Top Tips for Interviews

It is great news when you are selected for interview as it proves that your application has impressed an employer.  You are one step closer to getting a job and are going to have direct contact with the company.

Although it is exciting it can also feel rather daunting.  It is probably a long time since you last had an interview and you may never have had one in a professional workplace before.  You will want to make the most of this opportunity and impress the employer so the key message is to prepare really well.   In preparing for interviews you will need to think about the recruitment process, the company and yourself.

Types of interview

Your interview could be over the telephone or face-to-face at the employer’s premises or in a recruitment venue of their choice.

Key points for telephone interviews are:

  • Choose somewhere quiet and free from interruption.
  • Use a land-line, not a mobile, as it is more reliable.
  • Wear normal clothes and not pyjamas so that you feel in work mode.
  • Have all of your application material to hand in case you need to refer to it.
  • Keep a drink to hand in case you get a tickly cough.
  • Sit upright so that you sound normal and smile at the end of your answers to lift your voice.

A face-to-face interview could be with one interviewer or a panel.  If it is a panel interview you need to remember to answer your question mainly to the person who asked it but also make periodic eye contact with the others.

Key points for face-to-face interviews are:

  • Be aware of your body language so that you look alert and interested but try not to fidget.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Remember to smile.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Have a firm handshake but not too firm.
  • When you have finished your answer smile at the interviewer and the baton passes back to them.
  • Accept a drink of water.

Types of questions

Interviewers will always have a plan that they follow in order to be fair to all of their candidates.  You cannot know exactly what the questions will be but you can try to anticipate them and do some preparation beforehand.  Whatever type of question you are asked it is a good idea to try to keep it in your head whilst you are answering it so that you can be sure that you have answered it fully.

The types of questions are:

  • Initial questions to ease you into the interview, such as “What made you choose your course in XXX at Loughborough University?”
  • Skills based (also called criteria or competency based) questions when you are asked to give an example of a time when you used that skill, e.g. “Please tell me about a time when you used team-working skills to solve a problem.”  On our website we have a list of the typical skills that employers look for so you can prepare examples for these.  Equally you can prepare for any skills that you have seen in the job description, person specification or on the company’s website.  A good way of structuring your answer is to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique.
  • Strengths based questions are based on positive psychology and are difficult to prepare for. It is important to just be yourself and to be self-aware.  An example is “What have you really enjoyed doing in the past week?”
  • Situational questions when you are asked what you would do in a particular circumstance, such as “Sometimes at work we have different demands on our time and are pulled in different directions.  How would you cope in those circumstances?”

At most interviews you will be asked why you have applied to that company/for that position and also what qualities/experience you would bring to the role so it is worth practising what you will say.  You need to show interest in the employer and their field of work but try to make it personal, such as you met them at the recruitment fair, rather than just quote from their website.  Research the skills that they look for in their staff via their job description, person specification or website so that you can demonstrate that you have these attributes.

You can be asked about your strengths and weaknesses so it is a good idea to think of these beforehand.  When talking about a weakness you need to put a positive slant on it, such as what you have learnt from it.  As with strengths and weaknesses you are often asked the flip-side of a question so that the interviewer tests that you have a balanced view and can see the whole picture.  For example, if you are asked what you enjoy about your course you may then be asked what you like least about it.

You are usually asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview.  Think about this beforehand and ask something that shows you are interested in the position/company but try not to ask something that has been answered earlier.

Buying some time

It is best not to rush into your reply so if you need a little bit of time to formulate your answer to an interview question you can:

  • Take a sip of your water – works better for face-to-face interviews.
  • Reflect some of the words in the question, such as “A time when I used my problem-solving skills . . .”
  • Say “That’s an interesting question.”
  • Ask “Can I have a moment to think about that, please?”
  • Be silent for a couple of seconds.  This feels much longer to you than it does to the interviewer.  Again, this works better face-to-face because you can adopt pleasant body language.

Remember to vary these techniques within an interview or it will seem rather stilted.


Before you go for interview make sure that you research thoroughly about the company and sector.  Also check on the company’s website the day prior to your interview in case there is some recent news that you should know about.  Watch the national and international news in case you are asked for your opinion on a current affairs topic.  Read through all of your application materials thoroughly so that you are aware of exactly what they know about you.

Remember that an interview is a 2-way process so take the opportunity to learn more about the role/company by asking questions or observing their employees.  You will spend most of your waking day at work so you need to be sure that you will be happy there.

For more information on interviews, including the STAR technique, please go to our website


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