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The Interview Itself

Increasingly, organisations are using competence-based interviewing techniques, which involve interviewers having a set of criteria against which the candidate is marked. This approach builds on the principle that examples of past behaviour are good predictors of future behaviour and is an important way of finding out how a graduate will perform in a new job.

Four skills commonly assessed

Problem-solving skills: You will be presented with a situational question 'What would you do if … ?'. Although there is no correct answer, the interviewer will be looking for your ability to prioritise and think through a problem logically

Interpersonal skills: The questions posed are looking for evidence of diplomacy, leadership, teamwork, etc.

Personal attributes: The interviewer will be seeking evidence of your motivation, flexibility, decision-making abilities, etc. Have you researched the company and do you know about the position you are applying for?

Communication skills: Do you articulate your answers well? Do you answer the question that is asked?

Advice for Success

  • Interviewers tend to form an overall impression at a very early stage, usually in the first few minutes.
  • Conform to the appropriate 'dress code' for this employer and try to look relaxed.
  • Most questions will centre on your application.
  • Keep a copy of your CV/application form and read it before you go to the interview. Never answer a question that you don't fully understand.
  • Be prepared to ask the interviewer to repeat or explain a question.
  • Avoid monosyllabic answers.
  • The more preparation you undertake, the less nervous and more confident you will be when interviewed.

Telephone Interviews

There is a growing trend for employers to use telephone interviews particularly for pre selection purposes. Remember that it is not only what you say but also how you say it that creates a favourable impression.

Telephone interviews give you some advantages over face-to-face encounters. You can take notes, refer to your CV, references or exam results, pace around to dissipate your nervous energy!

You cannot read the interviewer's reaction to your answers.

Advice for success:
If you encounter this technique, expect to be engaged in a lengthy structured conversation, based on your application.
Arrange a time when you can avoid distractions and have your CV and covering letter to hand for reference.

Typical questions the interviewer may ask:

Knowledge of the job

  • How would you define marketing, human resources, etc?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in this job?

Knowledge of the organisation

  • What do you know about our business?
  • What do you think of our website?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • Who do you see as our major competitors?

Career motivation / direction

  • What are your career / life plans?
  • Why have you applied for this kind of work / career?
  • What other employers do you plan to apply to, or have you already applied to?

Academic record

  • How did you choose your degree subject / university?
  • What class of degree are you expecting?
  • Your leaving certificate results seem disappointing, was there a reason for that?
  • Could you explain to me what your project is about?

Interests and activities

  • What sort of things occupy your time outside study?
  • What has your membership of the XYZ Society involved?
  • What experience have you had of organising events / voluntary work?


  • How would you sum up your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What did you learn from your vacation jobs?

Your questions to the interviewer

  • Ask about the job, the company, its employees, products and processes
  • What would be a typical first assignment?
  • What would be a typical career pattern for a young graduate entering?
  • How will my performance be evaluated and how often?
  • How is the present economic situation affecting your company?

Not all interviews are for jobs

  • Interviews are also becoming more common for some postgraduate and even for some undergraduate programmes such as medicine.

After the Interview

  • Reflect on your performance, what worked for you and what didn’t.
  • You will also have gained more insight into the organisation and the role on offer and you should use this opportunity to consider whether this is the right move for you.

Employer Advice



Cara Fallon (Ex BDO) Recruitment Expert

Sean Delaney, Ericsson Multimedia Training

Ciara McDevitt, Senior Brand Manager, Jameson

Noel Maher, Gift Program - Fidelity

Lorraine Toole, Graduate Recruitment Manager, PwC


Noel Maher, Gift Program - Fidelity

Sean Delaney, Ericsson Multimedia Training

Related Resources

For more related resources see our 'Start Job Search' Section.



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