If you have been called for an interview, the organisation hiring has clearly selected you as a potential candidate qualified for the job.   However, it is extremely important to note that you will be one of many candidates who has been shortlisted for interview for the role.

The interview is your one opportunity to sell yourself and set yourself apart from the other candidates.  It’s the time to show why you are the best candidate for the job.  Some of my top tips for a successful interview outlined below.


The first step is to look at the job’s requirements. What are the day-to-day tasks? What education or experience is required? Prepare examples of how you’ve used your skills to meet similar needs.  Don’t be intimidated by limited work experience or a new field. You probably generated ideas, managed projects, exceeded expectations, learned something, or helped someone meet a challenge at work or in non-work-related situations such as a volunteer. These skills would be valuable to any employer.

An effective way to prepare your experience examples that relate to the job requirements it to use the STAR format.

  • Situation/Task: explains the circumstances.
  • Action: describes what you did.
  • Result: describes the outcome of your action.


Competency-based interviews are used to test three specific areas – knowledge, skills and attitudes. Each question is designed to test one or more of these specific abilities. The answers the interviewee gives are then compared to pre-decided criteria and marked accordingly.

What makes a competency-based interview different to other normal/unstructured interviews?

Normal interviews are more like a conversation, with the interviewer asking a variety of questions without specific objectives to get an overall sense of who the interviewee is. There is no format to the questions being asked. Each question is random and may be quite open. This type of interview is used to gather general information about an individual and does not test any specific skill or competency. In a normal interview, the individual is judged by the overall impression he/she leaves. Therefore, this process is likely to be subjective.

Competency-based interviews are a lot more systematic and structured. The goal is to target specific skills or competencies. The candidate will be asked questions related to their behaviour in specific situations. They should respond using concrete examples from their previous experience in order to back up their answer. The interviewer will then dig deeper into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate’s behaviour and skills.


Know what to expect

Many interviews nowadays are competency based, which means that interviewees should expect to answer questions about their abilities and experience in the context of actual events. It is worth preparing at least two examples of each competency mentioned on your CV. It is not uncommon for interviewers to ask the candidate for a second example, especially if they have already used one on their application form.

Even though most questions will tend to be requesting examples of situations where you have demonstrated specific skills, they can be phrased quite differently. The key to answering the questions is to demonstrate that you have the right skills and illustrate this by using examples to show how you can apply them to real life situations.

Prior to the interview, the interviewers will have decided which answers would score positively and which would score negatively against the candidate. Marks are allocated depending on the extent to which the candidate’s answers match both positively and negatively. If the interviewers feel that there are areas that the candidate has failed to address, they may help them along by probing appropriately.

As a candidate, you should focus on how you dealt with the situation and the results of your actions. Secondly, make sure to focus on yourself in particular – how you personally handled the stress during and after the event or situation. This part of the interview may be subjective. Preparation is key in order to answer every question thrown at you on the day without having to think too much on the spot.

It is vital to identify the competencies you are being asked and expect to demonstrate. Before the interview go through the brief-job specification and research what the role will entail. From your findings pick appropriate examples, which demonstrate that you possess all the necessary skills they require in order to fulfil the position.


One of the main questions asked at interviews is “why you”, why should the organisation hire you over any of the other applicants.    This is the perfect opportunity to answer using a very concise, carefully planned and well – practiced statement on your professional self.  This is what is known as the elevator pitch and is a message you need to deliver to an interviewer in under one minute.  It’s imperative you don’t lose the attention of the interviewer and keep your pitch as direct as possible which will demonstrate your personal qualities and outlines your unique skills and interests.  Try and make your pitch a theme that will be more memorable and genuine to the interviewer.


A successful interview will not just come down to the words you deliver but HOW you deliver these words is equally important.   Words which are delivered as reading won’t impress and interviewer at all.  You must delivery yourself with passion, enthusiasm and in a genuine way.

Using your tone of your voice to emphasise those key points you want to get across to a potential employer is key.  Practice & read your answers out loud to help you prepare for this.    Never rush your answers.  Answering questions in a clear & concise manager is very important and delivering it at a good pace.

Good body language is KEY in an interview.  Good eye contact, smiling, good handshake will make you far more likeable.  If an interviewer does not like you, they will not hire you.  An interviewer will know in the first 5 minutes if you are a potential hire therefore FIRST impressions are extremely important.   Practice your answers out loud again and again.  This will help you to get it right and differentiate you from the competition.    Extremely important in today’s competitive job market!


Have some very good questions prepared for the interviewer.  Make a list of three or four questions you wish to find out more from them as a company E.G : their company culture, long term career progression within the company, staff attrition, what type of projects will you be able to assist on are some good examples.  Anything that shows you are already visualising yourself in the role!

Naomi Finan
Associate Director

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