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Hints and Tips for Candidates

Interview Preperation

Some of us are confident in an interview situation.  Some of us however capable dread the thought; but keep in mind that the interview is a two way meeting.

The interview is a prime opportunity for you to sell yourself to the interviewer.  Focus on your strengths and what skills you can bring to the position.


  • 7-10% is what you say
  • 20-30% is how you say it
  • 60-80% is your image, your body language and the overall impression that you create

Interview questions

  • Prepare for questions about your background, aspirations, interests, personality, the potential employer and the position.  It is not possible to guarantee what questions may arise in any interview, but you should consider the following:
  • Potential employer
  • What do you know about our organisation?
  • Do you know anyone who works for us?
  • What interests you about the position?
  • What do you think we have to offer you as a company?

Career Ambitions

  • What are your long / short term goals and career aspirations?
  • Where do you see yourself in 2/5 years time?
  • What are you looking for in a career?
  • Do you have plans to gain further qualifications?
  • Describe your ideal employer?
  • Skills and Requirements
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What skills to you have to offer to the company? (Always be prepared to give examples of where you skills have been put into use)
  • How do you work best; leading a group, as part of a team, or alone?
  • Are you prepared to travel?
  • Are you looking for a position with training?
  • What has been your main career achievement to date?
  • What has been the most difficult problem in your current or last position and how did you find the solution?


  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What motivates you?

Problem / Sticky questions

  • What salary or benefits are you looking for?(we can give you advice regarding how to deal with this question prior to interview)
  • Why are you looking to change your career?
  • Given you career plans, how long do you expect to stay with our organisation?
  • Can we contact you current employer for reference (this question is usually only asked after an offer letter has been sent – nether the less, be prepared)
  • What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?
  • General questions
  • What is your health/sickness record like?
  • What do you like doing best / least in your current position?
  • Can you work under pressure? Describe an incident where you have had to do so
  • What has been the most responsible duty that you have been entrusted with and who di you report to9?
  • How would you handle difficult clients and customers?
  • What motivates and de-motivates you?

Questions to ask the interviewer

  • Why is this position available?
  • What skills are needed to succeed?
  • What are the initial priorities of the position?
  • How does the position fit into the organisational structure?
  • How much scope (autonomy, flexibility, career growth, and responsibility) is there within the position?
  • I’d like to know more about the company, is there a company information pack?
  • Who will I be working for and how many people are there in the department?
  • Will there be future opportunities for promotion?
  • What are the hours I’ll be working?
  • Are there any periods when the business peaks? What effect will this have on the job if any?
  • What computer systems and software packages are used?

Prior to the interview

PREPARE – prepare for the interview questions, have a few to ask the interview and dress well, FIRST IMPRESSIONS count!

IDENTIFY – Who are you meeting what is their title and relationship to the job?

RESEARCH – Find out what the job entails; make sure that you have all the relevant information

PLAN AHEAD – Get a location map and contact telephone number, have money and a mobile phone if possible and allow yourself a good 30-60 minutes of additional time to arrive

CHECKOUT – Company brochure and their website, most companies today have a website and will expect you to have researched their company.  If applicable, research company products and the company potential (e.g. annual review report)

During the interview

  • Smile and make eye contact
  • Relax and be friendly
  • Be positive and enthusiastic, show your personality
  • Think about your body language
  • Don’t discuss salary until you are offered the job
  • Enjoy the experience
  • Sell yourself!

Helpful Tips

  • If they offer you a drink, take one.  Everyone in an interview is so quick to say “no thanks”  when they are offered a coffees, juice or water.  Go ahead and take it. M You can take sips while you think about your answers… it will buy you time.
  • Speak up – but never interrupt.  There’s nothing worse than an candidate who doesn’t speak unless spoke to, or even worse, responds simply with a sedate “yes” or “No”.  Remember that you’re selling yourself, so it’s okay to appear enthusiastic.  The key is to elaborate without being overly talkative.  If you interrupt your interview in mid-sentence, you may miss the point.  Even if you think you have something genius to contribute, wait until he / she finishes.
  • Comment about how mice the neighbourhood, office or area is.  Make sure you offer up compliments about the surrounding, eg “I got here early and as i was walking around , I noticed…..” This shows off your interpersonal skills (not to mention your punctuality)
  • Laugh – if at all possible.  Would you want to hire someone with an easygoing personality?
  • Good luck with your interview and don’t forget you may not succeed the first time but practice makes perfect!!!!!!!!!
  • Competency based interview
  • Competency based interview are a popular interview process and technique most interviewers use.

What is a competency based interview

A competency based interview requires you to give specific examples of situations you have been in, which provide evidence of you being competent in a certain area for example; customer service.

What sort of questions can you expect?

Competency based questions all start with things like;

Give me an example of a time…..

Tell me about a time when…..

Provide a specific example when you have…..

How should you answer these questions?:

Give your answer in the form of SMART

S – Situation – what happened what was the situation?

M – Managing and motivations – how do you manager your emotions, what was your motivation?

A – Action and Alternatives – what action did you take, what specifically did you do? What alternatives did you perhaps consider?

R – Results – what was the outcome?

T – Transferring to learning – what did you learn from the situation?

Things to remember

  • Use I not we – They are looking for you to provide examples of things that you did and it is important to use I, this shows ownership of that situation
  • Always give a specific, factual and true example
  • Use SMART to ensure you cover all the requirements and in the right order
  • Make sure the outcome of your answer always finishes on a positive note!

Below are some example competencies

  • Team Work / Team Player
  • Quality focused
  • Results driven
  • Commitment
  • Passion and energy

Questions may be, Can you give me an example when…….

  • You had to ensure quality was adhered to?
  • You had to work to targets / deadlines?
  • You have dealt with a difficult customer?
  • You have worked as part of a team?

Some of those dreaded questions answered; here are some examples of how to answer and what the recruiter is really wanting to here.  Hopefully they will help you and give you ideas so that you don’t disappoint.

Tell me about yourself. This is your big chance to sell yourself, so go for it. “Outline the skills and personal qualities that are relevant to the job. The interviewer wants to know how you are going to behave in the role.

What do your work colleagues think of you? “I like to ask people to consider the third person perspective; they have to think on their feet, and it allows me to assess their self-awareness. I’d also ask what their work colleagues would consider were their strengths and areas for development,” says Geoff Hall, the head of human resources for World Duty Free.

Why do you want the job? “This is a basic but important question, “We are looking for evidence that the candidate has thought about the job, the company, the brand.”

Achieve your objectives? An interviewer is looking to fulfil certain competencies, in this case motivation and commitment. “You might say ‘I like doing a job well and perform best when stretched’,” says Tim Forster, the head of UK experienced recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Tell me about a problem you have solved. I want to know about the processes and skills used and that they came to a reasonable solution. I want to know how quickly they react, whether they take risks and whether they are able to think off the wall.”

What are your weaknesses?. A more grown-up answer is to point out a couple of areas where you may need training or development should you get the job.

Why have you taken the career path that you have? “I look for goals and conscious decisions. It is best if people have fallen into roles to explain it in terms of seizing opportunities, that’s much more positive than the idea that they have been forced into decisions

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? “We are looking for an ambition that hangs together, is realistic and coherent

What challenges do you believe this organisation faces? “We are looking to see that they have done their research and have the commercial sophistication to understand the implications of that research,” Alberg says.

Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? When an interviewer asks an oddball question they want to see how you react under stress. Williams says: “Don’t panic, take your time, talk through your thinking and although there is no right answer, commit yourself to one.”

Interview Questions

Generally speaking there are going to be certain questions that arise at your interview that you can pretty much expect to get asked at any interview you may attend. The great thing about this is the fact that you can rehearse your answers to these questions and with enough practice they will flow off your tongue easier than honey sipping down your throat! These questions are likely to be fired at all candidates applying for the job. So, although they may sound personal to you and they are to a degree; these are pretty standard interview questions. So here goes. You have to bear in mind that these are the responses that I would consider giving. They are obviously not set in stone and you will need to adapt answers according to your situation:

Tell Me about Yourself

This isn’t as straight forward to answer as at first it might seem. Don’t start rambling on about how much you love watching certain soaps on the TV. That isn’t what the interviewer is looking to hear. You will probably need to answer this question with a question. Perhaps you could try saying “What would you like to know about me?” This then gives your interviewer the chance to get you to tell them exactly what information they are looking for. If possible try and keep this part of the interview to a minimum. If you can, see if you can build into your response positives which relate to the job you are applying for. For example; if it’s a sales role you could say “I am a much organised person who enjoys finding a new prospect, working with it and closing the deal, carrying out the completion from start to finish”. Sometimes your interviewer might ask about your hobbies and again you should pick out points that relate to the job you are applying for whether remote or not.

What Is the Most Enjoyable Part Of Your Current Job?

This is a fairly straight forward question but has a bit of a double meaning. Obviously there are going to be parts of your existing job that you don’t like doing or you wouldn’t be applying for this new position would you? But your job can’t be that great either or you wouldn’t be applying for this job! Don’t get led down this route. Just answer something along the lines of “I do enjoy my present job so I can’t really put my finger on any part of it that I dislike. I am just looking to further my career” and leave it at that. It is possible to use this question to your benefit but you need to make sure you pick something that is going to compliment the job you are applying for.

Tell Us about the Biggest Challenge You’ve Ever Faced In Your Career?

Oh wow, this is a really great question to help you shine! You are more than likely to be asked this question and it is a really great opportunity for you to blow your own trumpet. Pick a challenge where you have been successful and explain how you overcame it and what the outcome was. This question can also be used by the interviewer to gauge what you consider to be a challenge, so this is a bit of a crafty one as well.

Why Do You Want To Leave Your Present Job?

This is a bit of a stupid question really as the chances of the interviewer getting a straight answer are fairly limited. Let’s face it; if the job you are in doesn’t pay very well and you want more money, you are going to be looking for a new job. It might be that your current boss is a complete idiot and you don’t like him. It could be you can’t stand working with John in accounts. You aren’t going to say any of these things are you? Well hopefully not! I think a standard response along the lines of “I feel that I have outgrown the company I am in and my contribution as part of a team could be put to better use with a larger or more focused company where I can expand my skills further. I am really interested in……..but my existing employer doesn’t have the resources to let me advance in this area” and leave it at that. Just try not to be negative about the job you are leaving. It doesn’t look good.

What Is Your Present Boss Like?

Another question posed by interviewers to gauge your loyalty and integrity. It is not a good idea to be critical about any of the employers you have ever worked for. Realistically very few of us actually like our bosses. Well, most of us just placate them and tell them what they want to hear. After all why would you possibly want to be best buddies with a person who holds your career prospects in their hands? If you get asked this question the most appropriate reply is “I like my boss and get on very well with him (or her). I respect their experience and they are good at their job”. You really don’t need to expand any further on this issue at interview stage. You have to remember that the person interviewing you may well, at some point in the near future, become your boss and they are weighing up your loyalty and integrity.

What Do You Think This Job Entails?

Now, when you are applying for a new job the chances are you are going to know something about what it is all about. For example; if the job is a secretarial role and you are a secretary, you will know what sort of work you are going to be involved with. In any case you will have been given a brief description of the job role and what responsibilities it carries in either the advertisement about it or in a job description that may have been sent with the original application form, so you should be able to make a reasoned reply.

What Do You Know about this Organisation?

Now if you have taken my earlier advice you will have done your research and read up about what the company is involved in, its products, its turnover and its strategy. You will really impress your interviewer if you are able to show that you have this knowledge. As previously mentioned people like to think that if you are really eager to work for them. You will have done some research about what they do and how they do it. So let’s say you are applying for a job with a major high street retailer you could say something like “I notice that you are one of the leading stores who operate a “Fair Trade Policy” when purchasing your goods from third world countries. I have to say that I am very supportive of this and it would be nice to work for an employer who cares about the impact their business has on people in the outside world”.

What Made You Apply For This Job And Why Do You Want It?

This is a bit of a double edged question. Your interviewer isn’t necessarily looking for an answer here that is straight forward. You know you are applying for the job because you think you would enjoy doing it, the package is right and you think you would be able to advance your career with this firm, but the interviewer wants to see if there are some specifics that really attract you to it (other than the £ 50,000 per year and company car). So dependent upon what the role is, you could use an answer such as “I am a very well organised person and this role involves exceptional management skills. I thrive under pressure and it makes me perform to my full ability which makes me think that I would really enjoy it”. Obviously you can tailor this answer to whatever role you are applying for.

What Qualities Do You Think You Can Bring To This Job Position?

Again, you know that you can do this job and that is why you have applied for it. Not only do you know that you can do the job, you will do it better than anyone else, so you will be aware of the qualities you are going to bring to this business. You will have reviewed the job spec and the key responsibilities so you will be able to select several areas where you feel your qualities will stand out. Perhaps you could therefore give an answer along the lines of “I have experience working in the complaints department where a sympathetic touch is required dealing with disgruntled customers. I am very tactful and am able to defuse situations using my personal skills”.

How Long Would You Expect To Work For Our Organisation?

Let’s face it no employer wants to go through the hassle and cost of hiring a new candidate if the candidate only stays with them for 6 months and then decides to apply to another firm. The recruitment process is a long and expensive one especially where agencies are used to introduce the candidate. This could cost your potential employer as much as 30% of your first year’s package! It’s probably a good idea therefore to intimate that you would like to work for this firm for several years minimum and you could provide an answer along the lines of “I like the way your company is continuing to expand and I would like to be part of that on a long term basis. So I would like to think that I could continue to work for you for a lengthy period of time providing my career continues to progress”.

What’s Your Greatest Strength?

Only you can answer this question, but it is a question that will more than likely be asked. After all, the interviewer wants to know what you are good at. This question gives you pretty much an open mandate to really show off. However don’t overdue the self praise. When answering this question try and provide strengths that relate to the role that you are applying for, so if the job requires the need to be organised and a good team leader provide these as strengths within your answer.

What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

Bit of a tricky question this, after all no one wants to show their weaknesses but we all have them. The most comprehensive way of dealing with this question is to try and turn it into a “positive” from a “negative”. So you could perhaps say “my biggest weakness is buying the kids sweets when they ask for them in the shop” or “I really dislike washing the car at the weekend but once I have done it I always feel a real sense of satisfaction”.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years Time?

Don’t say as I have heard so many times “sitting in your job!” Although I have a sense of humour, most interviewers do not. The remark often has an element of truth hanging in the background and you don’t want your interviewer thinking you are potentially a threat to his or her job in the future. I am sure you will have ideas about where you want to be in a few years time. Most people, whether they put them down on paper or not, have a good idea of their long term career objectives. Try and answer the question positively but not too arrogantly. Perhaps you could give an answer such as “I have always been very career minded and ambitious. I would like to keep progressing up the career ladder and feel that your organisation will be able to offer me that opportunity”.

What Would Your Work Colleagues Say About You?

This question provides another opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are easy to get on with, a team player and a generally amenable person who works well with other people. You could answer this question with a quote such as “I am an organised, approachable, dependable, easy to get on with team member who is always willing to offer my advice or assistance to colleagues where needed”. Don’t go overboard with your answer, making out you are something you are not. You may get away with stretching the truth, but if you are not a “natural team leader” don’t say you are!

What Would Your Friends Say About You?

Obviously this question is similar to the one above. If you are a popular, kind, caring person who can be counted on and would help a friend out at the drop of a hat then let your interviewer know.

What Interests Do You Have Outside Of Your Work?

This will be a definite question (in my opinion) and is posed by your interviewer to try and ascertain what you are like outside of your working environment. If you don’t like football or snooker don’t say that you do. Just provide honest answers. There is nothing worse than saying you follow a sport and then it turning out that the interviewer is mad about the subject and starts asking you question you can’t answer. You will look a fool and your honesty will be under scrutiny!