An interview is a formal discussion between you and the recruiter, in which the recruiter asks questions and you are given the opportunity to prove your suitability for the post.
What to expect
An interview may be one-to-one or with a panel of people, usually at an office of the organisation, but they may also be conducted by telephone or Skype. If you’ve been invited to an interview, you can safely assume that, on the basis of your application, the employer considers you to have the potential to do the advertised job and they are considering you as a prospective employee.
The interview is your opportunity to convince the employer in person that you are the best candidate, so make the most of it by planning and preparing. Don’t assume that they will remember your application, CV or covering letter – they may be doing multiple interviews, so try and draw attention to the strong points of your application and CV - you don’t necessarily have to provide fresh examples.
Consider the employer
You should show in your interview that you know who you are applying to work with. Read the company’s website, their annual report if available and follow the organisation on LinkedIn and Twitter. A good way of organising your research is a SWOT analysis of the company (Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats) as in the example, right.
You may find it helpful to create a table to help you remember information. Find out the company’s size, products or services, turnover, location, organisational structure, competitors and position in the industry / service as a whole.
TARGETjobs have created a useful checklist of questions to aid your research into an organisation.
After you have researched the employer, think about how you fit in with what you have read. What personal and technical skills, knowledge, qualities, values and experience can you offer which fit in? Do the aims and ethos of the company fit in with your own? Are there varied locations requiring geographical mobility? Will the size or location of the employer affect promotion prospects?
Think of ways in which you could show how your skills and experience will meet the needs of the job and enhance the workforce of the particular employer.
Consider the sector
An employer will want to know that you understand their industry, so read related journals, quality newspapers, company reports and watch business-related TV programmes. Check for videos about the industry and company on YouTube and join industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Look at new developments and find out how the industry is changing. Try to formulate your own opinions on these issues. See more on our commercial awareness webpage.
When you feel you understand the sector, use this knowledge to think about what you could do for the employer, or what experience you possess which could make their business or service more effective.
Consider the job
You should research the job area in general:
- Read up on the general activities and skills requirements the role entails on the Prospects website.
- Speak to friends and family in similar roles and become familiar with the general tasks and terminology of the role or industry.
- Can you use your LinkedIn contacts for advice?
- Re-read the job description, person specification and the list of the required competencies.
You can use these to predict the kind of questions you may be asked (see below)...
Anticipating the questions
- Think about what personal qualities, skills, experience and knowledge are required. What levels of commitment, motivation and initiative are needed? How can you demonstrate these to an employer?
- Write out an example answer using the STAR technique for every point on the person specification.
- Book a mock interview with a career consultant at Career and Employability Services. You could also rehearse your answers out loud with a friend, it’s really useful to practise and get feedback prior to the day.
- The Interview Simulator on Build My Career has a range of realistic interview questions with the option to record and playback your answers.
- Consider the interviewer – what would you ask a candidate if you were the recruiter, and what answers would you like to hear?
- See our types of questions and examples below.
Improve your interview technique
- Build your confidence: If you are going to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job, first you’ll need to convince yourself. Practising delivering your answers and having a good knowledge of the job, industry and company will help to give you confidence so that you can come across positively.
- Be ready for probing questions: If you are conscious of inconsistencies, failures or changes of direction in your life, prepare yourself to respond to questions about them. Think about how you have learnt and developed from the experiences and make sure to emphasise your positive outcomes.
- Be prepared to talk about your application: You may be asked about the details in your CV, covering letter or application form. Interviewers may look closely at the evidence you have provided in your written application before the interview and want to explore your background in greater depth. Refresh yourself on the information you have provided the employer, and be prepared to elaborate on your examples - they may not look at your application again, but either way it will benefit you to know the details well.
- Share your thoughts on the job, the employer and the sector: If you have done your research this should come fairly naturally to you. Speak honestly about your understanding of the job and how your research into the sector has led you to the conclusion that you should work in this area.
- Formulate answers which showcase what you can offer: One technique is to write down a list of five points which will showcase your skills to the employer. Try to get these points across in the interview. Remember, if you don’t tell them what you have done and achieved, they won’t know.
Practical preparation for the day of the interview
Before the interview
Check the following to make sure you are organised, relaxed and have everything you need.
Prepare yourself: Get a good night’s sleep the night before your interview. Eat breakfast on the morning of your interview and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Travel arrangements: Check the venue and travel arrangements to make absolutely certain you will arrive on time. If you are in any doubt where the interview will take place, telephone the company and ask. Allow time for delays when getting there – nothing is more likely to jeopardise an interview than arriving late. It’s better to be 30 minutes early than three minutes late.
What to take: The email or letter inviting you to interview, location map, a copy of your CV / application form, notes on key points you want to make, and questions you would like to ask. Make sure you bring all the documentation requested, such as your educational qualifications, passport or birth certificate - you may be turned away if you do not have them. If you have a portfolio of your work, take it with you. Offer it if it seems appropriate (perhaps at the end of the interview), but don’t force it on your interviewer(s). Take some cash in case you need a taxi (or have any other unforeseen emergency) and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.
Clothing: Plan what you will wear. At an interview your appearance needs to be smart but at the same time it is important for you to be comfortable. Don’t underestimate the importance of clean shoes, well ironed clothes, smart haircut and tidy appearance.
Arriving at the interview
The impression you create in the first 60 seconds can be very important in creating the right rapport between you and the interviewer(s):
- Be courteous and friendly towards everyone you meet – anyone may be assessing you, including the receptionist.
- Remember to switch your phone off as soon as you arrive at the interview.
- If you are a smoker, make sure you have mints or spray to remove the tobacco smell long before you enter the building – it lingers and can be off-putting.
- Make an effort to present a confident appearance and greet the interviewer(s) with a firm handshake.
- Wait to be seated – don’t just assume one of the chairs is yours.
- Don’t worry if you feel nervous or apprehensive before the interview. Remember that interviewers are not expecting you to be perfect. They will be looking at your future potential, and whether you have the ability, knowledge and motivation to fit into their organisation and make a valid contribution.
- Above all, try to stay positive and remember that any experiences you have as part of the recruitment process are an opportunity for you to learn and develop.
Meeting the interviewers
Your body language, including non-verbal signals such as your gestures and posture, your tone of voice, and the type of words you use all affect the way the interviewer will view you. Here’s how to create a good impression through your body language:
- Maintain eye contact to convey listening, interest and If it’s a panel interview, look (mainly) at the interviewer who is asking the question but also make sure you glance at or include the others on the panel when responding. Don’t stare at your interviewer but make eye contact naturally, as you would in a discussion.
- Smile: smiling naturally and frequently indicates a good rapport with the interviewer and indicates that you are confident and relaxed and potentially can fit into the team.
- Good posture: sit well back and comfortably in the chair. Relax (but be careful not to slouch) with your feet firmly on the ground.
- Control your gestures: no movement at all is not natural and may be considered as passive and rigid behaviour. However, if you have the tendency to fling your arms around, clasp them on your lap.
There are four fundamental areas which employers usually concentrate on. They can ask any number of different questions to get this information – each question may be asked using different words, but every question however it is phrased, is just a variation of one of the areas below:
- Why have you applied to this organisation / for this job?
- What can you do for us? (What skills, knowledge, experience and intellectual ability can you offer?)
- What kind of a person are you? (What are your attitudes, values, motivation levels? Do you have the ability to get on with others, work in a team?)
- What distinguishes you from all other applicants?
The types of questions you will be asked are likely be in the following areas (see more examples below):
- Your knowledge of the job vacancy and the organisation, e.g. What attracts you to our organisation? Who do you think are our main competitors?
- Your education, qualifications, interests and work experience: Why did you choose the University of Bradford and why this course? What have you learned from your past work experience?
- Your attitudes, values, motivation, personal qualities and interpersonal skills: e.g. Why did you apply for the job? What skills / qualities do you think make you suitable for the job?
- Hypothetical / situational questions: “What would you do if…? Best describe these types of questions. These are used to test your overall style and approach and can be asked at any time during the interview. From the interviewer(s) point of view, these types of questions are best used when they want to test someone’s specific knowledge, experience or judgement.
- Technical/specialist questions: If you have applied for a job or a course which requires specific technical / specialist knowledge (e.g. engineering, pharmacy, science or IT), it is likely that at some stage in the selection process you will be asked technical questions or have a separate interview to test your knowledge. Examples : What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our industry at the moment? What do you think about the new drug on the market?
Answering questions effectively - 10 top tips
- Listen carefully, but don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or repetition if you don’t understand the question.
- Take your time - it’s perfectly acceptable to pause for a moment while you consider the best response.
- Stick to the point - try and keep the question in mind and avoid answers which are too long, repetitive or offer irrelevant information.
- If you’re not sure if you’ve answered a question fully, you can ask the interviewer “Would you like me to continue…?”
- Answer questions positively - avoid negative phrases such as “I just…”, “I had to...” or “I only…” when talking about your experiences.
- Remember to talk about what YOU did - if it was a team task don’t say “we did...” concentrate on your role within the team and how your actions affected the outcome.
- Don’t tell lies – interviewers can often spot them and it will count against you if you get found out.
- If you feel you have been talking too much or too little, or if you feel you have been too familiar, don’t be afraid to adjust your style for the remaining questions.
- Don’t be afraid to come back to previous questions asked if you feel you haven’t been able to get some things across - the end of the interview is a good time to do this.
- Practise the STAR technique: a useful technique for answering interview questions:
- S = Situation (20% of your answer)
- T = Task (10% of your answer)
- A = Action (50% of your answer)
- R = Result (20% of your answer)
- Structuring your answers in this way will give your answers a logical format and allow the employers to identify your skills clearly. It may not be suitable for all answers, but particularly in competency-based interviews you may find this technique helpful. It will help you to remember to always put a positive spin on information that you offer, and to focus on yourself throughout your answer. See more details on our applications pages.
Questions relating to your education, qualifications, interests and work experience:
- Why did you choose the University of Bradford and why this course?
- What do you enjoy most / least about your work placement and why?
- What do you think you have gained from your time at The University of Bradford?
- Tell me about your final year project / dissertation / thesis.
- What do you regard as your greatest personal achievement?
- Tell me about your interests outside of your academic studies.
Questions aimed at finding out more about you (attitudes, values, motivation, personal qualities and interpersonal skills):
- What do you think are your particular strengths? What are your areas for development?
- What skills / qualities do you think make you suitable for the job?
- What do you look for in a job?
- What other qualifications are you considering?
- Are you willing to travel for the role?
- Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Technical / specialist questions
- Tell me about your thesis / dissertation / final year project.
- Describe your experience in database design.
- What experience have you had of analysing new systems?
- How would you improve our store layout?
- What do you think about the new drug on the market?
- What do you think are the difficulties and key issues facing our industry?
- How would you define marketing, human resources, etc?
- What do you understand by the term ‘management’?
- What do you think are the qualities needed to be an effective civil engineer, social worker, teacher, business analyst, etc?
- What would you do if you were the Managing Director of this company?
- Our ‘After Sales Service Department’ has been receiving an increasing number of complaints from customers recently. If you were the leader of the team, what would you do?
- If you found someone unconscious on the pavement, what would you do?
- An important client has indicated that you should sell his shares when they reached a particular price but that you should check with him first. You were unable to contact him despite trying for the last few days, what would you do?
- A supplier has just informed you that he cannot deliver an essential product you ordered tomorrow – you were counting on this delivery as it will affect production. What would you do?
These questions revolve around self-awareness. Everybody has weaknesses and employers want to know that you are aware of yours and that you are doing something to improve them.
- What would you say are your weaknesses and what steps have you taken to address these?
- What kind of situation would make you frustrated and give up on the tasks you have been doing?
- You seem to have left your job search until after completing your degree. Is this a deliberate choice?
- You took four years to complete your degree course rather than three. Can you tell me why?
- Give an example of when you have had to explain something to someone. How did you ensure they understood you?
- Tell me about a time when you had to influence someone to your point of view.
- Can you give an example of when you have provided good customer service?
- Describe a situation where you have planned and organised an event, project or activity, which involved a fixed deadline. How successful was the result?
- What aspects of your work have involved working with others?
See more about answering competency-based questions on our applications page.
- What are you good at?
- What comes easily to you?
- Describe a successful day you have had.
- Have you ever built a relationship with someone who doesn’t share common goals with you?
- Which do you like more – meeting new people or completing a task?
Stress interview questions
- What makes you think you could do this job?
- How do you feel this interview is going?
- How would you handle undeserved criticism from a superior?
- You didn’t answer that question well. Try again.
- How would you change the design of a clock?
- What kind of biscuit would you be?
- How would you describe yourself in one word?
- Tell me about when you were a kid. Who did you want to be?
- What didn’t you get a chance to include on your CV or application?
- What is the last thing you’ve learned on the job?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?
The types of interview
- An interview conducted by one person, although there may be another person present to take notes.
- You might undergo several such interviews following each other, where different interviewers could assess your specialist skills if relevant, or the interviews could reflect different aspects of the job, including representatives from different departments.
- This type of interview is generally conducted at assessment centres (as there will be other activities for them to get assessments of one candidate), or as a first stage interview.
- Here you are questioned by a panel, generally made up of three to five people.
- There is usually a chairperson to co-ordinate the questions, a specialist who knows about the job in detail and a HR specialist.
- Such interviews are popular in the public sector. They can be daunting but remember that every candidate has to go through the same process – try to treat them in the same way as you would a 1:1 situation.
- In this situation, initially answer questions directly to the person who asks the question but also try to include everyone with appropriate eye contact as you give your answer.
- Many employers use this form of interview to check whether you have the competencies they are looking for (e.g. teamwork, communication, problem solving, leadership, planning and organising, etc.) and to ensure a more objective assessment of candidates. The reason for asking competency based questions is that your past performance and behaviour tend to be the best predictors of future success in your chosen job.
- You can use examples from your work experience, studies or social and sporting activities.
- You will be marked on a set scale, according to how well you have demonstrated you have the competencies required.
- See some example competency questions in example questions above.
- Some recruiters are now using strength- based interviews which focus on what you enjoy doing and are passionate about. In this type of interview, employers are looking for positivity, enthusiasm and authenticity as well as a general suitability for the role.
- Rather than asking open questions, strength-based questions are often shorter and closed, so that the interviewers get immediate response. Various signals such tone of voice and body language will be used to identify your enthusiasm, motivation and pride in what you have been doing and your achievements.
- The benefit to an organisation is that this style of interview identifies candidates who will enjoy the role more, and perform better as a result.
- See some example strength-based questions in example questions above.
- This controversial style of interview is sometimes used in industries with fast-paced, pressurised roles such as investment banking and high-level customer service.
- The interviews are designed to make you uncomfortable and put you on the spot to test your ability to respond positively to stressful situations.
- The interviewers can be aggressive and even rude, but don’t respond in a similar manner - they are looking for calm and reasoned responses even when the questions are unreasonable or confusing. If faced with this situation, take your time and be confident in your answers. Remember that this is a technique to test your competency and is not an attack on you personally.
- Several interviews in turn, with a different interviewer each time.
Usually, each interviewer asks questions to test different sets of competencies. However, you may find yourself answering the same questions over and over. If this does happen, make sure you answer each one as fully as the time before. [Also see Multiple Mini Interviews below]
- Occasionally (but very rarely), you may be interviewed by a panel together with other candidates (commonly used in some teaching / PGCE interviews).
- The same principle applies as for other interviews, though you will need to ensure that you allow other candidates to respond to questions put forward to them i.e. do not compete against the other candidates.
Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)
- Used to select candidates in regulated professions, particularly for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, occupational therapy, etc.
- In this format, each applicant attends numerous short interviews (‘stations’), each of which is conducted by different evaluators. Some of the short interviews may involve role-play where you are directed to act a part in a given situation. Other stations may provide some information on a topic and after receiving a prompt, you are given questions to answer.
- This allows recruiters to gain a variety of opinions on a candidate, and test on a wide range of topics and skill sets, from logical thinking to cultural sensitivity.
- An increasing number of organisations are using telephone interviews as their first stage of selection. These can range from a basic check to see whether you match the selection criteria, to a very probing interview.
- Generally you will be speaking to a person who will ask you questions in the same style as a face to face interview, but this could be either pre-arranged or unannounced. If a company rings you to conduct a telephone interview without having made an appointment, politely say "Thank you for calling, do you mind waiting for a minute while I close the door/turn off the radio/take the phone to a quieter room?" This will give you a little time to compose yourself. If it really is a bad time, offer to call back, and arrange a date and time that is convenient. It is important that you are in the right frame of mind to be interviewed.
Video / webcam interviews
- Increasingly, companies are using live video chat such as Skype to conduct interviews. A lot of the same advice applies to telephone interviews and video interviews, so also read the advice above and remember to take the opportunity as seriously as a face-to-face interview.
Automated video interviews
- In an automated video interview, companies invite candidates to record their answers to a series of questions by a set deadline. You’ll need to log on to an automated web-based system and read and record their answers, or upload their own video. As it’s not live, you don’t have to be online the same time as the interviewer.
For telephone interviews
- Charge your phone in advance.
- Be ready 10 minutes before the interview time. Get into the ‘interview mentality’. Have your CV / application form and a checklist of the skills or qualities the employer requires in front of you so you can clearly focus on what they want.
- Make sure your environment is free from interruptions - switch off all devices you’re not using to avoid distractions. If you live with others or you’re in a shared space let everyone know that you are expecting an important call.
- Think of the tone and volume of your voice – be as enthusiastic as possible, because the interviewer only has your voice to go on and remember, a smile can be ‘heard’ down the line.
- Answer the telephone confidently and professionally – answering with “Who dis?”, “What did you say your name was?” or “Which company are you from?” is not going to get you off to a good start. Remember, first impressions count.
- Think of your posture. The way you sit can help you relax, breathe properly and project your voice and yourself more effectively. Imagine the posture you would have for a face-to-face interview. Some people stand up and dress as they would do for a face-to-face interview as this gives them confidence.
- Have a glass of water handy in case you dry up.
For video interviews
- Make sure your face is clearly visible - position yourself in a brightly lit area with the light in front of you.
- A plain room is best with no distractions in the background.
- Dress smartly, and don’t forget to wear smart trousers or skirt in case you have to get up during the interview.
- Arrange a test call with a friend in advance to make sure you’re comfortable with the set up and everything is working correctly.
- Minimise the video image of yourself (so that you are not tempted to watch yourself).
- Confirm that the employer can see and hear you clearly.
- The employer expects eye contact as anything else can be a distraction, so look in the camera when you are speaking.
- Avoid speaking over anyone. A slight delay is possible on video calls, so it’s important to allow people to finish speaking, otherwise you risk missing information.
Additional interview tasks
Increasingly, interviews are conducted together with other activities, and you should be informed in advance if this is the case. They could consist of one or a combination of the following:
- Presentation – Normally at the beginning of the interview, e.g. a 10-15 minutes presentation with a further 10–20 minutes question-and-answer session with the interview panel. You may want to consider making copies of the PowerPoint presentation as handouts for the interviewer(s).
- Tests/Tasks – these are generally relevant to the role you are applying for, such as a keyboard exercise to test your competency on manipulating data using Microsoft Office Excel or Access or, if your role involves finance / calculations, you might have to sit a numerical test.
- Psychometric Tests (Aptitude / Situational Judgement / Personality) – see our information on psychometric (selection) tests.
- Role Plays – often based on the organisation and the type of work you have applied for. Common for roles involving sales and customer services where you could be asked to “sell a product” to or “advise a customer” on the products or services available.
The end of the interview
At the end of the interview you will usually be asked: “Are there any questions you would like to ask?”. Use this opportunity to show that you have a genuine interest in the role and the organisation and have done some thinking about what you need to know. Research the company and have two or three questions prepared, any more could be seen as too many. This is your opportunity to impress once again as the interviewer(s) will see that you are thinking carefully about the role.
DO ask about:
- The job, organisation, department, training and opportunities for progression (see below for examples)
- Information you need which may affect your decision about whether to accept the job or not, e.g. location, company culture, long-term goals, etc.
- The next stage of the recruitment process (if relevant).
Some suggested questions are as follows, but make sure that they have not been answered already during the course of the interview:
- Can you tell me more about the specific projects I would likely be involved in?
- What are the objectives and priorities of the post in the first 3-6 months? How will they be measured? What training and induction am I likely to receive?
- In terms of career progression, what has happened to graduates or others who have held this position in the past? What is the typical career path for people in this position? How is growth and continuous learning promoted?
- Does the department or role have particular peaks and troughs in workload? What is the most challenging aspect of the role?
- Who will be my direct line manager or who will be supervising my work on a daily basis? What is their role? Could you tell me a little about your role in the company?
- How is performance measured in the job? How is high performance recognised?
- Why is the position open?
- What is the company’s strategy for the next 5 years?
DON'T ask about:
- Things that are covered in the employer’s literature or on their website. You should already know this thoroughly.
- Anything considered trivial e.g. Christmas holiday closure dates.
- Pay, pensions and benefits. However, if you really do need to ask then either contact Human Resources separately or ask in a sensitive manner e.g. “Sorry to ask this but please can you give me an indication of the salary range of this post as it was not indicated in the literature.”
- Questions where it could appear as though you are trying to catch out the employer e.g. “What are your views on the recent press coverage of the company’s share price fall?”
- How you have performed in the interview. The interviewer(s) are unlikely to tell you as they will need to review all candidates at the end of the interviews and what will you gain from asking at this stage?
If all your questions have already been answered during the interview, you could talk about what you were going to ask and share your thoughts on the information you’ve learned - this could lead to an interesting discussion with the interviewers.
If there is something relevant that you had hoped to say in the interview and not had the opportunity to include in your answers, then you could consider using the time at the end of interview for your questions to tell the interviewers about your experience or skills.
As you leave you may wish to thank the interviewers for inviting you to the interview.
After the interview
Remember, your interview finishes only when you leave the organisation. Any informal tour or meal could be part of the selection process, so be professional at all times. Finally, reflect on how the interview went. Highlight what went well and what could have been improved on. Then think what action you can take to improve in future.
Do consider asking for feedback about an unsuccessful job interview. This way you can learn about what you did well and how you need to improve in your next interview. You need to be specific and polite. Something along the lines of “Obviously I am very disappointed at being unsuccessful but it would really help if someone could take me through the selection criteria and indicate which you feel I did not meet”. Although an employer is not obliged to do this, many will give you constructive comments.
If you are offered the job
If you have been successful you are likely to get a phone call offering you the job. At this stage you can clarify salary and other aspects of the job if these haven’t been discussed. The formal job offer is usually sent through to you in writing.
Take time to consider all you’ve experienced during the recruitment process, and hopefully you’ll think that the job is right for you. Remember, you don’t have to accept if you have doubts, and if you’ve been offered one job, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful in future applications.
If you would like to accept the job offer, make sure to send through your formal acceptance along with any paperwork as soon as you can to avoid delays to the start of your contract.
Next steps and further information
Practical help from careers
Careers appointments: To help you prepare for interviews we offer two types of appointments with career consultants, each lasting 45 minutes:
- Interview preparation sessions are an informal chat to inform you of the kinds of questions you're likely to face, and everything else you should expect.
- Mock interviews are more formal sessions where you will be asked the type of questions you are likely to face at interview by the adviser, who will then offer you constructive feedback and advice on your performance.
You can choose either one of these sessions or both depending on how confident you feel and how your previous experiences have gone. Log in to My Career and Employability Centre and choose a 45 minute appointment stating which type of appointment you'd like.
We also run careers workshops throughout term-time on a range of topics including preparation for interviews.
- Interview advice from Prospects and TARGETjobs.
- Look at www.glassdoor.co.uk for candidate feedback on real interviews.
- Multiple Mini Interviews information from multipleminiinterview.com, The Student Room and Leeds University.
- Skype and automated video interviews info from the BBC, TARGETjobs and jobs.ac.uk.