Interview Guide: Top Tips for success!

Interviews can be a nerve racking experience, it’s natural to be a little bit nervous.  You can however, with the right preparation make it a lot easier on yourself.

First impressions

Arrive in good time for the interview, smartly dressed demonstrating that you are taking the occasion seriously.  Everyone remembers a positive first impression and smile and make good eye contact from the moment you enter the client premises.

The reception is a great place to gain a little more background information.  Whilst waiting for you interviewer there is no harm in engaging in conversation with any employees that you come across as this will allow you to further increase your understanding of the company culture and it may also help steady those last minute nerves!

On introduction to your interviewer remember once again smile, good eye contact and a firm positive handshake.  Up to 93% of communication is deemed to be non verbal and so it is extremely important that you use this to your advantage and continue to push out a positive vibe throughout the entire process.

Competency based interviewing

This format is used by many employers as basically a test of your skills (or competencies), based on past experience.  These interviews can feel challenging, however with the right interview preparation it can really improve performance.

The interviewer will basically have a list of competencies, usually between 6 and 8.  The simple tip here is to read the job description very carefully as this will give you an idea of the likely areas of focus. If for example one of the competencies is leadership, the related questions maybe:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a group to achieve an outcome.
  • Describe a situation where you had to ensure that you “actions spoke louder than your words” to a team.
  • Describe a situation where you inspired others to meet a common goal.

The interviewer will then examine your examples in more detail asking a serious of probing questions.  In view of this it is important to use good, solid examples, within which you are able to recall as much details as possible.

Biographical Interview

These questions will be based on information that you have provided in your CV or application form. Every interview is likely to have a certain degree of this and so it is always worth running through these details prior to the interview.  It is your CV and work history after all and so there are no real excuses for not knowing what is on there!

It is also good practice as it is often possible to predict likely areas of questioning which gives you a head start in terms of formulating suitable answers.   Be prepared to give information about yourself and remember at all times to be thinking about yourself in relation to the job role and employer.

Stress Interviews

Stress questions are unpredictable or confrontational and are designed to evaluate your ability to cope under stress.  This form of interviewing is rare, but it’s worth remembering that any interview could contain a question you have not prepared for and so don’t panic!

Commercial Awareness

Even if you are not officially given a technical test, any potential employer will expect you to demonstrate an understanding of and interest in their sector.  A common area that candidates fall down on is their commercial awareness.  Essentially you will need to spend a bit of time researching what the company does, their market position and ideally develop an understanding of any particular challenges that are facing their sector.  Within the public services sector this can extend to how they are funded and what other factors influence their operations.

What are the interviewers looking for?

The interviewers will be looking for specific examples describing what you actually did in certain situations, not what the team’s role as a whole was, or what you would do in a hypothetical situation.

You can choose to use examples from your current job, a previous role or a situation outside of work completely. You will be asked to discuss the examples in more detail.  It is likely that the interviewers will then follow with some probing questions, possibly to clarify a particular point.  They will be interested in the outcome of the situation, whether there was anything you learned from the experience etc.  The interviewers may also want you to ask you questions about the information you have provided in your application form.

Example Questions 

Tell me about yourself:

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What experience has most influenced your development as an individual?


  • Why are you a good leader?
  • What type of leadership style do you adopt?
  • How would those you lead describe you?


  • Explain a mistake you made in delegating – what were the consequences?
  • In what instances would you delegate a task?
  • What are the advantages of delegating?

Conflict and Pressure:

  • Give an example of an instance where you have had an argument with someone at work? What was the outcome?
  • How do you react if your boss asks you to do something which conflicts with your own deadlines?

Team Work:

  • Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
  • When you joined your last company, how did you get on with your new colleagues?

Staff Motivation and Development:

  • What makes a good manager?
  • How do you motivate staff?

Personal Motivation:

  • What are the three most important events in your career to date?
  • What are your standards of success in your job?

Decision Making:

  • What is the toughest decision you have had to make whilst at your present company?  Tell me about it.  What alternatives did you consider?
  • What has been the effect of your decisions on others and what was the wider impact?

Tell me why I should employ you:

  • How ambitious are you? –Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years time?
  • What major problems or disappointments have you encountered and how did you deal with them?
  • How would you cope if you were in disagreement with colleagues at work?
  • How do you go about motivating others/yourself?
  • How do you organise your time and assess your priorities?

Some questions that you may like to ask:

  • Questions about training and career patterns of recent hires
  • Opportunities to gain further qualifications, academic and/or Professional
  • What happens next? When can you expect to hear the results of your interview?

If all of your questions have been answered then don’t be afraid to say so.  It is usually easy for an interviewer to tell if someone is asking questions that they don’t really need to know or are not interested in the answers!

After the interview

This is a good time to reflect over your performance and bank any learning’s for the future.  The key thing here is not to be too hard on yourself.  It is very easy to over analyse your answers as there will always be something that you decide you could have answered better after the event.  Interviewing, like everything else, gets easier with practice. Good luck!

As always, if you have any specific questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch