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Interviewing with confidence

Congratulations, you’ve successfully navigated through the first hurdles in your search for a new job, and bagged yourself an interview. You’ve found right role, perfected your CV and now you’ve got the good news, you’ve been selected for interview.


So what can you do to make sure you perform your best at interview? As obvious as it seems, the real key is preparation. Follow these straight forward steps and take the time needed to prepare, and you will undoubtedly feel better set up for success.

  1. Know your own CV, every single line: Most interviewers will have a copy of your CV in front of them as they are interviewing. This helps to guide their questions, and acts as a reference point for your examples. The CV itself can generate questions, sometimes on the fly, from the interviewer. So if you have referenced sales figures, or targets numbers, you should know these and be able to talk to them if questioned. You don’t want to contradict your CV and cast any doubt on your experience.

  2. Find out the interview details: Make sure to ask for the format of the interview, who will be interviewing you, and if you don’t have one, ask for a copy of the job description being interviewed for. There are different methods companies use to interview, and how you prepare can be dependent on knowing the format. Two of the most common interview types are CV led interviews, and competency or behavioural interviews. The CV led interview is less structured and will focus on discussing your experience as it relates to the job in question. The competency interview will focus on a set of behaviours that are assessed through situational questions. E.g. could you tell me about a time where…? The specific questions being assessed are generally provided in advance, giving you an opportunity to prepare examples that show how you demonstrated the competency in specific situations.

  3. Research the company: Finding out important information about companies is as easy as it ever has been. Most companies have a huge amount of information on their websites and careers sections. While it’s good to know about the company’s history and the products and services it offers, it’s also important to know about the culture and values if there are any published. Aside from knowing the facts posted to a company website, it’s also advisable to look for any current news about the organisation. Perhaps they have recently published annual results, or have recently taken up a major new sponsorship deal. It can really show an awareness and level of attention to detail that impresses interviewers.

  4. Write down questions to ask: While you may have questions to ask the interviewers based on the conversation that plays out, many times with the adrenaline or nerves of the situation we come up short when it comes to asking questions of our own. Asking well considered questions about the role, the team, the expectations of the individual in the role etc. can really show you as a standout candidate. Write a list of suitable questions and be ready to use them.

  5. Dress to impress: While traditional formal interview attire is not always necessary these days, it’s still important to make a good impression. If you have contact with the recruiter organising the interview, then feel free to ask about recommendations for dress code. While you might stray from the traditional, it’s important that what you are wearing is in good condition, clean and free from creases.

  6. Arrive on time: For face to face interviews, make sure to check the location well in advance. You can use tools like Google Maps to check the average commute times based on the time of day and likely traffic conditions, but ideally you should try, where possible, to do a practice run at a similar time on a different day. This will help to reduce any pre-interview anxiety. Aim to be at the interview with about 5 minutes to spare. Arriving very early can put the interviewers under pressure when they might not be ready to meet you.

  7. Switch off your phone: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your phone. Even though you might have it silenced, don’t run the risk of a call vibrating in your pocket and taking you out of the moment. It could ruin your train of thought, and it may be difficult to get back on track.

  8. Questions, questions, questions: Often, interviewers rely on some old familiar questions which allows you to easily prepare in advance for some of the more generic questions you might face.
    • Tell me about yourself: This is an opportunity to talk about yourself, about your present and future plans and not about your childhood or the music you love.  Keep it concise as it will set the tone for the interview.
    • Take me through your experience in detail: Before your interview, connect the dots of your previous experience that could be highlight the skills relevant for the job, whether big or small. If you have limited experience, you can focus on part time jobs, hobbies or volunteering.
    • Why do you want to work with Bank of Ireland? This is your opportunity to show off some of the information that you learned when researching the company. It’s a great chance to highlight where your ambitions and those of the company are aligned.
    • What’s your greatest weakness? This question is a little old fashioned but there are still some interviewers out there that will use it. It’s tempting to try and turn a perceived weakness into a strength (I’m just too committed to my job, I try too hard etc.), but that will usually come across quite insincere. To stand out and show your self-awareness, it is better to take a different approach. While calling out a fundamental aspect of the job requirements as being a weakness isn’t the right route to go (i.e. if it’s an administration role, being disorganised might mean it’s the wrong job for you), you can outline a specific element that you are working to improve that could represent growth within the role you’re applying for. E.g. Public speaking might be a weakness, and while it’s not part of the job in question, improving your public speaking abilities can improve your career prospects with the company.

  9. Follow the STAR: A key part of preparing for your interview is in making sure you get the point you want to make across. With many interviews, behavioural or competency based interview questions are the norm. This means, questions will be situational, where the interviewer is looking for a specific example of where you have exhibited a behaviour. Generally, these questions will begin with “tell me about a time when”, or “describe a situation where”. While you can prepare many examples to talk about, depending on how the question is phrased, it might be difficult for you to adapt your example to give the specific response needed. The STAR model is designed to help you get the key messages across, and keep a structure to your responses, preventing you from going on a tangent.
    • S (Situation): First, outline the background to the example. Describe the situation or the event briefly.
    • T (Task): Explain the specific task or item you needed to complete or deliver.
    • A (Action): Describe how you went about carrying out this work. Talk about specific actions you carried out that helped get to the result.
    • R (Result): What happened next? Was the outcome positive? What sort of measures did you use to identify success or otherwise?

  10. Tell YOUR story: It’s important that you focus on actions that you carried out. Often, candidates are used to speaking about what the team delivered in both school/college projects and in work, however the interview is your opportunity to focus on what you delivered personally. Your answers should have more “I” responses than “we”.

Performing excellently in interviews doesn’t happen by chance. While talking about yourself might make some people self-conscious, and others do it with ease, across the board those with the best success have done the preparation. Following our interview tips is no guarantee for success, but will only improve your chances of coming out on top at your next interview.

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