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Interviews

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Getting to the interview stage is something to be proud of. Many applicants will not have made it to this stage of the recruitment process so your potential employer must like what you have said in your written application! Now you need to be ready to articulate ‘out loud’ your skills, knowledge and achievements and be ready for any questions which come your way.

Preparing for interviews

Interviews can come in many formats. It may be a face-to-face with one or two people from the organisation you have applied to, a ‘Panel’-style interview with four-five interviewers. It may be on its own, or part of an assessment centre with other activities to test your skills and abilities. Interviews may cover technical questions and ‘soft skill’ questions, sometimes these may be broken down into two different interviews. However, you should always expect to answer questions about the technical knowledge that is relevant to your role, what you know about the company, and questions about how you perform in the workplace such as dealing with problems, working in a team, managing your time etc.

Usually, when you are invited to the interview, you will be given some further details about what to expect. For example, the names and job titles of the people who who will be interviewing you (giving you a chance to do some research about them), length of the interview and types of questions to expect. You may also be asked to deliver a presentation on a particular theme related to the company or role, or about yourself.

Researching the employer

It is vital that you know as much as you can about the organisation you have applied to before you go to the interview. You can expect to be asked to talk in detail about what you know about the employer, their products/services, business outlook etc. This information should be more than the information presented on the home page of their website. You should be able to provide evidence that you have done detailed analysis, such as reading their most recent annual report, looking at recent press articles about them, any speeches or talks given by their staff (such as at a conference or professional body event). You may have even attended a talk by the company which you can refer to. If the company is small and there is little external information about them, ensure you read as much as you can about them on their website or any brochures you have.

Whether the organisation is large or small, another good test is to find out who their main competitors are and compare their strengths/weaknesses – what makes this company special, or what more could they do to improve their market position? Whether you are applying for an airline, manufacturer, maintenance provider, university academic department, the organisation will be operating within a market and always impressed if you have identified their current opportunities and threats.

It is essential that you can demonstrate a deep understanding of the organisation you have applied to. In the event that the interviewer has several good candidates at the end of the interview process and is finding it difficult to select, he/she is most likely to choose the person who showed the most knowledge and interest in the organisation and is therefore the most motivated for both the role and organisation. Recruitment is an expensive process, so the interviewer will be looking for the candidate who both best meets the needs of the role and team and is most likely to stay.

Technical interview questions

Whether you are applying to be a pilot, aeronautical engineer or airline analyst, the role you have applied for will require specific knowledge which is likely to be related to your recent training or course, or, if you are now working, your most recent role. Be ready to answer questions which are designed to test your understanding and knowledge. You may be asked very specific questions, such as the preparations for landing at a particular airport (pilot); tolerances of different aircraft materials (engineering) or hedging fuel prices (airline operations). You should know about the regulations and quality standards which affect your role and of any recent changes which may have an impact.

If you have recently completed a degree or Master’s you may be asked to talk in detail about your dissertation or final year project and to go in to detail about your approach to the research, analysis and conclusions drawn.

You may find that this is the most comfortable part of the interview as it closely relates to your studies and interests. However, if your technical knowledge is a little rusty or you have some areas you are less confident in, it is worth revising some key areas which relate to the role you have applied to.

Talking about your soft skills

Once you have convinced the employer that you really want to work for them and have the right technical knowledge, the next step is to show that you have the right skills to perform well in the workplace. Our soft skills pages provide more information on the kinds of transferable skills you will need to demonstrate throughout the process such as communication, leadership, interpersonal, teamwork and creativity/innovation. This is also where you can bring previous experiences in the workplace to life, to talk, for example, in more detail about particular projects you have worked on, how you used your skills to achieve success but also be ready to talk about things which didn’t go so well, what you learnt and how you have made improvements.

It is always difficult to predict what questions you will be asked. However, we have prepared a special interview question matrix to help give you an idea of the types of questions which could be asked so you can start to develop strategies to answer them, and any unexpected surprises.

Before you download the matrix a few final tips:

  • Remember that questions about a particular skill could be asked in different ways – such as providing an example from your own experience of working in a team, to being asked to define what makes good team work
  • You may be asked to provide more detail on examples you provided in your written application – whether online application questions, your CV or covering letter. Make sure you have re-read your examples and be ready to be challenged on how you came about with solutions etc.
  • The interviewer may be equally interested in examples from outside your current role or university course, such as sports, community/charity work, a part-time job, volunteering or professional body activities. They may have a shared interest in these activities or see them as fantastic examples for you to develop to highlight key skills. Therefore ensure you have thought about all aspects of your profile – from directly related training and jobs through to hobbies and outside interests.
  • At the end of the interview you may be asked if you have any questions. The interview is a two-way process so use this chance to ask any about anything that will help you understand the company better, fill in any gaps you have. While asking about further training, promotions etc. are natural, it is important to think about a really good question which they may not have expected and which will make you memorable. Prepare in advance but do ensure you don’t ask something which has been covered during the interview!

Example Interview Questions – Matrix

The Royal Aeronautical Society’s Example Interview Question Matrix has been designed to help you prepare. There is a selection of questions around your company research, how you make your career choices, your soft skills, strengths and weaknesses with links to the key areas that the question is probing. The matrix has space for you to write some some possible answers and if you need any further help and advice, the document can be used as a starting point for discussion with our careers team.

To access the matrix, please click here.

More help with job applications

For more help with making applications, why not visit our pages on CVs, Writing Compelling Covering Letters, Soft Skills and Online Application Forms. You can also start preparing for the selection process and aptitude tests with our Self Assessment Portal.