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Trinity College Dublin

The Interview Itself

  • The interview is your opportunity to move yourself from a perceived “candidate” at the beginning of the interview to a potential “co-worker” by the end.  One of the key markers of a successful career is the amount of time we spend playing to our strengths.  Your task, therefore, is to link your strengths (subject knowledge, work experience, extra-curricular activities and interpersonal skills) to the job you are being interviewed for.
  • Increasingly, organisations are using competence-based interviewing techniques, which involve interviewers having a set of criteria against which the candidate is marked. Each applicant is asked a series of questions that will focus on the skills and competencies required to do the job e.g. teamwork, problem-solving, communication, time management.    You can identify these competencies by reading the job description and getting as much information as possible about the department and the role for which you are applying.
  • 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.
  • Video available Hear how recruiters from manufacturing and services (Kerry Group, Ericsson Ireland, PricewaterhouseCoopers) use competency based interviewing at Destinations®.



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?

Candidates often find the STAR technique very helpful in structuring their answers to these types of questions.
Exercise available Learn more about how you can use the STAR technique effectively at Destinations®.

Where the questions relate to competencies/behaviours, the interviewer is looking for specific examples and even for details such as dates and outcomes in a candidate’s responses.  The best way to prepare for this type of interview is to reflect on your approach to your academic work, especially your final year project/dissertation and to think about challenges you encountered in your summer or part-time jobs.  Even your leisure-time activities can provide you with examples.

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. Remember that it is not only what you say but also how you say it that creates a favourable impression – try to imagine that you are face to face with the interviewer, smile as you speak and don’t worry about occasional silences.

Video availableHear from recruiters, Strkyer Instruments & Graduate Success, how to maximise your performance at a telephone interview performance at Destinations®.

Skype Interviews

Skype has risen in popularity recently as it reduces the cost associated with interviewing.  The challenges are the same as with telephone interviews in that you don’t have any direct physical presence, but some people find them more relaxing as they are usually carried out from home and they allow you to see the interviewer.

Video Interviews

Overseas companies and some areas of the public sector are using video interviews for initial screening.  They usually have audio and visual test to ensure your webcam and microphone are working.  You will get about one minute to read the question and 2-3 minutes to answer.  These interviews are usually short – about five questions in total.  Again, imagine you are face-to-face with an interviewer.

The good thing about video interviews is that you can do them from your own surroundings which can be more relaxing – but don’t get too relaxed! Here’s what you need to do in to create a good impression in a video interview.

Preparation for Interview

  • Download the required software in advance and become familiar with it
  • Carry out a test call with a friend to make sure that your microphone, webcam and speakers are working properly
  • If using a photograph to customize your profile, make sure to use a professional photograph.

On the Day – Before the Interview

  • Choose a quiet location. If you are doing the interview from your home, make sure to tell other people not to knock on the door or come into the room during the interview
  • Think about what the interviewer will be able to see on the webcam, and ensure that the space they can see is tidy and free of clutter, posters etc. As you need to create a professional impression, aim for a blank wall as a background if possible. Avoid having your bed in the background
  • Do another test call on the day to ensure everything is working
  • Check what status message is being displayed to - don’t put up a custom online status, stick to the standard options available eg “online”/”available”
  • Close all other applications before the call – notifications popping up on your screen can create a sound and be distracting
  • Turn your mobile phone to silent and keep it away from the computer to avoid interference
  • It’s important to think about how you will look on camera, and lighting plays a big part in this. Aim to sit facing natural light from a window, or have a lamp behind the laptop, facing you.
  • Dress for interview – from head to toe. Even if the interviewer cannot see you from head to toe, wearing smart shoes and a suit will put you in a more professional mindset than wearing runners and tracksuit bottoms “out of sight”.
  • Avoid patterned fabrics or bright colours
  • Have a pen and paper handy in case you want to jot down any notes during the interview

The Interview itself: 

  • Look at your webcam as you speak, so that you will be making “eye contact” with the recruiter
  • Don’t rely too much on your notes – they’re there if you get stuck but focus on the webcam as much as possible
  • Remember to be mindful of your body language – sit up straight, smile, and try not to fidget

Panel Interviews

Panel interviews provide an opportunity for each interviewer to observe the applicant answering the same questions and to then assess the candidate collaboratively.  An effective panel will consist of three to five individuals and each member on the panel will deal with one or more topics, asking a couple of questions on each.  Remember to direct your answers first to the person asking the question but draw in other members of the panel by making eye contact.

Case Interviews

Primarily used by management consulting firms, the case interview is a discussion between the interviewer and the interviewee on a real or hypothetical business or non-business scenario.  Through this process, the interviewer assesses the interviewee’s analytical, problem-solving and people skills in handling real-life situations.


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 (dissertation) 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?

Behaviour based
Please give an example of how you have remained motivated and committed and have completed a task against considerable obstacles. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Please give an example showing how you have supported colleagues or others and have built relationships to achieve a common goal.

Describe how you have used effective communication skills. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome?

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?

Neil Hughes, Ulster Bank, Graduate Recruitment Manager

Most but not all interviews are for jobs

  • Academic interviews can arise either when you are applying for a postgraduate place (and even for some undergraduate programmes such as medicine) or, following a PhD, when you are applying for a teaching position at a third-level institution.
  • More information availablePrepare for postgraduate interviews at Destinations®.
  • Applicants for a PhD position:
    • Why do you want to do a PhD in X?
    • What skills would you like to develop during your PhD?
    • What are the challenges of a PhD?
    • Give a synopsis of a paper you read recently.
  • Applicants for a third level teaching position:
    • How would you teach X to a first year class?
    • What are the challenges associated with teaching mature students?
    • Outline your personal research plan.
    • Describe your approach to supervising postgraduate students.

After the Interview

  • Reflect on your performance, what worked for you and what didn’t. If you have been unsuccessful, you can request feedback on your performance from the employer. Remember to make notes of what you were asked immediately after the event as this too will help you to prepare for future interviews.
  • 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.
  • Exercise AvailableLearn how to approach the issue of salary negotiation at Destinations®

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


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