Interview Preparation


Interview Preparation

A successful interview is a two way process:

1. The interviewer finds out whether you match their requirements. These vary from job to job but typically include:

  • your intellectual qualities
  • your level of enthusiasm
  • your ability to get on with people
  • your ability to express yourself
  • whether you will fit into the organisation

2. You get the chance to assess the organisation - are they offering what you want?


  • First impressions count: smile, be friendly and open
  • The interviewer is on your side: they're hoping you'll be a good candidate

Before the interview

Preparation for an interview is essential and your efforts will pay handsome dividends in terms of your confidence and your ability to deal effectively with the questions asked.

Find out key information about the organisation:

  • read the employer's literature
  • look at their video (if available)
  • talk to friends and contacts

You should know roughly the number of employees and turnover, the main locations and products.

  • Compare your application form with the employer's job description. Think of examples from your own experience (education, work experience, leisure activities and interests) to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills. Make a list.
  • Expect routine questions about your motivation and decision-making process but be prepared for more awkward questions too. If you have apparent time gaps in your life history, think how to explain them.
  • Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer.
  • Consider a practice session before your interview, attend one of the workshops on interviews which run throughout the year (check the Careers noticeboard for details).
  • Make sure you arrive on time, reread your application form and notes and then relax.
  • Dress in a way that conforms to the norms of the organisation.

The interviewer's questions

During a first interview, the employer will explore several areas to assess how well you fit their requirements. They are likely to ask questions about areas such as:

  • Intellectual abilities and educational record
  • Personal achievements and motivations
  • Movitation and commitment
  • Knowledge of the vacancy
  • Knowledge of the organisation
  • Communication skills

Remember there are no correct or incorrect answers - the interviewer is watching, feeling even, how you're saying things and how you're coming across. Keep these points in mind:

  • Be positive. Even when things have gone badly for you try to think positively about what you have learnt from the experience. Think of the optimistic response.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Never offer derogatory information about yourself.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer while you are talking.
  • Be ready to recognise the simple question calling for a brief answer.
  • Don't pretend to know something you are ignorant of, or try to answer a question you haven't understood. Ask for clarification.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast.
  • Don't fidget - try to avoid mannerisms.

Your questions to the interviewer

At the end of your interview you will probably be given the opportunity to ask some questions of your own. Of course these will depend on the course of the interview but here are a few possibilities:

  • Is it possible to switch job functions - is it your policy to encourage this to happen?
  • What would a typical careers pattern be for a young graduate entering....?
  • Why is your company so successful - what would you say is the secret?
  • Is your firm planning a new programme of expansion or are you entering a period of consolidation?
  • How do you see the company performing over the next few years?
  • If all your prepared questions have been answered, say so.
  • If there was some relevant point on your application which hasn't been covered, mention it now.
  • Make sure you find out the nature and probable timing of the next step.

Telephone interviews

Increasingly, employers are using telephone interviews to screen applicants for positions. This practice is used very common for positions which require telephone contact with customers. You should prepare for a telephone interview as carefully as for a personal interview. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Select a comfortable and private place for the telephone call
  • Have your CV at hand
  • Have company information closeby and know it!
  • Have a pen and paper
  • Advise flatmates re answering the phone. Make sure they take messages.
  • Be prepared for the usual interview questions.

Take a look at the UL Careers Service Interview Guide here

Please check out our YouTube channel, subscribe and watch recordings of workshops with Careers Advisors discussing best practice for interviews. For more detail on how to prepare for a telephone interview, contact the UL Career Service by emailing