Interview Advice

Concepta Cadogan / November 19, 2014

Invariably, when pursuing new career opportunities, you will be asked to attend for an interview. The interview is often the most critical event in you securing that new job, and while each interview differs from the next there are some guidelines that will always apply. In addition, competency based interviews, are increasing popular and we have addressed this form of interview separately.

In such a competitive market it is crucial that you conduct a good interview. Interviews are an opportunity for an organisation to assess your suitability for them as well as an opportunity for you to assess if the organisation and position is right for you and your career. You should market yourself for the specific job and come to the interview prepared to talk knowledgeably about what you have to offer. You must really think about the company and the job that you potentially would be doing. Read our interview advice below;

Preparation prior to interview

Quite often a person’s perception of you is based on how you look, so your personal presentation at interview in very important. If you are in any doubt about dress code, it is best to err on the side of conservatism and always wear a business suit, even if the organisation has a casual dress code. In addition,


  • Ensure that you have read the job specification and all related company information that you can avail of. Our consultants will be able to provide you with their information and insight into the organisation, but do your own research too and relate it back to you own professional experience. We live in an information age and there is always useful information available.
  • Make an effort to visit the organisation’s web-site and especially look at their company news section if they have one.
  • Be familiar with the organisation’s financial reports and all financial / corporate information available.
  • If the organisation has services available to the public make an effort to visit these e.g. if a retail organisation visit the outlet to experience their services first-hand.
  • This may sound obvious but be familiar with your CV and be able to discuss it in detail, with examples of assignments you worked on and experiences you gained. Relate the role you are interviewing for back to your professional experience, highlighting any strengths or weaknesses. See our advice on competency based interviewing too.
  • Find out about the format of the interview in as much detail as possible i.e. if it will be a straight forward verbal interview, or for example if you will be required to give a presentation.
  • Avail of any information on the person who is interviewing you i.e. if they are part of the finance team research their professional background as this will influence the type of interview they will conduct.
  • Make sure you know the correct location of the interview, and be on time.

Interview Techniques

  • You are being assessed from the moment you enter the client premises, so from the start project confidence, professionalism and a keen interest in the process.
  • Be aware of non verbal communication as well as verbal as these are indicators for an interviewer too. This includes a firm hand-shake, making eye contact and your general physical demeanour.
  • Again, it’s obvious but listen carefully to what is asked and take your time to answer appropriately. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you are unsure about what is being asked.
  • When answering questions look for opportunities to express your strengths and suitability for the job.
  • In answering questions never criticise former employers or never appear negative in any way.
  • Always remain calm and professional no matter how challenging a question or the situation may get.
  • Try to build a rapport with the interviewer and get a sense of what they are looking for in a suitable person; quite often this will be more telling than what was on a job specification.
  • At the interview progresses, be aware of any weaknesses or short-comings you may have for the position and try to address them honestly. At times, it is the candidate with the least amount of short-comings rather that most amount of strengths that gets the job.
  • Finally, ask questions. It’s not acceptable to say that ‘I have no questions or I think you have covered everything’. Always have at least two relevant questions to ask.

Possible Questions to Ask

Firstly, do not ask questions that are clearly answered on the employer’s web site and/or in any literature provided by the employer to you in advance. This will highlight your lack of research! In addition, not asking questions is passing up a chance to stand out from the competition.


  • Who will review my performance?
  • How often?
  • How have others progressed in the organisation?
  • What do you consider to be your firm’s most important assets?
  • What can you tell me about your new product or plans for growth?
  • How do you rate your competition?
  • How long has the position been open and why?
  • Can you explain the reporting structure for this position?
  • What is the overall structure of the company and how does your department fit the structure?
  • What are some of the skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?
  • What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the last person who held this job?
  • What are the most immediate challenges of the position that need to be addressed in the first three months?
  • What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
    What types of skills do you NOT already have onboard that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  • At the end of the interview, you can also ask: What are the next steps in the interview process?

Competency Based Interviews

Many companies currently use competency based questions to identify the most suitable candidate for a position. A significant number of large corporate organisations have adopted this format for interviewing and selection purposes.

The aim of competency based questions is to make the interview process as standard and as fair as possible. It also offers a set structure to the interview which allows the interviewer to equally assess candidates’ skills and experience against the core competencies required for the position.

Core competencies relate to the particular skills and/or expertise for the successful performance of a role. When responding to such questions, candidates are usually expected to offer situational examples as evidence of their competence and suitability for the position.

Examples of core competencies required in many jobs are:

  • Assertiveness
  • Attention to Detail
  • Communication/Interpersonal Skills
  • Decision Making Ability
  • Energy
  • Flexibility (Ability to adapt to the characteristics of the current environment and/or changes ih this environment).
  • Integrity (level of interest in their work, willing to give 100%.)
  • Organisation/Planning
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Reliance (Has a level of independence from others and is able to use their own initiative to achieve the results.)
  • Supervisory Ability
  • Team Player

Competency based questions usually start with some variant of the following;

– Tell me about a time when you….
– Give an example of a situation where….
– Describe a scenario…

To help you prepare for competency based interviews we suggest the following:

  • Know your CV and be able to talk through thoroughly
  • Read the job description a number of times to ensure you have a strong awareness of the technical and competency demands of the role. This will allow you to match/tailor your answers to cover requirements of the position.
  • Prepare yourself to discuss your professional career to date, showing a logical progression, explanations for different moves and reasons for selecting previous jobs/employers.
  • To demonstrate your success and achievements to date, have situational examples ready. For example, a time when you may have implemented a new process or manipulated systems to improve efficiencies. Relationship management with different teams/business areas is also a useful example.
  • Situational answers are considered to be the most effective way of providing evidence and demonstrating competencies to interviewers. It gives the candidate an opportunity to highlight skills and competencies acquired in a clear precise manner.
  • Discuss your time with past and current employers as constructively as possible. Focus on what you learned from a role and what aspects you enjoyed most while working with a company. Explain your reasons for deciding to leave or for making a move in a positive light.
  • Finally, before the interview make a list of the information you may want confirmed, e.g. company turnover, number of employees, company benefits, or specific technical questions relating to the position. If during the interview this information does not transpire, use the candidate question time at the end to enquire with the interviewers. If your prepared questions are already covered, it can be beneficial to ask at least one question from the information provided/discussed so far.

As part of our services to candidates, Lincoln Consultants offer full advice on competency based interviews and will assist our candidates in preparation of such interviews. It is our top priority to encourage and support our candidates to perform to their very best when meeting with perspective employers.

Our consultants are always available for any questions you may have: Tel: 01 6610444,

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