Interviews and Assessments

Interviews and Assessment


Ultimately, a job interview is a positive opportunity for any person to get across their suitability and enthusiasm for a particular vacancy. So why do so many people dread them? It is very natural to view job interviews as a daunting prospect when so much can be at stake. However, with the right attitude and preparation, an interview can be a positive experience for all concerned - and result in a job offer! Make sure to use the advisory service to prepare for the most likely interview questions and practise your interview technique in a safe environment.

Assessment Centres

Assessments may consist of aptitude tests, psychometric questionnaires, group tasks, business case studies, presentations, in-tray exercises or a combination of these measures and more. When a candidate is invited to participate in a range of assessments such as these, (often on company premises and including a site visit and/or social event), it is known as an “Assessment Centre”.  

  • Interviews - Find out more about them and resources to help. 
  • Assessment Centres - What they are and how you can prepare.
  • Psychometric Testing - resources on how to prepare plus samples

How to prepare for your Quercus Scholarship Interview

 Quercus Scholarships are awarded to students who are exceptional individuals with outstanding achievements in their particular area of talent.

If you have been invited to attend an interview for a Quercus Scholarship, well done! The invitation to interview is in itself a significant achievement, and will be an invaluable learning opportunity.

There are three main areas you need to prepare for in advance of the Quercus interview:

  1. Be ready to speak about yourself and your achievements
  2. Be ready to speak about UCC & Quercus Talented Student' Programme: 
  3. Be ready to make a positive impression

1.  Be ready to speak about yourself and your achievements  

This may be a new experience but remember that nobody else is a better expert on this topic than you are.  The interviewers want to learn more about your motivations, qualities, achievements, successes, values & ambitions and there is no better person to tell them!  Prepare (and practice speaking out loud) answers to the following general questions (Note:  the following questions are only examples and may not be the actual questions):

What can you tell me about yourself?: One of the most important questions as it often opens the interview and sets the tone.   

Who or what has influenced your motivations and ambitions?: Keep your answer positive and upbeat, include some information about the personal qualities that have helped you to succeed and the people/things that inspire and motivate you.  

What personal attributes will assist you in fulfilling your ambitions? Learn how to nail this question by focusing on relevant positive highlights and ending with your current goal – all in 2 minutes max!


Tell us about a key achievement in your talent area, or What is your proudest personal achievement to date? Being modest here will not help you or the interviewers! The “STAR” interview technique is a very helpful method to structure you answer to question such as this that require specific examples from your past.  Also be sure to mention achievements or awards that may not have been included in your application form if they occurred after the closing date.

What are your personal ambitions for the next four years in UCC and beyond? What goals have you set yourself to achieve in your talent area? Be as specific about your goals and ambitions to convince your interviewers that you’re already thinking about how you will succeed.

There may be questions about Leadership...

How much experience do you have of leadership/teamwork/influencing others?  Tell us about a leader you admire (in person or in public life) and why you admire them?  When have you demonstrated the ability to lead/work in teams/influence others? Learn how to use the STAR technique to craft strong examples of leadership and teamwork:


2.  Be ready to speak about UCC & Quercus Talented Student' Programme 

Why did you choose UCC? The Quercus Talented Students' Programme targets students with an obvious interest in UCC, those who can’t wait to begin developing their skills and talents through engagement with UCC’s many departments, services, clubs, societies and initiatives.  The way to show this genuine interest is to research the university and the Quercus Programme fully. You can research both online through web research and social media and offline through current students and/or alumni. Both methods are recommended. If you are currently a UCC student be prepared to talk about your experiences and activities on campus to date.  Then use that information to create a specific plan to develop your talents and meet new goals while studying in UCC and being a Quercus Scholar.  Name specific clubs, prizes, and competitions and discuss volunteering opportunities with which you will engage in UCC.  Your plan should include everything form business case studies to study visits abroad to inter-varsity competitions and/or national finals - anything relevant to your personal ambitions and goals.  Start here for an overview of some key reasons to choose UCC:


3.  Be ready to make a positive impression!  

Preparing your answers is the hardest part of preparing for an interview. Give yourself a pat on the back when this work is done. The rest of your preparation is very simple. However, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not important!  To be successful, you need to show the interviewers that you will make the most of the opportunities afforded to you through Quercus and that you would be a great Ambassador for UCC now and in the future.  Here are some simple ways in which to win their trust and respect:

(a)  Be on time for the interview This means consulting maps and public transport timetables, having a Plan B in the event of strikes/breakdowns and, (in a worse-case scenario due to circumstances beyond your control), having the phone number of the relevant contact person in UCC to let them know you’ve been delayed.

(b)  Prepare your attitude Every interview is a gift – a valuable opportunity that will open new doors and connect you with new people. So, once you’ve done your homework, look forward to it. Read/watch something that makes happy directly before the interview – or talk to someone who leaves you feeling upbeat.  You want the interviewers to meet your “best self” – you when you’re feeling in your best form – positive, engaged and energetic. If feeling nervous on arrival, find somewhere private to practice some “power poses” – these have a powerful effect on the brain by tricking you into feeling stronger and more confident than you would otherwise.  It is also really important to demonstrate courtesy and respect to every person you meet in the course of  your visit for the interview including interview organisers, assistants, student volunteers and all with whom you may come into contact.  Want to feel confident on the day of interview? On your arrival, find a private space, and adopt a “Wonder Woman”/”Superman” post for 2 minutes! It sounds a little off-the-wall but recent research has proven that this simple step will boost your interview confidence and performance! Click here to learn more:


(c) Dress appropriately You don't need to wear a suit for the Quercus Talented Students' Programme but inappropriate clothing or accessories can let you down.  A clean & smart look is all that is required.  Create a great first impression by coming across as polished, professional and attentive.

(d) Use positive, open body language The best thing you can do when you meet the interviews is to make eye contact, smile warmly and offer a good, firm handshake.  When you sit down to begin the interview, sit well into the back of the chair - don't perch on the edge - and you will look and feel calm & grounded.  Avoid looking down, crossing your arms or, turning away from the interviewers.  Watch some more valuable body language tips here:


(e) Use the space at the end of the interview If time allows, you are likely to be asekd if you have any questions.  It is good to have one or two questions prepared that show a genuine interest in UCC and the Quercus Talented Students' Programme.  Alternatively, you could use this time to give a final closing statement reiterating your interest in the scholarship and the reasons you think you should be selected.  It is every bit as important to close your interview as well as open your interview on a high note.  These are the two moments in which you will benefit from the highest level of attention from the interviewers.