The Ultimate Career Advice Site

Preparing For Interview


Being invited to interview is a major achievement.

You would normally expect about one in ten of your job applications to lead to an interview. And once you get to interview you are rarely more than two or three steps away from a job offer. So take your interviews seriously and prepare well.

The Purpose of the Interview

In theory, the interview is a two way process.  On the one hand you are trying to persuade the employer that you have the right attributes and capabilities for the role, and they are trying to assess your fit within the company.

On the other hand, they are trying to persuade you that you will benefit from taking the role on and you are trying to assess whether you really want it. At least that’s the theory. In practice however, most employers walk into an interview room assuming that it is a one way process- they will decide whether to offer you a job and you will be grateful if they do. Most interview candidates see it the same way.

Whether or not you do is up to you; but I would urge you to see yourself as a buyer as much as a seller. You are looking for alignment between what you have to offer and what the employer needs in terms of doing the job, as well as between what you want and what the employer offers in terms of your career development.

After the interview both sides go away to review what took place and to decide whether they want to take further.

Different Types of Interview

Telephone Interviews

This is most usually used for screening purposes, to decide if you should be invited for a more formal interview. Tone of voice is important on the phone; apart from the content of your answers it is the only thing which enables an interviewer to make a judgement as to your character. Speak clearly, confidently and audibly;  as if you were addressing a meeting.

One to One Interviews

This is usually conducted by the department head or line manager in question, or someone from Human Resources. Again it may e a screening interview, to decide whether to invite you to meet the full selection panel.

Panel Interviews

Here, two or more people will be present, rarely more than four. Usually each will be each assigned a particular task in terms of what they are looking for from the candidate.  Usually no more than four panellists will take part.  Make sure that you get all their names and that you make frequent eye contact will all of them. It is easy to spend the whole interview looking at just one person. Don’t do it!

Assessment Centres

These events tend to include not only interviews but also the opportunity to demonstrate your capability, either by doing some kind of presentation and often, psychometric or competency tests.

Background Research

You will already have submitted your job application and you should have done copious research into the company already. But now it is time to do more!

Find out as much as you can about the company. Go to its website and download as much as you can. If it is a large company you should find press releases, annual reports, organisational charts and much more. If it is a small company the amount of information on the website may be limited, but you may be able to obtain more from Companies House ( or from a corporate research website.

Try to be as clear as you can about the company’s structure, key players, culture, markets, mission and philosophy.  Not just the key facts and figures; try to understand what’s going on.  For example, how committed are the workforce to the company? Is it just a job to most of them or do they see themselves as sharing in the success of the company? And how committed is the company to investing in the in the welfare and personal development of its staff?

In particular, try to be as clear as you can about how the recession is affecting the company. There is no point in you enthusing about being a part of the company’s future growth if the company is struggling and all their current activities are focused on survival.

Think of some relevant questions to ask about the company and the team you will be working with. The more informed you are, and the more interest you show, the greater your chances of success. But be careful not to come across too strong; you mustn’t appear to have such strong opinions or to be so resolute about the company’s options that you come across as a threat to the people interviewing you.

Be clear about how what you offer, in terms of skills and experience, matches what they want.  Know what you bring to the company and what you can do to help the company move forward successfully.