Tips from Apsley Recruitment on preparing for an interview

Over many years in recruitment we have accumulated a variety of tales (some funny, some bizarre and some embarrassing) about interviews, such as poor candidate preparation, behaviour and performance. Our aim with this document is to help prevent you falling into these categories. Please forgive any blindingly obvious points, but whether this is your first or fiftieth interview there will be something here for you.

Remember, an interview is about risk on both sides – your prospective employer wants to find out if you will fit into their organisation, or if you might not. Equally, you will want to reveal the realities of what the job entails.

Before the interview:

  • Find out if a psychometric test will be part of the interview process and familiarise yourself with what that technique is about.
  • Discover everything you can about the company from annual reports, brochures, web pages, and the press, including its top management, strategic policies, and ethos – and any past or recent achievements or incidents.
  • Familiarise yourself with the company’s market, its customers, and suppliers, and related market sector issues and trends.
  • Review your CV and think through specific questions you may be asked about it, and be ready with a convincing answer on any that would be difficult and you might not want to be asked.
  • Practice answers to common interview questions (listed below).
  • Prepare your own questions about the company and job.
  • Double check that you have the correct day and time.
  • Don’t be late for the appointment – if possible make a “dummy run” to the company so that you know how much travel time to allow for, especially during rush hours.


On the day:

  • Take the company name, address and contact details with you, together with a location map. You will need these and may have to call the company if you are delayed – also take the main reception’s telephone number, in case a direct dial is on voicemail.
  • Take a copy of your CV with you, plus a couple of spares.
  • Dress smartly, arrive early and be polite to everyone you meet at the company – you never know who you may meet later in the interview.
  • Have a notebook, pen and your questions to hand.
  • Do not smoke or drink before the appointment.


Dressing for the interview:

Recruitment decisions are based on several different factors, but it is worth remembering that first impressions are very important. You should dress appropriately for the position you are applying for. Listed below are some tips on how to dress for an interview:

  • Wear a businesslike suit or outfit in a conservative colour
  • Clean, unscuffed shoes
  • Clothes are clean and crisply ironed
  • Hair is clean and neatly styled
  • Keep perfume/aftershave to a minimum


In the first five minutes:

Make a good first impression, the first few minutes of an interview count for a lot.

Throughout the interview, obey the golden rules:

  • Always answer any question in a direct and positive way, and when finished ask whether you have met the questioner’s point.
  • Avoid criticising your previous job, employer or manager.
  • Don’t refer to processes in your existing or old job as the only way to do things, your prospective employer will be interested in best practice, but not baggage.
  • Avoid overt and insensitive motivations such as a desire for more money or shorter working hours.
  • It is fine to show ambition, but not in a way that threatens your potential boss or his or her colleagues.
  • Above all, show a willingness to listen and learn.


  • Look attentive by leaning forward.
  • Listen keenly, nod and orally acknowledge what you are told.
  • Don’t waffle – keep to the question being asked.
  • Be prepared to support your answers with convincing evidence, including significant facts and figures, or material proof.
  • Maintain eye contact with everyone present.
  • Don’t hide your personality, talk about yourself but don’t dominate the interview.
  • Smile when appropriate – enjoy the interview and the opportunity.


Factors that can cost you the job:


  • Being unprepared for the interview.
  • Being late.
  • Poor manners.
  • Complaining about previous employers.
  • Failing to communicate, or relying on fuzzy jargon.
  • Being aggressive or superior.
  • Making excuses and being negative.
  • Looking scruffy or too informal.
  • Lacking enthusiasm.
  • Being evasive or vague.
  • Appearing too greedy for money, promotion or status.


After the Interview:

Please call us as soon as you can afterwards to discuss points whilst they are still fresh in your mind, it will help us get feedback quickly for you.

If possible, write to the person who interviewed you, thanking them for their time and reaffirming your interest in the position. Not only is this good business etiquette, it will remind them about you and it might give you the competitive edge.

Be prepared for these questions:

Before the interview think about your responses to the following questions.
As each application is unique go through your responses before every interview. Practice until you feel confident and add any more you can think of.

Typical questions that are asked fall into the following categories:
You and the vacancy in question:


  • What skills do you think you need to do it?
  • What can you offer?
  • Are you prepared to relocate?
  • Are you willing to travel?
  • Why should we employ you?
  • How long will it be before you are making a real contribution to the company?
  • How ambitious are you?
  • How long have you been looking for a new job?
  • Do you prefer to work in a small, medium or large company?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How could you improve yourself?
  • What are you looking for in a new job?
  • What would your ideal job be?
  • Are you considering any other positions at the moment?
  • Are you a leader?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • What sort of manager are you?
  • Do you work well with others? Or are you a loner?
  • Are you self-motivated?
  • Are you accepted into a team quickly?
  • Can you act on your own initiative?
  • What motivates you?
  • Do you know how to motivate other people?
  • What do you dislike doing?
  • Do you feel you are ready to take on greater responsibilities?
  • Can you work under pressure?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What interests do you have outside work?
  • Describe your personal achievements in these areas?
  • How long will you stay in the new job?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What interests you about particular products or services?
  • What can the company offer that your previous company cannot?


Your current or previous job:

  • Explain the structure of your last company and where you fitted in.
  • What did you do on a day to day basis?
  • What was your greatest success? How did you achieve it?
  • What has been your biggest failure?
  • How often were you off sick?
  • What did you earn in your last job?
  • What level of salary are you looking for now?
  • Why did you join your previous employer?
  • Did you feel you progressed satisfactorily in your last job?
  • Why are you leaving?


Questions you may want to ask in return:

  • What will be my responsibilities?
  • Where will I fit into the overall company structure?
  • Who will I report to?
  • Where do they fit in the structure?
  • Who will report to me?
  • What do you expect me to do in the first six months?
  • What level of performance do you expect from me – how do you measure performance?
  • Who are your customers ?
  • Where is the company going? Upwards? Expansion plans?
  • What are the prospects for advancement and promotion?
  • Will travelling be required in this position?
  • Will relocation be required now or in the future?
  • What training do you provide?
  • When will you decide on the appointment?
  • What is the next step?


See also other helpful information from Apsley Recruitment:

  • Tips on writing a CV
  • Tips on preparing for an interview
  • Apsley Recruitment – it’s mission and code of conduct