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Graduate Fair Spring

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Impressing at Interviews

It's unlikely you’ll know exactly what questions will be asked, but you can get a good idea if you understand the organisation and the role you’re going for.

Your motivation and understanding of the role

Some questions are likely to come up regardless of the type of job, for example ‘why do you want this job?’ and ‘why do you want to work for this organisation?’

Employers want to understand what motivates you and test how much you know about the job and organisation. What will the day to day tasks in the job be like? Who are their clients and competitors? What services or products do they offer? Think about the bigger picture and read around the sector trends and challenges.

Your skills

The job description lists exactly what the employer is looking for, so by reading it carefully you can make an informed guess that you will be asked questions relating to these areas. If the job description mentions planning, communication and team working skills, make sure you prepare examples to demonstrate these skills (also called competencies). 

The concept of these competency based questions is that past performance is the best predictor of future performance; interviewers are seeking evidence and examples of what you have already done. Examples could come from work experience, your course and extra-curricular activities.

Practical considerations

  • Try to relax and be the best version of yourself. Look smart and professional. If you’re not sure what to wear, it is safer to look a bit too formal.
  • First impressions are vital. The interview starts as soon as you enter the building, so be polite and professional from the start.
  • Pay attention! Answer the question they ask - not the one you wish they had asked.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Ask for a moment if you need time to think.
  • Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question.
  • Don’t give yes or no responses, but avoid giving unnecessary detail. The body language of the interviewer can often tell you whether you need to expand or bring that answer to a close.
  • Be truthful but positive. If you have to present negative information (e.g. failure or a weakness), say how you learned from it or overcame it.

What do good answers look like?

Here the recruiter is looking for your motivation and enthusiasm for the industry, company and role – i.e. what you will get out of it apart from the salary!

They will also be checking that you have a realistic understanding of the job and organisation. The best answers will show how the skills you enjoy using align with the nature of the job, and how your goals align with the organisation’s goals.

This is where you can demonstrate your knowledge of the organisation and its work. If you’re going for a teaching job, you might talk about how exam reforms will challenge teachers and impact that school specifically. Prepare for this type of question by reading industry news and using events and networking to find out what people working in the area think. 

You need to demonstrate self awareness, so be honest and avoid clichéd answers such as ‘I’m a perfectionist’.

Admit minor weaknesses such as being impatient or needing to be more assertive. Don’t confess something that would majorly impact your ability to do the job. It is important to demonstrate how you overcome your weakness, so turn it into a positive by explaining how you manage it.