Getting interview ready
Well done, if you have an invitation to interview it means that the employer likes what they have seen so far and they want to know more – either by telephone or face to face. You could be one of many candidates called for interview or the only one – it does not matter you just have to perform to the best of your ability
Graduate employers use different kinds of interviews or assessments at different stages of the recruitment process.
So before you begin the interview process – study any literature available as well as the web site. Better still ring up the organisation to see what type of interview will be used, approximately how long will it take, who will be interviewing you and what competencies will be assessed. This also gives you an initial opportunity to create a first impression as a person – rather than relying upon a CV or application form.
Throughout the process many organisations may use criteria or competency-based interviews/ selection, these are structured interviews and selection processes matched against key criterias such as communication/ problem solving etc
They want to know what YOU did. You worked in a team – but what was your contribution? If you remember:
Situation – describe the project/ background
Tasks – what specific task did you have to perform
Actions – what actions did you take to achieve the task/ project?
Results – what was the result?
Improve – what do you learn – what would you do differently next time
Many candidates tend to use STR and miss out the Actions – you should mention briefly the Situation and Tasks and concentrate on the Actions that YOU did and mention the results achieved. Also what did you learn from that situation? What would you do differently next time? Remember – yes you worked as a team – but use the I. My words – “I did this”, “my role in the group was ….”
It is essential to prepare the STAR answers in advance because it is unlikely that the right story “pops into your head” in the interview. List your achievements and activities (such as work for university societies, interests, hobbies, internships or placements, voluntary or casual work), make notes on the skills you used and ones you learnt, what contribution YOU made to different situations.
Try to find at least two examples for each competency and find multiple projects / situations – very often when I have been interviewing graduates they rely purely on one project for most of their examples – this gets very boring and does not sell the graduate very well.
Many of the questions start off:
'Tell me about a situation when…'; 'Give me an example when…'
If they ask 'what you would do if ….' try to think of an example where you have demonstrated what they are looking for.
Interviewers like most other people like interesting situations to listen to which are easy to remember. So find relevant, concise and specific examples – try to quantify things to make them more real.
Prior to the interview practice the examples with a friend, a family member or just record yourself answering questions – listen to your answers – don’t just think them in your head – hear yourself. This way you may identify any annoying mannerism you have – such as “um, err” “that’s a good question”. If you still have access to your careers service, try to book a mock interview.
In an interview people tend to talk faster so slow down and speak up – if you mumble or talk too fast you can not be understood - it’s fine to pause before responding to questions to gather your thoughts, if you’re unsure about a question it’s also OK to ask for clarification.
Plan for your interview day in fine detail – buy tickets early to get any discount and avoid last minute panic. Also plan to arrive at the area where the interview is being held 30/45 minutes before your interview and arrive at the actual premises approximately 15 minutes before your interview time. Have contact details for the organisation that you are visiting in hard copy and stored in your mobile (mobile should be fully charged – and put it on silent / switch it off for the interview!!).
Make sure you know how you should dress – best advice is that it is a business meeting - clean shoes & clean, neat hair – normally if you feel good about how you look it will give you more confidence.
Take a fresh copy of your CV or make a new copy of your application form and organise any supporting information you'll be taking with you.
When you meet your interviewer(s) – a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile will help to create a good first impression.
Remember you may be watched as you approach the building where you are being interviewed – and as you leave – so make sure that your entrance and exit is as professional as possible. Avoid ringing friends telling them how the interview went until you are well away from the building – and definitely not on a train – you never know who is listening!!
Make notes on what went well at the interview – the types of questions asked etc – what you could improve on. As if (or when) you get invited back the interviewers will have their notes in front of them
Get feedback from interviews where you have been unsuccessful is invaluable and most recruiters are happy to provide it. A good line to use is 'I am disappointed that I was not successful, I am not challenging the decision but if there were a couple of things I could improve on what would they be?'
Suzie Duncombe is a specialist in Graduate assessment and careers advice