did you get co-operation?
  • How do you get co-operation from colleagues, other departments, etc.?
  • How would you characterise your written and oral communication skills?
  • Describe some projects you worked on that required strong writing skills. What was the level of your responsibility? Who was the primary audience?
  • Describe how you would convince your manager to support an idea or initiative you have / provide additional funds for a purpose you have in mind.
  • In a past job, when did you find it necessary to disagree with your manager? How did you approach him/her and what was the result?
  • What would you do if your manager asked you to perform a task you did not feel competent to handle?
  • What would you do if your manager asked you to perform a task you felt was more appropriate for someone else to do?
  • How would you respond to a request that you consider vague or unreasonable?
  • Which problems do you believe are appropriate to bring your manager? Give an example. How do you usually approach a manager with a problem?

Management level

  • What experience do you have in writing reports?
  • Describe the most significant written document, report, or presentation that you have had to complete.
    • Who was the target audience?
    • What structure did you follow?
    • Why did you decide on this approach?
    • In what way did the report achieve its purpose?
  • Describe how you would notify the people you are responsible for about a new procedure that you had to implement, where the people involved would be assuming new and more complex duties.
  • Describe how you would notify a large number of people about a new policy or regulation that had to be implemented.
  • Describe your experience in making presentations to senior management within your organisation / in other organisations?
    • How do you prepare / structure it?
    • What are the most difficult situations you have encountered making a presentation?
    • How did you manage these?
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to influence your peers / senior managers on a specific issue.
    • How did you go about this?
    • What actually happened?
    • What impact did it have on your working relationships?
    • Give me an example where you encountered resistance to your approach.
    • How did you deal with this / decide on the most appropriate response?
  • How do you believe a meeting should be organised to be most effective? Give an example of one you've co-ordinated, attended, or led.

Leadership

  • What qualities make a good leader?
  • What is the most difficult challenge you have faced as a leader?
    • How would you assess the challenge?
    • How did you assess your response?
    • What actually happened?
    • Would you approach the situation in the same way again?
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to positively influence the actions of others in a desired direction.
  • Describe a time when you believed it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of others.

Meeting the Key Challenges

  • What are the key challenges facing senior public service managers?
  • What are the key ‘leadership’ challenges facing the Organisation / Department / Division post holder?
  • What are the most significant change management issues facing the Department / Division over the next 3 years?
  • From a Civil Service corporate point of view, what are the key strategic programmes / policy areas that require leadership within Departments over the next 3 – 5 years?
  • What are the key strategic considerations of this change programme?
  • What leadership strengths would you bring to bear on this programme?
  • What direct experience would you bring to bear?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Interpersonal / People Orientation

  • What are the external factors that would influence your approach?
  • What benchmarks / other standards would you reference?
  • What have you seen / learnt from other change programmes that would influence your approach to leading the management of change?
  • How would you secure the necessary flexibilities in staff and management in order to advance a change programme?
  • What are the organisational ‘culture’ issues you would need to tackle in order to secure progress?
  • How would you deal with these?
  • How would you ensure progress?
  • How would you measure the success of a change programme?
  • What are the most significant HR issues facing the Department over the next 3 years?
  • What would you see as the benefits of a ‘corporate’ approach to these issues?
  • What do you see as the key personal challenges to making an active corporate contribution?
  • What practical things / initiatives would you pursue in order to build a corporate approach?
  • What do you believe are the distinguishing characteristics of strong leadership in the Civil or Public Service / Department / Agency context?
  • How can this / these qualities be fostered in others?

Employee Relations / Organisational Relationship

Management level

  • How have you helped your staff become committed to a job or to the organisation?
  • How often do you think it's necessary to meet with your staff?
  • What types of people do you find hardest to manage? Why?
  • How have you dealt with an "attitude" problem? Please give a specific example.
  • How have you handled ‘negative’ staff or ‘complainers’?
  • Describe a time when you had to discipline a member of staff / employee.  How did you approach it?
  • Have you had to manage a personnel situation that had a potential legal impact? Please describe what your role was and what you learned from it.
  • How do you develop trust and loyalty in your employees?
  • Describe a time when you had problems getting people to work together in solving a problem or completing an assignment.
  • Describe a time when you had to intervene to solve a conflict. Why did you handle it that way?
  • What would you describe as an effective staff meeting? An ineffective one?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Interpersonal / People Orientation

  • How do you typically get co-operation from someone in another department?
  • Have you had to make oral presentations to other managers? Describe what you did and how effective it was.
  • Give an example of a time when you believed it was necessary to be assertive to get what you needed from your manager.
  • Describe a time when you had to "sell" a decision or policy to your employees when you did not agree with it.

Managing Relationships

Management level

  • What do you see as the most challenging ‘relationship management’ issues facing us -
    • within the Unit / Division
    • within the Dept / Agency
    • within the Civil Service / Sector
    • Nationally / Internationally
  • What are the core issues?
  • What is the impact on different stakeholders?
  • What is your particular perspective on how better relations could be developed?
  • What are the key interdependencies with other sectors / bodies etc?
  • What are the consequences of this for different stakeholders?
  • What exactly would you do to improve working relations?
  • What style(s) would you use?
  • What can we learn from previous experiences / other areas?
  • What are the benefits of your approach to.......................................?
  • What do you believe are the main elements of managing relationships in a Civil / Public Service / Department / Agency context?
  • What qualities do you bring to the table in relation to managing relationships effectively?
  • What measures do you take to ensure this / How do you know that your skills in this area are sharp / effective?
  • What practical things / initiative would you pursue in order to build clarity of understanding and to develop common ground with others?
  • How can this / these qualities be fostered in others?
  • How can the value of networks be maximised?

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Personal Effectiveness


Integrity

Initiative / Creativity

Dependability / Flexibility

Ability to Learn / Change


Integrity

Management level

  • Where have you had to make decisions that were not in line with policies and programmes within the overall central corporate framework?

Meeting the Key Challenges

  • Looking to the future where would you place the emphasis to ensure there is progress on central corporate initiatives / programmes / policy areas? What areas would you seek to improve?
  • Centrally what are the key areas you feel need to be addressed / influenced? Please identify a specific programme.
  • What do you see as the key personal challenges to ensuring a service is delivered to Government?
  • What do you believe make the difference between excellent & very good performance?
  • What are the distinguishing characteristics / qualities associated with really excellent work / service delivery i.e what makes the difference?
  • How can this/ these be maintained?
  • How can this / these qualities be fostered in others?
  • What do you see as the core values of the Civil Service?
  • What does ‘public service’ mean to you in the context of the role of this post?
  • Where are the pressure points on managers in terms of upholding these values / principles?
  • How do you personally ensure public sector values are maintained / fostered in others?
  • What situations have you faced which has required serious consideration on your behalf for example where you have been unsure whether you are consistent with corporate values?
    (What were the issues / implications / How did you deal with them?)
Initiative / Creativity
  • What ideas did you contribute to your department/organisation? What were the results?
  • Give an example of something you proposed that was adopted.
  • What have you done to make your job easier or more interesting?
  • What are the most creative / innovative recommendations you have put forward?
    • How did you identify these?
    • Were they implemented?
    • What impact did they have?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Personal Effectiveness


  • Give an example of an initiative you were responsible for starting.
    • How did it originate?
    • How did you develop the ideas?
    • What did you set out to achieve?
    • How successful were you?
  • When have you had to produce results, without sufficient guidelines or information? What did you do?
  • Describe the most creative thing you have done in order to achieve a key objective.
  • What type of work environment do you like to work in?

Dependability / Flexibility

  • In a past job, did you have to alter your standards to meet your organisation’s standards? When? Why?
  • What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured?
  • Have you worked in an organisation that changed its policy or procedure frequently? How did you deal with that?
  • Give an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning.
  • Please give an example of a policy or directive with which you really disagreed? What did you do?
  • What was the most pressurised work situation you have worked in?
    • What challenges did this present?
    • How did you manage them?
  • How do you cope with competing priorities?

Ability to Learn / Change

  • Give an example of a situation during your previous employment when you have had to keep up with the changes e.g. in technology, terminology, or information within your field.
  • Tell me about improvements you have recommended.
    • How did you identify these?
    • How were they implemented?
    • What impact did they have?
  • Describe a situation / task where you had to get ‘up to speed’ very quickly?
    • What did you have to learn?
    • How did you go about it?
  • How soon could you deal with this job well enough to become productive?
  • If time did not permit a training period on a new job, how would you go about learning the things expected or required of you?
  • What measures do you take to ensure that your knowledge & skills are up-to-date?
  • What are the areas you think you could improve on?
  • What initiatives have you planned to address these?

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APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Overall


Overall Job Performance

Exceptions for this Job / Motivation / Goal Orientation

Step-up to the role


Overall Job Performance

  • How do you typically handle yourself in a fast-paced environment?
  • How would you describe the pace at which you work? If it varies, under what circumstances?
  • What are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
  • How do you handle a heavy workload with many deadlines?
  • In all jobs there are heavy periods and light periods. What do you do in such cases?
  • You are given several rush projects to be completed in a short period of time.
    • How would you establish priorities?
    • What factors would you consider?
  • How would you describe your organisational abilities?

Expectations for this Job / Motivation / Goal Orientation

Junior / Entry level

  • What type of work setting motivates you?
  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Why should you be hired for this position?
  • Based on what you know about the position, which aspects of it would be most attractive to you? Least attractive?
  • How would you describe your past performance in a similar position?
  • What do you think are the most important qualities we should look for in someone to fill this particular position?
  • What is important to you in a job and why?
  • Describe how your work history reflects your job objectives and abilities.
  • Why did you choose this profession? What reward does it give you?
  • When has your morale been the highest at work? Why?
  • Give an example of an important job goal you have set in the past and tell us about your success in reaching it.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  • Please describe how you set and measure work goals.
  • How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects?

APPENDIX H

Question Dictionary


Wrap Up & Close


Management level

  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Why should you be hired for this position?
  • What are the least attractive aspects to this job?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  • Describe how your work history reflects your job objectives and abilities.
  • Please describe how you set and measure work goals.
  • How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects?

Closing the interview

  • Ask the candidate if they have anything to add to what was covered?
  • Invite and respond to questions from the candidate.
  • Let the candidate know if there is another stage to the selection process.
  • Inform the candidate as to when he/she can expect to hear the results of the interview.
  • Thank the candidate for attending.

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