Interview Skills: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Interview Skills: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Love them or hate them, 'the interview' is a vital part of getting the job you love. Here is some advice to help you impress and get the position you want. 

If at all possible, try to avoid any potentially stressful situations prior to the interview i.e. do not work that morning, do not arrange to drop off the children, do not arrange your interview the same day as an exam, don't watch a season finale of Game of Thrones beforehand etc. go in with a clear head.

Dress appropriately; always play it safe. Even if the company allows ripped jeans and trainers this doesn't mean you should appear at the interview in such attire.

Ladies: Hair washed and blow-dried, no chipped nail varnish, neutral but full make-up. A smart black trouser suit with a crisp white shirt and a coloured neck scarf suits everyone and is always smart. If wearing a skirt suit, wear stockings and fully-enclosed shoes.

Gentlemen: A well-fitted suit, pressed shirt and tie, shoes polished and get your hair cut the day before if necessary. Make sure you are either clean-shaven or have trimmed your beard.

Get there on time. Always aim to arrive thirty minutes in advance to avoid any unexpected mishaps. After you have located the offices, take some time nearby (possibly a coffee shop) to collect your thoughts and reread your notes. Bring a pen & paper to take notes and some of the questions you have prepared. If it is a wet day and you have rain-gear with you, or runners to walk in, leave these at reception when you arrive. Touch up your appearance if necessary

When meeting your interviewer(s) first impressions are very important. A firm handshake and open smile is essential. Greet your interviewers by name and thank them for taking the time to see you.

Interview skills - woman dressed appropriately with laptop

During the interview, listening is key. Usually the interviewer(s) will talk to you about the company and the role, then question you about your experience and invite you to ask questions. Ask at the beginning of the interview if it is ok to take notes. Jot down any key points you would like to revisit later. However, it is not advisable to sit scribbling furiously for the duration of the interview. Maintain eye-contact throughout. Do not fidget.

When answering questions about your previous work experience, keep your answers succinct, informative, clear and relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Do not rush your answers. If you find yourself speaking for more than five minutes you are talking too long and probably not answering the question specifically. Ask for feedback from the interviewers to establish you are providing the information he/she is looking for.

Answer the question asked. Do not go off in tangents. Do no go in with the agenda of giving them as much information as possible. The interviewer knows the information they want. Let them find it.

Afterwards you should be invited to ask questions. This is your opportunity to shine beyond other applicants. Refer to the research you previously did and the notes you took during the interview for example :

“You mentioned earlier you are launching a new product, could you tell me a bit more about that”

“I noticed on the website last night you have gone through a number of acquisitions, are there any plans for further changes?”

“I read a very interesting article in the Sunday Business Post three weeks ago..”

Questions about the size / structure of the company, IT systems used, the reason the role is available also display that you have considered the role and the company seriously.

At the end of the interview, thank all the interviewers for giving you the opportunity, confirm that you are very keen on the role and looking forward to hearing the feedback.Be polite but enthusiastic.

Sample Questions & Answers

Q. What would you consider to be a weakness of yours? Tip Always say something trainable

A. “My biggest weakness with regard to this job is that I haven’t previously worked with your database system before. However, I am a fast learner as I displayed in my previous role, I had no knowledge of the property industry but I researched the inhouse literature on my weekends and picked it all up very quickly”

Q. Why are you the best candidate for the job? Tip Use examples from your own experience

A. “With five years experience working in the financial services I understand the industry well. I have experience of building a team of similar size and structure in my last role. I understand the challenges of working in an environment which has undergone enormous growth and changes. I am confident the experience I bring would help make this new venture you are suggesting a more seamless process.”

Q. Why have you applied for this job? Tip The interviewer is looking for an indication that you have thought this application through thoroughly and are not a potential time-waster

A. I am looking for a company which can offer me genuine career progression and an opportunity to upskill. I am ultimately aiming to be a technical project manager within the telecoms sector and I understand from reading the recent article in Sunday Business Post that you have plans to develop this part of the business.


Q. Why are you leaving your current role? Tip  Never rubbish your present employer

A. While working for X has been a great experience and I have learned a lot, there is very little scope for progression within my current role. A lot of the functionality of our team is now being outsourced to Switzerland which will make my role more administrative.

Need more advice? Contact any of our team for more interview help!



About the Author

Gerard DoyleGerard Doyle is a Director with 20 years experience in recruitment. He recruits for senior positions at  Management, CEO and Director level. Get in touch at