Job interviews evoke mixed emotions – anticipation but also dread. If you are invited to an interview, very well done, this means your written application is good and you are on the next step towards getting the job you want. But most of us worry about job interviews while also being delighted to have one. This is natural, so the secret is to manage your nerves by preparing effectively and viewing the interview as your opportunity to impress and even enjoy talking about yourself!
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
It is critical to prepare by researching the employer and the role you are going for fully. Nothing can rule you out quicker than showing you aren’t really sure about what the job is. Also, get the small stuff right – make sure you know where you are going and allow yourself time to arrive in good time. Plan carefully what you are going to wear – follow the dress code that’s normal for the industry you are going for, e.g., for industries such as Law and Accountancy, dress codes are smart and conservative, whereas if you are going for a job in Advertising or Media, you can probably risk adding a bit more colour to your outfit.
Familiarise yourself with what kind of interview to expect? Interviews can be conducted in person, over skype, over the phone. Do you know who will be interviewing you and if it will be a small panel of people? If you know the names of the people on the panel – google them and see if you can find out about them.
Questions you can expect
Probably the most important thing you can do is anticipate interview questions and prepare potential answers. You can pick up clues about this from the ad or the job details.
But the following tend to be the broad areas of questioning to be prepared for:
You need to have this kind of insight for answering questions about why you want the job or to work for the organisation (these simple questions can trip people up). But think about it from an employer’s perspective – if you can’t tell them why you want to work for them, why should they bother with you?
If they ask you what your career goals are or where you want to be in 5 years’ time, what would you say? These questions are a bit old hat but knowing how a job fits in with career ideas is good to nail.
Be sure to know what your greatest strengths and achievements are as well as your development areas may be in relation to the post you are applying for.
Be ready to talk about the relevance of any experience you have for the job you are applying for. What have been key achievements you would highlight? Even non-relevant work experience will have allowed you to have developed relevant skills.
This is a biggie. Virtually all job interviews will ask you about skills and competencies, questions, e.g. teamwork, problem solving…Have your examples ready.
Do your homework on their marketplace / their culture / the profession / any competitors. Also are you aware of key developments within the industry.
But do be aware that sometimes unexpected things may happen at interview! This Heineken video is an entertaining example.
The STAR technique for structuring your answers
A technique recommended by lots of employers and careers advisers is the STAR technique. This is particularly suitable for skills and competency questions.
Here’s an example for team-working.
S – Situation. Set the scene, e.g. in the second year of my business degree, a major part of the assessment involved working within a small project team on behalf of an external client, in this case a local charity that provided services to disabled people in the community.
T – Task. What was your role e.g. a key challenge for the charity was funding and it was decided that the project would focus on developing a marketing strategy that would assist the charity in raising funds in the short-term as well as providing a viable fundraising plan for the future. As a group, key tasks and roles within the project where identified. I led on the design of the posters as well as the marketing and promotion of the charity event that was identified as a key project outcome for the short-term.
A – Action. What action did you take e.g. I spoke with a graphic design friend who helped me to produce posters and displayed them around University. I then developed a social media marketing plan, publicizing the event on Facebook, Twitter and the University website as well as the Charity’s website. In addition, I was able to secure interviews with our local radio and local community newspaper.
R – Result e.g. The project team was successful in securing donations from local businesses and a rugby player from the local premier league team helped to compère the evening. We raised money by selling tickets and holding raffles for prizes donated by local businesses. The event was well attended raising over £1500. We were acknowledged for the effort we had put into promoting the event, and for being able to use our negotiation skills to persuade local businesses to make donations to a raffle.
Watch this short video in which we ask employers who came to campus what makes a stand-out candidate at interview. Make a note 3 points you find most useful.
Using the STAR technique, script out how you would answer one of the following questions.
My online presentation about preparing for interviews.
Interviews guide written by your Careers team.
A range of short films about job interviews.
Amy Cuddy’s fascinating TED talk about body language.
Purely for amusement – watch this Armstrong and Miller sketch.