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Tips for preparing for your interview.

First Impressions

  • Be well prepared - know who you are meeting and the interviewers' position in the company, have full directions and know where you are going, don’t get lost
  • Do lots of research on the company 
  • Be on time, if not early
  • Dress appropriately smart / professional
  • Be polite to support staff - receptionists etc.
  • Make eye contact immediately when greeted
  • Smile and be friendly
  • Give a confident handshake
  • Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you

 The Interview

  • Position yourself so that your body is facing the other person
  • Watch your body language - do not cross your arms, be relaxed but don't slouch
  • Make regular eye contact 
  • Make sure to show interest in the job and the company, be enthusiastic about it
  • Let the interviewer lead the conversation
  • Listen carefully to the questions asked. If you are unclear about what is being asked, you can ask the interviewer to to repeat or re-phrase the question.
  • Be honest with your answers - do not bluff. If you don't have experience of something they ask, that's fine, but try to think of comparable or similar experience that would be relevant to the question.
  • Answer what you have been asked and try not to go off on tangents
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer
  • You will have a change to ask questions. You should not ask about salary, benefits, flexi-time etc at this stage as it can give the wrong impression about your motivation. Stick to questions about the role, the company, the project/nature of the business, team structure etc. 

Some standard interview questions to consider:

Why should we hire you?
Here's the chance to really sell yourself. You need to briefly and succinctly lay out your strengths, qualifications and what you can bring to the table. Be careful not to answer this question too generically, however. Nearly everyone says they are hardworking and motivated. Set yourself apart by telling the interviewer about qualities that are unique to you.

Why do you want to work here?
This is one tool interviewers use to see if you have done your homework. You should make sure that you know about the company, its direction and the industry in which it placed. If you have done your research, this question gives you an opportunity to show how interested you are in the company and demonstrate how your experience and qualifications match the company's needs. 

What are your greatest weaknesses?
The secret to answering this question is being honest about a weakness, but demonstrating how you have turned it into a strength. For example, if you had a problem with organization in the past, demonstrate the steps you took to more effectively keep yourself on track. This will show that you have the ability to recognize aspects of yourself that need improvement, and the initiative to make yourself better.

Why did you leave your last job?
Even if your last job ended badly, be careful about being negative in answering this question. Be as diplomatic as possible. If you do point out negative aspects of your last job, find some positives to mention as well. Complaining endlessly about your last company is not the sort of attitude that an interviewer will favour.

Describe a problem situation and how you solved it.

Interviewers use this question to gauge your ability to analyze situations and develop solutions, regardless of the kind of issue you faced. Sometimes it is hard to come up with a response to this question, particularly if you are coming straight from college and do not have professional experience. Even if your problem was not having enough time to study, describe the steps you took to prioritize your schedule. This will demonstrate that you are responsible and can think through situations on your own.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The secret to this question is being specific and selecting an accomplishment that relates to the position. Even if your greatest accomplishment is being on a championship high school basketball team, opt for a more professionally relevant accomplishment. Think of the qualities the company is looking for and develop an example that demonstrates how you can meet the company's needs.

Tell me about yourself.
While this query seems like a piece of cake, it is difficult to answer because it is so broad. The important thing to know is that the interviewer typically does not want to know about your hometown or what you do on the weekends. He or she is trying to learn more about your professional experience, how you would fit on their team and your ability to communicate. Pick a couple of points about yourself, your professional experience and your career goals and stick to those points. Wrap up your answer by bringing up your desire to be a part of the company. If you have a solid response prepared for this question, it can lead your conversation in a direction that allows you to elaborate on your qualifications.


Competency based or behavioral interviewing:

Competency based or behavioral interviewing is a process by which an interviewer gains specific understanding of the knowledge, skills and attributes brought by a candidate. The questions asked relate specifically to competencies necessary to be effective in the position being filled, and require the interviewee to provide depth around specific capabilities.

Traditionally, interviewers ask candidates questions requiring general knowledge or personal awareness, but these often have very little to do with the open position. Questions requesting a description of strengths, weaknesses and personality characteristics, while at times valuable, rarely relate specifically to the knowledge, skills and attributes necessary for a specific position.

General questions also encourage memorized answers and rarely is the interviewee asked to back up what was said. For instance, in discussing his/her greatest strength, a candidate might say, “I’m motivated, hard working and I get along well with everyone.” In this general format, the interviewer must project whether the candidate is a good fit.

General questions typically generate only positive responses. In behavioral interviews, the interviewer also wants to know the potential negatives to understand the circumstances in which the candidate will not be able to demonstrate the required competencies.

In a behavior-based interview, if motivation and self-direction are important for successful performance in the position, the interviewer could ask: “Tell me about a time you went above the call of duty to complete a project.” Or, “Describe a situation where you had to complete work with little or no direction from superiors or colleagues.” Here, the interviewee will be asked to prove his/her personal motivation with an actual story, rather than just saying, “I’m highly motivated.”

If the interviewer needs to determine how well the candidate gets along with others, she could say: “Tell me about a time you worked with a team of people that could not agree on a project’s objectives” or “Tell me about a time you dealt with a particularly difficult customer.”

Since the best predictor of future behavior is an individual’s past behavior, behavior-based interviewing allows an interviewer to learn, with concrete examples, whether the person has the competency and whether they can apply it in this situation.


How Do Interviewers Ask Questions to Identify Candidates’ Competencies?

Many organizations are now preparing interviewers by creating competency-based interview guides with questions that probe for the competencies needed for the open positions. Next follows some examples of competencies and sample questions that an interviewer might use in a behavior-based interview.

For an “Accountability” competency (depending upon its definition and the behaviors the organization wants the worker to demonstrate), an interviewer might say to a candidate: “Tell me about a time that you had too much work to complete and too little time to meet your deadline.” Here, the interviewer may be trying to gain insight into several issues. Does the candidate take responsibility for the work assigned; can or does the candidate delegate the work; how does the candidate structure their time to get the necessary tasks completed? Does the candidate make excuses for not achieving the objective or do they achieve the objective even under difficult conditions?

There are five types of behavioral interview questions. Each type of question does different work, and will provide unique insights into a candidate's experiences and potential for success in the position.

  • Probing questions allow you to understand a situation more completely. "Who," "what," "where," "when," and "why" are useful ways to begin probing questions. For example, "What led you to believe that was the correct course of action?"
  • Situational questions provide an opportunity for you to pose a dilemma likely to be encountered on the job to see how the candidate would handle it. Or, you could ask about a similar situation the candidate has already encountered in another job, and how he or she handled it. For example, "Describe a time when you had to give difficult feedback to someone. What did you say and do?"
  • Scenario and role-playing questions provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate essential skills needed in the position. They also allow you to evaluate the candidate's critical thinking skills, and his or her ability to perform under pressure. For example, "You are leading a year-long project. Two months into it, you realize that the project will take considerably longer, and will require additional funds and materials. How do you handle the situation?"
  • Functional or problem-solving questions use real-world problems that a candidate would likely encounter in the position. They allow a candidate the opportunity to display his or her abilities to analyze and work through complex problems. These questions help you assess the candidate's ability to use multiple strategies to achieve unique solutions. For example, "There are several people on the team with strong personalities and conflicting priorities. How can you present your own priorities so that the others can support them and help achieve them?"
  • Self-appraisal questions give candidates an opportunity for self-reflection and self-assessment. They provide you with insight into the candidate's ability to self-assess and to learn from experience. For example, "What helped you succeed in your effort?" or "How might you have handled the situation differently?"

Why are behavioural interview questions becoming more commonplace?

Interviewers know that you can prepare for the more ‘traditional’ interview questions and there is debate as to whether responses to such questions provide much validity or predictability for future work performance. In addition, employers are now becoming more focused on particular characteristics that make an employee successful in their organization. Therefore, they are as interested in your work style and general abilities as they are your industry specific skills.

Today, more than ever, every hiring decision is critical. Behavioural interviewing is designed to minimize personal impressions: by focusing on the applicant’s actions and behaviours, rather than subjective impressions that can sometimes be misleading, interviewers can make more accurate hiring decisions. The interview may be a more structured process that will concentrate on areas that are important to the interviewer, rather than allowing you to concentrate on areas that you may feel are important. Most interviewers will be taking copious notes throughout the interview.

The behavioural interviewer has been trained to objectively collect and evaluate information, and works from a profile of desired behaviours that are needed to succeed on the job. Because the behaviours a candidate has demonstrated in previous similar positions are likely to be repeated, you will be asked to share situations in which you may or may not have exhibited these behaviours. Your answers will be tested for accuracy and consistency. For example, if the job for which you are interviewing requires that you work without supervision, you may be asked to relate an experience in which you were given a project or task to complete without any direct guidance from a supervisor. If the interviewer wants to know how you handle adversity, you may be asked for an experience in which you had to explain a strategy to someone and failed in your first attempt.

Behavioural questions may be asked in any type of interview or the whole interview may be dedicated to behavioural questions. In a behavioural interview, the interviewer asks for specific situations in which a desired characteristic or behaviour was exhibited; the idea being that historical actions best predict future responses. Behavioural interview questions differ from traditional questions in that: 

  • Instead of asking how you would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer asks you to describe how you did behave.
  • The interviewer may ask multi-part or follow up questions to probe (think of ‘peeling the layers from an onion’)
  • The interviewer will ask you to provide details.
  • The style of your interview will be both technical as well as behavioural.  Behavioural interviewing is based on the logic that past behaviour is indicative of future behaviour.  All questions start with; ‘tell me about a time when…..’ or Describe a time when…..’ 

The style of Answers that they are looking for are S.T.A.R. answers….So for example if you were asked tell me about a time when you were in a stressful situation, what happened, what did you do….

  • S: Situation– you need to describe the situation that was causing you stress….give your story a context.
  • T: Task– What was the task that you were trying to achieve?
  • A: Action– what actions did you take to alleviate the stress/ approaches you took?
  • R: Result– what was the final outcome or end result?

Your interviews are not assessing you by the result – they are assessing the steps you took to get the result.  Reality is that there is not always a positive end result. However you need to take appropriate steps in order to try to achieve a positive outcome.

You will be asked to provide very specific practical examples with regard to the STAR questions during your interview, based on your experience and career to date.  Your examples should be very specific and structured examples of what you have done. You should avoid generalizing, and ensure the examples follow a logical progression. You should, at all times, be specific with regard to your role and actions in this process improvement. You often have an opportunity for ‘think’ breaks when your interviewer is writing. Because the questions involve ‘thinking-back’, you can take your time to come up with the right examples. A STAR interview can often be a long interview, as the answers take a while to explain.


Situation or Task:

Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.

Action you took:

Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did -- not the efforts of the team. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did.

Results you achieved:

What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

One of the keys to success in interviewing is practice, so we encourage you to take the time to work out answers to these questions using one of the suggested methods, such as the STAR approach. Be sure not to memorize answers! -  the key to interviewing success is simply being prepared for the questions and having a mental outline to follow in responding to each question.


Here is one list of sample behavioral-based interview questions:

  • Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone's opinion.
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  • What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  • Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you've made in the last year.
  • Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker.
  • Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you missed an obvious solution to a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  • Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Please tell me about a time you had to fire a friend.
  • Describe a time when you set your sights too high (or too low).





Date Posted:
2023-12-14 12:46:46

Posted By:

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PBRecruitment Ltd is a trading name of Philip Brady Recruitment Ltd, and is registered in Ireland as a private limited company (registration  No. 485423).