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.
Try the Interview tool
If you've never had a job interview or just haven’t had one in a while, it helps to get some practise. Try answering some competency based interview questions in our virtual interview.
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.
If you’re confident of your strengths and how they apply to the job you want, it’s easier to sell yourself. Find out more in What are my 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.
Try not to fixate on things you wish you had or hadn’t said.
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
For competency based interviews (and other interviews!) you need to know what you're going to say. Using the STAR technique to prepare some examples really helps. Our tutorial takes you through it.
You might be invited to a group interview, which might seem daunting but don’t be put off by it.
You’ll be introduced to the other candidates, take part in some team-based activities and will probably be followed by an individual interview.
Treat it like any other interview. Research the company you’re applying for beforehand, dress smartly and be polite. You’ll probably be asked an ‘ice-breaker’ question to introduce yourself, so think about what you might want to say to make a first impression to your employer and the other candidates. What makes you interesting?
Employers use group interviews to get a feel for how you communicate, cope under pressure and work within a team. Remember that although you’re competing against these people for the job, it’s important to treat them with respect.
Everyone has different skills, so make sure you showcase yours. Natural leader? Be inclusive but not bossy. If you’re more of an introvert, don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed.
Make sure you get noticed by using your excellent problem-solving skills or keen eye for detail. Employers will pick up on these things.
Telephone and online interviews
Video and phone interviews are becoming more common due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic so it's important to be prepared.
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.
Find out more in our video and phone interview guide.
Interview tips for school leavers
Looking for a job after school? Our careers advisers Hilary and Erin hosted a webinar which included their interview top tips.
Focusing on video and telephone interviews, get advice on how to prepare for them and what you might need.
You can watch the full recording of the webinar, as well as more CareerJam episodes on our school leaver webinars page.
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