Interview tips and techniques

If you are invited to interview it means that ‘on paper’ you seem like a good fit for the role and the potential employer would like to validate this by finding out a bit more about you. An interview also provides you with the opportunity to evaluate whether the organisation and role are right for you. In the sections below you will find a wealth of information to help you prepare for interview. You might also like to watch the video below from AGCAS about interviews as part of an assessment centre, and attend an interview skills workshop at the Career Development Centre.

Types of interview

There are several different types of interviews used in graduate recruitment. These include:

Competency-based

You will be asked to give examples of times when you demonstrated the competencies / skills that the employer is seeking. For example: “Tell me about a time when you had to work as part of a team to achieve a challenging goal”.

It is important that you give clear, specific examples, structured using the STAR technique:

  • Situation – give some context by briefly describing the situation or problem
  • Task - describe your specific task, role or goal
  • Action - describe the action you took to complete the task successfully, and any obstacles that you had to overcome.
  • Results – highlight outcomes achieved, including anything you learned from the experience.

Remember to use ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ when describing actions that you took. The interviewer needs to be clear on what your specific role was.

Technical

If you have applied for a job that requires technical knowledge it is likely that you will be asked technical questions or have a separate interview to test this knowledge. Make sure you are up to speed on relevant technologies, programming languages, operating systems etc. The person interviewing you is likely to have strong technical expertise so it’s best not to try to “bluff” your way through it.

Portfolio based

If the role is within the arts, media or communication industries, then you may be asked to bring a portfolio of your work to the interview, around which the interview will revolve.

Preparing for your interview

Preparation is essential to successful performance at interview. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. It is vital that you research the job and the organisation thoroughly, using all available resources (for example the company website, annual reports, strategy documents, Linkedin, Google News search etc). Anticipate possible questions, particularly those relating to the skills and knowledge sought; consider how you will respond to these and what evidence you can provide to convey your suitability.

Find out who will interview you, the length of the interview, and if tests or other selection methods will be used. Before the interview, make sure you read through your copy of the application form or CV that accompanied your job application – be clear on what you wrote as you may be asked to elaborate further at interview.

At the interview

First impressions count; how you perform in the first few minutes of an interview is crucial - a strong firm handshake creates a positive impression.

Dress appropriately; you should aim to convey an image of professionalism and competence. You are likely to feel nervous but don’t forget to smile and make good eye contact. Your position seated says as much as your position standing; adopt an alert, open receptive posture - don’t slouch or fidget.

Listen carefully to the questions you are asked - pause to give yourself time to compose an answer that is concise, clear and relevant. If you have not heard / not understood a question politely ask your interviewer to repeat it.

Generally speaking, an interview is not a place to open up negotiations on salary or terms and conditions. 

Common interview questions

Employers’ questions vary but typically revolve around three main areas:

  • Can you do the job? - Have you the appropriate academic qualifications, skills and experience?
  • Will you do the job? - How motivated are you? Do you genuinely want to work for this organisation?
  • Will you fit in? – Is there a good fit between your personality and the culture of the organisation?

Some common interview questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself
    This is an open question that gives you a great opportunity to summarise your key skills, experience and strengths relative to the role. Don’t waffle – focus in on the key pieces of information that you want the interviewer to be aware of.
  • Why have you applied for this job/to this organisation?
    Consider your reasons carefully, relating your skills, experience and personal qualities to the job demands, and the values of the organisation
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
    Here the interviewer wants to find out about your ambitions and your knowledge of opportunities/typical progression path for this type of job.
  • Why did you study your particular degree subject?
    Outline the circumstances leading to your degree choice and indicate how your degree relates to the job.

gradireland lists some other typical interview questions and how to answer them

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. These will depend on the course of the interview but here are a few possibilities:

  • The organisation – current projects, future developments
  • Work – what would you be doing, typical projects and timescales
  • Training – what is possible, support for professional exams/chartered training
  • Colleagues – who would you be working with, who would supervise you?

Telephone / Skype interviews

You should prepare as carefully for a telephone or Skype interview as for a face-to-face interview and many of the same principles apply. For example, research the job and the organisation; consider questions likely to arise and how you would answer them etc.

Here are our top tips for performing successfully on a telephone or Skype interview:

  • Select a comfortable and private place for the call where you won’t be interrupted
  • Have a copy of your CV or application form with you as well as a paper and pen to make notes
  • For Skype interviews make sure you are professionally dressed and there is nothing in the background that might reflect badly on you and/or cause offence
  • For telephone interviews research has shown that standing up and smiling while on the call can make you sound more confident
  • For Skype interviews make sure you look at the camera, not the computer screen

 

Career Zone online module‌You may also like to take a look at the Interview Strategy section of Career Zone - a non-credit bearing, self-study optional online module produced for UCD students. Self register through Blackboard.