Preparing for an interview
What puts one good interviewee above another? Research. It helps you prepare for an interview so that you can give informed, impressive answers. And it shows an employer how enthusiastic you are.
If you don’t know where to begin, check out our tutorial.
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The interview top 10
Getting ready for an interview? Follow our top ten job interview tips and get ready to impress your future employer.
Listen carefully to the questions. Make sure your answer tells them what they need to know.
Be specific when you’re talking through examples. Explain what the task was, what you did, problems you faced and how you succeeded.
Know your strengths
Never lie in a job interview. It’s too easy to get caught out.
This lets you find out about anything you're unsure of. It also shows that you’re interested in the job.
Use positive language, and talk yourself up. Show you’re enthusiastic about the position and your own career.
Don’t dwell on it
Try not to fixate on things you wish you had or hadn’t said.
Look over your CV
Interviews put you under pressure and can make you forget important things. Be ready to talk about your experience, achievements and qualifications.
Have a quiet evening the night before. Have a bath or watch your favourite film – anything that makes you happy.
Write down the address and work out how you’ll get there. If you can, do a practice run. Aim to arrive 15 minutes before the interview.
Competency based interviews
In the video, HR manager Ana explains what you can expect from competency based interview questions.
In this type of interview, the questions are about things you’ve done in the past. For example, 'Tell me about a time when you faced a difficult situation.'
Your answers should provide examples. This gives the employer an idea of how you'd behave in a similar situation in the future.
How to be a STAR at an interview
Telephone and online interviews
Selling yourself over the phone or an internet connection can be difficult. You could feel more awkward and nervous than you would in person. But you can still make a good first impression, even if you're not in the same room as your interviewer.
Five tips to get you through:
- First, prepare like you would for any other interview. Start with our top 10 tips
- Double-check the details. Will they call you? Do you have to dial in or sign in to a system?
- Arrange somewhere quiet. Let your family or flatmates know, so that they don’t disturb you and turn of noisy distractions
- Keep your CV or application form, a list of points you’d like to mention and questions to ask close by
- Speak clearly and at a steady pace
If it’s over the phone:
- Keep your phone line free and warn anyone else who might answer that you’re expecting an interview call
- If you’re on a mobile, make sure you’ve got a good signal and it’s charged up
If it’s online:
- Look at the monitor and talk directly to the person or people on the screen
- Dress smartly. Avoid wearing clothes with patterns or stripes which could strobe on the screen
- Take a look around the room. An unmade bed, inappropriate poster or dirty dishes won't give a good impression
- Check that your internet connection and software are reliable. Do a practice run and, if you have doubts, ask the employer if they can provide somewhere for you to log on to do your interview
- Pay attention to body language. Just as you would in person, you want to appear confident so sit up straight
Sometimes you’ll have to go through much more than a simple interview to get a job. Assessment centres are popular for graduate schemes, retail employers and businesses like contact centres.
They can help an employer find out more about your personality, and how you might perform if hired. They might use this to choose between people who have very similar CVs or applications.
What takes place depends on the employer. Some common tasks, over and above your interview, include:
- In tray exercises. Sort through messages or emails, and describe what action you’d take with each within a set amount of time. This tests that you can recognise and prioritise the most urgent tasks, manage your time well and know how to delegate
- Group exercises. You’ll be given a task to complete or a problem to solve with others in your group. It’s not about who shouts the loudest, but who contributes and works well with others
- Presentation. You might be asked to bring a presentation, or even have to develop one on the day. This shows off your communication skills
- Role play. You’ll be given a scenario – perhaps reacting to someone who is acting as a customer or colleague
- Tests. Many employers will ask you to take an aptitude test or psychometric test as part of the assessment. Luckily, we’ve got some advice to help you prepare
Remember you’re being assessed at all times – so try to relax, but stay professional during coffee breaks, lunches or meetings with other employees.
Didn't get the job?
The reason why you didn't get offered a job might be the last thing you want to hear. But it can actually be a positive experience.
Feedback gives you a chance to learn from the experience, and think about how you can change your approach in future. For example, if they went for someone with more experience, how can you build yours?
How to get constructive feedback
- Be gracious. Coming across as angry or upset won’t get you the information you need. Explain that you accept the decision but would appreciate some feedback
- Ask the right questions. 'How could I have improved on my interview?' rather than 'Why didn't I get the job?'
- Take notes. Read over them later on to decide what you might be able to work on
- Brace yourself. Don’t think about the criticism but the ways it will help you develop