Keeping your cool at interviews

Published: 15 Apr 2016 By UCAS

Job interviews can be daunting for some, so it pays to be as prepared as possible. We tackle some of the most common questions and conversations that graduates and students are likely to face.

Whether you’re fresh out of uni looking for full-time employment, or just keen to get a part-time job, an interview is your foot in the door. Sure, they can be nerve-wracking for some; but regardless of how formal or informal your interview is, you’ll generally be asked the same sorts of questions. Below we’ve outlined some of those that seem to regularly crop up – in one form or another.

Preparation is key…

All about you
You can pretty much guarantee that despite the fact they’ve read your CV, looked at your LinkedIn profile, and had their HR person call you first, the interviewer will want you to outline your work experience to date. Although annoying (!), try to treat it as an exercise in showing your enthusiasm for what you do. 

It’s also a nice transition segue into getting you to reveal more about yourself – the stuff that doesn’t come to light on a profile page or piece of paper, such as:

-    your skills
-    your strengths and weaknesses
-    your ambitions
-    your interests
-    your greatest achievement

as well as insight into:

-    what motivates you
-    how your friends would describe you
-    a difficult situation you’ve had to deal with

Some of these topics might sound a bit tricky, but honesty is always the best policy. We’re all human, so if there’s a part of your work you struggle with, say so. Similarly, don’t blow your trumpet too hard when outlining your strengths, ambitions, and achievements. 

And ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’ isn’t a bona fide weakness…

Prove you’ve done some homework 
It might sound obvious, but do some research on the company before an interview. That doesn’t mean you need to demonstrate an encyclopaedic knowledge of their business strategy; just that you understand what they do, and how the role you’re applying for fits into the wider scheme of things.

Consider:

-    why you want to work there
-    what makes you suitable for the job
-    what you know about their company
-    how much you know about their business

Think on your feet
Now here’s where it gets interesting. It’s easy to get caught out by some of the following topics, so some politely crafted replies can pay dividends.  

-    Why you left your last job
-    What you think the main challenges of the new job will be
-    How you think they can improve what they’re doing

Of course, tell the truth… but maybe a pared down version(!). An invitation to comment on improvements isn’t carte blanche to attack existing methods – if you want a second interview.

Get ready for a couple of curveballs
Interviewers also want to see some evidence of personality – what makes you tick – so they may well ask you a couple of questions related to popular culture, such as:

-    what TV show character, animal, book would you be?
-    what was the last film or book you saw or read?

And perhaps the toughest question of all: 

-    Do you have any questions? 

(This subject itself merits an entire blog post: here’s one we made earlier – insert hyperlink).

Ultimately, interviews are as much an opportunity for a potential employer to find out if you’d be a good fit for their team and organisation, as they are a chance for you to impress. 

Keep that in mind if you start feeling the pressure!

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