Interviews

Pre-conditioning the interviewer

It is well established that if interviewers have formed an opinion about a candidate before the interview then they will expect this to be fulfilled during the interview and will treat this candidate differently. Consequently, anything you can do to create the right impression will be valuable.

Begin by submitting in the first place:

If the interviewer expects you to be good you will sense their favourable attitude and be encouraged to try even harder to present your strengths.

Book an interview preparation appointment and mock interview: Our Careers advisers can give you interview tips and techniques and carry out mock interviews. Your mock interview can be carried out in person on campus or via Telephone or Skype if you are unable to make it to campus.

Once you have booked on to an Mock Interview appointment, you will be sent details to complete a preparation document. These are useful documents which will encourage you to consider points and areas of research you may not have thought about before.

Think positively

It is surprising how many people prepare themselves to fail the interview creating their own barriers.

You should remember that you have obtained the interview on the strength of your CV/application. The interviewer is already aware of your details, so don’t be too concerned about these issues. Think – and be – positive!

Background information

Before attending an interview it is important that you find out as much as possible about the job concerned; you may be able to obtain more details from the Personnel Department. You also need to find out as much as possible about the organisation – its background, the range of goods/services it provides, its policies on staffing, promotion and so on. The most likely place to find information is on the organisation’s website. You may also be able to get brochures from the organisation itself. Sometimes university or public libraries have information in professional or business journals, so it is worth checking these and newspapers’ and websites’ archives for any current news about the company.

Glassdoor - often referred to as the "Trip Advisor for Companies" can offer insight on company information and interviews based on the experiences of previous candidates.

Prepare possible questions/answers and practise them

The better you prepare and practise your answers, the better you will perform on the day. We use different parts of our brain for thinking and talking, and that is why it is important to practise your answers out loud. You can book a mock interview with the Career Development Service, or this could be with a friend or relative, or even in the bath or in a quiet room by yourself. You will find that you will give a much better impression at interview, and will clearly show the interviewer that you have really thought about the job and what you have to offer. Keep asking yourself those open-ended questions that interviewers use: ‘How…?’, ‘Why…?’, ‘What…?’ etc.

Here are some typical interview questions to help you start preparing and thinking about.  However, bear in mind these are only some of the questions typically asked in interviews but there are others. Make sure you do your research!

Prepare your own questions for the interviewer

It is important that you do not ‘freeze’ when the interviewer says, “And have you got any questions for us?”

Try and think of a list of questions before the interview. Some of them may well be answered during the interview – and if this is the case don’t ask them just because they are on your list! Asking questions shows that you have thought about the job and demonstrated an intelligent and enquiring mind.

Keep your question to ‘safe’ areas such as, “How does the management training scheme work?” or, “What will my induction programme entail?” rather than, “How much sick leave am I entitled to?”

The more you prepare beforehand the better your chances of success. This could be your future at stake – so do take that little extra time and trouble that will enable you to perform with confidence and do well on the day.

Strategies for the interview

The interviewer has already formed some impression of you from your application form or CV. This is probably a favourable one as you have been invited for interview. However, there is no substitute for face-to-face contact which can either confirm or contradict the impression already created.

You have a short time in which to make a positive impression on someone. You can increase your chances of doing this by following a few basic rules.

Be on time

Allow plenty of time for your journey and aim to arrive a few minutes before your appointment time. This will give you the chance to compose yourself and find out where the reception and cloakroom are.

It is important to check times and routes of trains or buses beforehand. If at all possible do a dummy run the day before. Don’t work to such a tight travelling schedule that you put yourself under pressure. It is far better to arrive in plenty of time and be relaxed than to be dead on time or later and anxious. You need to save all your energy for the interview.

Be well-presented

Many people will argue that you should not be assessed on ‘how you look’ but on ‘who you are’ and what you can contribute. However, in practice, appearance does matter. Many employers are fairly conservative and it is in your interest to look smart. If you take trouble over your appearance, it gives the impression to employers that you are serious about the job and the job is important to you. It may also help the employer to “see” you in the job.

The following lists some basic rules for dress:

  • Dress to suit yourself – style and colour – rather than high fashion.
  • Be traditional rather than avant-garde.
  • Theories suggest dark colours are more powerful than lighter ones.
  • Get a good haircut.
  • Buy good shoes and keep them clean.
  • If you buy a new outfit, practise wearing it before the interview.
  • Dress to the accepted style of the industry or job.

Be friendly

Try and be as relaxed as possible in the circumstances! Greet the interviewer with a friendly smile and a firm, but not vice-like, handshake. Don’t smoke even if invited to. Remember that some interviewers may be nervous too, and will welcome talking to a relaxed, friendly person. Remember that many trained interviewers will try and help you to relax as they realise what a nerve-wracking process interviews can be.

Body language

Ensure that you try and display positive signals. Do look at the interviewer directly as the right level of eye contact can help build trust. Sit comfortably but do not slouch. Don’t fiddle with things such as your hair, stuff in your pockets or your earrings. Listen to what the interviewer is saying – don’t try and jump in. What we say with our bodies is very powerful, and you may increase your likelihood of success by ensuring that you give out positive non-verbal cues.

The major non-verbal cues are:

  • smiling often,
  • nodding the head when the interviewer is speaking,
  • leaning forward while listening and when replying,
  • maintaining a high level of eye contact.

All of these points deliver a positive message to the interviewer that you are interested in what is being discussed, without being either too anxious or too relaxed

Be positive

about yourself and your achievements. Even jobs or situations in which you feel you were not highly successful can, with a bit of thought, be put in a positive light. This shows a certain amount of strength in being able to admit that you made a mistake and learned from it.

Remember that the interview is a two-way process. Although you are selling yourself, you are not the only one under scrutiny. The interviewer is looking at you to see if you have the relevant qualifications, experience and personality, to fit with that particular environment. You are looking at the interviewer and the surroundings to decide whether or not you like what is on offer. Ask yourself, “Is this really what I want?"

Further help

Telephone Interviews
Postgraduate Study Interviews
Video Interviews
Strengths-based Interviews

Getting feedback

You can learn a lot from attending an interview, whether or not you are actually offered the job. Asking for feedback can help you prepare for future interviews.

To be able to talk fluently and confidently at interview is regarded positively by most selectors but this is not something that comes easily to everyone. Preparation for an interview can help you to be more fluent and appear more confident. When preparing answers to the questions below note that they are only a guide to what you might be asked at an interview; additional questions are also likely based on the information you have given in your application form or CV (for example about your work experience).

Talk to an adviser: Our Careers Advisers can give you interview tips and carry out mock interviews.

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