Your CV has secured you another chance to present yourself, so the next stage is managing the interview process.

Be clear about your objectives for the interview and prepare well in advance with all the answers you think you’ll be asked on the day. Good preparation and planning are keys to success in most things.

Preparation

Your CV has got you through the door, now it’s down to you to sell your skills, experience and personality. It is often said that the interviewer makes up their mind within 30 seconds of you walking through the door and then spends the rest of the interview justifying that decision.

Invest time to strengthen a known weakness, remember to be average is easy; to be good or above average takes some effort.

Make the most of the careers service at the university – they will more than likely run interview workshops and share interview tips. Or ask your friends to run practice interviews and make sure they ask you challenging questions. Be sure to familiarise yourself with your CV, application form and covering letter – don’t risk getting caught out by questions about your background or experience.

Write down the location, time, name of interviewer and take them with you for reference if necessary. You will be surprised to know that quite a number of people miss the interview, turn up late or arrive at the wrong location because they have not properly noted the details. Make sure you have a detailed map and turn up early. If you plan to arrive on time, then you will plan to arrive late.

Organisation information

Do your homework on the organisation – this will help when it comes to asking questions and framing your answers. At the very least, look at the website and try and find useful material such as annual reports, newsletters and brochures. Wider research via the internet or the university/local library will also be a useful way of accessing the relevant news articles and trade journals to get an idea of the current key issues facing the sector.

Making an impression

You only get one chance to make a first impression and it often sets the tone for the whole interview. Behavioural psychologists call it the ‘halo (or horns) effect’. So:

  • Dress code: Make sure that your appearance is clean, smart and business-like, even if the company has a dress down policy.
  • Be alert: Smile and try to relax as soon as possible.
  • Maintain eye contact: Throughout the process, but break your gaze away when starting to formulate your answer. It shows you’re thinking carefully.

Try to avoid any irritating mannerisms, ie, playing with a pen, tapping on the desk, chewing gum, swinging about in your chair etc.

Answering difficult questions

Try to anticipate the less obvious questions you may be asked about your skills and achievements and reinforce your replies by giving tangible examples. If you need a moment to think about your response, do not be afraid to respond with ‘that’s a very interesting question, I would like a moment to think about that’, or ask the question to be repeated, then answer the question as directly as possible.

The idea is to try and impart as much information as you can about what you have done and how you can contribute, so make sure that you have quantifiable evidence to back up your answers.

Advice on asking questions

Always have some questions ready for the interviewer – it looks bad if you have not prepared at least a couple of questions. It is best not to ask detailed questions about terms and conditions until you have been offered the job. Instead, try to ask about things that will show your keenness for the position.

For example, ask:

  • What the team is currently working on and what the current challenges are.
  • What type of training and development opportunities are normally provided.
  • How they see the role developing, rather than overt questions about promotion prospects.
  • Why they are recruiting for this position.
  •  Asking questions about the interviewer is always a winner. People love talking about themselves. How did you get into this industry? What do you like about working for this company? Where do you see the company being in five years’ time?
  • What the next stage in the recruitment process will be – to get an idea of timescales, etc.
  • At the end of the interview, ask if there is anything else they need to know, or that you have not covered properly.

After the interview

If you are not getting asked back for second interviews, or you are not getting the job offer, you should take some time to look at your interview performance.

Don’t be afraid to ring up the interviewer and ask for feedback. Try and find out if it was simply that there was a candidate who more accurately met the job description. You could also ask for advice: what do they think would have improved your chances of success? What was the difference between you and the successful candidate?

Ultimately remember one key point. Getting to interview stage in the first place is an achievement, especially given the increasing number of graduates in the marketplace. It is unlikely that you will succeed at every interview, but it is in your power to ensure you are prepared well enough to increase the chances of success.
Remember the interview is a two-way street. They have to convince you that they’re a great organisation to work for.

Interview checklist

  • Plan and prepare well.
  • You only have a limited time to demonstrate your skills and personal qualities, so make good use if it.
  • Use the same powerful, precise and concise wording in your responses as you put in your CV.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Be concise in your response and do not digress as there is nothing more irritating than listening to a mass of waffle or unnecessary detail.
  • Be prepared with questions of your own. It will show you are genuinely interested in the post.
  • Remember the interview is a two-way street. They have to convince you they’re a great organisation to work for.
  • At the end of the interview, ask if there is anything else they need to know, or that you have not covered properly.
  • Ask what the next step is in the recruitment process for the post.
Back to Top

Receive the latest Graduate Jobs Internships & Placements Profession Newsletters