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Careers and Employability ServiceStudents

Interviews

Typical Interview

Interviews can be a nerve wracking experience but the best advice is to prepare in advance, relax and be yourself. To get to the interview stage of the application process you've clearly done well to impress the employer. Now use our top tips for how to prepare and handle an interview situation.

You can also watch our online presentation, which advises on how to successfully prepare for and answer questions at interview, and read through our interviews guide at the bottom of this webpage.

Interview styles vary. Some organisations may take an informal approach while others may interview in a more formal setting and could interview you several times. You may also be interviewed by telephone and/or online prior to a face-to-face interview. Regardless of the style of your interview, plan ahead and be professional to convince the recruiter that you're the right person for the job!

  • Telephone Interviews - Conducted to screen candidates to ensure you know your CV and that you can talk about the information you have provided to the employer. Be clear and concise and ensure you take the call in a quiet room where you can think clearly, check over any notes you've prepared and not be disturbed by friends or family.
  • Online Interviews - Some recruiters may wish to interview you via Skype or a similar online platform, particularly if location may be an issue. Ensure you are in a quiet area but also dress as if you were meeting the employer face-to-face as they will be able to see you! You may be asked to submit several short video answers to questions within the application form.
  • Face-to-Face Interviews - Some employers may meet you on a one-to-one basis while others may take a panel format consisting of several interviewers. Whatever format your interview takes it is important to remember you are being assessed for your suitability to the role.

Most questions fall into three basic categories:

  • Can you do the job? (skills and experience)
  • Will you do the job? (working styles)
  • Will you fit in? (personality)

Every question has a purpose; you have to assess the reason for the question, the most appropriate answer and how to reply positively:

  • Be prepared to talk; avoid yes/no answers and expand if they appear to want more. If in doubt, don't be tempted to over-communicate; simply ask if they would like more detail on any aspect
  • You may be asked about your weaknesses. Your answer should explain how you have turned weaker points into strengths by showing how you have overcome them and what you have learnt
  • Interviewers usually finish by asking if you have any questions for them - prepare some of these beforehand. Don’t ask about pay/conditions, be positive, show knowledge of the company/opportunity, and end in an upbeat fashion

Competency based questions

You may be asked questions that start with 'Tell us about a time when...' or 'give us an example of when you have...' followed by a particular competency or skill, such as problem solving or working with difficult people.  To answer this type of question, known as a competency based question, it is advisable to use the STAR technique:

          Situation - Briefly explain the situation to give context

          Task - Describe your role and what needed to be done

          Action - Explain what you* did and how

          Result - Describe the outcome as a result of your actions

          *focus on your actions, particularly if the question is asking about team work.

Sometimes you might need to adapt STAR to START.

 T = Teach: What core skills or learning have you taken away from the experience?  This is important if you are talking about how you are developing a range of skills required to achieve professional status or to demonstrate how you have grown in your professional abilities.

Before the interview

Confirm, by telephone, e-mail or in writing, that you will attend:

  • Find out how long the interview is likely to last, how many people are interviewing (and if possible their names/positions) and if there will be any other tests as part of the selection day
  • Know your application form/CV inside out - some interviews are heavily based around what you wrote. Prepare additional examples of skills and competencies

Find out as much as you can about:

  • The opportunity and the selection criteria - remind yourself of the required skills, abilities and aptitudes
  • The organisation – read the company brochure/annual report, look at the company’s website, talk to anyone who works there

Plan your travel arrangements well in advance; how to get there, how long it will take - allow time for delays!

Look the part

First impressions are important – evidence shows that someone forms judgements about you within the first few seconds of meeting you:

  • Wear smart clothes and if in doubt wear a suit
  • Be fussy about detail such as polished shoes, clean nails and avoid inappropriate jewellery and the use of overpowering perfume/aftershave

On the day

  • Arrive early, but not too early! – about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time is appropriate
  • Be positive, polite, friendly and enthusiastic. Be pleasant to everyone - the interview starts as soon as you walk in to the building

Body language:

  • Maintaining good eye contact with your interviewer is essential. It shows you are genuinely interested and helps you to appear confident
  • Give out positive signals by trying to relax, smile and establish rapport with your interviewer
  • Try not to talk too fast; speak in a moderate tone so the interviewer can comfortably hear you
  • Sit comfortably with a reasonably upright posture, not slouching too casually
  • Moderate hand movements are fine but beware of nervous fidgeting; anchor your hands by holding them lightly together on your lap. Do not sit with crossed arms as this can look defensive

Feedback: Every interview is a learning opportunity - you can always improve your performance. You could contact the employer after the interview and say how much you enjoyed meeting them and confirm your interest in the job. If you are not offered the job you could ask for feedback on your performance.

Mock interviews: You may find this free online mock interview simulator useful in your interview preparation. The questions asked during this simulation can help you to identify possibly questions you may get asked around the role you have applied for. You can also book mock interviews with employers when they are advertised through MyCareer

We also have a range of materials available in the Careers Centre.

Employability Essentials workshop

Need further help?

We run regular Interview Skills Workshops throughout the year. For further information on upcoming dates/times check MyCareer.

Access MyCareer here

We have created a video presentation with information on interviews including types of interview and what is being assessed as well as providing tips for a successful interview.

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