It’s normal to feel nervous about interviews. One way of avoiding unwanted surprises is preparation. There are questions that will crop up time and time again. These are usually about yourself, your experience and the job itself.

When going to an interview you should always:

  • Dress presentably and appropriately – first impressions have a big impact
  • Speak confidently with assurance
  • Prepare your CV and additional certificates ready to take with you
  • Examine the personal specification for the job weeks in advance, to get a feel for what type of questions they’ll ask
  • Prepare a few answers/stories to back these up to answer the main questions about experiences – quoting real examples of when you’ve used certain skills, as just saying you’ve got a skill is not enough
  • Take your time to answer each question – take a breath and make sure you completely understand what they are asking
  • Sell yourself – make sure you speak about all of your good points and qualities

When going to an interview you should never:

  • Show up late – always make sure you’re 10/15mins early
  • Use slang language or swear
  • Slouch in your seat – presentation is key to making a good impression
  • Lie about your skills and abilities – interviewers will find out and you can be dismissed after getting the job if they find out you haven’t been truthful
  • Criticise previous employers – this will give the impression that you are trouble maker or gossip

Common interview questions:

Typical questions about your skills may be:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What is your greatest strength and how will this help your performance in this job?

The interviewer is trying to find out whether you can do the job or not here. Know what your strengths are and mention the relevant ones to the job description, quoting examples of when these skills are used.

Typical strengths employers look for:

Communication skills; Team Working; IT skills; Good attitude; Problem solving; Enthusiasm; Fast learners; Determination; Flexibility & Commitment.

Typical questions about the employer may be:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What do you know about the company?

The interviewer is trying to find out whether you have done the background research into the company and know what they do and their aims. They are hoping to find out whether you have thought it through and chosen them for the right reason. Research some facts and figures, such as;

The organisation size; last year’s turnover figures; what the product or service they provide is; there latest news & updates; the background and where the company has come from.

Always make sure your focus is what you can do for the company, not what they can do for you when answering these questions.

Typical questions about your work history may be:

  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What experience have you gained from your previous jobs?

The interviewer is trying to find out about your previous work history and what you have done in these jobs.

This is a great opportunity to talk about any transferrable skills and any positive impacts you have made at work. Make notes on previous responsibilities you took on within work. Making a focus on the skills and experiences that is relevant to the job.

Typical questions about working in a team may be:

  • What makes good team work?
  • What qualities make a good team leader for you?

The interviewer is trying to work out how you work in a team and whether you can operate in their team environment. This is very important as employers value team work very highly.
This is a good opportunity for you to speak about previous roles working within a team and how you worked to keep this a good environment. And about how if all workers need to have a clear view of their role within the team and keep good communication skills between each other.

Typical questions about your personality may be:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would your friends/old colleague describe you?

The interviewer is trying to find out whether you’re a well-rounded individual and whether you’re aware of both your strengths and weaknesses. They want to find out whether you can identify what you’re good at and were you could improve.

This is an opportunity for you to identify your personal strengths which will benefit you within this job role. Try to give a wide range of positives to show how well balanced you are. With the weaknesses it is good to relate it to the job, for example:

“Sometimes with new projects I can be a bit over enthusiastic and run with the task, when I need to understand others work at different speeds and styles, so I always look to change my methods to suit the team.”

Questions to ask the employer

Towards the end of an interview you will be given the opportunity to ask some questions about the role yourself. You should always ask at least 1 or 2 questions at this point, as it shows your enthusiasm and interest in the job.

Here are some examples:

  • What training do you offer?
  • Ask about something you read about in your research – such as a new product or service.
  • Where do I fit into the organisational structure?
  • How much of my time will be spent on this task?
  • How do you see the role developing?
  • When will you let me know the outcome of the interview?

All these questions can be modified to fit the job you are interviewing for.

Approaching questions about long-term unemployment

There are many reasons for long-term unemployment and if there is a gap between jobs in your CV, the interviewer will probably ask about it. If you have a mental health need, this is a good opportunity to disclose if you wish to.
If this isn’t the case you should speak openly and promote any positive activities you’ve undertaken during your period out of work, even the activities undertaken to get you back to work.

These activities could include:

  • Voluntary work
  • Courses
  • Keeping up with developments in your field
  • Treating job seeking as a full-time job
  • Keeping fit
  • Networking
  • Family care
  • Change in career path, resulting in further training

You can also say that you were being selective and not taking the first job that came along. Stress that you were waiting for the right opportunity, such as the job being offered by the employer interviewing you.