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Top Tips for Success at an Interview

by Michelle Hynes of Hynes Employment Consulting.
Phone: (087) 7591438

There are many school leavers who for whatever reason chose to enter the workforce immediately after completing the Leaving Certificate. There are also a number who choose to defer entry to university/college and take a year out during which time they may seek employment in order to fund their education. The prospect of looking for that first job can be a daunting and often a scary experience – there are so many things to do - application forms to complete, CVs and cover letters to write and after all of that there are interviews to attend.

The interview is generally the aspect of the whole process that jobseekers worry about most. The purpose of this article is to provide school leavers with some tips for that all important interview – these are also applicable to students looking for summer or part-time work.

Interviews can be really scary but if you are well prepared there is nothing to worry about. The interview is an opportunity for the employer to meet you and get to know you better, so that they can decide if you would be the best person for the job. It is important to remember that they are not trying to catch you out – they just want to learn more about you so that they can make an informed decision about your suitability for the job.

What can I do to prepare for the interview?

Just like an exam the key to success at interview is preparation. The more prepared you are the easier the interview will be and the less nervous you will feel. The first part of that preparation is to find out as much as you possibly can about the company and the job you are being interviewed for – use as many sources of information as you can for example marketing brochures, the company's website or if you know someone who is already working in the company speak to them.

Read the job description a couple of times and make a note of any aspects of the job you do not understand – you can ask for clarification of these at the interview when you are give an opportunity to ask questions. If you are lucky enough to know someone who is already doing the job speak to them – you should ask them what the day to day activities/tasks of job are, what they enjoy most/least about the job and what the challenges of the job are. The company will not expect you to know everything about them - a couple of pieces of factual information will be enough.

The second important aspect of your preparation is to know and be able to talk confidently about your education and any work experience you have gained. A common mistake amongst school leavers and graduates is assuming that the experience they have gained while undertaking voluntary work, working part-time or working during the summer is irrelevant.

This is simply not the case – all experience is relevant as it equips you will skills such as team work and communication skills which are essential in any work environment.

You should be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself (your answer should focus on your education and any work experience you have gained).
  • What subjects did you enjoy most in school/college? Why?
  • What subjects did you like lease in school/college? Why?
  • Why did you choose to study Biology/French/Accountancy?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses? (Don't say you don't have any weaknesses but choose a weakness that won't impact on your ability to do the job.)
  • What experience do you have of working as part of a team? What was your role on the team?
  • Describe a typical day in you previous position?
  • What are your hobbies/interests?
  • Are you a member of any clubs? What do you gain from your membership of that club?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What is your understanding of the role currently available with our company?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?

It might be a good idea to practice answering these questions out loud so that you get used to hearing yourself speak and also so that you can get comfortable talking about yourself.

Read more about Michelle's tips for the day of the Interview