Make a good impression at a job interview, with advice on how to prepare, and how to show what you have to offer.
Why interviews are important
An interview is a chance for an employer to see if you're the right person for the job. It's also a chance for you to make sure the job and company are the right fit for you.
Where interviews take place
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many interviews are taking place online. You're likely to use video conferencing software like Skype, Zoom or Teams.
Types of interview
There are different types of interviews which employers might use. You should prepare for the one you’re attending.
Your interview may only be with one person. This is usually face-to-face, and is more common in smaller companies.
Some interviews are with a panel of 2 or more people. Make sure you look at all the interviewers when you’re speaking with them. They may also ask you to do a presentation.
A group discussion is usually part of an assessment centre day with other candidates. You'll have to show you can get along with people, put your ideas forward and be respectful of others.
Types of interview questions
Employers use different types of questions when interviewing. They may tell you beforehand what type of interview it is. They may also have information on their website about their recruitment process.
The focus is on the things you can do, so you’ll need to give examples to show you have the skills for the job. If you do not have examples from a work environment, you can use experiences from your personal life.
You may find out before the interview which competencies they're measuring you against.
These explore what you enjoy doing or do well. For example, your practical or teamworking skills, or how you work under pressure.
The employer may test your job-related knowledge and understanding of work processes. This is common for jobs in:
Situational judgement questions
Employers may ask how you would react in typical work situations. This is to check things like your ability to solve problems, make decisions or work with others.
Value-based questions identify whether you share the organisation's values and understand their culture. This is common for health and care jobs, particularly in the NHS.
These help an employer to see what drives you and to make sure you’ll fit in with their company.
You could also talk to people you know who work at the company or are in similar jobs.
You can find more advice on how to answer common interview questions.
Choose a date and time that works for you so you can be ready for the interview and be at your best on the day.
To help make sure you’re prepared:
- read the job description and person specification carefully. Be clear on the skills and qualities the employer is looking for
- check the company website to find out more about its products or services and their plans for the future
- go over your CV or application form and think about things the employer may ask you about
- prepare some examples that show you have the right skills, personal qualities and experience. Use the STAR method
- practise your timings on presentations and keep a back-up copy
- ask someone you trust to help you practise answering questions
- think of 2 or 3 questions of your own that you can ask at the end of your interview, to show you’re enthusiastic about the job
- pick out something suitable and comfortable to wear
- check what time you need to arrive and the name of the person you need to see
- make sure that you know how to get to where the interview is being held. Work out your public transport route or where you can park. Plan to arrive 5 to 10 minutes before the interview starts
- make sure you know who to call in case you’re late for any reason
If you have a disability you may need adjustments to make the interview accessible. You can get advice from Scope on how to ask for adjustments at an interview.
Before you go into the interview:
- turn off your phone
- use breathing techniques to calm yourself - try to remember, a few nerves are normal
- smile and greet your interviewer with confidence
- ask for some water if you need it
In the interview, remember to:
- be polite and use the right language and tone for a formal situation
- listen to the questions and think before you begin your answers
- ask the interviewer to repeat or explain further if you do not understand a question
- use the STAR method to answer questions about your skills and experience
- be positive about your experiences. If you’ve faced difficult situations, show what you learned from them
- be honest and assertive
- ask a couple of questions when you’re given the opportunity. Choose questions that make you sound keen. For example, “What opportunities are there for training with the company?” It’s best not to ask about pay or holidays at this stage
At the end of the interview, thank the employer for their time. Tell them you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
After the interview
When you leave the interview, try to reflect on some of the harder questions you were asked - this can help you to prepare for future interviews.
Accepting a job
If you’re offered the job, let the company know in good time whether you want to accept the offer. You can also agree when you’ll start and find out what you’ll need to do on your first day.
Turning down a job
If you decide not to accept the job, turn it down but be polite. You may want to work for them in the future.
If you’re not successful
If the employer does not offer you the job:
- try to be positive - this is a chance to learn from your experience and build your resilience
- ask for feedback on your interview
- think about the things that did not go so well and what you could do to improve next time
- get some interview practice. Ask friends, family, colleagues or a careers adviser to help
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