Interview Preparation 2017-11-23T14:36:00+00:00

Interview Preparation

Before the Interview 

Company Research

  • You need to know background information about the company and its products. An interviewer will always be very impressed if you show that you’ve taken the trouble to find out about the company, for example its position in the industry, its markets and its performance, turnover and profits
  • If the company’s big enough, phone and ask the receptionist or public relations / information department for some literature covering products / services.  You may also be able to get their annual report in which the Chairman’s statement can be a very useful source of information as it summarises past performance and future prospects

The Interview

Personal Presentation

  • Be well groomed and clean. Try to look calm and confident
  • Sit comfortably with both feet on the floor, lean slightly towards the interviewer.
  • Try not to create defensive barriers between you and them, like a brief case on your knees, folded arms or crossed legs…even if you feel you need to. It is natural, but they will not physically attack!
  • Maintain natural eye contact with the interviewer.  If there is more than one interviewer, look at who’s talking and when you’re talking, shift your glance from one to the other.
  • Don’t over use your hands, if you are a natural gesticulator.
  • Don’t squirm and fidget.
  • Do nod and Mmm, to show you are listening to them.

Above all, try to be you and try to be natural!

Obeying these rules will allow the interviewers to concentrate on you, and not what you’re doing in the interview. Body language conveys all sorts of messages, and the right body language will convey the message of a well-balanced and confident individual…even if you’re not!

Do’s and Dont’s


  • Be natural, smile.
  • Remember the courtesies – please, thanks, would you mind.
  • Show enthusiasm for the job and the company.
  • Let the interviewer lead the conversation.
  • Be concise. Don’t waffle.
  • Be friendly, but not ‘matey’.
  • Be positive.
  • Avoid arguments or disagreements with the interviewer


  • Just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Support answers with concise, relevant answers.
  • Parrot back the answers to questions you’re prepared for. Pause briefly before answering.
  • Criticise previous employers.
  • Be modest, but don’t boast either.
  • Talk too much, or interrupt.
  • Mention family matters, unless asked.
  • Interview the interviewer.
  • Patronise or embarrass the interviewer, even if he/she is doing a lousy job

Interview Questions

Start with your personal details. Full name and contact details including all useable telephone numbers. Avoid superfluous details such as religious affiliation, children’s names etc…

Educational history and professional qualifications should follow, including name of institutions and dates attended in reverse order – university before school results. List GPA and any certifications attained. (These details will matter more if you have recently entered the job market, than if for example you left full time education 20 years ago).

Include computer skills and (genuine) foreign language skills and any other recent training/development that is relevant to the role applied for.

The most widely accepted style of employment record is the chronological resume. Career history is presented in reverse date order starting with most recent. Achievements and responsibilities are listed against each role. More emphasis/information should be put on more recent jobs.

Leave hobbies and interests to last – keep this section short. References can simply be ‘Available on Request’. Current salary details should not be included. A good cover letter should always accompany your CV.

Your CV and cover letter should combine to create a picture of you and your career-to-date and illustrate why you are different from the competition and hopefully secure yourself a place on a shortlist

Interviews vary tremendously, from very informal to formal, although some questions can be anticipated, as can the subject matter. If you are well prepared as discussed in this topic, then the majority of many of the problem questions should not arise – you will know about the company, you will know about yourself and you will have a good idea of the demands of the job – these questions will not be a problem to the well prepared interviewee.

A few general rules:

  • Speak up when answering questions.
  • Answer briefly, but try to avoid yes or no answers.
  • Don’t worry about pausing before you answer, it shows you can think.
  • Don’t embellish answers or lie! Be as honest as possible.
  • Be prepared for hypothetical situation questions; take your time on these.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected question, that’s designed to see how you cope with the unexpected.
  • If you ask questions keep them brief during the interview, remember you’re the interviewee. At the end of the interview ask your questions in an open manner, that is questions, which can’t be answered, yes or no, e.g. tell me about…? What is …? Why…?

Thank the interviewers for their time when you leave quietly and calmly and smile, even if you now hate them

Typical Interview Questions

  • What are your management strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What can you offer?
  • What do you want to achieve in the next five years?
  • What are your biggest achievements at work?
  • How do you deal with difficult customers?
  • What are your views on training?
  • How do you motivate your staff?
  • Have you ever had to deal with a difficult situation at work and how did you deal with it?

Key Tips

Turn up!
This seems obvious but recruitment consultants and employers complain bitterly about no shows and last minute cancellations. Don’t commit to go to an assessment centre unless you are serious about going. Cancelling an interview at the last minute is one thing – the interviewer can always re-arrange their diary. An assessment centre cannot be cancelled and a lot of resource will have been committed. If you have to cancel, make sure you give a week’s notice minimum. Any less than that will damage your reputation.

Prepare properly.
 If you are joining a retail company then go and have a look at some stores (at least two) and don’t rely on memory. You will almost certainly be asked what you thought of the store and if the company is a plc then get hold of a company report. You will not be expected to understand all the financial minutiae but it will give you an idea on how the company sees itself.  Also look at the company website. Another useful tip is to check the share price. You can only do this on quoted companies but any serious newspaper will give you a listing.

Get an early night.
If it’s a morning start then make sure you get an early night the day before. You may be in a classroom type environment and if you are tired it will show.

Give yourself enough time to get there.
If you are not sure how long it will take then either rehearse the journey or give yourself enough time to arrive 45 minutes early. Do not go into reception until 15 minutes before your appointed time. Early but not too early!

Dress appropriately.
You will need to understand the culture of the business to work out appropriate dress, however, smart-formal will rarely offend. You could also call the company beforehand and ask for some guidance.

Don’t smoke.

Once you arrive do try to make an effort to get on with people around you.
This includes the receptionist, the caterers, and especially the other applicants. In most jobs teamwork, interpersonal skills, and the ability to get on with colleagues are critical. These are competencies that will be assessed.

Listen carefully to all the instructions for various exercises.
If you don’t understand something, do ask. Frequently you will be briefed on safety procedures. Don’t look bored, even if you are. Show your enthusiasm for the day and the company.

Think of some intelligent questions before you go.
There will probably be a question and answer session.

Say “Thank You”.
At the end of the interview/assessment centre say thank you . It pays to be courteous