Candidate first interview preparation

An interview will be a vital part of the selection procedure, and whilst other techniques such as psychometric testing may also be used, it is likely that the interview will determine who is successful. As such, don’t take chances with the interview, make sure you get it right.

The key to successful interviews is to break it down into 3 stages: research, preparation and the interview itself.


An understanding of the market a company operates in and its core products or services is essential for you to demonstrate a genuine interest and enthusiasm. A company website is your first port of call as this will often give you extensive information on the company. However, you should also expand your search to recent news articles, and where available publicly look at the company’s social media accounts. Also use your network to explore contacts who may work for the company, and consider using LinkedIn to understand the profiles of the people who will interview you. It is important not to be over familiar, but a little knowledge of an interviewer’s background can be helpful for your interview technique.


Ensure you are very familiar with your own resume, and can easily answer questions and give examples from it. Try doing an interview role play with friends or family until you feel your responses become second nature. Clearly understand the job description and focus on your past experience that is closely matched, so that you can quickly demonstrate the value you bring to the employer. Prepare smart questions that are specific to the role or organisation and that show you have already pictured yourself performing the role. For example you may wish to ask; who will I liaise with in this role, what are the biggest challenges, what progression can I expect if I perform well. Finally, ensure you know where the interview is, how you will get there, and who you are meeting. Make sure you allow ample time for potential hold ups. If you arrive late you will almost certainly be ruled out before you have even started.

The Interview

First impressions are crucial so it is essential you dress professionally and meet your interviewer confidently, with a smile and a firm handshake. Your body language throughout the interview will be important, so make sure you maintain eye contact, speak clearly, and do not rush to fill silences. It is better to pause and give a considered answer rather than rush to respond.

Interviews tend to share common questions and you should be ready to answer these with ease. For example:

  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What are you seeking in your next role?
  • What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your biggest achievements
  • How do you handle pressure or stressful situations?
  • What position would you like to hold in 2 years/5 years?

In other interviews you may simply be asked to ‘tell me about yourself’. Really the interviewer is asking you to sell yourself a little. In this situation avoid a rambling talk through your life history, but use the opportunity to give a brief overview of your background, highlighting some of your key skills and achievements that make you most suitable for the position.

Behavioural style interviews

These questions are generally based on asking for examples of your past performance which can then be used to predict how you will perform or act in future. Typical examples are as follows:

  • Give me an example of when you experienced a difficult situation at work and how you overcame this.
  • Tell me about a time you have influenced an individual or group in order to achieve a specific task.
  • Describe when you last missed a deadline and why.
  • Give an example of where you have done more than was expected of you.
  • Describe your involvement in a task or project that had to be completed to a very high standard.
  • Describe when you have disagreed with someone or worked with a difficult person. How did you overcome this to achieve the required task.

In each of these questions you must be able to walk the interviewer through 3 stages: the problem or situation you faced, the actions you took, and the result or outcome. Be sure in this situation to talk about what you personally did, rather than using ‘we’, as the interviewer is trying to assess what was your specific involvement, not that of others or the wider group.

After the interview

We recommend that you write some notes after the interview while it is fresh in your mind, including what you may have liked or disliked, or questions that you may have struggled with. This will help you prepare for a second interview or for other future interviews.