AlastairGrantAnyone can find that at an unexpected time in their careers, they have to go for interview. This might be to keep their job, get a promotion, or to apply for a new and better job than the one they have.

We help our clients with pitches, handling the media, keynote speeches and presentations and conference events. But every year we are also asked to coach people going for an interview. Some of our clients are interviewing, or in the job market, for the first time.

The Challenge

Interviewing is a filtering process, starting with CVs being sent, selection for an initial interview and then maybe processing on to a second interview. References are sought. Indeed it is a process of elimination. A long CV with mistakes is an easy way to be thrown out. So how can we help those who want to get that job in competition with others?


Preparation of Information. Don’t be lazy, find out relevant information before the interview. Their website is a good start. Find out how long the interview is, how many people are in the room with you, who are they anyway? Ring their HR department as they may be surprisingly helpful. Preparation of Logistics. Make sure you know the exact destination, how to get there, is there parking? Do you have the right phone number on your mobile if you are running late? Do you need to bring anything along, perhaps an example of your work?

Preparation of Appearance. Dress style is often unclear. If you are not sure it is best to be smartly but comfortably dressed and be well groomed. That means clean shiny shoes, clean teeth, clean and short finger nails. No stains on your clothing, hair brushed, cut and tidy. First appearances are important. Strive to be immaculate. This will make you feel better too!

Preparation for Questions. You should have an idea of the more important questions that you may be asked. These are typical:

Tell me about something that you are proud to have achieved.

Why do you wish to come to this company/firm/organisation/college/university?

Tell me about some setback that you faced and what you have learnt from it.

What do you hope to do once you have qualified?

It is well worth rehearsing your answers – this will build confidence but as you rehearse you may find you keep adding more and more information. The interviewers really dislike long answers. So, keep answers short. The interviewers can always ask you for more information if they so wish.

First Impressions

It is said that many make up their minds about you in the first 60 seconds. Hardly logical but don’t get eliminated in that first nervous moment. Get your posture right – walk into the room upright and with a smile. They will, or should, take the initiative. Be ready to shake hands – apply medium pressure and look them in the eye. Don’t start to blurt out unrehearsed blabber. Once seated, lean forward slightly and keep your bottom at the back of the seat.

 Answering questions

Listen carefully and pause. Don’t start revving up your answer whilst they are speaking. By pausing you can consider (and indeed show you have considered) the question.

Give brief answers. As I said above, they can always ask for more, but if you ramble and waffle the interviewers will get bored or lose track of what you are trying to say.

Do try to back up your answers with personal or other relevant real examples. This makes it easier for the other party to understand your point and better still they are more likely to remember you afterwards. To be forgotten is fatal!

Do tell the truth but do not overdo it. Let’s say one of your grades in an exam (educational or professional) is low. Yes I was disappointed to only get a C in that subject but overall I am pleased with my results which were good and as my tutors predicted.

If you don’t understand a question don’t be fazed by it, instead ask for clarification before attempting an answer. This also buys some decent thinking time!

Finally here, answer with a degree of enthusiasm and confidence. Hold eye contact with the other party.

Be happy to ask them some questions – indeed working these out should be part of your preparation.

Some sample dressing:

scruffy dresser 1 scruffy dresser woman 2 smart dresser 1 smart dresser woman 2








After the interview

Consider writing a handwritten letter to the interviewers saying how much you appreciated the time they spent and your passion and enthusiasm for the post should you be chosen. This might sound a bit cheesy yet it is rarely done and helps to mark you out.

Social Skills

This may seem a bit offbeat, but beyond an impressive CV, an adult, young or old, can gain advantage if they are able to use their social skills well. This means the ability to:

Not all of these can be tested in an interview; some might seem unimportant, but good social skills may be a point of differentiation between two candidates who are equal in every other respect.

Alastair Grant, Associate Consultant at GPB