What should I expect?
For a competitive opportunity with a large number of applicants (e.g. graduate scheme or a sought-after placement), it’s common for employers to use more than one interview stage: often starting with an asynchronous video interview, and then asking successful applicants to take one (or more) face to face interviews. Sometimes one of these interviews is part of an assessment centre – for more see our information page on Assessment Centres.
For other opportunities, the selection process is likely to be shorter, and may just involve a single interview. You’re likely to encounter a range of interview formats as you apply for jobs and work experience; there are tips for different formats in this information sheet below, but first a checklist that’s applicable to all types:
Requesting adjustments under the Equality Act 2010
Employers should always let you know what to expect on the day and ask if you need any support in order to perform at your best – this is levelling the playing field
If they don’t, ask them what you will need to do.
- Consider what support you might need e.g., handouts printed on coloured paper, close access to a bathroom, hearing loop, extra time for psychometric tests etc
- Ask HR to inform the assessors on the day so you don’t need to
- You may wish to tell the other candidates in your group e.g. ‘I lipread, so please ensure you look at me when you’re speaking’
- Find out more
Interview preparation checklist
Preparation is vital. Use this checklist to help:
Research the organisation
- What do they do? Who are their competitors?
- What’s going on in the world that might affect the organisation?
- What are their values? What’s their mission statement?
- Is there any recent news about the organisation? (check their press releases on their website and their twitter and linkedin feeds)
Research the job/role
- Read the job description in full, carefully. If you don’t understand some of the terminology make sure you google it, or check with someone with knowledge of the sector.
- Consider what the job needs you to do – what might the challenges be? What about opportunities?
- If you know of someone working in this field, ask if you can talk to them and learn key topics for working in this area. Alternatively, browse job-area-specific websites – there are recommended resources to learn about different jobs on prospects.ac.uk.
Organise your evidence against the criteria and practice for interview questions
- Make a list of the selection criteria and note down your evidence and key example(s) for each one.
- For each key example, turn it into a STAR answer: see our STAR Technique information sheet.
- Use our Interview Questions information page to practice.
- Practice your 3-5 key selling points for this job: it’s useful to have this ‘elevator pitch’ ready.
Plan the practical elements
- Decide what you’re going to wear. If in doubt, go more formal, not less; communicate that the job is important to you. Women who aren’t working can get interview clothing from Smart Works smartworks.org.uk. This is equally important for video interviews as it is for in person ones.
- Practice a phrase that gives you time to think if you need to regroup in an interview, or consider an answer more fully. For example: “Can I please just take a moment to think about that?” or “I’m just going to take a moment to organise my thoughts”.
Managing interview nerves
Nervousness is natural when we are competing for something that’s important to us, so interviewers are expecting it, and account for it. Nervousness is only a problem if it impairs your ability to perform in an interview. If that’s the case, you might want to try out the following tips, or book an appointment to talk to a Careers Consultant.
- Reflection: Start by reflecting on what happens when you get nervous? Does your heart beat faster, palms get sweaty, do you talk faster? Identify your own experiences. Does this impair your interview performance? If so, how?
- Physiological remedies: a focus on your body can help you feel more in control and it’s possible to relieve some physiological symptoms. Ideas include practicing slowing your breathing (e.g. in for 3, hold for 2, out for 3), running cool water over your wrists to cool your body temperature before the interview, taking a pause for a deep breath before you answer a question, and focusing on the feeling of the chair against your back (a good way of making sure your lungs have room for those deep breaths). Try noticing the pressure of your feet on the ground (literally making you feel a little more grounded).
- Cognitive remedies: write down the negative thoughts that plague you about/during interviews. If your best friend was thinking like this, what would you say to them? Write positive equivalents down to balance things out. Reading about unhelpful thinking styles can be useful here if your thoughts are fuelling anxiety. There are more tips on managing anxious situations from Counselling and Wellbeing. Discover the support available at student.reading.ac.uk/essentials
- Visualisation: Take 5 minutes and visualise how you would feel if the interview went well. What would it be like during the interview? How would you feel?How would you feel afterwards? Make the image colourful and detailed and positive. Top athletes visualise winning!
- Prepare well and practice: familiarity with your material and the experience of being interviewed can reduce anxiety. This means that every interview you do, you’ll become more familiar with the process and thus regardless of the outcome, that’s a valuable experience and an investment in your future.
Practicing for interviews
- Use the Interview Question Identifier tool on reading.ac.uk/careers/graduates-first
- Role play the interview with someone else to get used to speaking out loud.
- Film yourself answering a typical question (e.g. ‘why do you want the job?’) and watch it back – are you smiling? Audible? Staying on topic? Convincing?
- Book a career advice appointment to discuss your interview. View and book the latest availability on MyJobsOnline for a mock interview and feedback with a Careers Consultant.
Eye-contact and using non-verbal behaviour to come across well in interviews
For many people holding eye contact with another person can be extremely uncomfortable, but it is often felt to be essential if you want to show you are keen. With increasing awareness of eye contact difficulties, many recruiters are now far more understanding and will not hold it against an applicant if they can see this is uncomfortable for them. If you feel your struggles are due to a disability such as autism or anxiety you could say at the start: ‘Due to my disability, I do struggle with eye contact especially during stressful events such as interviews, so please could you be aware of this and also that when I’ve got to know people it isn’t so obvious.’
Other top tips on how to show them you’re keen include:
- If your interview is in-person, try to angle your chair as you sit down towards them so you are not sat directly opposite them
- When listening to questions, try to lean forwards a little and then lean back again when you answer their question
- Try focusing on the interviewer’s forehead when answering their question – this is particularly useful if you know that you tend to look up at the ceiling when thinking
- Fidgeting – don’t worry too much if you tend to fidget during interviews, most people do. If you think this could become distracting you could: fix your swivel chair if you’re interviewing online so you don’t rock side to side when you’re thinking; keep both feet on the floor if you tend to bounce your leg; have a lump of modelling clay to play with if a remote interview, as fidget toys can be noisy!
Don’t forget the careers team can offer advice on how to prepare for interview questions and we also offer mock interviews. Just book via My Jobs Online.