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Interviews can differ greatly depending on what it is you have applied for. Work experience interviews can often be informal although those for summer internships are similar in style and content to what you would expect for a graduate trainee position. Graduate job interviews can range from one off interviews lasting around thirty minutes to two day assessment centres involving group exercises and psychometric tests. But no matter what type of interview, by doing some work beforehand you will greatly increase your chances of success.
What you need to focus on of course is the fact that you have been granted an interview and what that means:
- The employer is very interested in employing you (otherwise why go to all that bother and cost of wasting time in interviewing you)
- You are probably over half way to getting the job.
- Not only does the interview present you with a real opportunity to demonstrate to the employer why they should recruit you, it allows you to find out more about them and to fully make up your mind about whether you want to work for them.
What to expect
Although the criteria-based interview is probably the most common form of interview, employers do use a number of alternatives:
- Telephone interviews.
- Panel interview.
- Technical interview.
Always remember when doing your interview preparation, the employer is interested in you; otherwise why would they have given you an interview? Clearly you have been successful in your initial application otherwise you would not have been given an interview. Now that you got the employer interested in you you need to go that extra length in order to clinch the job. This means developing further your knowledge of both the job and employer while at the same time thinking about how you will match yourself to the job specification. Think about:
What do you know about the job and the organisation?
- Do you have a realistic picture of what the job will entail?
- Can you draw up a list of specific skills and competencies the employer is looking for in somebody doing that job?
- How knowledgeable are you about the organisation?
- Why does this organisation attract you?
Information to help you find answers to these questions can be found from looking in company reports, brochures, websites, careers information, through talking to experts and through periods of work experience and work shadowing. The Careers Information page on this website will help you to start researching career ideas and employers while the Skills page goes into detail on the competencies sought after by employers.
Your research into the job and organisation should have provided you with an insight into how you will be assessed at interview. This allows you to prepare much more effectively - by concentrating on the experiences and qualifications which are relevant to the job.
Think about your:
- Academic qualifications and subjects.
- Voluntary work, work experience and employment history.
- Achievements and positions of responsibility.
Look at these experiences and select those which you feel will be of most interest to the employer. You will have done this to a certain extent when completing the application form or CV. Now you have to go into greater depth in order to sell yourself effectively during the interview. Talk to your friends and family about your experiences and their relevance to your interview. It's easy to miss something.
While it is difficult to guess the full range of questions you are likely to face in an interview, it is possible to anticipate certain types of questions and to prepare accordingly. Remember that employers are trying to ascertain whether you have the skills and personal qualities necessary to do the job, how much you really want the job and whether you are the right type of person for the organisation.
Example interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- I see you like reading, tell me about a book you have read recently.
- Do you feel your A level results are a fair reflection of your ability?
- How would your flatmates/best friends describe you?
- What are your career plans?
- What qualities do you see in others that you wish you had yourself?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What have you achieved in the last 3 years?
- Describe a situation where you had to deal with difficult people.
- Why did you choose your current degree/university?
- What have you gained from your work experience/degree?
- What has been your greatest non-academic achievement to date?
About the job
- Why do you want to be an accountant/social worker?
- Why do you think you would be good at this job?
- How do you define sales/marketing/personnel work?
- Why are you interested in this organisation?
- Who are our competitors?
- What would you do if...?
During the interview
- Take time before replying, don't rush your answers.
- Ask for clarification if you are not sure what is being asked.
- Try to be as positive as you can in your answers.
- Answer fully but avoid waffle - keep to the point.
- Expect more detailed follow-up questions.
- Be aware of body language - maintain eye contact and avoid distracting mannerisms.
- Display enthusiasm - try to come across as being keen.
- Have your questions for them prepared beforehand, write them down if necessary.
Day of the interview
It is important you do not leave anything to chance when going for an interview. In addition to researching both the job and organisation you will also spend time preparing and practising for the actual interview.
Before the interview
- Think through likely questions - get family and friends to ask them.
- Practice your answers, be positive and interesting.
- Prepare your questions for them.
- Find out from the organisation the arrangements for the day - what type of interview will it be, will there be other assessments?
- Location and travel arrangements - do you really know how long it will take you to get there? Always allow extra travel time.
- Decide on what to wear. It needs to be appropriate for the organisation and time of year - check the weather forecast!
On the day
- Remember the importance of first and last impressions.
- Be nice to everybody you meet when there - they may all be asked what they thought of you.
- Stay positive, even if you say the wrong thing or make a mistake. A good interviewer will make allowances for nerves.
- At the end, thank them for inviting you for interview.
Before setting off, don't forget...
- Academic certificates.
- Copy of CV or application form (reread before you go in).
- Instructions and directions.
- Journey times, tickets, money!
Prospects has further information on interviews.
Updated on 1st July 2015