Getting an interview is an achievement in itself. Only a small proportion of applicants are selected for interview so you have already made a positive impression to have got to this stage, so congratulate yourself! Remember: there aren't any right or wrong answers to interview questions. How you come across is just as important as what you say.
The purpose of the interview is to see if you match the requirements of the job. These will vary with different jobs but are likely to include: your personal qualities, how well you express yourself, and your motivation and enthusiasm. It is also your chance to meet somebody from the organisation and assess them: are they offering what you want?
Potential interview questions:
...about yourself, your background and your future ambitions:
- 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
...about your knowledge of the employer, or career area:
- 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?
Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Try something simple, like “What size of team would I be working in?”, as long as they haven’t already covered this in the interview. Can’t think of any? It’s perfectly fine to say “I think you’ve covered everything, thank you!”
Research the employer - here are some things you may be able to find out from the employer’s website:
- What size is the organization?
- How long has it been in business?
- What are its products and/or services?
- What sort of reputation or public image does it have?
- Who are its main competitors?
- Where is it based? Single or multiple locations? UK or multinational?
- What is the organizational structure like?
- What are its future plans and prospects?
- What is the organisational culture?
- What types of training, development and appraisal are offered?
Types of interview
Face to face
- Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early. This gives you the opportunity to cool down from your walk there, go to the loo, but most importantly, 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.
- Be polite to everyone you meet – first impressions count!
- 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.
- Remind yourself that they have given you an interview, so they are definitely interested in you.
- Re-read your application form once more, and refresh your knowledge of the company.
Telephone/Skype interviews are real interviews held over the phone/online rather than face-to-face. They are usually given to candidates who have passed the online application and/or psychometric test stage of the graduate recruitment process. They enable employers to sift out applicants to be invited to a face-to-face interview or assessment centre.
Who uses these sorts of interview?
You are more likely to be interviewed in this way by a large corporate recruiter, rather than a small or medium-sized company. They are especially common for sales-related jobs, such as recruitment consultancy and particularly telesales, where verbal communication skills are paramount. They are also very useful if you are applying to work abroad as it saves you money on travel.
Advantages for the employer:
- They are time and cost-effective - most last about 20-25 minutes.
- They test your verbal communication skills and telephone technique.
Advantages for you:
- You can refer (quickly!) to your application form.
- You don't need to spend time traveling to interview or wonder if the employer will pay your expenses.
Some resources for video interviews:
Strength based interviewing
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 trained in strengths based interviewing and 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.
- 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 then?’ Focus on researching the company strengths and values for insight instead!
- Still to 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 the main part of your answer.
- Think before speaking!
- Attend a strengths based interview workshop on campus!
Competency based interviewing
Competency-based interviews (also called structured or behavioural interviews) are more systematic, with each question targeting a specific skill or competency. Candidates are asked questions relating to their behaviour in specific circumstances, which they then need to back up with concrete examples. The interviewers will then dig further into the examples by asking for specific explanations about the candidate's behaviour or skills.
Many interviews now are competency-based which means that the interviewer will be looking for 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 that can be tested varies depending 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