SMF's Guide to Interview Preparation

Interview Guide, Preparation & Process


Before the Interview

Preparing yourself for an interview is key to the success of your performance. Interviews can make you nervous but if you prepare yourself well, you’ll feel more relaxed and as a result perform at your best.

1. Research the company

  • Review the company website to find out more about the organisation. 
  • Get yourself acquainted with the history of the company, their current position in the market, potential plans for growth, the services they provides etc. This will show the client that you’ve done your homework and that you’re genuinely interested in the position.
  • Type the company name into Google so you can see when they have been in the press most recently
  • Refer to linkedin to see the profiles of the people who you are being interviewed by 

2. Behavioural Based Questions

  • During the interview you may be exposed to Behavioural Based Questions. The theory behind Behavioural Based questioning is that the way you’ve acted in the past will determine the way that you act in the future. In order for an employer to gain a better understanding of your skills, they will ask you to provide examples so that they can assess certain competencies.

Example Question - Competency being assessed: Problem solving skills
Give me an example of a time where you had to deal with a difficult customer over the phone. What was the problem? What action did you take to resolve the issue and what was the result?

Here’s a quick and easy tip to use so when faced with Behavioural Based Questions.

SAO - Situation, Action, Outcome

Start by describing the situation you were in, the action that you took and the outcome. By using this formula, you can’t go wrong.

Employers will try to assess a range of different competencies like:

  • communication skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • organisational skills
  • leadership skills
  • ability to work in a team
  • ability to work independently
  • initiative

When preparing for interviews, it’s a good idea to think of situations where you’ve had to utilise these skills so when faced with a question you can recall your pre-rehearsed example.

If you’re asked to provide an example of a situation you’ve never been in ask if you can provide them with a hypothetical situation.


Often you will be asked about your strengths. It is important to realise that in an interview you need to be able to sell yourself. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about themselves in a positive light. It’s something that needs to be done tactfully and the purpose of it is to demonstrate to the client why you’re the best person for the job.

The best way to tackle this question is in 3 steps;

  • Start by talking about your strengths from a technical point of view e.g. skills and experience that are relevant to the specific role you are being interviewed for 
  • Talk a little about generic skills that are transferable e.g. communication skills and the ability to work in a team
  • Finish off by giving the employer a little bit of an insight into your personality

* By answering this question in 3 steps you’re showing the client that you’re a well rounded individual who not only brings to the role experience but excellent positive attributes as well.


Probably one of the most common however, trickiest questions to handle in an interview is talking about your weaknesses. Think of this as an area you may need to improve on. This question, if answered well can act in your favour.

The best way to answer this question is by acknowledging that you have / had a weakness and that you’re doing something to improve it.

By answering the question in this manner, it puts a positive spin to what is usually a negative point. It also shows the employer that you are willing to take the initiative to improve your skills.

Most importantly, don’t ever say “I don’t know” or “I don’t have any”. If you’re going to an interview, you need to be prepared for this question.

Be careful that whatever you say, doesn’t jeopardise you for the role. And our advise is don’t say you’re a perfectionist– as everyone says that !


  1. Speaking in front of large crowds isn’t something I’d feel confident about. I would like to improve my skills in this area so I do try to speak up in team meetings more often
  2. Although I’m quite computer literate, I would like to improve my skills in PowerPoint. I’ve enrolled in a course that will allow me to improve in this area. 
  3. I don’t particularly enjoy the administration elements of my role but I realise it’s an important part of the role. So what I do is I allocate a certain part of the day to complete this task


It’s very important to have specific examples of professional career achievements as you may be faced with questions relating to professional moments that you’re proud of. This question gives you the opportunity to highlight any awards or highlights of your career.

Dress to Impress

Presentation plays an important part in creating a positive and lasting first impression so make sure you look your best and present yourself in professional attire. Mirror the company culture you are interviewing with. Eg. Financial Services clients will have a more conservative dress code.

Pick out your best suit to wear for the interview. Always wear a jacket and males should wear ties (top button done up), ensure they are clean shaven with clean and polished shoes. For females, closed toed shoes are to be worn for interview and if wearing jewellery, keep it simple. 

Piercings should be removed for interview.

During the Interview

  1. This is your chance to make a positive impression. You have 60 minutes or less to show the employer why you’re the best person for the job. In order to make a good impression, here’s a list of tips to remember.
  2. Don’t be late for an interview. At the same time don’t be too early. Always double check the address of where you’re going and allow plenty of time to get there so you’re not running late. It’s best to be 5-10 minutes early.
  3. Make sure your mobile phone is turned off!
  4. When you meet the employer, shakes their hand firmly look them in the eye and thank them for their time. Display confidence, genuine enthusiasm and friendliness.
  5. Once seated, sit up straight with your hands in your lap or on the table. Don’t fidget (with pens, jewellery or your hands)
  6. Do not take your CV with you and do not read / refer to a CV. You should know your career without having to read it
  7. When answering questions, maintain eye contact with the employer. Even if nervous, don’t look around the room.
  8. If the employer asks you a question which you don’t understand, ask them to repeat it for you or rephrase it for you. There’s no shame in doing this and doesn’t make you look silly. You want to be sure that you understand the question and answer it properly.
  9. If the employer asks you a question but you don’t know what to say, ask for a moment to think about it. Don’t rush into giving a response if you’re not completely sure of what you’re going to say. Have a good think about what the employer is trying to asses and then respond
  10. If you answer a question but feel that you’ve answered it poorly, don’t let your confidence go down. Remember that it’s only one question and it will not determine whether or not you get the job. Show the client that you can pick yourself up and do better at the next question (remember that this will show them how you will cope in a real situation)
  11. Don’t answer just YES or NO to questions. Be very specific and detailed in your response. Where possible give examples or draw parallels.
  12. Don’t bring up money unless the employer does. If they ask you what salary you’re looking for and you don’t feel comfortable discussing money say something along the lines of “ my reason for moving is not purely a monetary one but it is an influencing fact. I’ve provided my salary expectations to the agency and asked them to manage this on my behalf”
  13. During the interview remain positive and motivated. Don’t talk about previous employers in a negative light. Don’t put yourself down or talk about yourself in a negative manner. The employer may end up remembering the one negative thing you said and forget the 10 positive things you mentioned!
  14. Avoid using colloquial language. DO NOT swear – even if feel the interview is a relaxed style
  15. If the client has asked you to meet for an informal coffee meeting, still ensure you treat this as a full interview and act as above. You are still being assessed even if you are not in an interview room

Questions you Need to be Able to Answer:

  • What do you know about our company? Try to personalise why rather than just give the standard response from their website.
  • Why do you want to work for this particular part of the company ? 
  • What is your understanding of this role?
  • What interests you about the role?
  • What positives would you bring to the team and the role? 
  • How do you think you would cope working in an environment like ours? 
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Tell me about a time you have had to show resilience
  • Provide an example of how you have had to adapt to change
  • Tell me about when you have suffered a set back and how you had to deal with this
  • Give me an example which demonstrates your problem solving skills
  • What management style works best for you? 

Clients will often ask about your long term career goals / aspirations. Your answer can either make or break an interview. Clients want to see that you are committed to THIS division, THIS team and THIS role rather than wanting any role with their organisation and you are using this role just as a stepping stone. It is fine to communicate that you want to grow and progress with the team and company but you have realistic timeframes. 

Therefore if asked ‘where you see yourself in 3-5 years time?’, an answer could be as follows; “working in a role which I enjoy and in which I’m adding value but can still learn and develop new skills and working for a company where there are opportunities for future progression when I have proven myself”

Your Questions:

This is a key part of the interview so please spend time preparing your questions that you want to ask. The candidates who impress on interview ask smart, thought out questions that link to their background and experience rather than just picking questions from an interview book. 

Therefore its essential to show you have researched the company, their background(s), the team, the role but you are keen to learn more;

  1. Ask a few questions about the company culture, philosophy or future of the organisation. This shows the client that your interest in genuine. You also want to find out as much information you can about the job so that you can determine whether it’s the right role for you.
  2. You could say you are interested to know who do they compete with most? What sets them apart and what do they do better than their competition?
  3. What background and skill set do most candidates come from who join in your role? ie is it similar to you ?
  4. What skills from you would make the managers / team leaders life easier. This is always a good question to show you are not just thinking about yourself but the team also
  5. You could ask about the induction which new hires go through - What is involved in the initial training programme, what set criteria will you have to pass to be deemed successful in training? (asking about induction is a very standard question so don’t ask this first)
  6. How will you be measured? ie. What KPI’s will you be measured against?

At the End of the Interview:

Upon the conclusion of the interview, thank the employer for their time. End on a positive note by shaking hands, smiling and expressing your enthusiasm for the role (if this is how you feel).

Remember if at the end of the day the employer is faced with a decision between 2 candidates with similar experience, they’ll lean towards the person who displayed a genuine enthusiasm for the job. There’s no better compliment to an employer than someone wanting to join their organisation.

After the Interview

Ring your Consultant to provide your feedback and discuss your thoughts on the interview.