Sharpen your interview skills

Getting an interview is an achievement in itself, so congratulate yourself! Remember: how you come across is just as important as what you say. And, as with all skills, the more you practice the more comfortable the interview will feel.

Preparing for your interview

The purpose of the interview is to see if you match the requirements of the job. These vary but are likely to include: your personal qualities, how well you express yourself and your motivation and enthusiasm. 

The interview is also your chance to meet somebody from the organisation and assess them: are they offering what you want?

Thinking in advance about questions you may be asked is a must. 

Questions about you and your future ambitions 

These may include:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why did you choose the University of Kent/your degree subject?
  • Explaining gaps on your application form - e.g. year out; unemployment; travel
  • How would the work experience you’ve had be useful in this company?
  • What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
  • What other jobs/careers are you applying for?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • Tell me about your vacation work/involvement with student societies/sporting activities.

Questions about your knowledge of the employer

These may include:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why have you chosen to apply for this job function?
  • Who do you think are, or will be, our main competitors?
  • What do you think makes you suitable for this job?
  • What do you see as the main threats or opportunities facing the company?
  • What image do you have of this company?

Ask questions of your own

Most companies will ask you at the end of your interview if you have any questions. It's best to keep any question simple: you could ask about the size of the team you'll be working in. If you don't have a question, just say, "I think you've covered everything". 

Types of interview

There are various types of interview some are strengths-based, others competency-based. There are also different ways of interviewing people, as well as face-to-face, your interview could take place via telephone or video. 

Video interviews are more likely to be used by large corporate recruiters and often take place after you have passed an online assessment or psychometric tests.

Here are our tips to help you impress at interview.

Face-to-face interviews

  1. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early, so you feel relaxed, not rushed. Also, time spent waiting in the reception area can be very useful if there are publications about the employer or their field of work to read.
  2. Be polite to everyone you meet – first impressions count!
  3. Remind yourself that they have given you an interview, so they are definitely interested in you.
  4. Re-read your application form once more, and refresh your knowledge of the company
  5. Take a notepad and pen to write down important information the interviewer may tell you, and after the interview, the questions you were asked, so you can reflect on them and perhaps prepare for future interviews.

Video interviews

There are some very good resources online outlining the best approach to a video interview. We'd recommend looking at some of these: - Unlimited on-demand mock interviews, providing you with instant actionable feedback

VidCruiter – video interview questions guide

Prospects – 5 steps to a successful video interview

Target jobs – performance tips for video interviews

Strengths-based interviews

What is a strengths-based interview?

Lots of graduate employers such as FDM, Morgan Stanley, Aviva and Barclays are now using strengths-based interviews in their recruitment process.

Organisations use strengths-based assessments to find out what candidates love to do, and do well. They are focused on making sure that the people they select are the right people for the right role – those who will enjoy their jobs, perform well and stay with the organisation.

A wide range of questions are used in the process and there are limited examples on the internet, so if you have a strengths-based interview it can be more difficult to prepare for.
The good news is they assess your ‘potential’ rather than you having to be the ‘finished product’!

How am I assessed at interview?

Your interviewer will be assessing your body language, tone of voice and the content of your answer. They will look for signs of a strength which can include giving detailed examples to back up your answer, your tone of voice may become higher as you talk about something you are passionate about and enjoy and you appear energised.

Example questions

  • How do you feel when you are faced with a sudden obstacle to your plans? What do you do to resolve it?
  • In your opinion which is more important; taking extra time to produce flawless work or getting it done faster but maybe not quite as carefully?
  • It could be argued that we are not able to produce our best work if we are under pressure. Do you agree?

How to prepare

  • Questions you find online tend to be ‘warm up’ questions such as ‘What do you enjoy?’ or ‘Do you prefer to start tasks or finish them?’ Focus on researching the company strengths and values for insight instead!
  • Still do your research into the company and the role. Read the person specification to identify what strengths and qualities the company is looking for.
  • Make a list of your own strengths, this could be from your academic life, work and social achievements, when you're usually at your best and what motivates you. Think about activities you enjoy doing, subjects you've enjoyed learning about, and also about things you don't like doing and your weaknesses. Think about how all these strengths could be used to the advantage of the organisation you're hoping to work for.
  • Use examples but to back up the strength rather than as the main part of your answer.
  • Think before speaking!
  • Attend a strengths-based interview workshop on campus!

Competency-based interviews

What is a competency-based interview

Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic than strengths-based interviews, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency. You're asked questions relating to your behaviour in specific circumstances, and need to back up your answers with concrete examples. The interviewers then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.

The interviewer wants you to answer questions about your abilities and experience in the context of actual events. It is worth preparing in advance at least two examples for each competency as it is not unheard of for the recruiter to ask for a second example, particularly if you have already quoted one on an application form. These questions would usually start “Tell us about a time when …”

The list of skills and competencies to be tested depend on the post that you are applying for. For example, for a Personal Assistant post, skills and competencies would include communication skills; ability to organise and prioritise; and ability to work under pressure. For a senior manager, skills and competencies may include an ability to influence and negotiate; an ability to cope with stress and pressure; an ability to lead; and the capacity to take calculated risks.

A great way to deal with these questions is to use the STAR technique, Situation Task Action Result, as outlined on the National Careers Service website.

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