Note: this section is not intended to replace advice given by a careers guidance service. If you have access to a guidance & information service, you should make use of that: advice from a dedicated and specialist service is always better.
Interviews are your opportunity to sell yourself to potential employers. Interviews can be daunting, but a little preparation can go a long way. Here's some advice to help.
Before the interview:
- Do some research on the company. Look at their website and also look for recent press coverage. A common interview question is" What do you know about the company?" Perhaps you, or friends or relatives know someone who works there. Get in contact with them and ask them a few questions or ask you friends/relations to contact them
- Review common interview questions. Practice answering them
- Prepare some answers to these questions that highlight your skills, experience, achievements and suitability for the job
- Ask a friend to do a mock interview with you - this will give you an opportunity to speak your answers out loud
- If you have access to a guidance and information service, they may offer mock interviews
- Prepare some questions to ask that will demonstrate your interest in the job and show that you have done research on the company
- Confirm the date, time, location, and name of the person you should ask for when you arrive there. Make sure you know how you're going to get there and how long the journey should take
- Try to get a good night's sleep the night before your interview
At the Interview:
- Make sure you know where you're going and how to get there. Bring with you the name and contact details of the person you are meeting
- Arrive for the interview a little early so that you can give yourself time to collect your thoughts. Being late will cause you stress, which won't help during the interview. Also, being late will definitely not impress the interview panel.
- It's better to be dress up than to be too casual.
- Switch off or mute your phone.
- Don't chew gum.
- Be polite to everyone you meet.
- Plan ahead by preparing answers to the questions you will most likely to be asked. If you were fired or made redundant from a previous job, prepare to be asked about it.
- Be honest with the interview panel. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Don't waffle.
- If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.
- Develop an answer in your head before you respond to a question.
- When you finish answering a question, stop talking and wait for the panel to speak. Don't feel the need to fill any silences.
- Show enthusiasm in the interview.
- Sell yourself. Be assertive, confident and highlight your skills and achievements. An interview is no time for modesty!
- Make eye contact with all members of the interview panel.
- Be aware of your body language and what it conveys e.g sitting with your arms crossed suggests you're insecure or feeling defensive.
- Good body language includes smiling, eye contact, solid posture, active listening, and nodding.
- Bad body language includes slouching, looking off in the distance, fidgeting in a chair, brushing back your hair, and touching your face.
- Remember, the interview goes both ways; it can help you assess whether the job and the company are right for you.
If it is a virtual interview:
- Treat it as seriously as you would a physical interview. Be sure to login on time.
- Test your camera and microphone beforehand. You want to be sure they both are working as they should.
- Your camera should be eye level. Prop up your device with books or boxes if necessary. If you are using a mobile device, make sure it’s stable. You don’t want it falling over during your interview.
- You should be lit from the front and not the back.
- Install any software you need to attend the interview ahead of time.
- You should be told if you are using Zoom or Teams or another video chat program. If you are not, be sure to ask.
- Do a test call with a friend to get some practice with the program.
- Make sure you have a quiet place free from interruptions to do your interview.
- If you are living with others, make sure they know to be quiet.
- Make sure your interview space is neat and tidy. You will want to make the best impression and clutter could distract the interviewers.
- Dress professionally. Wear the same clothes you would wear for a physical interview. Don’t just dress from the waist up! Dressing the part will put you in the right frame of mind for your interview.
- Body language is still important. Sit up straight and don’t slouch.
- Look at the camera not the screen. You can’t make direct eye contact through video, but doing this makes it seem like you are.
- Have notes ready. You can place notes by your screen and check them during your interview. Don’t overuse them though or you might seem distracted.
Common Interview Questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
- What do you think makes you the best qualified for this position?
- How can you contribute to this organisation?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What's your biggest weakness?
- How do you handle criticism?
- What do you do in your free time?
What if you don't get as far as the interview stage? You might not be:
- Tailoring your application specifically to each vacancy - make sure your skills and experience fit the job and let the employer know why
- Using a well written cover letter or CV - have someone look over your writing; they might catch something that you have missed
- Selling yourself well - you need to communicate why you are the right person for the job
- Using the right keywords - many employers used automated systems to match CVs and applications forms to the vacancy. These systems look for keywords and will reject those applications that don't use them
If you do get interviews but no further, then perhaps:
- You need to do more research about the company to show that you are actually interested
- You need to improve your interview skills - read up on interview do's and don'ts and have someone do mock interviews with you
- You send the wrong message - think about your body language, your dress, your tone of voice, your eye contact with interviewers - are they as good as they could be?
- You are too negative or flippant during the interview - be serious but polite and don't say bad things about previous employers
You should always ask for interview feedback. You can use the feedback to improve your interview technique and correct any mistakes that you are making.