students laughing outdoors east quad

Getting ready for Interviews

What an interviewer aims to do is to get to know you and to find out whether what you have written in your CV or application is genuine and how well you'll fit in. Essentially the employer will be examining your values, interests, personality and skills, most often by asking you to give examples of how your experiences relate to the requirements of the job.

When it comes to interview advice, "just be yourself" is a popular cliché but it’s true. It's natural to be nervous about interviews and you can waste energy worrying about what you don't know. However, the fact of being invited to an interview is proof that the employer already believes you can do the job. Good preparation is vital, and it is a good idea to get some solid practice in too.

There are many different types of interview, including telephone interviews, initial screening interviews, in-depth individual interviews, panel interviews, assessment centres and online video interviews. Whatever type of interview you are invited to, preparation is the key to success.

Many people would admit to feeling apprehensive before an interview. Preparation for the big day is essential and key to this is about knowing yourself, knowing the job and the company. Before the interview, take the time to also re-read your application and CV and identify what it is about you that makes you a great potential employee. Remember also that practice makes perfect.

Your application form or CV has been successful in getting you to the interview so now reflect on what you have written. Focus on

  • Your experiences in college
  • Your work experience
  • Your hobbies/interests and achievements

Reflect on how these can give good examples of how your personality, skills, strengths, interests and motivation make you suitable for the job. Think of key stories/events/experiences that demonstrate that you can do the job; will do the job and will fit into the company culture. Information gleaned from our section on understanding your motivations and careers interest inventories will be very helpful here.

Are you aware of the company’s products and services and their competitors? Research the company website, brochures, reports and accounts, policies, mission statements and online press releases. Check if they have been in the news recently.

Read the job description and person specification. Talk to people who are in the types of positions that you are seeking. Consult a few people and across a few companies. Fear may hold you back but remember that many are graduates themselves and are happy to share their knowledge to help you out. See careers decision making and particularly the section on 'know what's out there' for information on occupational profiles.

Make a list of as many questions as you can think of and the possible responses to them. There are many resources in the Career Development Centre to help you including a useful DVD entitled 'Why ask me that'? (check out our resources)

Organise a mock interview with your Career Coach, particularly if you have never been formally interviewed before. This will help to draw out issues that you may not have considered as being important and will enable you to get useful feedback to improve your performance.

Practice with friends get them to ask you the questions you expect to be asked - it might feel a bit strange at first, but the experience of speaking your words publicly should give you more confidence.

Make a lasting first impression - your appearance and personal hygiene are important factors, as well as being sociable and friendly. Interviewers are put off by weak handshakes, poor eye contact, poor body language, bad posture and a grim demeanour.

Arrive on time. Try to relax, speak clearly and not too fast. Give yourself a moment to think about your replies. Avoid fidgeting and using phrases like "you know" and "I mean".

Be prepared to tackle competency-based interview questions: Most employers are looking for applicants to demonstrate a specific set of skills and competencies which they believe are essential to the job role, for example teamwork, communication, problem solving and time management. Prepare to give specific examples of situations when you have demonstrated those competencies.

Your questions at the end of the interview are almost as important as the ones that they will ask you. Progressive questions would include those concerning personal development, further study and promotional opportunities.

If you are not successful always call and ask for feedback on why you did not secure the position. You may get some valuable tips on how to improve your performance next time out.