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Interview Skills

Most people view job interviews with trepidation or even fear. Although hugely important to securing your next career move, it is possible to increase your chances of performing well with preparation and practice. If you have a job interview, first of all, congratulations on being shortlisted. If it is not explicit from the invitation to interview, call the recruiter to clarify what the process will involve - assessment centre, group task or panel interview. The following pages may help you with your interview preparation.

And remember, in the interview itself, talking about yourself is not bragging. It is simply providing the potential employer with information he/she needs to assess your suitability for the position. You have got to believe in the value of what you have to offer. Lack of confidence is one of the major reasons job candidates get turned down. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, how can you expect to inspire it in others?

What do employers generally look for in interview candidates?

Preparing for Interview

Practice Questions

Common Pitfalls

Internal Interviews

What do employers generally look for in interview candidates?

Typically employers ask themselves:

  • Can you do the job?
  • DO you have the potential to progress?
  • Are you focused and committed?
  • Will you fit in?

Employers will want to know:

  • Why you have chosen to apply for this role-how does it fit into your long term career plans?
  • Your understanding of the job role, organisation and department and how you could take it forward
  • Your track record – evidence that you have made an impact in previous roles
  • About the real you – Could they work with you easily ? Are you a team player?

Preparing for Interview

You need to research:

  • The Role
  • The Department
  • The Organisation
  • The Line Manager and Colleagues
  • The Sector
  • Current and future developments

Ways to research:

  • Job and Person specification
  • Organisation / dept website
  • Annual Report / 5 year plan etc
  • Commercial organisations : online databases (eg marketline)
  • Industry press (THES etc, websites)


  • Pre- application discussion with line manager
  • Previous post holder
  • Colleagues who currently or who have ever worked in the dept
  • Colleagues who work in collaboration with that dept
  • Contacts who work in similar roles in other organisations
  • Alumni career contacts database and LinkedIn + professional networks

 Networking Questions

  • What are the current priorities within the dept / organisation?
  • How is the role likely to change in the future?
  • What is the professional background of the line manager / other colleagues?
  • Why did the last person leave the role and where did they go?
  • What qualities does someone need to succeed in the role / this environment

Practice Questions

In interviews, it often helps to have thought about how you would answer some likely question. Use the job description and person specification to help you decide the areas you might be asked about and if possible, ask a friend to give you a mock interview as this will help you focus your response:

Skills and Experience

Go to: Practice Questions

These questions may be a useful starting point when preparing for your interview.

Common pitfalls

  • Not providing evidence for achievements, skills and qualities
  • Insufficient research on the organisation and external environment
  • Not answering the actual questions asked
  • Not demonstrating enthusiasm - assuming it’s obvious you want the job
  • Underselling previous experience and achievements
  • Body language which portrays poor interpersonal skills
  • Inappropriate questions for the interviewer showing lack of research or judgement

Internal Interviews

  • Do not rest on your laurels or rely on your track record / relationship with the hiring manager
  • You might be an unknown quantity to some panel members
  • You have to provide evidence that you meet the person spec in the interview itself
  • Be prepared to sell yourself as much as when applying to external organisations
  • You will be expected to have a more thorough understanding of the organisation than external candidates
  • An excellent opportunity to network in advance to research the role



Purple Speech Bubble graphic

People forget that being interviewed is essentially your chance to answer the question, “What are you going to do for me?” I don’t want to hear about what you’ve done for your previous employees; I want to hear how you are going to use that experience to help me. To answer that, you need to know the organisation and where it’s heading
James Caan, Dragon, The Dragon's Den