Useful Job Interview Success Tips

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“Job Interview Tips That Will Help Land Your Dream Job”

Getting an interview is an achievement in itself. Only a small proportion of applicants are selected for interview (often about 10%) so you have already made a positive impression to have got to this stage! Many people have a fear of interviews, so here are some tips to help you make the most of this opportunity.

The purpose of the interview

Firstly, it is for the interviewer to see if you match the requirements of the job. These will naturally vary with different jobs but are likely to include:

Your personal qualities

How well you express yourself

Your motivation and enthusiasm

The recruiters will already have an indication of these from your initial application but now the interview will assess you in person.

It is also your chance to meet somebody from the organisation and assess them: are they offering what you want?

There aren’t any right or wrong answers to interview questions: how you come across is as important as what you say. Be yourself – if you have to put on a completely false act to get through the interview, is this really the right job for you?

Preparation for the interview

Preparation is the key ingredient for interview success. Careful planning and preparation will make sure that your interview goes smoothly and will also help to calm your nerves!

Research very carefully the career area for which you are applying.

Remind yourself why you are interested in this career, and this employer : enthusiasm is important.

Re-read your application form as if you were the interviewer. Try and anticipate the questions they will ask. Think about any awkward points that might be picked up on, and how you will handle them.

Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer.

Plan how you will get to the interview. Leave plenty of time in case of traffic jams or delayed trains.

Dress neatly and smartly.

Take a small, neat notepad and pen to write down important information the interviewer may tell you, and after the interview, the questions you were asked, so you can work out better answers to any you fluffed.

Research the employer – here are some things you may be able to find out from the employers web site or via Google.

What is the size of the organization?

How long has it been in business?

What are its products and/or services?

What sort of reputation or public image does it have?

Who are its main competitors?

Where is it based? Single or multiple locations? UK or multinational?

What is the organizational structure like?

 

Do you offer training, development and appraisal are offered?

Arriving for the interview

Try to arrive ten or fifteen minutes early. This doesn’t just give you the opportunity to visit the loo – time spent waiting in the reception area can be very useful if there are publications about the employer or their field of work to read. Be polite to everyone you meet, including receptionists, porters and security staff.

First impressions

These are very important – they set the tone for the rest of the interview. A survey of 273 managers by Monster.co.uk found that interviewers take on average less than 7 minutes to decide if a candidate is right for the role.

Factors influencing whether an interviewee is viewed as employable were

A candidate’s timekeeping (96% of managers agree this is influential)

Level of a candidate’s interview preparation (93%)

Ability to hold eye contact (82%)

Personal appearance (73%)

(two thirds of employers said they were put off by tattoos)

Quality of banter or small talk (60%)

Strength of handshake (55%)

The five most important factors interviewers considered when hiring were:

Work experience (36%)

First impressions of the candidate (24%)

Education (12%)

Professional qualifications (10%)

References (9%)

According to a survey of 1000 recruiters by Fly Research three quarters of interviws are lost within three minutes of entering the room. Research by Springbet t found that 85% of interviews were decided in the first two to three minutes:

25% of interviewers were put off by a weak handshake or lack of eye contact

24% by poor body language

18% by poor posture (e.g. slumped shoulders suggests lack of confidence) or presence

Only 20% waited until the middle of the interview to test a candidate on their knowledge of the industry and aptitude for the job

According to research selectors make snap judgments about your trustworthiness, attractiveness, likability, competitiveness and aggressiveness and spend the rest of the interview confirming or denying these opinions.

Shake hands firmly and warmly, but wait to be invited to sit down. Handshakes are also commonly given at the end of the interview. Handshakes originated as a way for knights to show that they didn’t have concealed weapons. A firm handshake is perceived to communicate sociability, friendliness and dominance: normally desirable qualities in candidates whereas weak handshakes may communicate, introversion, shyness and neuroticism. Also as the handshake is at the start of the interview, it can set a positive tone for the rest of the encounter. In practice interviews with 98 students , those who gave a firm handshake were more likely to be offered jobs. Women who gave a firm handshake were perceived more positively than men who gave a firm handshake.

Smile and keep up good eye contact with the interviewer.

You may be offered tea or coffee. If you feel this will help you to relax, then fine, but otherwise it is quite OK to refuse politely.

Try to relax – don’t perch on the edge of your chair, but don’t slouch either.

Speak clearly and not too fast. Give yourself a moment to think about your replies.

Don’t fidget and try to avoid meaningless phrases like “you know”, “I mean”, etc.

See our body language in interviews quiz for much more detail on this.

Interviews are, in general, poor predictors of job performance.

Schmidt and Hunter found that standard unstructured interviews only accounted for 8% of the difference in performance and productivity over chance when selecting candidates by this method. However structured interviews where candidates are all asked the same questions had a 24% selection accuracy: three times as effective as unstructured interviews.

The standard method of selecting candidates for jobs is to make list of key competencies required in the job and then to match these to the candidate’s application. However two US researchers ( Higgins & Judge ) followed 100 university students trying to get their first job. They analysed their CVs for qualifications and work experience and talked to the interviewers afterwards. Surprisingly the main factor in deciding which ones were selected was whether or not the candidate appeared to be a pleasant individual.

Research by Sears and Rowe has found that interviewers tend to favour candidates with personalities, attitudes, values, and backgrounds similar to their own.

The successful candidates had:

Smiled and made a lot of eye contact

Shown a genuine interest in the interviewer and given genuine compliments

Praised the company: find something you genuinely like about the organisation.

Asked interesting questions : for example “What is your personal experience of working for this company?”

Talked about subjects unrelated to job , but that interested the candidate and interviewer. See the panel to the right.

How to overcome interview nerves

Always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Winnie the Pooh

You are expected to be nervous! If you are not, it suggests that you may not want the job very much. Having said this the interviewer will expect your nerves to diminish after a few minutes.

Try to think that it’s not that important : there will be other interviews in future and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get this job.

Preparation is key – the more preparation you have done, such as working out answers to common interview questions, and doing careful research on the organisation and job, the more relaxed you will feel.

Some people swear by visualisation. The night before, visualise yourself undergoing the whole interview, step by step, and imagine everything going really well, you answering questions confidently, and ultimately getting the job.

Dress smartly but also comfortably as this will make you feel more confident.

Adopting power poses beforehand can make you feel more confident at interview. Expansive body postures such as standing upright with hands on your hips , leaning over a desk with hands firmly on the surface, or

steepling your hands can increase testosterone, decrease stress, and make you feel more in control, more confident and more assertive. Practicing power poses right before an interview can also increase performance. Research at Harvard Business School found that holding power poses for two minutes before interview led candidates to be evaluated more favourably and increased their chances of a job offer by 20%. So if you’re worried about a job interview or presentation, strike a power pose a few minutes beforehand (not of course at the interview!) but in the washroom, or before leaving home. See our body language quiz for more about this

Start the interview in a positive manner and it is likely to continue in the same way.

Don’t worry too much about making a mistake: nearly everyone fluffs one question and research suggests interviewers prefer candidates who come across as human to those who appear “plastic perfect”.

Professor Sian Bellock investigated why our performance reduces under pressure . “Getting people to write about their worries beforehand ….. can really help …… Writing about your worries almost “downloads” them so they are less likely to pop up and impact your performance.” . So the day before your interview spend some time writing down everything about it that you are worried about.

Mindfulness techniques can help greatly in reducing stress in interviews and similar situations and can also help with many other aspects of life by increased attention, focus and clarity.

Listen to empowering music beforehand. A research sudy suggests that this could help boost your confidence and feel more powerful and in control.

BBC article on how to cope with pressure www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17874450

Should you mention a weakness at the start or end of an interview?

If you have a potential difficulty (e.g. poor exam results or a disability), should you disclose this at the start or the end of the interview? According to research by Jones and Gordon of Duke University, candidates appeared more likeable if weaknesses were disclosed early in the interview and strengths towards the end.

Candidates who disclosed potential problems early on were thought by interviewers to have more integrity and strength of character and thus were not attempting to mislead them. Candidates who mentioned strengths (such as having been awarded a scholarship) later in the interview appeared more modest than those who blurted it out at the first opportunity, thus seeming boastful.

For more details on both the above pieces of research see the excellent “59 Seconds” by Prof. Richard Wiseman

Types of interview

Competency-based interviews

Many large graduate recruiters now used competency-based (also called “structured” or “situational”) interviews in which the questions are designed to help candidates give evidence of the personal qualities which are needed to perform well in the job. Usually, you will be expected to give an example of how you have demonstrated these qualities in the past in reply to questions such as:

Describe a situation where you had to…..

show leadership

make a difficult decision

work as a member of a team

shown initiative

change your plans at the last minute

overcome a difficult obstacle

refuse to compromise

work with others to solve a problem

Structured interviews can seem unfriendly and off-putting to candidates. They do not give opportunities for discussion – when you have answered one question as far as you feel able, the interviewer will move on to another topic. The advantages of these interviews is that they are standardised – important when many different interviewers are assessing a large number of graduate applicants – and that they are based upon the skills essential for the job.

 

“Traditional” interviews

These are more like a conversation – but a conversation with a purpose. It is up to you to show that you are the right person for the job, so bear this in mind when replying to the questions. These interviews will probably be based largely around your application form or CV . The interviewer may focus on areas of particular interest or relevance – such as vacation jobs or projects.

Interviewers often expect interviewees to talk much more than the candidates themselves expect to. So don’t be too brief in your answers – but don’t rabbit on for too long either. Watch the interviewer and pause from time to time – he or she will either encourage you to continue or will introduce another question.

It’s OK to pause briefly. A short gap to gather your thoughts shows thoughtfulness, assertiveness and self confidence.

Be polite, but don’t be afraid to enter into a discussion and to stand your ground. Some interviewers will deliberately challenge your replies in order to stimulate this kind of discussion.

How to handle questions:

Typical questions at traditional interviews:

Questions about yourself: your background and your future ambitions:

Tell me about yourself

Why did you choose the University of Kent/ your degree subject?

Explaining gaps on your application form – e.g. year out; unemployment; travel

How would the experiences you describe be useful in this company?

What are your main strengths and weaknesses?

What other jobs/careers are you applying for?

Where do you see yourself in five years time? (This is quite a common question: read the employer’s brochure to get an idea of the normal pace of graduate career development. Be ambitious but realistic)

Tell me about your vacation work/involvement with student societies/sporting activities

Questions about your knowledge of the employer, or career area:

Why do you want to work for us?

Why have you chosen to apply for this job function?

Who do you think are, or will be, our main competitors?

What do you think makes you suitable for this job?

 

Closed questions

These are questions which can normally be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. If you are asked a closed question open it up, as in the following example:

Interviewer: “So you’re studying History at the University of Kent?”

Interviewee: “Yes, I’ve found it a very interesting course because …”

Give answers which are relevant and illustrated with examples:

Interviewer: “This is a job with a very heavy workload. Do you think you could cope with that?”

Interviewee: “Well, during my final year I’ve had a great deal of academic work and I’ve

also been working three nights a week at my bar job and kept up my involvement with the squash club. All that has meant that I’ve had to be very organised but I’ve never missed an evening’s work or an essay deadline and I reached the semi-final of the squash tournament too!”

Hypothetical questions

Some interviewers like to pose hypothetical questions, or questions that you could not be expected to have anticipated. These questions are used precisely because it’s impossible to work out your answer before the interview, thus it tests your ability to think quickly, reason logically, and produce practical solutions.

You may be given an example of a situation that might arise in your work, and asked what you would do about it:

“How would you deal with a staff member caught stealing a packet of biscuits from the warehouse?”

“How would you deal with an irate customer?”

“Your manager goes ill for a week and leaves you in charge. You hear staff complaining about the way he runs things, and how bored they are with their job – what do you do?”

“The sales of Woofermeat are falling – what would you do to revive them?”

Sometimes questions may be about non-work situations:

“You are a shepherd in the Scottish Highlands, a dam is about to burst due to heavy rain, you come across the dam keeper with a broken leg, obtained as he was trying to reach the village below the dam to warn them of the danger. You have your flock of sheep to get in from the inclement weather. What would you do?”!

“How would you solve London’s traffic problems?”

Don’t panic! Don’t try to blurt out your answer. Take a few seconds to think – this shows confidence and assertiveness rather than weakness.

Don’t try to form your whole answer immediately – just try to say one or two sensible things first – in the example above, you could say that first you would examine the dam keeper’s leg to see how bad the injury was. This gives you time to think further.

There may be many possible solutions to the problem. The interviewer won’t be expecting a perfect answer. What you actually say in answer doesn’t matter, so long as it sounds reasonable, confident and well-thought-out and you show awareness of the issues involved.

See our page on types of interview questions

How many interviewers will there be?

One-to-one interviews are the most common. In this situation your interviewer is most likely to be somebody from the Personnel department but, especially in a smaller company, may be from the area of work for which you are applying.

Two-to-one interviews may involve both a Personnel and a line manager. This can be more tricky for the interviewee as the questions seem to come faster, giving you less time to collect your thoughts between different topics. Don’t get flustered.

Panel interviews could involve a panel of half-a-dozen or so interviewers. They are relatively rare but are most likely to be found in the public sector. Direct your attention to whoever is speaking: when answering questions, begin by directing your answer to the person who asked the question, but try and include the panel as a whole.

Questions you can ask

At the end of the interview, it is likely that you will be given the chance to put your own questions to the interviewer.

Keep them brief: there may be other interviewees waiting.

Ask about the work itself, training and career development: not about holidays, pensions, and season ticket loans.

Prepare some questions in advance: it is OK to write these down and to refer to your notes to remind yourself of what you wanted to ask.

It often happens that, during the interview, all the points that you had noted down to ask about will be covered before you get to this stage. In this situation, you can respond as follows:

Interviewer: Well, that seems to have covered everything: is there anything you would like to ask me?

Interviewee: Thank you: I’d made a note to ask about your appraisal system and the study arrangements for professional exams, but we went over those earlier and I really feel you’ve covered everything that I need to know at this moment. The interview is a two-way process.

You are choosing the organisation

as much as they are choosing you, so ask questions!

You can also use this opportunity to tell the interviewer anything about yourself that they have not raised during the interview but which you feel is important to your application.

Don’t feel you have to wait until this point to ask questions – if the chance to ask a question seems to arise naturally in the course of the interview, take it! Remember that a traditional interview is a conversation – with a purpose.

Examples of questions you can ask the interviewer

These are just a few ideas – you should certainly not attempt to ask them all and indeed it’s best to formulate your own questions tailored to your circumstances and the job you are being interviewed for! Make sure you have researched the employer carefully, so that you are not asking for information which you should be expected to know already.

Is there a fixed period of training for graduates?

I see it is possible to switch job functions – how often does this happen?

Do you send your managers on external training courses?

Where would I be based – is this job function located only in …?

How easy is it for new graduates to find accommodation in this area?

How often is a graduate’s performance appraised?

What is a typical career path in this job function?

Can you give me more details of your training programme?

Will I be working in a team? If so, what is the make-up of these teams?

What is the turnover of graduates in this company?

How much discretion do you give graduate trainees to make their own decisions?

When would I be expected to achieve in my first few months with you?

What drives results for the company?

What are the travel/mobility requirements of this job?

Talk about the key attributes of your best graduates?

How would you see this company developing over the next five years?

How would you describe the atmosphere in this company?

What is your personal experience of working for this organisation?

What are the possibilities of using my languages?

How do you plan to deal with… (particular problem or situation affecting the company)?

Following up

After the interview, jot down some notes of the questions asked and anywhere that you felt you could have responded better. You may want to work on these points before your next interview.

Send a thank-you note. Jessica Liebman wrote in a blog that if she doesn’t get a thank-you note after interviewing a candidate: “I assume you don’t want the job; I think you’re disorganized and forgot to follow up…I’ll forget about you.” . See this Wall Stret Journal article for more about thank you notes

The interviewer will probably let you know when you can expect to hear the result of your interview. This may be within a couple of days … or weeks.

Not every interview will result in an immediate job offer: the next stage may be a second interview or selection centre.

If you are turned down for the job, you may pick up some useful tips to improve your performance next time by telephoning your interviewer to ask politely what – if anything – you did wrong. Not all interviewers are willing to provide this feedback but it’s worth a try. Sometimes the information you get will be vague and basic: often along the lines that you were a good candidate but others were slightly better.

You can console yourself that at least you were selected for interview. Less than one in five of applicants are typically interviewed, so you were probably in the top 20 percent

 

What are the ten most common questions asked at graduate interviews?

The questions asked at graduate selection interviews by a variety of employers and for a range of jobs. Whereas we doubt if this survey is very reliable it does give an idea of the key questions to watch out for, and to prepare answers to, at interview.

You can find an excellent inforgraphic of this page produced by Headway Recruitment here

Of course questions were sometimes asked in slightly different formats. For example,”Why do you want this job?” was sometimes phrased “Why do you want to be an accountant/social worker/journalist?”

  1. Why do you want this job?

One of the most predictable questions and very important! You need to demonstrate that you have researched the employer and tie your knowledge of them into the skills and interests that led you to apply. For example, an interviewee with a small public relations agency might say:

“I’m always ready to take on responsibility and feel this will come more quickly with a firm of this size. A small firm also gives the chance to build closer working relationships with clients and colleagues and I’ve found through my past work experience that this makes an organisation more effective as well as more satisfying to work in.”

Try to find some specific feature on which the employer prides themselves: their training, their client base, their individuality, their public image, etc. This may not always be possible with very small organisations but you may be able to pick up something of this nature from the interviewer.

See our Commercial Awareness page for more help with this

  1. Have you got any questions?

At the end of the interview, it is likely that you will be given the chance to put your own questions to the interviewer.

Keep them brief: there may be other interviewees waiting.

Ask about the work itself, training and career development: not about holidays, pensions, and season ticket loans!

Prepare some questions in advance: it is OK to write these down and to refer to your notes to remind yourself of what you wanted to ask.

It often happens that, during the interview, all the points that you had noted down to ask about will be covered before you get to this stage. In this situation, you can respond as follows:

Interviewer: Well, that seems to have covered everything: is there anything you would like to ask me?

Interviewee: Thank you: I’d made a note to ask about your appraisal system and the study arrangements for professional exams, but we went over those earlier and I really feel you’ve covered everything that I need to know at this moment.

You can also use this opportunity to tell the interviewer anything about yourself that they have not raised during the interview but which you feel is important to your application:

Don’t feel you have to wait until this point to ask questions – if the chance to ask a question seems to arise naturally in the course of the interview, take it! Remember that a traditional interview is a conversation – with a purpose.

These are just a few ideas – you should certainly not attempt to ask them all and indeed it’s best to formulate your own questions tailored to your circumstances and the job you are being interviewed for! Make sure you have researched the employer carefully, so that you are not asking for information which you should be expected to know already.

Is there a fixed period of training for graduates?

I see it is possible to switch job functions – how often does this happen?

Do you send your managers on external training courses?

Where would I be based – is this job function located only in …?

How easy is it for new graduates to find accommodation in this area?

How often is a graduate’s performance appraised?

What is a typical career path in this job function?

Can you give me more details of your training programme?

Will I be working in a team? If so, what is the make-up of these teams?

How would you see this company developing over the next five years?

How would you describe the atmosphere in this company?

What is your personal experience of working for this organisation?

  1. Describe a situation in which you led a team.

This is an example of a competency-based question . Many graduate positions involve people management, where you will be expected to plan , organise and guide the work of others as well as motivating them to complete tasks. The interviewer needs to assess how well you relate to other people, what role you take in a group and whether you are able to focus on goals and targets.

Outline the situation, your role and the task of the group overall. Describe any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Say what the result was and what you learned from it. Examples could include putting on a drama or music production; a group project at university; a business game or Young Enterprise scheme or being team leader in a fast-food restaurant.

This, and other skills which the employer considers essential for effective performance in the job, should have been highlighted in the job description or graduate brochure – so always be prepared to give examples of situations where you have demonstrated these qualities! While your example should indicate the nature of the team and the task, you need to focus on your own role as leader and on the personal qualities that led you to take on/be nominated for this role and which helped you to succeed in it. Leadership involves many skills: planning , decision-making , persuading , motivating, listening , co-ordinating – but not dictating!

 

  1. Describe a situation where you worked in a team

Another competency-based question . Most jobs will involve a degree of teamwork. The interviewer needs to assess how well you relate other people, what role you take in a group and whether you are able to focus on goals and targets.

Outline the situation, your particular role and the task of the group overall. Describe any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Say what the result was and what you learned from it.

Examples could include putting on a drama or music production; a group project at university; a business game or “Young Enterprise” scheme or working in a fast-food restaurant.

See our Teamworking page for more help with this

  1. What do you expect to be doing in 5 years time?

Try to avoid vague or general answers such as “I would hope to grow with the responsibility I am offered and to develop my

skills as far as I am able” or “I would expect to be in a management role by then” .

Be specific, but flexible: recruiters want to know you know what you want. Hiring, training and developing staff costs a lot of money, something like £7,000 to recruit a new graduate, so they want to make sure that you are committed to staying with the organisation. “I’d like to gradually take more and more responsibility and perhaps by then be a brand manager for a major product.”

Talk about your interest in the industry in which the company with operates. Emphasise the value you can bring to the organisation and what you can do for it.

You need to show that you are ambitious but also your goals must be realistic – saying you expect to be a senior manager after two years is unlikely to go down well! Use the employer’s website or LinkedIn profiles to gain an idea of the career paths followed by past graduates. You may be able to supplement this by showing your knowledge of professional bodies and the steps you will need to take to gain their qualifications, e.g. in areas such as marketing or HR.

This question allows you to demonstrate that you have done your research on the career routes open to you within the organisation and so you should try to be more specific – not necessarily tying yourself down to a particular route, but showing that you have at least a general idea of where you want to go.

Talk about responsibilities you would like to have and expected achievements rather than how much you would expect to be earning in five year time as this will make an employer think you’re more interested in the material benefits than the career itself. Talk about your career development: skills you’d like to acquire or you’d like to be using, and professional qualifications you’d like to get.

 

  1. What are your weaknesses?

The classic answer here is to state a strength which is disguised as a weakness, such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I push myself too hard”. This approach has been used so often that, even if these answers really are true they sound clichéd. Also, interviewers will know this trick . If you feel they really apply to you, give examples: you could say that your attention to detail and perfectionism make you very single-minded when at work, often blotting out others in your need to get the task done.

A better strategy, is to choose a weakness that you have worked on to improve and describe what action you are taking to remedy the weakness. For example: “I’m not a very self-confident person and used to find it very difficult to talk to people I didn’t know well, but my Saturday job in the local library meant that I had to help people with all kinds of queries and that helped me a lot. Now I’m perfectly happy talking to anybody on a one-to-one basis and I’ve joined the debating society this year to give me experience of speaking in front of an audience.”

Don’t deny that you have any weaknesses – everyone has weaknesses and if you refuse to admit to them the interviewer will mark you down as arrogant, untruthful or lacking in self-awareness

This question may be phrased in other ways, such as “How would your worst enemy describe you?”

  1. Who else have you applied to/got interviews with?

You are being asked to demonstrate the consistency of your career aims as well as your interest in the job for which you are being interviewed. So if you have applied to one large accountancy firm it is reasonable to assume you will be applying to them all.

What you can certainly say in your favour, however, is that the present employer is your first choice. You may even answer the question by explaining you have yet to apply to any other organisations for this very reason. Perhaps your application to the other firms is imminent, depending on the stage you are at in the recruitment cycle.

Give examples that are:

Relevant – related to the business you are presently being interviewed for

Prestigious. They will reflect well on the firm interviewing you

Consistent . Not from lots of different job areas or employment groups of less interest to you than the present opportunity

Successful so far. Do not list those firms who have rejected you.

See our Commercial Awareness page for more help with this

  1. Why did you choose your university and what factors influenced your choice?

If you had, in fact, no real choice in where you went to University – e.g. if you had to study close to home for financial or family reasons – you can talk about the more general issues you had to consider in coming to University and perhaps lead the question round to your choice of course rather than institution.

Your actual answer is less important than the evidence of

decision-making , planning and logical reasoning skills that it should demonstrate. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate these key skills.

  1. What are your strengths?

This allows you to put across your “Unique Selling Points” – three or four of your key strengths . Try to back these points up with examples of where you have had to use them.

Consider the requirements of the job and compare these with all your own attributes – your personality , skills, abilities or experience. Where they match you should consider these to be your major strengths. The employer certainly will.

For example, team work , interpersonal skills, creative problem solving , dependability, reliability, originality , leadership etc., could all be cited as strengths. Work out which is most important for the particular job in question and make sure you illustrate your answer with examples from as many parts of your experience, not just university, as you can.

This question may be phrased in other ways, such as “Tell me about yourself” or “How would a friend describe you?”

  1. What has been your greatest achievement?

To say that your greatest achievement was getting to University, or getting your degree, will do nothing to distinguish you from all the other candidates . Unless you have had to contend with exceptional difficulties to gain your academic qualifications – such as illness or major family problems – try to say something different that will make you stand out.

This doesn’t have to be an Olympic medal or an act of heroism. Ideally, it should give evidence of skills relevant to the job such as

communication, initiative , teamwork ,

organising or determination:

Duke of Edinburgh’s gold award – especially the expedition and community service parts

Organising a sports or fund-raising event

“Overcoming my fear of heights and learning to abseil”

“Learning enough Spanish in three months to make myself understood when I traveled around Mexico”

Training for and completing a marathon .. or even a 5 Kilometre race

Other common questions (in rough order of popularity) were:

Why do you want to join our organisation?

What would you do if …….. happened? ( hypothetical questions )

Describe a situation in which you influenced or motivated people.

What other careers have you considered/applied for?

Why did you choose your degree subject?

Describe yourself (in one word).

Are you prepared to be mobile?

Explain a situation in which you used initiative.

Talk about a situation in which you solved a problem .

Describe a situation in which you took responsibility.

What are your hobbies?

What was your biggest setback? (How do you deal with adversity?)

Tell me about your project

Describe a situation where you had to plan or organise something.

What computing skills do you have?

What is your usual role in a team?

Describe a situation where you had a difficult decision to make.