Interview Guide

After coming through the selection process, you will eventually arrive at an interview. This is a major obstacle for many job applicants. Although you may have the qualifications, experience and a proven track record, you may lose out to a candidate who 'interviews better'.

Interviewing successfully

So, what does 'interviewing successfully' actually mean?
It all boils down to the candidate being properly prepared and confident. A candidate who can answer questions in a way which is acceptable (but not necessarily right) to the interviewer, someone who knows something about their potential employers business and the post they hope to fill. These are really the basic components of any candidate who 'interviews successfully'.

There are other aspects employers may look for in relation to specific posts e.g. the candidate having their own ideas, being articulate, or thinking on their feet. The interviewers' task is to be satisfied that the candidate has these personal qualities, skills and abilities the company requires.

Preparation and confidence
Good preparation is the key. The basic approach to an interview is to be well-prepared. This means two things:
  • Preparing yourself practically for the interview, and
  • Gathering knowledge and information you can draw on during the interview.
Interview checklist

Be sure you know the time, date and location of the interview and name of interviewer where appropriate. The worst nightmare for an interviewee is rushing around at last minute, arriving late and unprepared for an interview. Check out how you will get to the location, and when you need to set off to be there in good time. Plan to get there no earlier than half an hour before the interview time, anticipate delays. Do not go to the interview laden down with baggage - physical or otherwise. Take the bare minimum of belongings necessary. If you are asked to bring certificates, references etc, get them ready before the day. Take your interview letter. On arrival ensure the receptionist knows you are there.
If you are well organised and have planned for the day your confidence will increase.

Preparing to meet the Employer

The interview is a chance for you and the employer to get to know one another. Gather information about your employer before you are interviewed - what do they do, what are their current projects, what other interests do they have? Ask staff - many companies will offer you the chance to talk about the vacancy with someone, use the opportunity to find out more about the company. Use the internet - many companies have a presence here now.

Question them

There is always the opportunity to ask them questions at the end of the interview - remember the interview is a two-way process, you need to be sure you want to join them too! Write your questions down prior to the interview and take them with you.


Wear what is appropriate for the post and the company. It may vary from smart, formal wear in some instances to very formal dress in others. Try and get an insight into what the company would expect from employees or through observation.

Answering questions

Once you are ushered into the interview room there will usually be a short exchange of pleasantries and ice breaking. Don't be fooled by this time - it really is designed to put you at ease in most circumstances, but these initial moments are the most formative - don't go over the top being exceptionally friendly or alternatively going rigid with fear.

Interview Questions

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 earlier, 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 a 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 and are not spitting out the sound bites you learned!
  • Don't worry about admitting you don't know - but keep this to a bare minimum.
  • 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.
  • Thank the interviewers for their time when you leave quietly and calmly, and smile.
  • At the end of the interview ask your questions in an open manner.
Other sources of useful information for interview guidance: