You should always prepare well for any interview but researching the company and understanding the role is definitely not enough to be really competitive in today’s jobs market.


Interviews now take many different forms – the newest being strengths based – so make sure you’re not caught out by the unexpected come the big day! But before we get to the actual interview scenario, what prep do you need to do beforehand?

Familiarise yourself with your interviewer/s

Google them or view their LinkedIn profile and find out about who will be interviewing you. It’s worth looking at other key people within the area of the business in which you would be working too.

Learn some key facts about the company

A basic overview should be sufficient – their range of services and products, markets and locations in which the company operates, their heritage, key competitors and also their vision and values too.

Plan your journey

Seems an obvious one but never underestimate the time to get to the interview – best to arrive half an hour early, find the place and then grab a coffee rather than be any kind of late! Consider what time of day your interview is – will your journey be affected by the rush hour, or school finishing time? Are there any road works en route, or traffic issues on the day? If you’re using public transport, check there are no issues and allow time for last minute cancellations which seem to be common these days!

What on earth do I wear?

Company dress codes vary enormously nowadays, many office based roles are more relaxed with no requirement for suits and ties but this can differ by industry. Best to be safe and wear more traditionally formal work clothes to the interview, so suit, shirt & tie for men and suit or dress and jacket for women. Try to wear neutral colours – black, navy and grey, keep those louder colours for when you have the job! Most importantly, wear something you’re comfortable in as this will give you less to worry about on the day, so you can focus on making the best impression, not fiddling with an unfamiliar outfit!

Interview formats – what to expect

We’ve already touched on different interview formats so here is a quick lowdown on the two most popular:

Strengths based: While they have been in evidence for a while now, strengths-based interviews are one of the newest approaches that some companies are moving towards as a way of finding out what prospective employees both engage with and enjoy. The theory being that when you are using your strengths, you perform at your best and learn more rapidly.

Competency based: These are still the more commonplace format. You can expect to be asked questions such as “Tell me about a time when you successfully solved a challenging problem?” or “Can you describe a time when you've successfully demonstrated good time management” In direct contrast to strengths-based ones, these focus on what you can do and the interviewer will concentrate on assessing whether, based on past performance, you can do the job. The same questions are asked of every interviewee so the company can benchmark the answers against each other.

Strengths vs Competency

One of the key reasons why strengths-based interviews are now becoming favoured is that many job seekers have been turning up to interviews, fully prepped to undergo a competency based scenario, which meant they were all giving very standard , well-rehearsed answers. This has made it more difficult for companies to really discover what individuals can offer their business, in terms of skills, experience and cultural fit and more importantly if they are employed, will they love it and will they thrive in the role?

Whatever format interview you encounter, it is important to remember that fundamentally interviewers are looking to find out if:

  • You can do the job
  • You want the job
  • You will fit in to the team and culture
  • Get familiar with some of the most commonly asked interview questions and prepare some well thought through answers.

Here is a list of the ten most common questions and suggestions on how best to respond. Some you may be familiar with, some not, but do you have well prepared answers for them all?

1.  Tell me about yourself?

This allows the interviewer to assess you as a person, both through what you say and your delivery. Make sure you have a confident answer and keep it short and succinct, preferably no longer than 2 – 3 minutes. Include information on your qualifications, personality and work experience (making sure they are kept relevant to the position in question). Don’t focus on personal life, family etc. at this early stage.

2.  What are your weaknesses?

You want to give a favourable view of your personality and ability to do the job, but do not claim to have no weaknesses. Thoroughly go through the company’s profile and the job description and you will know the qualities and strengths the job requires. This will give you a good indication of what the interviewer will see as a weakness, so you can admit to any that are irrelevant to the job in question. Whatever weaknesses you state, make sure your answer is a positive one by including at least one example of how you have overcome them in past roles.

3.  What is your greatest work related achievement?

This is a good opportunity to highlight how you can contribute to the company if you get the job, so focus on an achievement that is relevant. Explain clearly and simply the challenge, solution and outcome and wherever possible, always quantify your results.

4.  What would you like to be doing five years from now?

This is designed to find out whether you are committed to the job and if you set goals in life. It’s an undisputable fact that people who set mid to long term goals are more reliable than those who don’t. Your answer should demonstrate that your career progression goals are in line with the actual future plans for the company.

5.  Why did you apply for this position?

This is designed to show your knowledge of the organisation, their culture and whether you can identify with the company’s vision and values. Every business has its strong points; just make sure you focus on these in your answer. Make sure your answer focuses on 2 or 3 key points which match with the organisation’s ethos. Once you know why you want this job, you can then prepare a response that will relate to how well you fit with the position.

6.  Why did you leave your last job/why do you want to leave your current job?

There could be a wide variety of reasons. You may have quit your last job because you were unhappy about something or you may actually have no opportunity for career progression in your current role. Whatever your reason, you need to put positive spin on your answer Never be negative about colleagues, management or your most recent or, in fact, any employer. Instead focus on your career goals and how the job you are applying for provides a better environment for growth than your previous or current one. 

7.  Why should we hire you?

This is usually one of the last questions in the interview and it your opportunity to link your skills, experience, education and personality to the job itself. Be really familiar with the job description as well as the company culture upfront and always remember to include actual examples of your experience and achievements to date.

8.  Do you have any questions?

This is normally the last question you will be asked, so it’s your chance to finish the interview on a real positive. Even if you don’t believe this is the role for you, make sure you have at least 3 prepared questions and ask them. Replying that you’ve got nothing to ask will always leave the impression that you are not really interested.

The interviewer is going to be attracted to proactive candidates who ask well thought through and intelligent questions, so try to incorporate your knowledge of the industry and the company into questions that will address a genuine concern of yours. That way, you get to impress your interviewer and assess for a final time whether the job is really right for you.

9.  Be prepared for the unexpected

You may ask why? Consider this scenario - you are feeling confident the interview has gone well, you have provided good examples of how your skills and experience would be of benefit to the company and then….you get asked a challenging question that you were not expecting! The inclusion of this type of question is designed to test you on all sorts of levels so take a breath or two, consider your answer first and then reply.


Hopefully these tips give you some food for thought in your preparation – planning really is worthwhile and will ensure you will come across as confident, positive, decisive and organised in any type of interview. Good luck