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Never had an interview? Here is our 'starter' guide......

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Interviews are undeniably nerve-wracking. The knowledge that a simple conversation might be all that stands in the way of your career prospects is daunting for virtually everyone - around 93% of candidates have experienced interview nerves at some point in their career.

As a team of experts, we will talk you through answering interview questions using the well-known Star method, and how to make feedback work to your advantage. Then, it’s over to you.

Keep your guide somewhere easily accessible and refer back to it whenever you’re ready to make a career move.

How to prepare for different types of interviews

Interviews can take various forms, including in-person, by phone and online via video calls. Regardless of the type of interview, there are some key elements of preparation that will apply in all scenarios.

Firstly, it's important to research the company and the role you are applying for well in advance of your interview. Candidates who extensively research a company's background and demonstrate an astute understanding of its purpose and values will stand out from the competition as being actively engaged.

This can also give you an advantage when it comes to building rapport with the interviewers. On that note, if possible, research the people who will be interviewing you beforehand so you know where they sit in the business and how that may relate to your potential position. Awareness of who your interviewers are demonstrates effort and interest, which is something they’re likely to value.

Additionally, successful candidates will have read and re-read the job description for the role they are applying for, and noted where their skillset aligns with the requirements outlined in the job specification, so make time to cross-check the role requirements with your CV.

After performing a deep dive into the company and carefully analysing the job specification, turn your attention to preparing for the interview itself by considering potential questions you might be asked. You can identify common interview questions by doing research online and also by reaching out to mutual connections who already work at the company to ask for any tips they may have.

Keep the role requirements at the top of your mind when answering interview questions; employers will be keen to hear about practical examples of how you use your skillset and how you would put those skills into play in the new role.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to think about the specifics of preparing for different types of interview. For example, if you’ve scheduled a phone or video interview, you should ensure that your technology is working properly, your internet connection is stable and your background is appropriate. For an in-person interview, you may need to plan for transportation and set time aside to dress professionally.

Online interviews:

Online interviews became more common during the Covid-19 pandemic and have remained so in the years since. Our in-house research shows that the majority of first round interviews are still taking place virtually, generally through video calling software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet.

To prepare for an online interview, make sure your technology and Wi-Fi are working and test both ahead of the interview. Choose a quiet location where you’re unlikely to be distracted or interrupted and make sure the area around you is clear and tidy. If you’ll be using a background, opt for something neutral, and consider the lighting of your immediate surroundings too, because the interviewers need to be able to see you clearly.

Even though you’re not technically going to an in-person interview, you should still dress professionally. Your presentation matters, regardless of whether you’re meeting the interviewers face-to-face or over a screen, and first impressions count. Do a test run of what they will see - make sure you’re visible on camera and that the sound is working, too.

At the end of the interview, ask the interviewers whether they would like further clarification on any of your answers should they feel you haven’t provided a full enough response. Be courteous by thanking the interviewers for the opportunity, re-emphasise your interest in the role and make it clear that you’re keen to progress further in the process - leave them in no doubt as to your level of commitment to the position.

Face-to-face interviews:

Our research has shown that face-to-face interviews are still common - especially in the final stages of the recruitment process. Make sure you know the precise location and time of your interview and plan for transportation accordingly. Take into account any potential travel disruptions and give yourself plenty of time to keep stress to a minimum.

Dress professionally and aim to arrive early. Be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet, including receptionists and assistants, and make eye contact with everyone you speak to from the moment you enter the office until you leave.

For face-to-face interviews, you should also keep your body language in mind. The nonverbal cues you give a prospective employer could be the difference between whether you’re successful in your interview or not, before you’ve even answered any questions. Offer the interviewers a firm handshake (wipe your hands first if they’re clammy), make sure you have open body language, hold eye contact, and - most importantly - smile!

As with a video interview, when things draw to a close, thank the interviewers for their time, reiterate your interest in the role and ask whether they’d like further clarification on any of your answers - don’t forget to add that you’d welcome the opportunity to progress further in the recruitment process.


Some interviews may require you to present on a particular topic, particularly at the second or final stage. Make sure you understand the instructions and requirements of the presentation's brief. If you have any questions, be sure to ask the interviewer or recruiter beforehand and prepare accordingly.

Create a clear, concise presentation with relevant information. You may have heard of the 10-20-30 rule; if not, it essentially states that presentations should be no longer than 10 slides, the total time for the presentation should not exceed 20 minutes, and the font size for all the text should be no smaller than 30 px. Use these pointers as a guide when planning your presentation.

The key to delivering an effective presentation is to let your passion shine through. If those you’re presenting to can see how passionate you are about the subject, they’re more likely to be engaged. Also, don’t forget to practise showcasing your presentation to a friend or family member. This will ensure you’re as ready as possible before presenting at the interview stage - feedback from others can help you hone your skills or improve the content of your presentation.

Presenting to others can feel uncomfortable but if you try to reframe nervousness as excitement, you can feel more positive about delivering your presentation.

A few final tips:

Less is more: Keep one message to one slide and don’t overload the interviewers with too much information - they won’t be able to absorb it all.

Drive interest: Use your slides to create interest so the interviewer will glance at them and then move to you for more information or detail.

Aim for 80/20: Around 20% of your slides should be impactful and attention-grabbing; the remaining 80% should be informative or insightful.

How to answer interview questions?

During an interview, you’ll be asked a range of questions, including those that centre around your behaviour - we’ll get to those later. Firstly, let’s tackle some of the most common interview questions you may come across early on in the interview and help you over these seemingly simple hurdles.

“Tell us about yourself.”

It’s easy to misinterpret such an open question, so consider why the interviewer has asked it: what information could you give about yourself that’s relevant, and what should you leave out? There’s no need to talk about anything personal or to go into too much detail - keep your answer to between one and two minutes long and use the time to talk about your career, relevant experience and any top achievements.

“Why do you want this job?”

This is the perfect opportunity to showcase your knowledge about the company. You could say that you feel the company’s values align with your own, that you admire their mission or that you know the business is a great place to develop your skills and learn from top talent. You can also talk about how your own experience or skills would be valuable to the business and complement those of the current workforce or help the business grow.

“What is your greatest strength?”

It can be useful to think about how others have described you if you’re not sure about your key strengths, or even ask for input from trusted colleagues. Perhaps you’re a hard worker, a real people person, a perfectionist or a goldmine of ideas and creativity. Consider how your strengths will apply in the role you’ve applied for and talk about how you’ve leveraged them to create a positive impact in your current or past roles.

 “… and weakness?”

Nobody likes to focus on their weaknesses, so there’s no easy way to answer this question. A workaround is to choose a skill that isn’t essential to the role you’ve applied for and mention how you’re working on resolving it. For example, you could talk about multitasking as a weakness - perhaps you’re honing your focus by closing apps or silencing non-urgent emails while you’re working on something specific.

It’s a good idea to think ahead and prepare answer to these common questions, which should help you ace the first section of your interview before you move on to the behaviour-focused questions.

 Competency Based Interview Questions and STAR Method Answers

Some interview questions are competency based and will centre around your behaviour in given situations. The STAR method is a structured way of responding to a behaviour-based interview question by discussing the specific Situation, Task, Action and Result of the situation you are describing - STAR for short.

The STAR method can be used to answer questions where you’re prompted to give specific examples of how you’ve handled a situation or challenge in the past. Questions that require a STAR response often begin with prompts like:

  • Describe a time when you…
  • Have you ever…
  • How would you…
  • Tell me about a time when…
  • Do you usually…

Let’s break down the STAR method into understandable steps.

Situation: The first step in answering an interview question using the STAR method is to provide context by describing the situation that you were in. This sets the stage for the rest of your answer and helps the interviewer understand the specific circumstances you were facing. For example, if the interviewer asks you to describe a time when you had to work under pressure, you should start by explaining the situation that led to that pressure, such as a tight deadline, a demanding client or a complicated project.

Task: The next step is to describe the specific task or challenge you were facing in the situation you just described. This helps the interviewer understand what you were trying to achieve and the obstacles you had to overcome. For example, if the situation was a tight deadline, the task might have been to complete a project within that deadline while ensuring accuracy and quality.

Action: Once you’ve described the situation and task, the next step is to describe the action you took to address the situation. It's important to use the first-person pronoun "I" rather than "we" to ensure that you’re focusing on your individual contributions and accomplishments. When describing your actions, be specific and detailed. Explain exactly what you did, how you did it, and why you chose that particular approach.

Result: Finally, you need to describe the result or outcome of your actions. This should be a specific and measurable outcome that demonstrates your skills and abilities. For example, if the outcome of the tight deadline situation was that you completed the project on time, and received positive feedback from your manager, you would describe this result in detail.

Tips for answering behavioural questions...

Using the STAR method to answer interview questions gives you a set structure for providing clear, concise and compelling answers that showcase your skills and achievements. Prepare well ahead of time by researching common behavioural interview questions and having a response ready.

Some of these questions can include:

  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenging situation - how did you solve it?
  • Have you ever faced conflict at work? How did you resolve the situation?
  • Give me an example of a situation when you showed initiative.
  • Describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer.

Below, we’ve put together a series of tips for answering behavioural questions fully and successfully. Keep these pointers in mind ahead of your next interview.

  • Talk about situations that showcase your behaviour or actions in a favourable way, particularly those involving teamwork, leadership, initiative, customer service or planning.
  • Prepare concise descriptions of each situation and be ready to provide extra details if asked.
  • Be specific: give a detailed account of a single situation without being tempted to go off track.
  • Vary your examples so they don’t all relate to the same area of work.

Feedback is Your Friend:

After an interview, it's always a good idea to ask for feedback from your recruiter. This can help you gain valuable insight into your performance, identify areas for improvement and prepare for future interviews.

Asking for feedback shows that you’re committed to learning and improving, and it demonstrates your professionalism and maturity. It also gives the recruiter an opportunity to share their thoughts and observations about your interview, which can be helpful in identifying your strengths and weaknesses.

When asking for feedback, it's important to approach the conversation in a positive and open-minded way.

Listen carefully to what the interviewer has to say, be open to constructive criticism and don't take any negative feedback personally. Remember that the feedback is not a reflection of you as a person, but rather an opportunity to grow and improve your skills.

If the feedback is positive, use it to build your confidence and motivation. If the feedback is negative, try to take it as a learning opportunity and use it to improve your interview skills for the future.

In addition to asking for feedback, you can also take some time to reflect on your own performance after the interview. What went well? What you could you have done differently? Use this information to prepare for future interviews.

Overall, asking for feedback after an interview is a great way to improve your interview skills and increase your chances of landing your dream job. It shows that you’re committed to growth and improvement, and it can help you build stronger relationships with recruiters and interviewers.

So, be sure to ask for feedback after your next interview and use it to take your career to the next level.