Defence industry interview questions: what to expect and how to prepare

By Sophie Richards on 25 November 2020

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Being really well prepared for an interview is essential if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of landing that dream role. As recruiters our candidates often ask us, “What kind of questions should I expect in my interview?” So we took away the guess work and asked some of our defence industry clients what interview questions they most often ask.

Of course, like in any industry, you’ll find variation in interview questioning depending on the seniority of the role and the experience level and style of the interviewer, but here’s what our hiring managers told us.

The types of questions you can expect fall into the following categories.

The ‘Get To The Point Quickly’ Questions

Why are you interested in working for this company?

This is a clever one, because not only does your answer give you the chance to demonstrate how much research you’ve done on their company and the role you’re interviewing for, it also allows the hiring manager to understand how you perceive the culture and why you think you’ll be a good fit. The lesson? Always do your research. Be clear on why you’re seeking this role and on all the reasons that you’re a perfect fit for both the role and the organisation.

What are your weaknesses?

An oldie but a goodie. As much as we may prefer to pretend that we’re perfect in every way, it really is OK to admit to weaknesses in an interview. It’s best to avoid the classic ‘talk about a weakness that is actually a positive’ trick e.g. ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I always go above and beyond’. It’s the oldest trick in the book and answering in that way can make you sound a bit disingenuous.

Instead, we recommend talking about scenarios that you’ve found challenging. You could recount situations where you perhaps weren’t able to perform at your best or respond in the way that you’d hoped, and - most importantly - outline the steps that you have taken to overcome those challenges now and in the future. E.g. “I have a tendency to take on too much because I sometimes misjudge how long things will take me. This can result in me feeling overwhelmed. To help with this I’ve learnt to live by my task planner, so I always know what I’ve got on and what deadlines I am working to. In that way, if I get asked to take on more work I can easily see where I can fit it in and how to prioritise.”

The ‘What’s Your Behavioural Style’ Questions

What was the biggest challenge that you have faced in your current or previous role and how did you overcome this?

Similar to the weaknesses question above, this gives the you the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by describing how you addressed a difficult situation. Not every day at work is smooth sailing. We all encounter challenging scenarios, and your prospective employer is most interested in how you overcame those challenges and how you manage when things may not go according to plan. Try to choose an example that could have relevance to your new employer .

Top tip: always avoid being overly negative about previous employers or colleagues in an interview, it’s never a good move. Also, defence industry is small and it’s likely there are links between past and future employers.

What’s the structure of your current team and how do you communicate when talking to management/peers/subordinates?

Collaboration is vital to the success of any team and an appropriate communication style at every level within an organisation is a vital part of this. Be ready and able to talk about how you communicate and manage up the line with your management team, as well as defining your style of communication and engagement with peers and subordinates. Defence industry is full of diverse personalities, so it is also worth thinking about how you change your style of communication depending on the person you are communicating with.

Teams are often spread across different locations, with team members increasingly working remotely as well as in the office. The ability to communicate with people face-to-face as well as using online methods is important. And communication also means keeping team mates across the various aspects of a project or updated with regards to new ideas and information.

When answering this question try to pick specific examples to illustrate your points. Show the interviewer your communication skills, your style and the way you use different methods for communicating at work.

The Curly Abstract Questions

If you were a house, how would you sell yourself?

What. A. Question. To answer this one it might be necessary to ask for a second or two to think! (Which is totally OK, by the way. We encourage you to take a moment to formulate your thoughts in response to a question whenever you need it).

You’ve been invited to sell yourself and they’ve even invited you to sell as hard as a real estate agent! So sell you shall.

What’s your elevator pitch? Be sure to come prepared to describe in a punchy 30 second or less what’s great about you and why you’re perfect for this role.

Top tip: know what your most employable qualities are. What makes you stand out from the crowd as an employee? Now is the time to talk about it.

What made you laugh today?

This is designed to encourage you to let your guard down. To relax and relate to your interviewer. This gives the hiring manager an insight into your sense of humour and gives them a small glimpse of the cultural qualities you’ll bring to the team. Be honest! We all know that humour is totally subjective. (Apparently there are people out there who don’t love Schitt’s Creek?! Weird I know…)

Overall, preparation is key. Be sure to have pre-prepared answers for a variety of questions, and to have examples to back those answers up.

Some final Top Tips include:

  1. Use the STAR method when responding to questions Situation, Task, Action, Result. This ensures that you outline the Situation, describe your Task or role within it, the Action you took and the Result or impact of your actions. The STAR method is particularly useful for competency-focused questions which typically start with phrases like “Describe a time when...” or “Share an example of a situation where...” as it allows you to back up what you say by demonstrating that you have a particular skill, experience or capability. For more info, check out our STAR method blog here.

  2. Utilise the resources at hand. I.e. find out as much as you can about the company advertising the role and ask your recruiter what to expect of the role and in the interview. Your recruiter has a wealth of knowledge and is here to support you in getting your next role. It’s also likely that they have worked with the hiring manager before, and have first-hand experience of what kind of questions to expect.

  3. Most importantly, remember that the hiring manager wants you to succeed! If they are interviewing you, they obviously think that you look like a great candidate and are a potential fit for their role and organisation. By preparing well for your interview and taking your time to respond to each question, you get to be your best and show them that you’re the one for the job!

Looking for work in defence industry? Or just want to know what opportunities are out there? Browse our current jobs here or get in touch with one of our team.

​Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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