Interview Help and Advice

An interview is a discussion in person, by phone or online, between you and an employer.

The employer wants to see if you’re the right person for the job. You’ll get the chance to make a good impression and show the employer what you have to offer. You can also see if the job is one you want.

All companies have different formats for their interviewing, depending on the role there could also be multiple interviews required.

The most common types of interview are:

  • Competency based: This will be an interview focussing on the skills and personal qualities you need, you’ll have to relate your skills and experience to the job in questions. You will be asked to give examples of times you have been in certain situations that cover the core competency’s of the role. More information on Competency based interviews can be found here
  • Technical: Some roles, usually within technical jobs in areas like IT or engineering, you’ll have to display your technical knowledge of a certain process or skill. You will be given a brief on what you are required to do and expected to carry out the task during the interview. You can find some great examples of technical interview questions on the following link
  • Face-to-face: Exactly as it sounds, a face to face interview is an in person interview where you will be discussing the position, your experience and the company, with either one or multiple people from within the business. Usually held by a line manager, HR and or a senior member of the management team. Take a look at some of the most common interview questions asked by clicking here
  • Panel interview: Some organisations opt for a Panel approach, this is an interview where one person usually leads and other panel members take it in turns to ask you different questions relating to the role and your experiences. There are some fantastic tips and an excellent guide on Panel Interviews, view there on this link
  • Telephone or online: A lot of companies will ask a candidate to carry out an initial telephone interview, this could be the first stage of the interview or the only stage, and you should prepare in the same way as for a face-to-face interview. This is a great way for both the company and candidate to get an idea of each other, it can also save a lot of time if neither feel it is the right opportunity. To make sure you are prepared for the kind of questions asked follow this great guide.
  • Informal chat: Depending on the position and hiring manager sometimes you may be asked for an informal chat, this will usually be held on neutral ground, usually somewhere like a restaurant or a cafe. Some businesses opt for this approach in a similar way to a telephone interview, a work-focussed discussion about your experience and career aims.
  • Group discussion: Often used in the retail or call centre environment, a group interview will give you the opportunity to show  you can get along with people, put your ideas forward and be respectful of others. There is a good guide on what to expect here

Before the interview

To help you prepare, you can:

  • Think about which areas of your CV or application form the interviewer might ask you to talk more about, and how you can relate them to the role
  • Prepare some answers about why you want the job, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and your relevant work and life experience
  • Think of some questions to ask about the role and the company at the end of the interview, but don’t ask about pay yet
  • Try to relax the night before the interview – doing lots of last minute work could make you more anxious and reduce your sleep time

What to wear

When it comes to what to wear:

  • Plan what you’re going to wear before the day of the interview
  • Find out what the company’s dress code is and wear clothes that suit the company that’s interviewing you
  • Don’t wear clothes that you’re uncomfortable in, or shoes that you’ll struggle to walk in
  • Don’t wear too much strong perfume or aftershave

Getting to the venue

Knowing your interview location is essential:

Check in advance how to get to the interview venue, and how long it’ll take. On interview day make sure you leave plenty of time to get there and aim to arrive a little early, don’t arrive to early though, you don’t want to comer across over keen.

Get settled and ready to begin

Just before the interview starts:

  • Make sure your phone’s turned off
  • Ask for water if you haven’t already been given some
  • Don’t let your nerves show too much – use breathing techniques and try to remember a few nerves are normal

During the Interview

When answering the questions:

  • Take your time when thinking of your answer – it’s fine to say you need a moment to think
  • Look alert and attentive, speak clearly and confidently, and don’t swear or use slang
  • Give full answers, don’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • Give examples of when you’ve used the skills they’re asking for
  • If you’re asked about your experience, talk about the Situation you were in, the Task in front of you, the Action you took, and the Result of your action (STAR technique)
  • Be positive about your experiences – avoid negativity about yourself or any previous roles you’ve had
  • Make sure you fully understand the questions you’re asked – ask for more explanation if you need to
  • Avoid mentioning salary or company benefits unless asked
  • Don’t lie – the interviewer may see through you and, even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out you’ve been dishonest
  • If you’re asked about a work skill you don’t have, you could say what you’d do in a certain situation or use an example from your personal life, and also explain that you’re a fast learner
  • Don’t be arrogant and assume you’ve got the job – employers don’t like disrespectful or over-confident candidates
  • Don’t bring up topics like religion or politics where people can have strongly-held personal beliefs

Difficult questions

Be prepared for the interview to dig into you job history:

If you’re asked about being made redundant from your previous job, try to stress it was a business decision and describe how you’ve responded positively since.

If you were fired for misconduct or poor performance, try to explain why your standards dropped on that occasion but that you have learnt from it and have since improved.

If you’ve been out of work for a long time and get asked about it, describe any positive steps you’ve taken such as voluntary work, courses, networking, industry events, keeping fit, community roles, keeping yourself up to date with your field.

If you left your last job by choice and are asked about it, you could make it clear you were grateful for the opportunity and learnt a lot, but you wanted a fresh challenge.

After the interview

When the employer contacts you after the interview:

  • If you’re offered the job, thank them and agree things like start date and what to bring on the first day
  • If you’re expected to negotiate salary, find out beforehand what the usual rate is for the job but then start high and meet in the middle if necessary
  • Ask for feedback on your performance – if you weren’t successful use their comments to improve for next time
  • If you’re offered a job and decide you don’t want it, thank the employer politely, as you may want to work for them in future