How to ACE a College Interview


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Around Spring time many students are called for interview for PLC colleges or for UCAS courses. The interview is an important part of the filtering process whereby the colleges select the most appropriate candidates for the course. In order to perform well at interview and make a good impression it is important to put some time and effort into preparing for it. Here are some tips to help you to prepare:

Before the Interview:

  • Find out how to get to the venue. Work out transport arrangements and on the day give yourself plenty of time to get there. Aim to present yourself for interview approx 15 minutes before your interview time.
  • Know your CV or application form inside out. Have it fully prepared so you can talk about any element of your work experience, education, achievements or interests.
  • Research the course you are being interviewed for. You will most likely be asked about different elements of the course. It is important to have an opinion on the course topics and express interest in them. You should also know why you want to do this course and how this course will take you to future goals.
  • Research the college. Know about the college facilities, clubs, societies etc. Know why you chose this course over similar courses in other colleges.
  • Have a good understanding of your strengths and how you can use these on the course. Know what your skills are. If you are clear about your strengths, skills and abilities before the interview you will be more likely to talk about them in the interview. If you describe yourself as having good leadership skills you will need to provide an example to prove that. So have plenty of examples of scenarios to demonstrate your skills, strengths and abilities.
  • Practice questions and answers. Ask members of your family to ask you interview style questions (read further for examples) and practice answers. You can also practice your answers in the mirror. It is important to be familiar with some of the expected questions so you feel more confident during the interview and you will get across the information you think is important for your application.


Day of Interview.

  • Dress appropriately. Wear a smart outfit and make sure to be well groomed. For men a suit is most appropriate or if you don’t have one a shirt and tie will be enough. For ladies an alternative to a suit would be a shirt or blouse with smart trousers or a skirt. Make-up should be subtle. Hair should be neat and tidy. Many PLC colleges allow students to present for interview in their school uniform. If you choose this option ensure your uniform is clean and as well presented as you can manage.
  • You want to make a good impression as soon as you enter the room. Walk in confidently, head held high, make eye contact,  greet your interviewer/s with a smile, a greeting (if introduced say their name e.g. Hello Paul) and a firm handshake. Wait to be seated. Sit with your two feet on the ground, up-straight in your chair with your hands in your lap. (Folded arms may appear stand-offish or aggressive.) Avoid fidgeting with your hands or hair or jewellery etc during the interview, this may be distracting for the interviewer. Throughout the interview speak clearly, make eye contact, be polite. If interviewed by more than one person it is important to make eye contact with everyone throughout your answers and not just the interviewer who asked the question.
  • Make sure your phone is turned off.


The purpose of all interviews is to find out 3 things:

  1. Can you do the job/course?

  2. Will you do the job/course?

  3. Will you fit in?

The interviewers are making a judgement on your aptitude (1) and your attitude (2 and 3). In an interview attitude supersedes aptitude (they can tell from your application form whether you are capable of doing the course) so you need to make sure you make it abundantly clear that you will do this course. In order to test this the interview questions will aim to identify what your motivations are and how much interest you have in the course. Knowing the details of the course inside-out and how this course fits into your plans for your future will show good motivation. To strengthen this further you could find examples of what you are currently doing or past achievements that are similar to the coursework you hope to do and show how doing this work has sparked an interest in you to pursue this course. Leave the interviewer in no doubt that you are fully committed to studying this area and the course they are offering suits your needs.

Finally you need to show that you will fit into the college. How will you do that? Show that you are both academically committed and social. If you play a sport you could express interest in playing sport for the college. Equally you could express enthusiasm for some of the societies in the college e.g. music, drama, debating etc. You need to show that you have a social side as well as an academic side and want to get involved in the college community and fully embrace your time as a student in their college.


Here are a list of some of the most common questions you might get asked at interview and some guidance on how to answer them:

  • Tell me about yourself – Often stumps an interviewee who hasn’t prepared for this question and often sends them down the road of listing this sisters and brothers, pets etc. Use this as an opportunity to talk about why you are motivated to do this course. Keep the information relevant to the course you are applying for . E.g. I am a Leaving Cert student with an ambition to work in Business. I currently study Accounting and Business both at Higher Level for my Leaving Cert. I am part of the School Bank club, I also ran a successful mini-company in Transition Year selling milkshakes at lunchtime. I regularly read the Sunday Business Post as I have a keen interest in the world of business. I hope to study Business at third level and that is why I applied to study ‘Business and Management’ in this college.  
  • Why did you apply for this course? – Here is an opportunity for you to express your interest in the topics on the course. Show how you already enjoy some of these topics either through school studies or your own reading. Ensure you know the course modules to show a genuine interest and show that you have researched the course.
  • How will this course benefit you on your career path? – If it is a PLC course you are applying for you could mention how you want to use your PLC qualification to apply for Third level through the CAO. Know at least one course you are interested in at third level and ensure that the PLC course you’re interviewing for provides a link to the Third level course.
  • What skills/ qualities could you bring to this course? Here is a list of skills you could discuss: Communication, Teamwork, Leadership, Organisational, Time Management, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking. Qualities could include: hardworking, ability to work on one’s own initiative, motivated, good listener, sociable etc. Have a list of skills and qualities prepared in advance and have example of situations in which you have used these skills and qualities.
  • What are your interests and hobbies? Have some that show your personality e.g. interest in art, music, reading etc. Have a few that are related to the course e.g. reading business section of newspaper (business course) dressmaking and sewing (fashion design) etc.
  • Have you any weaknesses? Always admit to one weakness. Try not to labour the point. Admit fault but show how it can be a strength also, e.g. It can take me longer than others to complete certain tasks as I am very thorough and pay close attention to detail. I have learned to overcome this by getting tasks done more quickly to the best of my ability and then if time lends itself I can go over my work, fine tune it and make improvements.
  • Finally you may be asked at the interview if you have any questions? You should prepare one. It should be about the course you have applied for. You could ask – what do the graduates of this course end up doing? What type of work placements are required for the course? If I am not successful on this interview is there any experience you could recommend I seek out in preparation for future interviews for this course or similar courses? Before asking the question express genuine interest in the question – e.g. I read in the course prospectus that students must complete work experience. I am curious to know more about the work placements available. What sort of work placements do students on this course usually end up pursuing?

And Finally. . .

Thank your interviewer/s for the interview. Finish up by saying that you have a genuine desire to study this course and you hope that they will look upon your application favourably. Shake hands, say thanks and leave the room. The interview is not over until you have shut the door behind you so leave the room as professionally as you walked in.

For more information check out the links below:

UCAS Interview Advice

Tips from Colaiste Dhúlaigh



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