Preparing for interview success

Most people find interviews a bit daunting – however, you can put yourself in the best possible position to succeed if you put the effort in before you even walk in the door of the interviewer's office!

Preparation is 90% of success!

You may have spent a lot of time completing a company application form, creating a CV and writing a covering letter but the preparation time isn't over yet. You need to prepare thoroughly for the interview. Thorough preparation will help you to feel confident about the interview. Make sure you have a copy of your application form or CV for reference.

The structure of the interview will be influenced to some extent by what you have told the employer about yourself, however ultimately, the employer is looking for evidence that you have the necessary skills, attitudes and behaviours to be successful in the employer's business environment. In preparing for this, it is necessary that you:

  • Know the organisation
  • Know yourself
  • Know the role
  • Know how to prepare effectively
Know yourself

You've just completed an application form or CV so it shouldn't be too hard to identify your strengths, weaknesses, interests, motivation, what makes you suitable for the job etc.

Re-read the person specification and your CV/application form and remind yourself about the requirements of the role and the evidence you provided to demonstrate the relevant skills you have.

  • Why should the organisation pick you? Put yourself in the employers' shoes – what exactly are they looking for?
  • What further detail can you add to the examples given in your application form?
  • Are there other relevant examples/evidence that you can add? Think of examples from academic studies, employment, volunteering, hobbies/interests and any other life experiences.
  • How does this opportunity fit in with your longer-term career goals?
Know the organisation

Employers report that one of the areas applicants often fall short on is understanding the sector and the company they are applying to. This is vital as it demonstrates that you have a real interest in the business and have a good understanding of key issues facing the business and the industry as a whole in the short and longer terms. To further your understanding of your potential employer, consider the following:

  • Have you read their latest company brochure?
  • Are you aware of what the company's products or services are?
  • Are you aware of the company's clients?
  • Are you aware of the company's competitors?
  • Can you describe the values, culture and ethos of the company?
  • Are there current issues affecting the company/sector?
  • Has the employer been in the news recently?
  • Is there anything the company has been involved with that particularly interests you?

In answering these questions, use a variety of sources such as their company website and business news sites/papers/articles, but also be proactive – speak to people and network! Attend relevant conferences, employer presentations and careers fairs; and use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to speak to those working within the area or company you have applied to. See here for more information on networking.

Understand the role

You need to know as much about the job as possible so that you can:

  • assess your suitability for the job
  • show an employer that you have a real understanding of the position and what it involves,
  • demonstrate to the employer how your degree, your work experience, your skills, interests, attitudes match up with their requirements.
  • determine how this career move fits in with your wider career goals – where do you see yourself in the longer term and how will this job allow you to get there?
Three essential lists

Where do we start in trying to pull all our information together? Let's focus initially on what you have to offer. Start systematically by compiling lists noting down the key aspects which will allow you to sell yourself effectively to that particular employer. Remember to draw on your education, employment, volunteering, hobbies/interests, and other life experiences.

Below is a series of steps that you need to have clear in your mind so that you are able to convince an employer that you are the best candidate for the role.

Essential lists!

Begin your preparation by creating 3 essential lists that will help you to answer about 50% of the questions you will be asked at the interview.

List 1: Identify your strengths/assets that you believe you will bring to both the role and to the organisation as a whole.

Hint: Focus on your ‘assets' that most closely match the needs of the employer!

List 2: Identify your personal reasons for wanting to work for the organisation?

Hint: Are they YOUR reasons? Are they specific to that particular organisation?

List 3: Identify what has made you decide to apply for a job in this particular field?

Hint: Demonstrate your career planning ability and role awareness.

On the day


  • Give yourself plenty of time to get there.
  • Confirm where the interview is being held.
  • Decide how you will get there and the time it will take
  • Take contact details for the company in case of unavoidable delays.
  • Decide what you need to take with you.

Dress code

  • Personal presentation is crucial to the image you convey
  • Think how people generally dress in the organisation you have applied for.
  • In general, it's best to be conventional so wear a suit or smart dress.

Final preparation

  • Have a copy of your CV or application with you and focus on your key strengths and achievements.
  • Try simple relaxation techniques such as taking a few deep breaths.