A Complete Guide To Nailing Your Interview

//A Complete Guide To Nailing Your Interview

Preparing for Interviews – Your Complete Guide

People Having an Interview - Preparing for Interviews has paid off

Well done, you’ve got an interview! But here is the tricky part – preparing for Interviews.

Preparing yourself

Interviews may be formal or informal, face to-face, via telephone or online.  Whatever the format, err towards the formal.

And remember the interview continues until you have left the building, so no tango-ing in the lift.

Prepare (at least a few days before the interview).

  • Find out about the key people – who is interviewing you.
  • Know the organisation, its competitors and the current environment.
  • Be confident in your skills and their relevance to the role you’re being interviewed for. Illustrate these with specific examples. Be prepared to provide further detail, building upon the points made in your CV.
  • Know what examples you want to give to likely questions – practise your responses aloud.

The Interview

  • Arrive early
    • At least 30 minutes before and go to a café across the road. Take the opportunity to check yourself in the bathroom and if nervous, do a couple of star jumps! Remove the spinach from your teeth.
  • Turn off your mobile phone at least 30 minutes before
    • Last-minute ‘good luck’ calls are likely to distract you from your preparation.
  • Be tidy and well presented
    • Don’t wear anything too tight or too short.
  • Let the interviewer indicate where you should sit
    • Look relaxed but don’t lounge. Don’t lean on the table.
  • Listen carefully to the questions
    • It helps to repeat them silently to yourself (…without lip sync), because you’re more likely to answer the question they actually asked. Always offer examples where possible.
  • Concentrate on your strengths
    • Don’t boast but be confident in what you can bring and this can include lessons learnt from mistakes made. (This always makes a favourable impression).
  • Be yourself, confident, and relaxed but not arrogant.
    • Keep eye contact for at least 80% of the time. If there are two or more interviewers, include them all in your responses.
  • Breathe and talk slowly.
    • Remember to pause.
  • Show yourself to be discreet and confidential
    • Even if asked about a past employer and what caused you to leave. Avoid criticising.
  • Be aware of how you are communicating and how they are responding.
    • If the conversation falters, pick up on any areas in which the interviewer has shown interest.
    • But don’t waffle nervously.  Some interviewers like to have some silence to test the interviewee’s ability to deal with an uncomfortable situation – silence! A quiet smile will do the trick.
  • Show real interest and enthusiasm for the role and the organisation.
  • Ask for the job
    • (“Given everything that we have talked about, are you in a position to offer me the role?”).
  • Follow up by email or telephone call.

Interview Questions

Preparing for interviews is a two-way street – your interviewer may be skilled or inexperienced.  Very often the first question is aimed at putting you at ease and may be ‘tell me about yourself’.  The response should be based on the elevator pitch you’ve already practised but tailored to the company and individual you’re meeting.

Questions are asked in a variety of styles.

  • Open questions require a more detailed answer.
    • They begin with ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘how’ or ‘when’. They require detail but not waffle.  g. ‘What is your greatest achievement?’ or ‘Give an example of how you dealt with a difficult situation’. 


  • Use the RSTAR approach
    • Result up first (e.g. the time I took charge in an emergency, summoned the ambulance and saved a life); then describe the Situation; what was the Task / dilemma you had to face; what Action did you take; what was the Result of your action (again)


  • Pauses
    • When asked a question take time to think about what is being asked. This will help your brain formulise what you want to say. If you need to pause for a few seconds during your answer do so. Once you have finished answering your question, pause to indicate you have finished.
  • Closed questions require shorter answers
    • Generally Yes or No answers. – ‘Have you ever experienced …?’ But, if possible and appropriate, expand by adding colour.
  • Leading questions are intended to uncover greater depth and detail.
    • ‘So, you were responsible for managing all the money in the pub?’. ‘So, you got on well with your last employer – he thought you were the best employee he’d ever had?’
  • Personal questions can be really challenging
    • ‘Tell me what really makes you angry.’ ‘Tell me what your greatest weakness is.’ ‘What would your best friend say were your worst points.’ Be cautiously honest! Show that you are aware of your weaknesses and give examples of how you mitigate them.
  • Skills / technical questions
    • Depending on the role, you may be asked to explain how your skills as outlined in your CV are relevant to the role. You may be asked what areas you will need to work on to be fully competent. Most organisations are committed to learning and development so don’t be afraid to acknowledge if you have some skills/knowledge gaps and confirm that you are keen to learn.
  • Competency / behavioural questions
    • Explore the specific skills from your previous experience and seek to understand your approach to problem-solving. They generally focus on communication, leadership, teamwork, results focus, trustworthiness, and decision-making.
  • Random questions
    • Intended to put you under pressure and test your reaction.
    • Examples of random questions are:
      • ‘If you were on a desert island and could only bring three things, what would you bring?’ (Yahoo);
      • ‘How many square feet of pizza are eaten in the US each year?’ (Goldman Sachs);
      • ‘If you were a biscuit what kind would you be and why?’
      • Take time to think before answering.


Preparing for interviews on the telephone is exactly the same as preparing for a face to face interview. Get dressed as if you were going to meet in person.  You may be asked to switch to a video call, skype or WhatsApp, so being in your pyjamas would be embarrassing.

  • Standing up whilst on the phone can calm you down – practice beforehand to test this.
  • Some research has indicated that smiling on the phone can be “heard” on the other end of the phone.
  • Have post-it notes in front of you with your key messages and prompts (e.g. ‘Pause’, ‘Give an example of teamwork’ etc).
  • Be aware of background noises – ensure you are in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Think through the following common interview questions so you are ready with confident answers and examples

All about you!

Tell me about yourself.

What will you be remembered for in your last role?

What are your three major qualities – how will they be helpful in this role?

How do you behave in a crisis or under pressure?

What does success mean to you?

How would you describe your leadership and team working style?

What are your weaknesses?

What has been the toughest decision you have had to make?

What do you regret / what would you change if you could turn the lifeometer back?

What do you most enjoy doing?

What was the most rewarding job or project you have ever tackled?

What is your proudest moment?

How do you handle criticism / feedback?

If you could change something about yourself what would it be?

What do you do for relaxation?

Who has had the greatest impact on you and your personal development?

What are your key achievements in the past twelve months?

Why should we employ you?

Working with others

How would you describe your ideal boss / colleague?

What sort of people do you most / least enjoy spending time with?

How have you addressed a situation with an unhappy client/person in authority?

How well do you fit into a group / team?

How do you respond to an unpopular decision?

Describe a situation where you have worked in a team where other members were different to yourself.

Give me an example of where you have taken the initiative and come up with a creative solution.

How others see you

What would your friends / boss / referees say about you?

What will you be remembered for?

Describe your communication skills – give an example of when you have had to explain something difficult to someone.

Tell me about a situation where you have had to make a presentation to a hostile audience.

Give me an example of when you have had to defend your position against someone in authority.

Working history

Describe your ideal job.

If money were not a consideration, what would you be doing?

What are your most important requirements in a job?

What are your long-term career aims – where do you see yourself in three / five years’ time?

What could you bring to this job – uniquely?

What interests you about this role – why did you decide to apply for it?

What is it particularly about this company that appeals to you?

Asking Questions

An interview is a two-way process.  You are assessing whether the organisation is right for you, conforms to your values and provides the opportunities you’re seeking.  Usually, the interviewer will offer you the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, but if they don’t, request to ask them anyway. A candidate without questions is disappointing so make sure you memorise a few whilst you’re preparing for interviews.

The purpose of the questions is to:

  • Show you have understood the role and are genuinely interested in the company and the job.
  • Gain more information as to whether the role and organisation is right for you.
  • Respond to their answers with an opportunity to reiterate your skills and experience.
  • Show that you are confident in being able to take a lead.

Examples of Questions to Ask

The Organisation What is the short-term strategy for the organisation?

Are there any concerns about the immediate future, e.g. Brexit?

How would you describe the culture of the organisation?

The Job What are the priority issues to be addressed in this role?

What does your ideal candidate look like?

How are individuals supported in learning and development?

What are the longer-term career opportunities?

How does this job fit into the overall structure and how can one get involved in the broader business?

Why is the role vacant?

Me What reservations or gaps do you see in my application?

How do you see my skills and experience fitting in?

What happens next?

We at Forward are specialists in helping young adults prepare for interviews and achieve career success. If you would like some help nailing your interview, or making sure your CV makes you stand out above the rest, why not get in touch?