Excel at Your Next Interview

  • 8 January 2018
  • Blog | Career Development | Blog

Going for a job interview makes most people feel nervous, but it can be especially daunting for those who have less experience of the process – or who are simply out of practice. The good news is that thorough preparation and thought will help you to stand out; this is particularly important in a competitive industry such as banking and financial services.


It is best to approach an interview as a business meeting or discussion in which both parties have an equal interest. If you consider that the employer has a vacancy to fill, this gives you the opportunity to convince them that you are the solution to their problem.

In any interview, the interviewer or panel is looking for someone who:

  • Can do the job
  • Will do the job
  • Will fit into the team and/or the company culture

Your job is to demonstrate to the employer that you have the capabilities they are looking for. There are different types of interviews, all of which require planning and preparation, but the most common formats are formal and competency-based.


  • Ensure that you have researched the company
  • Visit its website, social media channels or press releases for up-to-date information
  • Know the job description and be able to relate your skills to the role
  • Research your interviewers (if names are provided in advance) – LinkedIn is useful for this
  • Prepare your answers in advance, both for formal and competency-based interviews. For the latter, have a wide range of examples prepared
  • Make notes and write down a list of questions which you would like to ask the interviewer(s)
  • Ensure you know your CV thoroughly – you would be amazed at how many interviewees don’t know what they have put on their own CV.


  • Dress appropriately – first impressions count
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get there – aim to arrive 15 minutes before the interview as this will give you time to relax and gather your thoughts
  • Show confidence when meeting the interviewers by smiling, making eye contact and shaking hands


  • Try to keep hand gestures to a minimum
  • And most importantly, be yourself; remember, people buy people.

After introductions and formalities, most interviews commence with the following three questions:

  1. Tell us about yourself/Tell us about your career to date
    Tip: Keep your answer succinct and between two to three minutes. 
  2. What can you tell us about the organisation?
  3. Why you have applied for this role?

Other common questions to prepare for include:

  • What are your key skills/What three skills do you have that would add value to this role?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • What three words would your manager use to describe you?


A competency-based interview (otherwise known as a behavioural interview) consists of a sequence of questions designed to investigate your current or past experience. Past behaviours are a strong indicator of future performance, so it would not be unusual for an interviewer to ask you a number of questions around a particular scenario to gain a deeper understanding of your experience.

Be prepared to describe specific work-related situations where you have demonstrated the required behaviours. The interviewers are interested in your own role and actions during each situation, so it is important to use examples in which you contributed directly. The interviewer will be looking to assess your experience, not the experience of the wider team or department.

Questions are likely to start with...

  • Tell me about a time…
  • Describe a situation/occasion…
  • Tell me when you…

For example: Tell me about a time when you worked on a team project. What was your role in the team and what was the outcome?

Use the industry-recognised STAR technique to structure your answers:


  • You must describe a specific event, project or situation you were involved in, not a generalised description of what you have done in the past
  • Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand; do not assume that they will know what you mean
  • Make it concise and informative, concentrating on what is useful to the story.


  • Describe your involvement in the task and/or how you got involved in the task and what you needed to accomplish.


  • This is the most important section of STAR as you need to demonstrate and highlight the skills, behaviours and personal attributes that the question is testing
  • Describe the action your took and be sure to keep the focus on you; even if it is a group/team project, describe what you did, not the team
  • Don’t tell the interviewer what you would do, tell them what you actually did


  • The outcome, the ‘how it all ended’, the success
  • What did you get out of it?
  • What did the business get out of it?
  • Did you receive recognition?
  • Use this as an opportunity to describe what you learnt in the situation.


The job description will indicate the competencies which you will be interviewed on. Carefully studying the role profile and person specification will help you identify what those competencies are.

Some examples to draw upon:

  • Achievements from your CV
  • Projects you have been involved in at work or university
  • Challenges/problems you have faced
  • Personal achievements
  • Recognition from employers, colleagues or other parties
  • Solutions you have introduced
  • Key relationships
  • Processes or systems that you have improved
  • Coaching/training others
  • Learning and development you have undertaken.

The key to success in competency-based interviews is using “I” instead of “we”



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