Preparing for an Interview

An IFST Fellow has kindly prepared tips for job hunting - including how to prepare for and conduct yourself during an interview.

These are a series of hints/tips for interviewees and they outline the essentials of your first interview. As you get more experience you will be able to add to the list to enable your personality and enthusiasm to be conveyed to the interviewer(s) in a better way, than on your first interview.

If you are not successful, use the first interview, as a learning situation. You will benefit second time around. If you are successful on your first interview and you get the job – congratulations. Your skills and personality have obviously come across well.


  • Read the advert for the job carefully; look for clues to give you some idea of what is going to be asked
  • Reply before the deadline imposed – nothing will be considered after this time
  • Don’t apply for anything with which you are not happy (eg shift work, working, wrong location)
  • Make sure that you include in your CV the appropriate attributes for the job and in your letter which accompanies your CV, why you want the job.


Lots of advice and methods of compiling a CV are available. Here's some advice on how to format your CV:

  • 2 pages at most
  • Spell-checked
  • Up-to-date
  • Needs to include a statement which summarises what you want to do/career statement, or your strong points (eg determined, well organised, expert on ... etc)
  • Qualifications / level achieved / dates / institutions / subjects / modules / projects / publications / academic awards / prizes
  • Employment – important. Companies / dates / brief title / job description Positions held / groups organised / skills and competence obtained
  • Professional body membership
  • Knowledge of software, equipment operation
  • Interests / Hobbies – achievements
  • 2 references (academic, work related, character reference) eg project in industry supervisor, course leader, non-academic tutor - ask them before you name them.

Letter to Company

  • Business letter format – your address / contact details / date of writing address of person on advert (eg Dear (name)) Where you saw the advert
  • Why you are applying for the job (letter needs to be specific)
  • Briefly outline your skills and why the job would suit you (eg technical skills / personal skills)
  • Each letter to companies must be different (ie to suit the job advertised) Finish ‘Yours sincerely’ and print your name, but sign above printed name
  • BE HONEST – don’t confess to having skills that you haven’t – you will be found out at interview

Preparing for the Interview

  • You will probably be asked early in the interview why you want the job, so prepare something beforehand about the company, what their products are, who are their main competitors, go to a supermarket to have a look at their products eg shelf life/storage temps/labelling/website research, to find out where the manufacturing sites are
  • If the company has any overseas offices / factories (your language expertise may be useful)
  • Look up and try to understand the technologies likely to be involved incompany operations

The Interview

  • Dress is important / first impressions count
  • Food Industry – not too much make up / jewellery
  • Walk quickly and smartly to the chair
  • Cleanliness
  • Good eye contact
  • Firm handshake
  • Try to be relaxed – you will perform better
  • Don’t scowl – try to smile when you say good morning / afternoon
  • Let the interviewer start off the conversation If more than one interviewer, ask them to introduce themselves if they haven’t already done so Introduce yourself clearly if asked to do so
  • Look at each of the interviewers when answering their question
  • Think a little about the questions being asked before answering
  • If you don’t hear the question ask them to repeat their question; if you don’t understand the question – say so Answer the questions truthfully – if you don’t know the answer – say so If you know something about the question asked, say so but don’t try to exaggerate. Tell them what you know and how it could be applied to the question asked
  • Try to swing the conversation to something in which you are interested in or what your skills are
  • You will usually be put into a ‘stress situation’ – ie asking what you would do in a hypothetical case (eg in charge of quality matters whilst boss is on holiday and an emergency happens). Don’t panic – be sensible and logical. There may be non - technical stress situations asked – again don’t panic but think logically
  • Think up a few questions to ask the interviewers at the end (eg shift work, pay, holidays, any chance of looking at the factory / chance of staff development opportunities / promotion / pension plans / staff sports / socials/ opportunities for working abroad) If they don’t tell you, ask when the decision will be made
  • Finally, thank them for inviting you for interview


  • Company will indicate when you should hear about the interview date
  • If you are successful – well done
  • Phone/contact the company if you haven’t heard approx 1 week / 14 days after that date
  • Ask for some feedback on why you weren’t chosen. It will prove useful in your next job interview
  • Don’t be too downhearted if you don't get the job – keep the applications going and ‘get networking’