Interview to job offer; how to get through the hiring process



To succeed at interviews you need the following:

  1.  An excellent understanding of yourself and in particular your strengths (we recommend to identify your strengths), your motivations (what drives you to succeed and make career decisions) and examples to demonstrate skills and achievements.  You need to be the professional version of your usual self and not an actor who has rehearsed lines.
  2. An excellent understanding of the company, industry/sector and role.
  3. Good interview skills and technique developed booking a practice interview

Career Motivation questions

You need to demonstrate a genuine interest in the company and the role.  Don’t just recite information from their website. Also, don’t be negative about former employers or colleagues, but focus on the positive reasons for applying for this job.  You may also be asked about how you see your career developing and what motivates you in your career.

Competency questions

These are the questions with a typical format of “Tell me about a time when you have demonstrated xxx skill”.  If you are well prepared there should be no surprises with these questions.  Make sure that you describe what you did in a positive way which gets across your contribution, level of responsibility and achievements.  Draw on a variety of examples for different questions.  Don’t exaggerate (the interviewer will spot it and will ask further questions), and keep your answers structured, focused and relevant by using Situation, Task, Action, Result.

  • Situation – briefly describe the situation
  • Task – if applicable, outline your objective/aim
  • Action – using active language e.g. I managed, organised, resolved – detail what you did
  • Result – finish with the outcome

Commercial / Business Awareness questions
You should be ready to demonstrate knowledge of current business issues and current affairs affecting the organisation and the sector.  Reading newspapers and business/finance news sites such as The Financial Times, The Economist, Bloomberg, Reuters, E Financial News, The BBC,  will give you a  good overview. However it's important that you are also reading business to business publications for your particular sector, see our examples below.  If you can't find the relevant publication for your industry, email us at  Most often recruiters are looking for evidence that you have an opinion on what is going on in your sector and that you understand how macro-level issues might impact on your role, department, company or clients.  They want to see that you understand how their business works and fits together and that you are genuinely passionate about your sector/industry.  They may expect you to have a view on your ideal client and be able to talk about companies performing well or not.  Preparing for all of this the night before will be hard so make sure following the business press and/or your particular sector's publications and news is a weekly part of your activity.

Here is a great article containing some excellent resources for industry research; 10 Tools for Understanding and Dissecting an Industry.

Here are sector specific examples:

Questions about your experience
These are more direct questions about, for example, your professional experience and achievements, technical expertise, academic progress and career/academic choices.  If you have anything that might be considered unusual e.g. a low academic grade, a major change of direction or any unexplained time gaps, be prepared to explain these.

Self-reflection questions
These require you to talk about the skills you can bring, your achievements, disappointments, areas for development etc.  A thorough reflection of your experiences to date will help you prepare for these questions.  Try to be positive, even when talking about something negative that happened – think about what you learned from the experience

Case study and problem solving questions
Case studies – Where you are given a business problem to discuss with the interviewer.  Listen carefully (make notes if appropriate), ask questions (make it clear why you are asking them), communicate your thought process, don’t make assumptions, use your common sense.  It is more about showing a sound approach to solving the problem rather than reaching a perfect solution. The McKinsey & Co website,, has some advice on how to approach case studies, plus some examples and a video on their ‘Careers’ pages.  

Additional resources can be found as follows: Boston Consulting Practice Case. | Oliver Wyman Practice Case. | Bain & Co Practice Case. | Victor Cheng's Case Frameworks. and his website.

Estimation questions – Looking at your problem solving skills but using questions like “How many disposable babies nappies are sold in the UK each year?”  You cannot predict the topic, but you can apply a common sense approach.  Listen carefully to the information and think logically how you would approach the problem.  You may be asked to work it out in your head. Use round numbers and make sensible assumptions.  It is not about getting an exact answer – it is about demonstrating a logical and analytical approach.  

Questions which should not be asked
You should never be asked about your religion, sexuality, political affiliation or personal circumstances (including marital status and whether or not you have children or plan to start a family).  If you are asked questions like this, you can decline to answer.

Practice Video Interview

A large number of companies are using video interviews in the early stages of the recruitment process.  Typically you will use interview software where the system will ask you a question to be answered within a time limit.

Practical tips:

  • Raise your laptop to eye level and direct your answers to your web cam
  • Dress professionally and make sure that what the company can see in your background is also professional
  • Make sure you will not be disturbed
  • Test all your equipment first and avoid having other programmes running in the background
  • Make sure your face is well-lit - avoid having a window behind you as your face will be in shadow

We use a system called to enable you to have a practice video interview.  

Assessment Centres

This interview may be with a Senior Manager from the company.  You might get the same or similar questions to your first interview, however you may also get some more in-depth commercial/business awareness questions.  Some interviews might feel less formal as the interviewer may be assessing whether or not you would fit into their team, so be prepared to talk about yourself and your interests outside of work and study.

Group Exercise
You may be presented with a business case and asked to work as a group to solve a problem or come up with ideas or a strategy.  Try and contribute as often as you can but without exhibiting negative behaviours, for example, talking over others.  You don’t need to adopt a role within the team unless the scenario gives you one. Instead, play to your strengths so if you’re a good leader then lead the team; if you’re a good problem solver then help the team to identify the main issues and provide solutions, helping the team to identify the best one; if you’re a good organiser then help the team by structuring the task, summarising the discussion and keeping the team on track and on time.   Display good team work skills throughout, including bringing in quieter members of the group, acknowledging others’ contributions and how they relate back to the task.

Psychometric Tests
As first round psychometric testing is often done online, you may get re-tested under supervision on verbal and numerical reasoning with different questions. It’s useful to practice these in advance using sites such as and on test providers’ own websites e.g. SHL, Cubiks, Kenexa, Saville Consulting.   We also have books you can borrow from our team – email us at for details.

E-Tray Exercise
E-Tray exercises test your ability to manage time and prioritise, and they may also test your written communication and analytical skills. Typically, you will be given a simulated inbox containing emails and asked to prioritise and respond to them.  As you undertake the exercise you will receive more emails.  Alternatively you may get a series of documents including memos, letters, emails, reports and again your task will be to respond according to the instructions. The Wiki job forum is a good source of information on what is included in the exercises used by different companies and you can practice E-Tray exercises on and

You could be asked to give a presentation as part of the assessment centre.  You might get your topic in advance or you might be given some kind of case to read through or question to think about on the day.  Either way, the assessors aren’t just looking for content, they will also be looking for positive body language and communication skills so pay attention to the way that you deliver your presentation as well as the content.  You can book a practice presentation with us.

Role Play
These exercises may put you in the position of a Manager with an actor or staff member acting as a customer or perhaps a junior member of the team.  You should be given time to read through the scenario and prepare.  Make sure you read the information carefully and understand the scenario.  Think about possible questions to ask and those that you might get and your strategy.  Knowing the competencies in advance of your assessment centre is essential as that will give you an understanding of the behaviours the company will expect you display during the role play.

Written Exercise
You may be given an exercise where you’ll need to analyse information and formulate a written response, for example, a report with recommendations.  Often there is a lot of information to get through – some of this will be more relevant than the rest, so one of your first tasks will be to identify what is essential and what is not. Make sure that you manage your time well – allowing sufficient time to process the information, and prepare and write up your report.

Not all companies will use all of these exercises. They will have their own formats and recruitment exercises which have been developed to identify the candidate who best matches what they are looking for in the role. Typically, companies will provide advice on the type of exercises you can expect on the day but if you do need further information, please make an appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss this further

***Please note that Careers in Business host two mock assessment centres on two different Saturdays during the academic year where you can practice a number of these activities as well as network with local employers.  These events will be listed in Careers in Business Online as well as promoted via social media.  Contact us at to find out the next mock assessment centre date.





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