Congratulations! You have been offered an interview. Selection procedures will vary from company to company. Some hold first and second interviews whereas with some the one interview may be your only chance to impress. Whatever the format, remember that each stage is equally important.
Prepare yourself for likely questions
The interviewer will ask you questions designed to reveal your personality, knowledge, skills and interests. They will also be testing your motivation to do the job. You can prepare yourself for many of the questions you are likely to be asked.
Research the company
Think about the organisation you are applying to:
- Who are their main competitors?
- Who are the key players in the industry?
- Are there any recent developments relating to this industry?
- Can you find any media reports, research or surveys about the industry?
- Is there any recent or forthcoming legislation that might affect the industry?
- What are your views on their website/publicity materials?
- Why have you applied to this company?
Read the job description again
Think about the post you are applying for:
- Why do you want the job?
- Why do feel you are suited to this post?
- What skills and knowledge can you bring to it?
- How does your experience fit with the job?
- What examples and evidence can you provide to prove that you could do the job well?
- How would you fit into this organisation?
- Have you applied to anyone else?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Reread your application
What do you think the interviewer will want to find out?
Does your application refer to events that you feel uncomfortable about? For example, if you retook your A-levels or stayed in a job for a short time. Think about how to deal with it.
Be prepared for this and be honest, but stay positive. Everyone makes mistakes, what is important is to show how you have learned from them.
Keep up-to-date with current news
Keep abreast of the big news stories. Often interviewers want to gauge your awareness of wider issues in society.
Types of questions
The interviewer may use different questioning techniques:
‘What did you cover in the final year of your course?’ These are factual questions.
‘Why did you choose mathematics at A-level?’ Your answers should demonstrate that you have thought about your career goals. You need to show that you can make decisions and explain your actions.
‘What do you think of our products?’ The interviewer wants to hear your considered opinion. Your answers should be frank but not overly critical. Present any critical comments as ideas for possible improvement.
‘Tell us about a time when you had to resolve a conflict. What was it, what did you do and what was the outcome? On reflection, would you have changed anything and why?’ Don’t ramble. Set the scene, focus on what you did, the outcome of your actions and what you learned from the experience.
There may also be questions that you cannot prepare for. These are usually based on complex problems or situations. They are designed to see whether you can think creatively and solve problems. For example, ‘If the UK had to come into line with the rest of Europe and drive on the right, what steps would need to be taken before this could happen?’
Remember there are no perfect answers for this type of question. Just try and think logically through the problem and propose a clear solution.
On the day
Eat breakfast, even if your stomach is doing back flips. You have a long and demanding day ahead and food is crucial in helping you maintain energy levels and concentration. Arrive early and well rested.
Report to reception or the specified arrival point with your invitation letter. Remember, anyone you speak to may be asked for their opinion on the candidates. Be pleasant and polite to everyone you meet.
The interview itself
The first 60 seconds of the interview are when you make your crucial first impression. Smile at the interviewer and shake hands if offered. Appear poised and reasonably confident. Be aware of body language. Convey interest and enthusiasm at all times, but maintain a professional manner.
Listen carefully to the questions. If necessary ask the interviewer to clarify or repeat the question. Don't be afraid to pause briefly to think about your reply.
The questions may mirror those asked on the application form. Take the chance to enlarge on what you wrote. You don’t have to come up with different examples of your experience, but if you do it will emphasise the breadth of your experience and may improve your chances.
Look for verbal and non-verbal clues from the interviewer as to whether you are answering the questions appropriately, in terms of content and length. Do not feel pressured to go on speaking if you feel you have answered a question.
You may be interviewed by a panel, which can be more difficult than a one-to-one interview. Try to stay calm. When you answer a question from one panel member address him/her but remember that the whole panel will be observing you.
Towards the end the interviewer will usually ask if you have any questions.
You could add any additional information that you may not have had chance to do. Just remember to frame it as a question.
Do not ask questions that are answered in the company's literature. Try to gain information that you may require if offered the job, but do not ask about pay and benefits at this stage, unless the interviewer mentions it first.
Before you leave, ask for confirmation of what the next stage of the recruitment process might be and when you should expect to hear from them.