Interview Tips

You have got to the final stage and your dream job is in reach. Now it's all about preparation. 

The purpose of the interview is for the interviewer to find out about you, your skills and your potential fit within their organisation. It is a 2 way process - it is just as important for you to find out about your prospective employer, what is it like to work for them and whether you feel it is the right career move for you.

Essential pre-interview check list

  • Research the organisation, check the company website and search for them on the internet, Google any articles, editorial, press releases etc and make notes that you could take in and refer to during the interview. Also, research their market, their competitors and possibly where they want to take their business.
  • Get a copy of the job specification from your Consultant. Look at each point of the job specification and link it to your skills and experience. By understanding the job role and the skills you have that meet the requirements of the job you will feel more confident when discussing the job.
  • Look at how you are going to get there - if you are relying on public transport, plan your journey. If you are driving, check out your route and where you are going to park. It is good practice to arrive 10 - 15 minutes before the interview.
  • Make sure you know the name of the person or people interviewing you and also the role within the company.
  • Check the format of the interview - will there be any assessments, competency based questions, role plays. If you know about them you can prepare. Remember, if you wear glasses take them with you - you may need to complete forms or paperwork. If you are going to be asked technical questions perhaps brush up and make sure you are up to speed with any legislation or techniques you will need to know.
  • Re-read your CV - take a copy with you if you feel it will help you. It is not good practice when asked a question about your career to stop and look at your CV - if anyone should know your career history it should be you.
  • Prepare questions to ask at interview. By asking questions it demonstrates a genuine interest in the role and company. If you need to write the questions down and take them in to ensure you remember them then do so. It is quite acceptable, when asked if you have any questions, to say "I do, so that I didn't forget any I have written them down. I hope you don't mind me referring to my notes". Write down 10 questions that you would want to know the answers to. In the interview you will find a lot of the questions will have been asked during the interview. Ask 2 or 3 of the most pertinent questions. If your interviewer has answered all of your questions then you can say "actually, you have been very thorough, I wanted to ask about X, Y and Z but you have covered them, thank you".
  • Prepare what you are going to wear. There is never a second chance to make that first impression - smart business suit, clean shoes, shirt/blouse and neat/tidy hair are essential. Make sure your interview attire is prepared the day before - you should not be getting up on the morning of your interview and deciding which tie goes with your shirt.


Before you go in there are a few things to remember.

  • If you are a smoker please (no matter how bad you need to settle the nerves) do not have a cigarette before you go in. Smoke tends to linger and you wouldn't want to be remembered for smelling like an ashtray.
  • Switch off your mobile phone - it's is easy to forget this and you don't want your nearest and dearest ringing you when you are in the interview.
  • If you arrive very early do not go into the premises. Try and arrive 10 - 15 minutes before your interview. Once you go through the door you are in interview mode. The longer you are kept waiting the chances are that nerves will creep in. If you are late, apologise once, don't keep going on about it.
  • When greeting the interviewer, stand (if you have been seated), shake their hand and smile! When taken into the interview room wait to be seated. Remember, body language - don't slouch - put any bag or coat out of the way and RELAX
  • During the interview, smile, make eye contact, don't fidget, and remember - the person interviewing you is not there to trip you up, make you look silly or embarrass you - they want to find out about you.

Your interviewer will usually explain the format for the interview to you. One thing is a given - you will be asked questions.

Hints and tips for answering interview questions

Listen - if you don't understand the question, ask for it to be repeated.

Don't assume what you will be asked - you may give totally the wrong information

Volunteer information - if asked a closed question like "How big is your caseload" you could answer "150 - 200 files" which is okay - what would be better would be "150-200 files, the majority of which are fast track but I do have a small number of multi track cases too which I am targeted to litigate." The more information you volunteer means the interview will feel more like a conversation and less like an interrogation.

Always try and turn a negative into a positive - if you are asked a question that could result in a negative answer then try and turn this into a positive. For example - "What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?" Nobody is perfect, mistakes do get made but ensure that if you do admit to making a mistake you must also point out what you have done to show you have learned from it and it will not happen again.

Think! Don't say something if it will blatantly prevent you from being offered the job. If your interviewer thinks that you are just looking for a foot in the door, stop-gap job or you are desperate you will not get an offer.

Competency Based Questions - the best indicator of someone's potential performance in a role is to look back at previous examples of work. More and more organisations are now turning to a competency based style of interviewing. These questions are designed for you to give a specific example of your work - not hypothetical or theoretical examples of what you could or would do. The best way to think about answering a competency based question is to remember the word STAR - this stands for:

Situation Task Action Result

Example Competency Based Question.

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.

Example Response:

I was working with the Acme Company and a customer rang one day to say that the item he had ordered had arrived and it was broken because it was badly packaged - it was the second one he had ordered and both had been damaged (Situation). He needed the item as it was a gift for a wedding on Saturday and it was already Wednesday (Task). I took details of his order and personally went through to the warehouse to get another one. I got it and packaged it myself, ensuring it was not going to get broken. I then contacted our courier company and got them to collect it from me that day. I then rang the customer to say that a replacement was on the way and a courier would be bringing it before 10am the next day (Action). The following morning I received a call from him to say the parcel had arrived and all was okay. He was very satisfied with what I had done and actually wrote to my manager to praise my work (Result!!).

During the interview you could be asked a number of questions and you should be prepared for them - examples of these are below: -

  • Why do you want the job?
  • Why should we employ you?
  • What could you bring to the role?
  • What are your strengths / weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
  • What is your biggest achievement / mistake in your working life?
  • Talk me through your CV? (be ready to talk about reasons for leaving / gaps in CV)
  • Why did you choose that degree / course?
  • How do you deal with difficult colleagues / conflict at work?
  • What do you do outside of work?
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • What do you understand the role to entail?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?

As mentioned, you will be asked if you have any questions. There are questions that are good to ask and questions that should be avoided at all cost.

Questions to avoid are ones that will demonstrate that you just want a job - employers want to know that their job and company is what you want, so don't ask about holiday, salary etc. If you are asked what salary you seek then it is okay to discuss but do not instigate these types of conversation at this stage. Also, remember - you will have been told what the salary is for the role - if you know the role is paying £30,000 maximum don't say you want £35,000. It will only result in you pricing yourself out of the job.

Good questions to ask at interview will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested primarily in the role and the company. These include: -

  • What training and development opportunities are there?
  • Who will I be working with?
  • What systems do you use?
  • How many people are in the team?
  • Why has the position arisen?
  • Where does the company see itself in 5 years?
  • Why do you like working for the company?
  • Who is the best person in the team? What is their background?
  • How is the team structured?
  • How is the business development done?

The list is endless - make sure you think of some of your own.

How to answer "Strengths and Weaknesses" questions?

The purpose of this questions is for employers to assess whether you're a good fit for the job and the company, as well as the potential issues there could be too. It’s a chance for them to assess your ability to be self-reflective. Make sure you read the job description thoroughly and choose skills that the employers want that are relative to your personality. 


Generally, you would choose soft skills as some of your strengths, however you have to tell a story with these skills, such as how you demonstrate it through past work experience. Soft skills will include things such as; teamwork, communication, time management, ability to perform under pressure etc.

You might also choose to include hard skills in your strengths depending on the job. Hard skills can include ability to speak a variety of foreign languages which can be strong for some candidates.


Determining your weaknesses are usually more difficult as you don't want to make a bad impression of yourself. Remember, NEVER say you have no weakness. Everybody has weaknesses, some of the common ones include: procrastination, impatience, disorganisation, inability to self regulate (causing burnout) etc.  

How to answer "Why do you want to work here" questions?

Answering this question might seem difficult but when you follow these short steps below, it is quite simple.

Research the company

Recruiters are interested in how much you know about the company, ultimately your interest in working for them. Make sure you understand the company's background, culture, history as well as their mission statement. All of this can be found within the 'About Us' and 'Careers' pages within their website. 

You should also research the company via social media such as their LinkedIn account. Look into what the company posts, who the employees are, read what is current, learn about the benefits and why the people enjoy working there. 

Understand the job description

The interviewer wants to make sure that you understand what the role and the duties you will be performing entails. Most people would have reviewed the job description before applying, however go back and understand your role thoroughly.  

List your favorite things about the job

This is self explanatory, make sure you write a list of your favorite things about the job in order to feed it back to the employer. You should then make a list of your career objectives and explain how working for this company will help you pursue these long term goals.

The End of the Interview

How you leave an interview is just as (if not more) important than how you enter the interview - you want your lasting impression to be a good one.

  • Stand and shake hands with the interviewer
  • Thank them for their time
  • If you want the job tell them

It is quite acceptable to end the interview with a statement like: -

Thanks for your time; I have really enjoyed meeting you. I am going to ring Douglas Scott now and tell them that I would definitely want to come back for second interview


I have really enjoyed the interview. If I was offered the job I would definitely accept

If you do not like the look of the job or the company a good ending to the interview would be: -

Thanks for your time; I look forward to your feedback

As soon as possible after the interview you must contact your Consultant at Douglas Scott with your feedback!

Good luck!