Top Tips

  • Keep tailoring and working on your CV to secure interviews
  • Ensure that your CV is refreshed on websites such as Indeed, Reed, CV Library etc
  • Contact companies directly
  • Use social media to your advantage, join Facebook pages relating to employment. Join LinkedIn and Twitter
  • If you are with the Job Centre, keep in touch with your Work Coach for vacancies
  • Consider all options and be open to the employment market
  • Keep your eye out for new developments in your area
  • Consider the time of year, could you apply for Christmas temp roles?
  • Ensure your application forms are filled in clearly and all questions are answered
  • Keep your phone on and charged in case an employer needs to contact you

Recruitment Agencies

Blue Arrow New Appointments Group Michael Page
KHR Recruitment Specialist Reed Earlstreet Employment Consultant
Berry Recruitment J & J Recruitment Solutions HR GO Recruitment
Pearson Whiffin React Recruitment




Different Forms of Interviews

Each employer will hold a range of different interviews or even a combination, for example, you may have an initial telephone interview followed by a further in-depth face to face interview.  But remember, interviews can come in different forms:

  • One to one (face to face) interview – Keep it on a formal basis, even if the employer comes across as being quite informal (you want to show yourself in a professional capacity).
  • Panel interviews – Don’t feel worried about more than one person interviewing you, see it as a formal process – the employer may have a clipboard they are using to make notes but don’t be put off by this! Good eye contact with all the panel members is important.
  • Group interviews – It is your chance to showcase your skills – the employer is going to look out for your ability to communicate and contribute ideas/thoughts to the team – so participate (but don’t dominate the group), actively listen to others within the group and be encouraging/positive.
  • Telephone interviews – Be prepared and remember to have your mobile charged and ready for that call. You could also have notes on hand that you can refer to.
  • Skype Interview – Remember to have your eye level to the camera and still dress appropriately! How to Look Good in Skype Interviews.
  • Competency based – Employers will be looking to see if you have the skills, they require for their specific job role. Check the job specification and think of 4 or 5 examples for each – you won’t look competent if you can only provide one example!
  • Trade test – For example, a construction company might ask you to work a day to see what you are like at doing the job; a hairdresser might ask you to do a cut and blow dry to observe your skills. So don’t say you are qualified in something if you are not!


Preparation for Interviews

Feeling nervous about a job interview is normal but preparation is key to reducing these nerves. You can prepare for most of your interview (at least 70%) by preparing 4 or 5 examples for each of the skills required by the employer. There are other questions (see 5 popular interview questions below) that will make up another significant chunk of your preparation, but there are a few other pointers to consider first:




Preparation Tips:

  • Research company/job – look at the company website if it has one (most do). You can also follow employers you are interested in on social media (Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn) to gain further insight into the company.
  • Plan journey to interview (timings etc.). Have a plan A and a plan B (What if the trains are not running? What is my back-up plan for getting to the interview?)
  • If a telephone interview, ensure your telephone is fully charged and has credit.
  • If interview is via a video call, set up the area ready and check beforehand that your technology can connect so that you are fully ready for the call.
  • Dress appropriately – smart/casual.
  • Personal hygiene – have a shower but don’t over-do the perfume, some people are allergic.
  • Always prepare questions to ask – write a list and take it with you, this shows you are prepared.
  • Rehearse answers to questions you find ‘difficult’ and practice your responses.
  • Think about your body-language – maintain good eye contact and good posture.
  • Use breathing techniques to help calm any nerves. Try the 4-7-8 technique – breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7, then breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds – repeat the process 3 or 5 times.


5 Popular Interview Questions and How to Answer Them


It is easier to answer these questions if you know why the employer is asking them…


Q1. Tell me about yourself

They want to get an idea of whether you are confident and suitable – so expand on your CV profile (relevant experience, a core qualification, top three skills with examples and a unique selling point) but don’t discuss personal information that may go against you.


Q2. What do you know about the company?

They want to know you are genuinely wanting to work for the company so make sure you do some research. However, rather than repeating facts, identify what you personally like about the company (maybe the ethos) and link it in with why you applied.


Q3. What are your strengths?

They want to know that your strengths link in with the job – don’t just give a list but instead pick the three most pertinent and provide examples to back up your claims.


Q4. What is your main weakness or area for improvement?

The employer is looking to see that you are self-aware, willing to do something about an area of weakness and continue to develop your skills. Obviously do not choose anything that is vital for the job role and so disqualifies you from being considered, instead choose an example which demonstrates that you have done something positive to improve/resolve.


Q5. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

The employer is looking to see if you are committed to working for them over a period of time, so you need to show commitment. In addition, either talk about developing within your role or working your way up within the company (checking there is scope to do so first).



Competency Based Questions and CAR Approach:


Employers are looking for evidence that you can do the job, so may ask: “Tell me about a time when…”

  • You delivered excellent customer service
  • Dealt with an angry customer
  • Met a tight deadline
  • Used your initiative
  • Worked effectively as part of a team


You will need to provide examples (think of 4 or 5 for each) and then apply the CAR method:

C = ‘context’ – i.e. some background to the example

A = ‘action’ – i.e. what action you took

R = ‘result’ – i.e. what was the positive result


Timings to use are roughly: Context 25% (e.g. 30 seconds); Action 50% (e.g. 60 seconds); Result 25% (e.g. 30 seconds)


The CAR approach example:

An employer asks you about a time you dealt with an angry customer.

You could respond by using the CAR approach in a very positive way:


C – Context: Whilst working at X clothes store, Mr Bloggs came to the customer service desk, where I was working, and was rather angry and aggressive in speech, as the suit he purchased was, in his words, “falling apart“.


A – Action: I listened and empathised with Mr Bloggs, which helped to calm the situation down, and I suggested three possible ways to resolve the situation: 1) a like for like swap; 2) a store credit note; 3) a refund upon receipt. Mr Bloggs chose the latter, so I gave him a refund and 10% discount off his next shop.


R – Result: Mr Blogs thanked me for resolving the issue and apologised for being initially confrontational with me. He left the store a happy customer, which obviously reflected well on the company.


Further CAR (Context, Action, Result) Approach Examples:


  1. Teamwork Skills:

C: Whilst working at X company, I worked on reception in the mornings and there would normally be two members of staff on at all times.  However, we were due to run a promotional event and one of the staff was off sick, so I was asked to if I could, at short notice, also cover the afternoon slot.

A: I contacted my childcare provider to see if they could extend their hours for me and they were able to do so.   I then informed the manager that I was able to cover the slot, and promptly spoke with the other colleague to see what work would need to be covered, as had been agreed with the colleague that was ill.

R: My manager thanked me for being able to offer additional help as this ensured that the event was able to run in the afternoon and not get cancelled.  As a result, the company achieved additional orders from customers, and we reached our sales targets for the week.


  1. Used own initiative:

C: I was working at the Connexions Centre, awaiting pre-booked clients to attend their careers appointment.  However, due to it being a nice hot sunny day and the clients being teenagers, the turn-out rate was disappointing.

A: I noticed that the careers library was a bit of a mess, so I went through the books and other materials, binning information that was older than 2 years as per careers guidance standards.  I then catalogued all the remaining books/resources and emailed this out to staff.

R: The result was that library was now up-to-date and had gone from being on 5 bookcases to only 2, with everything catalogued according to CRCI coding systems, so that staff and clients could access the information quickly and easily.


  1. Met a tight deadline:

C: I’ve been a volunteer at The Wildlife Trust for the past 7 years and we are often involved in conservation projects.  The Conservation Society was looking to re-introduce water voles into the local river, but to do so there needed to be an urgent clean-up of the embankment areas.

A: I joined a group of volunteers for litter picking, as well as removing invasive plants and sectioning off a part of the river walk so that the animals would not be disturbed by human traffic.

R: We completed the work within a day, although we had been given a weekend to sort it all out, and the following day we organised a BBQ for the volunteers to celebrate their hard work.


Four further points to be aware of:


  1. Curveball questions – these are aimed at seeing how you react under pressure, for example, no one expects one of their interview questions to be: if you were an animal what kind of animal would you be and why? Start by answering the “why” part of the question first and then link it to an animal. For example: I see myself as being [insert core skills and examples] so the animal that best links would be [insert choice of animal].
  2. Questions about interests – these have traditionally been used by employers at the start of the interview to help you settle. However, employers also use it to gauge your level of enthusiasm when talking about something you are interested in, then measuring that benchmark against your answer to subsequent interview questions.
  3. Enthusiasm – has been identified in some market research as the number one thing an employer is looking for from interviewees. So on paper someone might tick 90% of the boxes but loses out to someone ticking 70% of the boxes due to the latter being more enthusiastic.
  4. When an employer ends the interview with “Do you have any questions?” They are looking to see how keen you are to do the job, so never say “no” – a top tip would be to write a list and take this with you to the interview. A few examples of questions you could ask include:


  • Is there an induction period?
  • Is this a new position?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • Where do you see the company in 5 years’ time?
  • What do you particularly enjoy about working here and what is your biggest challenge?
  • How many members are there in the team?
  • Is there a uniform?
  • What sort of training/development opportunities do you provide for new staff?
  • Would it be possible to have a tour of the premises?
  • Are there any opportunities for progression within the company?


Employability Skills/Transferable Skills 

Try to think about your employability skills as employers look for different skills and qualities.  See if any of the words below describe your skills and qualities.  These are just a few examples:

Enthusiastic Logical Confident
Analytical Motivated Able to work using own initiative
Decisive Focused Team player
Resilient Problem solver Adaptable
Conscientious Creative IT Competent
Effective under pressure Positive Good Interpersonal Skills

Think about your transferable skills – skills that you can take from one job to another, like for example, ability to get on well with others, good team worker, verbal, and written communication skills, IT competent, able to use own initiative, able to problem solve, research and analytical skills, numeracy and literacy skills, organisation and time management skills, good listening skills and leadership skills.


Telephone Interviews


  • Avoid noisy public spaces – choose a quiet location, such as your home. Minimise background noise.
  • Have your CV and application form handy in case you need to refer to anything specific
  • Keep a glass of water nearby so that you do not get a dry mouth
  • If you don’t hear or understand a question, don’t be shy to ask for clarity
  • Make any notes if you can so that you can refer to them later, especially if called for a second interview
  • Have your list of questions ready to ask the employer
  • Ensure your phone is fully charged


Remote Video Interviews

Useful Tips:

  • Check and ensure that your equipment is ready and able to connect
  • Do you have a good connection?
  • Software – ensure you have it loaded onto your computer
  • Ensure you have a place where you will not be interrupted
  • Have your notes by you, but out of sight
  • Understanding body language is reduced when over video link, so make extra effort with building rapport
  • You may need to turn off other devices in the house if you think you might have connection problems, and sit close to your Wi-Fi
  • The background can potentially be distracting, so ensure you can create a background effect, or put your computer in an appropriate place – not with a window behind you.
  • You may want to use earphones to help with hearing and therefore understanding the questions
  • Ensure you have a comfortable upright seat, so you are not slouching, but not uncomfortable over time as you will have limited movement for some time
  • Visit the toilet before the call and have a glass of water rather than a cup of tea!



The interview is a two-way process and there are different types of interviewer:


As much as the interviewer/s want to see if you are the right person for the job, it is important to remember that you can also use this as a way of deciding whether the employer is also right for you and whether the organisation fits in with your own goals and values too.


Most people do not interview as a career and while they SHOULD know a great deal about the job and be able to interview you well, be prepared for these types of interviewers:

  • Untrained and Nervous
  • The Rambler
  • Disorganised
  • Forgetful
  • Disinterested
  • Aggressive


If you are unsuccessful in securing the job, don’t be disheartened, it might be that the employer wasn’t a very good interviewer or that there are a few areas you could improve on. Always ask the employer for feedback on the interview to help you improve your technique going forwards.


Never ask why you didn’t get the job (you will get the standard: another applicant was stronger) but ask for three things they liked about the interview and three things you could improve on – you’ll then find out the reason for not getting the position and thus be able to work on those points.


National Careers Service and Other Useful Websites:

Follow the tips in this pack and you will hopefully feel more confident in interviews.


Don’t forget to use the National Careers Service website which provides free, high quality professional careers advice and guidance with useful information and tools to help you prepare for job interviews, develop your understanding of different job roles and careers information, undertake free online courses, and assess your skills using online assessment tools.


See website National Careers Service Interview Advice


You can also contact us through webchat or through our freephone number 0800 100 900 where you can get immediate support or book an appointment


Other useful websites:

Blue Sky Interview

Glass Door Interview Index

Prospects Interview Tips

Careers Wales Interview Tips

Pass My Interview


Contact Us

The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills, and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards.

To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use our webchat. Lines are available from: 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday, and 10am – 5pm Saturday.