This is a Companion Piece to the Articles

"A Student's Curriculum Vitae" and

"Do Not Panic!" 






Iseult C O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor   |   Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students




See the second last Section below, which is based largely on an article by Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, on ~



See ~


in the last Section of this Article.








We are advised what to wear; how to answer questions from a panel, including all of them in our responses.


This advice covers everyone from students interviewing in school or college hoping to change some of their course subjects; it is for students who have just finished their final school exams and are looking for a place in a college, university, in a trades school, or any type of group / organisation or company of interest to the student; it is for post graduate students looking for a first job / internship; it is for all of us attending any type of job interview. 


It is always Interview Season - we should keep our CVs / resumes up-to-date,  and ensure we add every new achievement, experience, and attainment.





Research reveals that PEOPLE READ a CV for just SIX SECONDS! **

They may know little more than your first name, if that.  PLEASE DO NOT think your CV has been read carefully, noting impressive accomplishments, experiences, or excellent exam results.


Prospective Employers / University / Society / Interview Panellists MAKE SNAP CHARACTER DECISIONS in HALF A SECOND!

As soon as the half second is up, their "subconscious confirmation bias" kicks in, and it is actively looking for reasons to confirm the initial judgement. *






The interviewer(s) may know your first name, and that's probably it. After mutual greetings, you have to take the initiative and OFFER to give a very quick summary of your CV.  THEN, START IMMEDIATELY,  do not wait for full agreement from the Panel ~ interviews are VERY SHORT.


Use 'key words' used by the Company in the job description and in its corporate profile.  You want them to know you understand their thinking and are comfortable with it.  


Also, BEAR IN MIND the PROCLAIMED ETHOS of the organisation for which you are interviewing, and what you have been able to discover about HOW IT WORKS.


You should know this summary off by heart, and if interrupted with a question, answer it, and carry on.


KEEP IT SHORT AND PUNCHY, giving your highlight  achievements,  qualifications, and experiences  RELEVANT  to this particular Interview.  


You have taken a degree of control in the Interview, and  the information you want to get across is getting its chance NOW!

From not knowing anything about you, the Panel now knows three or four of your very impressive achievements and traits.



ASK IF THE PANEL has any questions on your CV.  Your prepared answers must  be adaptable to any  type of question or approach.  This requires lots of practise.





1.  What are your strengths?

2.  What are your weaknesses?

3.  Why are you interested in working for (insert company name)?

4.  Where do you see yourself in five years?  Ten years?

5.  Why do you want to leave your current company?

6.  Why was there a gap in your employment between (insert date) and (insert date)?

7.  What can you offer us that someone else cannot?

8.  What are three things your former manager would like you to improve upon?

9.  Are you willing to relocate?

10. Are you willing to travel?

11. Tell us about an accomplishment of which you are most proud.

12.  Tell us about a time you made a mistake.



DO NOT BE AFRAID to ask what kind of candidate the Panellists are looking for.



Having taken note of the various answers the Panellists give, try to gauge where their interests lie IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE, and give your most appropriate example(s) from your scholastic / sporting / extra-curricular subjects / work and volunteering experiences, naming the school(s) / clubs / coaches / charity fundraising, or personal experiences with a charity.


You will have found out about the company ethos, department and career structures, advantages and disadvantages of working for the Company and so will be able to answer their questions using 'inside' phraseology.



[While volunteering at weekends with the "Mary Matthews School for Deaf Children", I chose to learn the deaf language, and was surprised how useful I found it in many social and part-time work situations, where I could help people get what they wanted, or give directions. My skill gained me kudos with the families and friends of the students, and the management of the School. It also taught me a great deal about being on the inside, and being on the edges of society.  (This is just an example to show that you make the extra effort, how it leads you to being able to help and engage with others, and how you benefit at the same time.)]




Aside from an occasional gesture to emphasise a point, it is best to keep your hands folded on your lap or, better still, placed on the interview table, folded in a relaxed style ~ that is an indicator of confidence.   People may not be aware that they have a habit of waving their arms about, especially when nervous ~ it is very distracting.

"We are all hardwired to forecast a huge amount from other people's hands so make sure yours deliver the right message."  *

It is best to keep them under control, and show a calm demeanour.




"Adopt a confident but relaxed pose". *  

Realise everything is play-acting.  Playing  'confident' makes you feel 'confident'. 

Make certain your mobile / cell phone is turned off and not just on 'silent'.

Go to the lavatory and check your flies are done up, your skirt is straight, you've nothing stuck in your teeth, and examine your hair.  If you're wearing make-up, check for blobs.




When an interviewer comes out to call you in, walk up to beside the interviewer and make a friendly, small-talk, comment.  Subtly, take on a similar posture to that of the interviewer. 

YOU ARE starting the Interview before you get in the room, SMILING!


Have your 'short and punchy' CV on top of any documents you are carrying, so that you have it to hand as a comfort, and in case you get a blank.


Have approximately six extra copies of these 'short and punchy' CVs next on your pile.  If you know how many will be on the Panel, bring sufficient for everyone, plus a few spares.


If you realise that the Interview is going like the clappers, ONLY after you have finished delivering your Summary, hand out copies of your single sheet spoken CV, IMMEDIATELY.  Have a photograph of yourself at the top right-hand-side, across from your name and contact details.


DO NOT distract the Panel from listening to you give your spiel, and remember to speak to each of them.  Speak slowly and clearly ~ sometimes, people speak very fast when nervous.


[You put the photograph on the top right-hand-side of the sheet because if a bundle of CVs is gathered together, your photograph will be clearly visible when someone is going through the pile of interviewees' papers;  it will act as a reminder of YOU, even if subconsciously. 

Scan into your computer, a good head shot from a choice of many taken by a friend, against a plain background.  Create your one page CV and insert the photograph that makes you look pleasant and approachable, but not smiling widely.  You want to look professional, capable, and reliable.

Change the size of the photo when you have entered your text, until you get a good balance.  Update your photograph frequently.]


Some interviewers like to throw in an awkward comment or question to see how you respond. If you are inclined to disagree, bite your tongue.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.   Be positive, and give the impression that you are on the same page as the interviewer, even during casual chat. *


AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW, no matter how you think it went, be pleasant, and THANK THE PANEL for the opportunity of the Interview.  It would be fine to say that you would be happy to take any phone calls or supply further information required.


You may wish to shake hands with the Panel, but make a decision on what you choose to do before attending the Interview. 

Especially if you are a woman, consider if offering to shake hands with a man on the Interview Panel may be inappropriate.  If you have a list of the Panellists, there may be a Muslim name, for example, which you recognise as such.  You should learn the appropriate gesture to use with this Panellist.



We should all know the appropriate gestures and forms of greeting for people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds.

A general, small, nod while thanking the Panel, standing and resting a hand on the back of your chair, would be a polite exit, if you are in doubt.


Within two days of the interview, send a handwritten note to the person who organised the interview to thank him or her for the opportunity.  A personal touch, displaying your good manners, leaves a very good impression and may pay off some time in the future.









In fact, clothes are only important in as much as they give YOU confidence.

Wearing something COMFORTABLE is best, possibly something a friend has said looks good on you.



is much more important than



DO NOT wear new shoes, in the heat and stress, they may become uncomfortable and distract you from your purpose.


BE CERTAIN that any top or shirt you wear does not show off more of you than is proper.  Put it on, and facing a mirror, lean forward fully, if you can see down the top or shirt, so too would a Panel when you lean forward to hand over a requested document!


"Most people would rather hire a scruffy candidate and tell them to update their wardrobe than someone well dressed and teach them a better attitude."  *


DO NOT carry in a briefcase, folders, loose papers, pens, etc.  That is an untidy look, and it suggests you are not organised, not good at making decisions.


Have a slim folder, with two working pens clipped onto it, and it should contain the following, starting from top to bottom:

(i)    All your copies of your one page 'short and punchy' CV, including the one you will have visible to use as a prompt; 

(ii)    Paper onto which to take notes of questions, so that you can be sure you cover everything asked of you, and where you could note down a question to ask the Panel;

(iii)    Two copies of your full, detailed, CV;

(iv)    Two copies of your Letters of Reference and details of Referees;

(v)    Two copies of details of any 'Student of the Year' type award(s); details of winning sports / debating / writing competitions, or any award that makes you stand out;

(vi)    Two copies of certificates, and most recent important exam results;

(vii)    Two copies of your application for this position, plus two copies of their letter offering you your Interview;

(viii)    If it has been some time since you studied formally, make sure you emphasise that you have been keeping up-to-date on your subject(s), and use your details of work experience to highlight your skill base.


You may well have ideas to add to this list ~ please let me know, it would help others.


YOU BRING TWO COPIES of everything (at least) because if you are asked for particular details of something you may have mentioned, or for any reason, you have one copy to give to the Panel, and one to keep for yourself to refer to if asked any questions.


DO NOT leave yourself without a copy of a document the Panel has.


NEVER STAPLE documents or bundles of papers together.


FIRSTLY, if you are asked for a document so that the Panel can have it copied to share amongst themselves, it makes the job much quicker if it involves just removing a paperclip, and gets the information to the Panel faster.


SECONDLY, while keeping each document intact by using paperclips, you could use small pieces of different colours of paper under the paperclip for each type of document, with a shorthand note describing what is in that particular bundle.  For example, 'REF' would be on your bundle for copies of your Letters of Reference and details of Referees.


You could pull out this bundle quickly and hand over a copy of one or both documents to the Panel promptly ~ neither you nor they would waste time removing a staple.


This will help keep you calm, and reduce time flicking through the contents of your folder.

You will be, and appear to be, organised.



Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!


DO NOT be afraid to be YOURSELF,

but DO NOT tell any jokes!


 Every interview is worth attending. All practise is good.




Best of Luck!


Iseult C O'Brien



* Robin Roberts, qualified zoologist, and founder of "Rehearse It". He was formerly a partner at global executive research firm, Egon Zehnder.


** Janey Fothergill of "Rehearse It".

These quotes were taken from an interview with journalist Rosie Benson of Marie Claire UK, May 2017 Edition.





The brightest yellow of a sorbus in its Autumn glory on a sunny day. JFK Memorial Arboretum, New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland.





Job interviews can often feel like you are under a microscope.  Job candidates are aware that they are being assessed for competence, confidence, and candour.  But what about the interviewer?  An interviewer’s body language can speak louder than words.



Here's how to tell what the interviewer(s) really think(s).


1.    Check the feet.  If an interviewer says he “could go on talking with you all day", but his feet are pointing toward the door, he is actually eager for the conversation to come to a close.

If someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, he / she is probably feeling positively toward you.  

Feet pulled away from you, wrapped in a tight ankle lock, pointed at the exit, or wrapped around the legs of a chair, usually indicates withdrawal and disengagement.


2.     See if she's a copycat.  If an interviewer begins to mimic your gestures, she feels you are a kindred spirit and you’re likely to get her approval.  This is because when we talk with someone we like, or are interested in, we subconsciously switch our body posture to match that of the other person — mirroring that person’s non-verbal behaviour, and signalling that we are connected and engaged.


3.    Watch the shoulders.  If the interviewer shrugs one shoulder as he / she tells you about the Company’s great work environment, it’s probably not that great.   A partial, or abridged shoulder shrug usually indicates that a person lacks conviction about what he / she is saying.


4.     Notice where she / he is  looking.   If the interviewer has good eye contact with you, or keeps glancing at your Curriculum Vitae / resume, he or she is likely to be interested in you for the position.   We tend to gaze longer at people and things we like.  Conversely, when someone is disengaged, the amount of eye contact decreases, and you may notice that she or he  keeps glancing around the room.


5.     Realise that if he or she hesitates, it's not a good sign.  If you ask when you’ll hear about the job, and he / she replies, “Um, uh, er . . . soon,” you’ll probably never hear from him / her again.  For most people, the act of lying is stressful. One of the signs of stress is the use of verbal hesitations and false starts.


6.     Observe the head position.  If the interviewer tilts her head as you’re speaking, she wants to hear more. Head tilting is a signal that someone is interested, curious, and involved.  The head tilt is a universal gesture of “giving the other person an ear”.


7.   Hope for a full frontal response.  If the interviewer’s entire body — head, shoulders, hips and feet — is orientated towards you, he / she is totally engrossed in what you’re saying. When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their whole body.  But, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they may angle their upper body away.



*  The above is based largely on work by Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, who is an international keynote speaker, the author of "The Silent Language of Leader" and creator of's video series: "Body Language for Leaders." #LinkedInLearning #bodylanguage #careersuccess #jobinterview.





Maroon, purple, puce and pink leaves of a turning maple in Autumn / Winter. JFK Memorial Arboretum, New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland.



 Key skills include Teamwork, Problem-Solving and Adaptability


This Section is based on the article in The Irish Times of September 2019 by Colin Gleeson. I have made considerable additions throughout.  It reflects and expands on much of what I've mentioned or suggested previously.


The following applies to second-level students as much as third-level ones.  Developing the desirable skills described can be started at second-level, indeed, the earlier in an education career the better. 

It will result in developing a support network of fellow students through your shared interests in particular sports, arts, engaging in drama, debating, any activity that involves listening, trying to understand, displaying what you’ve understood by repeating back in your own words what the other speaker was trying to convey.


Good team talks are all about listening, digesting, understanding and implementing

These skills are not just for interviews, they will be of benefit in all spheres of our lives, from persuading a plumber to come out sooner than he wants to, to improving family and personal relationships, and getting on with people in stressful situations.


While second-level or university may primarily be seen as places to secure good qualifications, you will also – maybe even unbeknownst to you – be acquiring a range of skills and talents that will be just as important when you go looking for a college / university / apprenticeship place or a job.

These are known as “soft skills”, which are those talents that you’re not going to be able to prove you’re proficient in by simply waving a piece of paper at the interview panel across the table.


Most of the experts agree the key skills are communication, teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, leadership and innovation.


Nowadays, when people are more qualified than ever for roles, you need these skills to set you apart from the crowd. 


“Soft skills are what make you easy to work with and give you the tools to grow in the job,”

says GradIreland editor, Ruari Kavanagh.


“All your hard skills like computer skills, numeracy, project management, data analytics and programming are underpinned by being able to communicate them well or being able to work in a team delivering those skills.” 


So, how can you go about showcasing these skills in an interview or on your CV?  WITH EXAMPLES.


“Work experience is vital no matter what it is,” says Kavanagh. “It could be a Summer job.  Show what you’ve done that demonstrates these skills.

 “If you haven’t worked, highlight what you’ve done in school and / or college in terms of sports, societies, associations, or anything like that.  


"Taking part in student competitions shows initiative, flexibility and that you want to lead.”


Claire McGee, head of education policy at IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation), says you should think carefully about your experiences and the things you might not initially have considered advantageous to your career prospects.

“If you participated in an Erasmus programme and went to live abroad for a year, or took part in a work placement programme, make sure you communicate those clearly,” she says. “Try to demonstrate what you learned from that."



That’s what employers or college / university / apprenticeship interview boards are looking for.  How can current students or graduates reflect on something, take feedback on it well, and show that they are interested in learning and trying to grow themselves both professionally and personally.


“Talk about any jobs you have done, whether it be in retail or hospitality sectors. These are all quite important elements to bring. They show you’ve been able to deal with people, perhaps in difficult situations, and in pressurised environments.


“If you are involved in clubs or do volunteer work, that’s incredibly important to bring forward because it shows how you’ve been spending your time outside of academics.”


McGee says soft skills are becoming more and more important, but are also “incredibly difficult to master”.  Apart from the obvious ones, she says curiosity about the way things work is a good one to try to demonstrate.


“Large organisations are changing and the jobs of the future haven’t been invented yet,” she says. 

Companies / colleges / universities / apprenticeship boards all love graduates / candidates with new ideas and new experiences.  Look for ways to highlight how you came up with something new to make things better.


"A strong degree of curiosity is important. 

"Are you interested in people, and finding out more about them and how that relates to you? 

"Also, are you curious about the world and how we all operate within that?


“Regardless of what type of degree or other qualification(s) you have attained, it’s using that technical knowledge with these types of skills.  If you have a degree in mechanical engineering, how do you couple that with your project management and communication skills?


“That’s really where the sweet spot is."  

Bringing together your technical knowledge you learned throughout your studies to degree, or other qualifications, and then marrying that with the more personal, leadership-style qualities.



Ruth Leonard, Senior Director at recruitment website, Indeed, believes you should tailor the soft skills you list on your CV to the particular role for which you are applying.


“For instance, someone applying for a role as a social worker may want to highlight their empathy and ability to communicate, as those are soft skills crucial to that role,” she says.


Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation promise wholesale change across sectors, and the changing needs of the workplace are such that far greater emphasis is now placed on an ability to cultivate a workforce with a significant soft skills capability.


As Mike McDonagh, Managing Director of Hays Recruitment, puts it,

human beings “are still going to be needed to interpret data and put nuance on things that computers are not yet able to do”.


Emma Scott, PwC Ireland, People Partner, says soft skills are what provide “the human difference” to interactions.  “AI may automate some tasks, but it can’t replace the human capabilities needed for so many roles,” she says.


Is it possible to acquire or work on these skills, given their somewhat abstract nature?  Leonard says soft skills are highly valued because “they can be difficult to teach and are often inherent to our personality”.


That being said, it is possible. “For example, you may find that an employer wants someone skilled in conflict resolution,” she says. “While you may not be naturally skilled in that area, there are ways to learn.


Soft skills may be seen as "difficult to teach" but if one is taking part in school / college activities, keeping up with outside interests, trying things out to see if you like them, and making a conscious effort to join a range of clubs in school or college, you will be picking up the necessary skills to get along with others, to learn when to give an opinion and when to stay quiet, and how to be supportive of others going through a difficult patch.


One also learns how to ask for help and to become aware of when others may need it.


You'll find different ways of behaving, and even that the type of language used differs depending on the group, for example being on a camoige team versus a debating team.  Learn all the ways possible to understand situations and to express yourself as you think is required.

“You can begin by researching and reading up on best practice in conflict resolution.  Find someone successful in that area and mimic his / her methods.  What kind of language do they use?  Do they conduct meetings in person rather than by email?”

Scott believes it is “absolutely possible” to acquire or improve soft skills. The best way to do this would be through school or college work, she says.  Students could use school or college projects to develop and improve their time management and teamwork skills.


“They can also look beyond the education system to their interests, community activities, hobbies, whether that is travelling, sport, music or whatever they are passionate about.  It is really about looking at how to make the most out of opportunities as they present themselves.”





If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.

My website,, "Education Matters", is where my Articles originate and are reviewed constantly and updated as new data becomes available.  




If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.  


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!