Top tips for a successful interview


Liz Penemo interview, interviewing

The job interview is a dialogue between you and the interviewer. They want to assess how well you would fit into the company and whether you have the skills and experience you have stated in your application and CV. You need to find out more about the organisation and whether the role would be a good fit for you.

Thorough preparation is essential for a successful job interview.

Time spent on researching the organisation, identifying how you meet the requirements and rehearsing how you present yourself will boost your confidence, enable you to communicate effectively and ensure you make the best impression on the day.

Here are our top tips for a successful interview:

Research the Organisation

Familiarise yourself with the organisation’s website, the department you hope to join and the long term corporate or organisational goals.

Research the Interviewers

Look up your interviewers on the organisation’s website, on networks such as LinkedIn and make sure you know their role and position. Some background knowledge of their career and professional interests can give you an insight into the possible angle of interview questions.

Research Yourself

Go to the job interview with evidence of your skills and how you match the job description. You need to be prepared to state what you can bring to the employer and their organisation.

Interview Format

Find out what format the interview will follow (tour, formal interview, group session, tests etc) so that there are few surprises on the day. Your recruitment consultant should find out the format and contact details for you but when dealing with organisations directly ask for this information before the event.

Phone interviews should be prepared for in the same way as face to face interviews. Ensure there is no background noise or other distractions. Make sure you have all your documents to hand in advance and that pets and children are out of ear shot. Using a landline may be more reliable than a mobile phone. If you have to use a mobile, make sure your phone is charged and you are in a location with a good signal.

Skype interviews need extra preparation. Ensure that you are dressed formally and that there is a neutral, uncluttered and well lit background (if you are Skyping from home, tidy up before you start!). The web cam should be at eye level, the internet connection strong and ensure you are logged on and ready to go before the appointed time. Practise with a friend to ensure you are comfortable with your line of sight and to iron out any glitches before the event. If you have technical hitches deal with them calmly (no swearing or hysteria) and reschedule, (ensure you have relevant phone numbers to hand).

Informal interviews are a chance to meet additional members of the team. They can provide an opportunity to ask questions of your potential colleagues. Treat the interview as you would a formal interview and present a professional image to everyone you meet.

Group interviews are used to identify candidates with leadership or problem-solving skills and how you deal with pressure. Your communication skills will be under scrutiny. How you present your arguments will be as important as whether you listen to alternative view points and how you interact with other members of the team.

Competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews are based on the premise that past experience is the best indicator of future performance. These types of interviews reflect the competencies or qualities that the employer feels are necessary for this particular job and will have been given in the job description and person specification.

The good news is that you can prepare fully for this type of interview so there should be few surprises. The answers the interviewer will be expecting will give clear evidence of your skills in relation to a specific example of experience.

Examples of the wording use in competency based questions are:

  • Describe a time when you have had to deal with a difficult customer at work
  • Give an example of a when you have worked in a team
  • How have you made your work processes more efficient? Give examples of specific projects

All answers should include factual evidence of your experience. If you have not had the experience then answer the question saying what you would do in that circumstance (or use colleagues’ experience without claiming it as your own).

When preparing answers to some questions it may be helpful to use the STAR analysis to ensure you provide concise and relevant evidence of your experience.

Situation – outline the situation/set the context – one sentence is fine

Task – What was the task that was set?

Action – What did you (not the team in general) do – avoid the temptation to say “we did this” “we did that” – they want to know what YOU did.

Result – what were the outcomes? Do NOT miss this part out and remember outcomes can be positive or negative. It is fine (even encouraged) to say “from this I learnt….or next time I would…..”

Describe the Situation and Task briefly – this is just setting the scene, most of your answer should focus on the Action and Results – this is what you will be probed on.


Presentations are often required for second round interviews. Find out who your audience is and for how long you are expected speak. A presentation at junior level will assess different skills (e.g. enthusiasm for a task, communication skills) to that required by a senior candidate (e.g. product knowledge, strategic thinking). Ascertain what facilities you can utilise and ensure you practice your presentation beforehand to ensure it makes sense and does not exceed the specified time. Keep it simple, keep to time and keep to the point.


Tests are a popular way of selecting suitable candidates and you can practice numerical and psychometric tests using various free online tests. Other aptitude tests may comprise standard tasks associated with the job itself to assess your specialist skills, or to see how you approach particular tasks and processes. Sometimes you may be asked to spend time on a test exercise and then discuss it with the interview panel.

Personal Presentation

Your CV, application form and covering letter will have earned you the interview. As soon as you walk through the door you will either reinforce the good impression the recruiters have made or begin to erode it.

Presentation in the form of smart, clean clothes and faultless personal grooming is essential even for informal interviews. A firm handshake, eye contact and professional yet friendly manner will go a long way in convincing the interviewer you are the right person for their organisation.


Make sure you know where you are going.

Know who to ask for when you arrive.

Plan how you will get to the interview, how long it will take and, if you intend to drive, whether parking is provided. If you are travelling to somewhere you are not familiar with, it can be worth doing a dry run beforehand to check routes and travel times.

Allow extra time so you will arrive early and calm.

Try to ensure you are not late but if a crisis occurs contact the interviewer or your agency with a realistic arrival time. If you are unable to attend then show a willingness to reschedule.


Answer all questions coherently and honestly whilst maintaining eye contact. Give a comprehensive yet concise answer to all questions and don’t ramble.

Avoid monosyllabic (yes, no) answers to questions even if you have an inexperienced interviewer who asks closed questions.