Job Interview Tips

Interviews can be nerve-wracking and it is best to be well prepared.

Advance preparation

You should also find out in advance where the interviews are taking place and work out a route to get there. Tardiness for an interview will have a strong negative impact on your chances of getting the job. You should aim to arrive around 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled to take place. When you arrive, switch off your mobile phone and take a breath mint to freshen up. You can ask for a glass of water to help clear your throat and steady your nerves. Take a spare copy of your CV.

Be confident and enthusiastic

Confidence is one the most important traits to creating a positive impression. Smile, be courteous and address the interviewers by name whenever possible. Always remember, something in your CV or job application impressed the employer enough for them to ask you to attend an interview. This is no small thing considering the volume of applications most employers receive. Therefore, you have already made a positive impression on them. Your task at the interview is to allow the employer to learn more about you and to see if they like your personality. This is hard to do if you clam up with nerves.

Follow-up to your interview

After your interview, write to the employer and thank them for their time in seeing you. This is a courteous thing to do and will also confirm to the employer that you are still interested in the position. Sometimes you might need to check a fact or clarify a point raised during the interview. You can use the follow-up letter/email to relay this information to them.

How to dress for a job interview

It is very important to create the right impression with your interviewer. Before you even have a chance to say hello, they will make dozens of conscious and unconscious decisions about you based on your appearance. If the interview forms an instant negative opinion about you, you will find it hard to overcome this during the interview. In all cases you should make every effort to present yourself as clean and as well-groomed as possible.

How to handle tricky interview questions

Tricky interview questions are part of every job interview. But they needn’t cause you too many problems if you are prepared. Here are some of the common questions that are often asked at an interview:

Tell me about yourself

This is one of the toughest questions for a lot of people. For the most part, the interviewer wants to know a little bit about your career so far and what you aim to achieve, but they also want to know a little bit about what you are like as a person and what other interests you have outside of work. Before you attend an interview, write down approximately ten bullet points that would fall in to this category, then turn that list in to a short description you can easily remember and recite when asked the question. You may need to practice to make your answer sound natural. Remember, preparation is the key to a good interview.

What are your strengths?

It is a good idea to skip the standard cliche answers such as: “I’m a fast learner” or “I am really passionate about what I do”, and focus on specific tasks you are genuinely strong in. It helps if you can embellish the points you raise with examples and try to explain why you are good at something and what your unique approach is. This will help to distinguish you from most of the other applicants and will show you have give careful consideration to your answers.

What are your weaknesses?

There are so many wrong answers to this question. Try to avoid the obvious pitfalls such as: “I find it hard to get out of bed in the morning” or “I drink too much at weekends”. Also avoid answers that make it sound like you are sucking up to the interviewer, such as: “I work too hard” or “I spend too much time working after hours”. The best answers to give are genuine answers, so find an area you are not so strong in and explain how you are working to improve in that areas and highlight any training or self-study you are undertaking. This will show you are keen to improve and will make a good impression.

Do you have any questions?

The answer should always be yes. Ask about what the employer likes to do and what interests they have. Ask about any need to be flexible in your approach. It is important to take a personal interest in the employer, their life and what is important to them.

Why did you leave your last job?

If you are currently unemployed, this question will arise. At all costs, avoid the temptation to speak badly of your former employers. The best approach to take with this question is show that you have left to work on progressing with your career and that you take your career seriously and are dedicated to working hard, learning the skills required, and are prepared to make tough decisions to help you progress. If it is true, you could highlight the lack of upward mobility offered by your last employer. If you were fired, it is usually better to tell the truth and explain what you have learned from the experience.

Speak to the employer

It is very important that you speak directly to the employer and the person you would be supporting if they are different people. This would still be important even if someone else is helping the employer to ask the interview questions. The employer is the person who will ultimately decide who is employed and they will want to see how you speak to the person you would be supporting.

Next steps

Take a look at the article on ‘Where to Look for PA Job Ads’ and ‘Help with Moving from Benefits to Starting Work’ for help with finding PA employment.

Part of
Last Updated
13 July 2022
First Published
01 April 2022
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Please note that the information contained in this Handbook is provided for guidance purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by Self Directed Support Scotland or any other contributing party.

The information does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal and professional advice from a lawyer about employment law matters, or an accountant/ tax specialist about taxation matters, and from HMRC and your insurers. You should not rely solely on the information in this Handbook. Support organisations listed in this Handbook can help you find appropriate sources of advice.