Ace That Interview! How to prepare and perform successfully ∂ x

Ace That Interview!
How to prepare and perform successfully
Peter Fox [email protected]
Careers Advisory Service
Or.. How not to make a mess
of your interview!
Why do companies interview?
• To assess the knowledge and skills that you have indicated in
your initial application
• To evaluate your skills and competencies under pressure
• To judge how you would fit in
• To create a positive impression (on both sides!)
Ultimately, the interview will determine:
Can you do the job? Will you fit in?
Effective Preparation
Think about……
• Practical
– How will I get there? What shall I wear? Interview panel size?
• Intellectual
– Which questions will they ask me and how should I answer them?
• Psychological
– I am very nervous, but I really want to succeed
Practical Preparation
• How will I get there?
– Plan ahead to arrive early
– Use company website for directions
• What shall I wear?
– Depends on industry
– Smart = professional
• Interview panel?
– How many people?
– Who are they?
The interview begins before the
questions… soon as you enter the
‘First impressions last’
Think about:
Shaking hands
Body language
Eye contact
Nodding and smiling
A positive start to the interview makes a big difference
Intellectual Preparation
If only I could have the questions before
the interview.....
Questions will be focussed around:
• Role
– Use person specification and job description to predict
• Company
– See website, annual reports
• Sector
– Read industry journals, business pages, FT
Intellectual Preparation
Examples of key skills employers seek are:
Self awareness
Motivation to learn
Interpersonal skills
-Team work
-Time management
-Problem solving
-Decision making
-Business acumen
So questions are based around these employability
skills plus job specific skills
Intellectual Preparation
Examples of questions:
Describe a situation where your planning and organisation
resulted in the successful achievement of a task.
What did you learn at university that you can bring to this
Give an example of when you worked well in a team.
Why do you want this job?
What problem solving skills could you bring to this
Who are our main competitors?
More questions and information on DUO file
Intellectual Preparation
Preparing your answers:
Use the STAR system:
describe with clarity
outline what needed doing
your actions taken
a successful outcome?
Your evidence can be from:
Achievements at university
Work experience / outside interests
College activities eg sport/societies
Family commitments
Practice your answers - talk about your achievements – sell yourself
and emphasise your positive qualities!
Your Questions
• Ask questions that you genuinely want
• The interview may have covered everything you
need to know. If that’s∂ the case say so. Don’t
ask a question for the sake of it!
• It's OK to take a short list of questions with
you to use in the interview
Psychological Preparation
Practice and preparation will help you to succeed
• At this stage they are looking for reasons to appoint rather
than reject you
• You are there to secure the position – use opportunities to
make your points
• It’s a chance for you to see if the company matches your
expectations ?
• Positive attitude – They liked your application and on paper
you are suitable: It’s up to you to show your suitability in
Top Tips
Listen carefully to the question
Don’t just give yes/no answers
Avoid going off the subject – stay focussed
Volunteer relevant information about yourself
Be flexible in your preparation. Eg evidence of good communication
could come from a question about working with clients, in teams or
problem solving
Don’t be negative about former colleagues
Don’t lie about achievements and experiences
If you need to think about an answer don’t be afraid to say so
Sources of Information
Videos/ DVD’s
• The assessment centre video
• AGCAS Selection Success in One
• AGCAS Why ask me that
• AGCAS Can I have a few minutes of your time
• The 70% solution
• Great answers to tough interview questions pub. Kogan Page
• Mike Bryon, how to pass graduate recruitment tests pub. Kogan page
• How to suceed at interviews and other selection methods. University of London
Careers Service
Sources of Information
• Preparing for an assessment centre
• Preparing for a job interview
• Psychometric tests available from the Careers Service (£1)
Go to
information about:
• Graduate Aptitude Tests
• MBTI Personality Inventory
• Assessment Centre Workshops
Additional slides on interview questions and answers will be on the
slides on DUO
Additional Information
Questions about Working
with others
Skills you should try to demonstrate:
• Working in a team- motivating and supporting others,
forming productive working relationships
• Influencing people- without domineering
• Dealing with the public- providing
a service, answering
• Persuading- listening or informing others
• Managing- Being in charge of others
• Negotiating-or selling
• Sharing- ideas, information/abilities/ experiences for
common goals
• Dealing sensitively to the priorities, needs behaviours and
feelings of others
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Working
With Others
Academic Life
• Group projects, seminar discussions
Work Experience
• Part-time/ vacation work
∂ roles
• Group work tasks/ any leading
• Family commitments
• Community roles
Leisure Activities
• Clubs and societies
• Society Committee Posts
• Voluntary/ community activities
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about
Skills you should try to demonstrate:
Discussing problems
Listening accurately
Understanding individual’s behaviours
and motivations from
body language/ verbal clues
Writing reports and letters
Reading, understanding and summarising
Persuading people
Debating and using well structured arguments
Language skills
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about
Communication Skills
Written: Think of all the different styles of writing (creative,
formal, factual..)
Essays, reports, memos and letters
Articles for student publications
Oral: Include responding to the ∂
views of others, expressing your
own ideas and negotiating to reach group solution)
Tutorials, seminars
Presenting papers
Participating in committees
Speaking at club or society meetings
Preparation of material/ oral presentation
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Problem
Skills you should try to demonstrate:
Practically employing your degree expertise
Diagnosing and rectifying faults in procedures
Adapting to change
Logical or methodical approaches
Identifying new/ improved ways of work
Creative, lateral thinking to devise new solutions
Dealing with unknown factors in a situation
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Problem
• Academic and Intellectual Challenges on course
• Resolving difficulties between flatmates
• Doing crosswords or other “intellectual puzzles”
• Showing a logical approach to∂tackling a difficulty (childcare
responsibilities; toddler with a tantrum!)
• Overcoming unexpected obstacles during foreign travel
• Thinking of a new way to tackle an assignment
• Identification of new ways to promote/ develop clubs or
• Overcoming difficulties when organising event/ party
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Business/
Commercial Awareness
Skills you should try to demonstrate:
• Knowledge of the company you are applying for/ it’s market
• Competition- Aware of market forces in business decisions
• Strategic Thinking- Clarity of vision in knowing where to go and
how to get there
∂ the needs and concerns of the
• Customer Focus- Understanding
• Innovative approach- Continually seeking and encouraging
alternative and fresh courses
• Creativity, bringing insights and original ideas
• Analysis- Breaking problems down into manageable components
and solving them
• Conceptualising- Identifying and connecting underlying
assumptions and patterns
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Business/
Commercial Awareness
• Read the financial times/ business pages/ company
literature/ University information
• Interest in the financial market
• Run your own shadow/ fantasy equity investment
• Successfully take a commercial risk: e.g. buy goods
and sell at profit at car boot sale/ EBAY
• Raise money (How much?)/ keep accounts for charity/
• Gain work experience in commercial/ customer care role
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about
Organising/ Prioritising
Skills you should try to demonstrate:
Take responsibility for a project
Set objectives
Plan resources and activities towards a goal
Anticipate and avoid difficulties
Juggle several projects simultaneously
Use time effectively to meet deadlines and time manage
Cope when things go wrong
See the big picture but also have an eye for detail
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about Organising/
• Show how you plan work for any projects
• Show how you organise work to fit in with other people
• How do you organise your time between classes (clubs/
family/ work experience)
• Responsibilities you have been
∂ given in vacation/ work
experience and how you dealt with these
• Organisation of society/ club events: what did YOU do
• Arranging holidays/ travel
• Paying of rent/ bills/ buying joint items in shared house
• Bringing up children
The Careers Group University of London
Questions about you
Tell us about yourself
• Clarify your
With reference to:
Academic achievements
Work experience
Outside interests
Your philosophy on life
Ask yourself, ‘what are the top five things I
want this person to know about me?’”
Emphasize the most relevant topics
Questions About Leadership
Would you say you were a follower or a leader?
Describe aspects of both –
• Follower
How you are capable of following directions.
Realise the importance of listening well and being part of a team effort.
• Leader
Demonstrate leadership skills:
Leading by example
Ownership and responsibility
Provide examples of these using the STAR system
Questions about you
Can you tell us about a weakness?
o The interviewer is seeing if you can reflect on your own
development and express it sensibly.
o This question is designed to show interviewer you are aware of
your faults and can deal with them.
o Identify your possible weaknesses
and prepare positive
explanations of them.
o Talk about a weakness that you can prove you have improved
on/ can be corrected
o Choose examples that show you are realistic about your
o Avoid false modesty e.g.: I work too hard. It sounds phoney.
Questions about you
– I’m impatient but I’ve learnt that you can get more out
of people if you can give them a bit of space to do
something you have asked
– I’m not familiar with Microsoft Word but I have used
other word processing packages and I am a quick
– At University I initially found it difficult to write reports
- but am now producing top quality reports.
– I can forget things, so I overcome this by being very
organised, keeping a comprehensive diary, wall chart
and notes
Questions about you
What are your greatest strengths?
• Don’t just talk about your strength—relate it to
the position
• Let them know you are a qualified candidate
with the skills THEY require
• Think of the skills required for the position you
have applied for
• Give examples of where you have shown these
Questions about you
How are your studies going?
• Keep positive
• Can mention it is hard work but say you are
enjoying it
• Discuss how you have prioritised your work
• Discuss a schedule
• Mention achieving deadlines, good results,
meeting targets
• Try to incorporate in outside interests/ work
experience you have managed to fit into your
spare time.
Questions about your commitment
to the industry, employer and job
Are you applying for other jobs?
• You need to show that you are interested in their
industry or field of work.
• You need to show that you have not just been
applying for any 'graduate' job..
• Only mention jobs that are closely related to the
one you're at an interview for.
• You should demonstrate a particular interest and
commitment to their company/ their area of
Questions about your commitment
to the industry/ employer and job
What are your long-term goals?
• The interviewer wants to know if you have any career
goals (in general), if you have ambition and if you
have thought about where you are going
• Refer back to the planning phase of your job search.
• Think about the career structure of the organisation/
career area
• Relate your goals to the company you are
interviewing: 'in a firm like yours, I would like to..."
Questions about the industry,
employer and job
What do you know about our organisation/ Why
this Company?
• Discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals,
awards, management style, people, history and philosophy.
• Show you have researched, but make it clear that you wish to
learn more.
• You might start your answer in this manner: "In my job search,
I've investigated a number of companies.
• Yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons..."
• The company is doing things you would like to be involved with,
and that it's doing them in ways that greatly interest you.
• Discuss how your skills and previous experiences relate to the
Questions about the industry,
employer and job
What can you do for us that someone else
can't?/ Why should we hire you ?
• Use your employer research to identify the skills
the employer requires
• Talk about your key skills relevant to the position
• Mention specifics from your CV or list of career
accomplishments: using STAR.
Questions about your
career decision making
What do you look for in a job?
• Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at
the organization.
∂ perform and be
• Talk about your desire to
recognized for your contributions.
• Focus on the requirements and challenges
presented in the position
• Make your answer oriented toward opportunity
rather than personal security.
Surprise Questions
• Some interviewers incorporate ‘original’ questions
• Handle these calmly and methodically
• They are to see how you react under pressure
• When did you last lose your temper?
• If I asked you to get me a tiger by tomorrow what
would you do?
• You see this pen in my hand? Sell it to me.
• Why didn’t you achieve better A Level grades?
• If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be?
Technical Questions
•Read the competencies required for the job
•Read your application and make
sure you can talk
about the technical abilities you have mentioned
•Think of examples of where you have implemented
Your Questions
Good questions are specific, concise and easily understood
• When could I be expect to be given responsibility in this job?
• What do you like about working here?
• What training or career development opportunities are there?
• How do you let me know if I’ve got the job?
• Are there any opportunities to ∂work overseas?
• What do you make of the recent news that….?
• Will I be working in a team and who will the team comprise of?
• I understand your firm operates performance appraisals. How do
they operate?
• How do you define the training period for graduates?
• What would be the typical career pattern for a graduate
(Some examples taken from the University of Nottingham Centre for Career Development)
Additional Questions
How well do you work under pressure?
• Emphasise that you work as well under pressure
as you do at any other ∂time
• Discuss how you prioritise tasks so that your
workload is manageable
Questions about you
Have you ever had a bad experience with an
• This is to test whether you can be discreet and
• Never talk negatively about a former employer
even if you hated the sight of each other.
• Try to explain, generally the methods you use to
deal with difficult people.
• Emphasise the importance of flexibility,
perseverance and good communication.