The thought of doing an interview can be daunting, but there are a number of ways you can prepare so you feel as confident as possible! This page will provide some top tips so you can be at your best on the day of your interview. You may also be interested in our 'Preparing for interview success' learning pathway on Career Centre 360.
Remember, the main purpose of an interview is to try to find out if you are the right person for the job. If you have been offered an interview, well done - the organisation is keen to find out more about you!
What types of interview are there?
Telephone/Video/Skype interviews: often used to screen candidates at an early stage.
One to One interview: may be more informal, such as for part-time roles and jobs in small businesses.
Panel interviews: standard within large organisations and graduate employers. The panel will often consist of your prospective line manager, someone from Human Resources, and a senior manager.
Practical exercise: You may have a practical exercise, such as a presentation or other job-related task to do as part of your interview. This could form a small part or a significant proportion of the interview.
Multiple stage process: Some employers, particularly larger ones, may have a series of steps to the interview process over several weeks. This could include a video interview, psychometric testing, an assessment centre, and panel or one-to-one interview. Applii shows you what stages to expect for some companies but always check with the company for the most up-to-date information.
How do I prepare for an interview?
Practical preparation: Check that you know where you are going, how long the journey time is and which building you should report to. Do you need to take equipment or documentation? What will happen during the interview process?
Research the company: Make sure you know about the organisation; its structure, mission and core values. A good starting point is the company website but extend your research beyond this wherever possible (e.g. LinkedIn, Social Media, reliable news articles, SHU library online resources).
Research the role: Look at the job description, person specification and your application. This will give you clues about what could come up at interview. Have examples of how you meet the points on the person specification from your knowledge, skills and experience.
Build commercial awareness: Do you understand how the business operates, what’s happening in their industry, and who their customers and competitors are? Are there any current or potential future challenges for this business?
Practice: Explore some possible questions and answers and practice answering them and speaking aloud.
What will they ask me?
We can’t read minds or predict the future, but we can guess with some confidence typical and likely interview questions. The information you need to answer ANY question they ask should be accessible to you – if you’ve done thorough research as part of your interview preparation.
Some interviews may focus more on one type of question (e.g. competency or strength-based), whilst others will utilise a combination of different types of questions).
Listen closely to the question and ask for clarification if you are unsure what you are being asked. Common question types include:
Motivation questions: Examples: Why do you want to do this role? Why do you want to work for us? Looking at your motivation for the job/employer/industry. A common mistake here is to be too brief. Try to link your reasons back to you – you need to be convincing and show you have researched the company/role.
Open questions: Examples: ‘what can you bring to the role?’, ‘what relevant skills and experience do you have?’ These offer you a real opportunity to sell your knowledge, experience, and skills. Remember to link this back to the person specification.
Competency questions: Example: ‘tell us about a time when you demonstrated teamwork/communication/time management skills'. Questions will normally focus on specific skills outlined in the person specification/job advert/list of desired attributes. Identify examples that best demonstrate these skills and attributes.
Strengths-based questions: Examples: ‘What are your three main strengths and how could they help you in this role? Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?’. These questions are designed to look at what you enjoy doing and have an aptitude for, rather than what you can do.
Scenario-based questions: Example: ‘Imagine you're working on a project with 3 other colleagues and a member of the team doesn't seem to be doing much work. What would you do?’. These questions are typically looking at what you would do in specific situations and are usually linked to the role you would be doing.
Knowledge checking questions: Examples include: ‘What do you know about our company? What do you think you will be doing in this role? What current issues are you aware of in our industry?’. These are assessing your knowledge.
Technical questions: For any role that requires technical knowledge be prepared for very specific knowledge-based questions. If there’s something you don’t understand in the job advert, try to look into this before the interview.
Curveball questions: Example: ‘If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?’. Some employers like to assess your ability to react on the spot. Top tip: embrace the question and try to give a full answer. In this example, try to explain why and how it links to you!
How do I structure my answers?
Use the 'STAR' structure!
The STAR structure is useful for giving structured, focused, and effective answers to interview questions based on your previous experience.
- Situation: What was the context? Where were you and what were you doing?
- Task: What was the goal? What was the problem or challenge?
- Action: What action did you take? How did you display the skill in question?
- Result: What was the outcome?
Need some further help?
- Graduates First: video interview practice and example questions
- Prospects: interview questions examples, more info on different types of interview
- Career Centre 360: take a mock interview and receive feedback
- 1-2-1 advice: interview techniques advice from an Employability Adviser
- Practice interview: practice interview with an Employability Adviser (note: you need to have an actual up and coming interview to book this)
- Preparing for interview success - Create an elevator pitch, practise your interview technique and learn how to excel in an interview.