- Be confident – An invitation to an interview means they liked your application and are seriously interested in you
- Remind yourself of the job description, requirements and of what you said in your application
- Do more research – Employers will expect you to know even more about them at this stage
- Ask some sensible questions to demonstrate your motivation and interest in the employer
- Practise – Think through answers to likely questions and book a practice interview with a Careers Adviser
- Use the STARR structure for answering competency questions
- The Basics
Interviews give employers the chance to explore your skills and motivation in more detail than at the application stage. They also allow employers to test for competencies which are not easily covered in an application such as interpersonal skills and to assess how you would fit into the organisation.
There are many types of interview. The most common are:
- Face-to-face interviews, usually with one or two recruiters or, occasionally, a panel.
- Telephone interviews can be conducted by a member of the HR team or outsourced to a recruitment agency. Some employers now also use Skype.
- Group interviews – You will either be asked questions in turn or you might be given an issue for discussion in your group.
For most small employers, this is the last step in the recruitment process; if you are successful, you will be offered the job. With large employers, you will usually have to attend an assessment centre.
- What Will They Ask?
It is impossible to predict exactly what you will be asked by a specific employer but there are some key areas on which employers’ questions usually focus.
Most employers use competency-based questions to explore how well you match the job requirements. You can find more information on how to select suitable examples from your experience and how to structure your answers in the "What will they ask?" section on our Application Forms and Personal Statements page and in our guide to Creating STARR Examples.
You can also expect questions about:
- The job – Questions will usually focus on your motivation to do the job and your understanding of the role.
- The employer – You will be expected to know key facts and be able to give specific reasons for having chosen this employer. You will be expected to expand on what you said in your application.
- The sector/wider issues – Read up on recent developments, follow the news and pick up on anything relevant. Think about the bigger picture and the influence current affairs might have on the sector and the employer.
- You – Be ready to talk about any information you have provided in your application. This could include your degree and course choices, work experience, or interests and achievements.
You will find further tips on how to prepare on these areas and example questions in our Interviews leaflet .
Second-round or final interviews usually follow a very similar pattern. However, expect the unexpected. At this stage, you will often be interviewed by a senior member of staff rather than a graduate recruiter. How you would fit into their team, view wider issues and argue your case might be more important to them than skills and competencies.
For jobs in technical areas such as engineering or IT, you may also be asked to demonstrate your technical expertise. Sometimes, employers will simply ask for more information on your dissertation or projects but you may also be asked to comment on a technical problem or scenario.
- On the Day
It is natural to be nervous in an interview. Good interviewers will only be too aware of this and make sure that you are comfortable.
You can also keep stress to a minimum by following these simple steps:
- Do not be late! Leave with plenty of time to spare to allow for any delays
- Listen carefully and think before you answer
- If you do not understand a question, ask
- Maintain eye contact
- Be positive and enthusiastic
- Be friendly with everyone and thank the employer for seeing you
- Act professionally throughout
It is a good idea to make a note of any questions you found tricky immediately after your interview, so you can ask for advice on how to tackle them next time.
If you are unsuccessful, you can ask the employer for feedback although not all employers will provide this for first interviews. This is also a good opportunity to thank the employer for the interview and express your continued interest in any future opportunities.
- How to Prepare
The key to a successful and relatively stress-free interview is thorough preparation:
- Deal with practical preparations well in advance. Book travel if necessary and plan what you will be wearing. If you are not sure what is appropriate, have a look at our Dress to Impress guide.
- Remind yourself of the employer’s requirements as well as your relevant skills and experience. Go back to your application. This is what got you this far!
- Build on your research – Employers will expect you to have more in-depth knowledge about them and the job on offer at this stage. Follow the news and keep up-to-date with any issues which could affect your chosen employer and sector.
- Prepare some good and sensible questions. Focus on issues related to the job and the employer such as training and support provided, areas for expansion or specific questions on your duties and responsibilities. Avoid questions about salary and benefits or purely practical things.
- Use our Resources to prepare. We have a very good interview DVD which includes a chapter on telephone interviews. Ask at the Careers and Employability Service reception desk if you wish to view it.
One of the best ways to prepare is to book a practice interview with a Careers Adviser. This will give you the chance to practise your answers with a professional and receive feedback. If you have not been given enough time to arrange this, then you are welcome to book a 15-minute appointment with the Duty Adviser to receive some tips.