How to prepare for an interview
Before the interview
Preparing your answers
Whether your interview is being held over the phone, via video or face to face, the preparation is generally the same. As with the application process, the key is to start with the job description. Here the employer has listed exactly what they are looking for in the ideal candidate, so you can be sure that the questions are likely to be based on these criteria.
- Make sure to prepare examples to demonstrate the skills they have listed in the job description (use previous part time work, volunteering and extra-curricular experiences).
- It’s important to answer the question being asked and not what you would like to be asked. The STAR technique is a good method for planning and structuring your answers.
- Find out about the organisation and the industry they work in, so you can show in your answers that you understand what the company is trying to achieve and how the role you are applying to is part of that. You can learn more about them by visiting their website or social media pages.
- Practice explaining your examples, or contact Careers & Enterprise to arrange a practice interview. (We also have video interview software this is a useful additional way to practice, even if you interview is face to face and not by video).
Remember preparing your examples is not the same as memorising answers, which will make sound unnatural. Base your preparation on key bullet points that you can elaborate on instead.
As part of your interview you may be given a work related exercise. This is a much smaller version of an assessment centre, so see our resources on this topic for information on how to prepare.
Check the time, date and location of the interview, and the name(s) of the interviewer(s). Plan how to get there and how long the journey will take, so you arrive in plenty of time. It is better to be early than late! Look for alternative routes just in case there are transport issues. Have their phone number available in case you are delayed.
For interviews that are by phone, Skype or video make sure that you have a quiet space arranged so that you are not going to be interrupted on the day. Check that the technology is working beforehand, and for video and Skype interviews make sure that your background is tidy and professional.
On the day
Make a good impression - Be polite, professional and friendly to everyone you meet. Use positive body language (like firm handshakes, smiling and making eye contact) to build rapport.
Stay calm - Breathing slowly and deeply can help to calm you beforehand. Remember that you have impressed the recruiters so far with your application, so you have a lot to be confident about!
Listen carefully - Ask for clarification if you are unsure what the interviewer means, and answer with your more relevant experiences. It is common for interviewers to ask about a time when a situation did not go plan or was challenging. They are not trying to trick you – difficult situations are common in all types of work.
Take your time - If you are not sure about a particular answer, you could use a phrase such as ‘I’ll just take a second to think about that’ or take a sip of water to give yourself some more thinking.
Ask questions - At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. This is your chance to find out about the organisation and show your genuine interest in them (Avoid asking about the salary, annual leave or anything else that you could easily find out yourself. Instead, prepare questions about the the role itself or what they enjoy about working for the organisation).
After the interview
Make a note of any questions your found hard to answer, as it will help you with your preparation for your next interview. Reflect on whether you still feel the job or organisation is right for you, and use this to inform your future job hunting and applications.
If the employer doesn’t contact you when they said they would, or if it has been more than two weeks since the interview, try ringing them to check the situation. If you were not selected, ask for some feedback to help you improve your performance at future interviews. Remember you can book an appointment to talk through the experience with a Careers Consultant to get further support and advice.