This week’s episode of our online series on student job hunting takes an in-depth look at the interview process, covering areas including pre-interview preparation, the numerous interview styles and formats, tips and techniques for the interview itself, question you can expect to encounter and what to avoid.
You can check out the previous episodes on our YouTube playlist here.
Hi, I’m Khai and thank you for joining us for the third episode of our video series on student job hunting.
Here at Employment4students, we have years of experience helping more than 18 million school, college and university students find part-time work, holiday jobs, intenrships and year-out opportunities and graduate jobs.
This video series will hopefully provide you with some tips and insights to help you get a job. Last week we covered the best way to prepare your CV and covering letter, this week we’re going to be talking about interviews. There’s a myriad of options regarding what you can do to prepare, and in this episode we’ll talk you through what you can do pre-interview, the different interview styles and formats, tips and technique for the main event and some questions you can expect to receive. So, good place to start, let’s start with what you can do at the beginning.
If you’ve been invited to interview, congratulations. Although everyone at E4S understands that some of you might be thinking that this is the time to start panicking, don’t: if you’ve been invited to interview, it means they’re interested in you and that’s half of the work done. All you need to do is justify their interest and adequate preparation will go a long way to enabling a convincing and proficient interview.
First and foremost, research the company and the role. They’re hiring for a reason and a bit of reconnoitring can help you tailor your responses to put across why your experience and skillset would best benefit the company. This means more than a cursory glance at their website: check their company background, the size of the company, how many people they employ, the company ethos and, if possible, inform yourself of your interviewer’s professional background. Websites like Companies House and LinkedIn can be invaluable for this.
In addition to researching the company, investigate the current affairs and trends of the sector you’re entering. This will give you a greater understanding of the kind of work you’ll undertake in the role you’re hoping to enter and help tie your responses to relevant scenarios.
If you’re expected to deliver a presentation or perform a written test, find out what resources will be available and familiarise yourself with the facilities you’re expected to use.
On a similar note, commit the details of your CV to memory. You’ll likely cite periods of your work and personal history throughout the interview and pausing to look up how long you worked for company A or what your English Lit GCSE mark is will not look impressive.
You should also adequately prepare your journey to ensure that you do not arrive late, especially if you are travelling by public transport. Obviously turning up early gives a good first impression and it is far preferable to arrive too early than too late, especially if the interviewer is expecting multiple candidates throughout the day.
This is a basic overview of some of the things you can do to prepare. These’ll likely inform you of other areas more specific for your needs that you can read up on, but this should give you some starting ground.
DIFFERENT INTERVIEW FORMATS
Something you’ll want to be informed of is how you’re going to be interviewed. There are numerous interview formats, each intended to test your capabilities in particular circumstances. Fortunately you should be informed or at least be able to ask what kind of interview you’re being invited to prior to the event.
Firstly, you may be invited to a telephone interview. They are usually primers before a face-to-face interview but you’ll be allowed a few allowances such as being able to have your notes in-front of you or taking the interview naked, if that floats your boat. Telephone interviews are not likely to be as technical or intensive as face-to-face meetings but obviously they will be looking to judge your phone manner and ability to communicate succinctly. You’re still looking to impress them so don’t let your guard down.
Face-to-face interviews come in several permutations. One-to-one and panel interviews are among the most common formats and are reasonably straightforward. We’ll talk about what kind of dialogue you’re hoping to establish later on. More unusual formats include the group interview, in which candidates will be invited in one block and often involves performing group tasks to determine how well you perform as part of a team and test your communication skills.
Creative and digital-centric industries often utilise portfolio interviews, where the focus is on elaborating on the content you’ve chosen to spotlight and a more specialised, example-led discussion on the process of your work.
For the most part, regardless of the kind of interview you’re invited to, the outcome is the same: they want to know why you above anyone else should be offered the job and we’ll move on to discuss how best you can put that forward.
Knowing the details of the company and the kind of interview you’ve been invited to, you can easily prepare for what you want to put across in the interview itself.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that an interview is a conversation and you should aim for a 50/50 dialogue. Interviewers are often trained to aim towards 30/70, however your intention is to involve the interviewer and direct the conversation to areas where you can play to your strengths. Rather obviously, aim for positive interaction; establish a rapport, ask if the interviewer would like more detail on a response you’ve provided and ask questions of your own to show engagement and interest. It’s a conversation, not a monologue.
With this in mind, prepare your delivery. Rehearsal can be useful when covering questions expected to come up and practising until you have the right words and can deliver them without hesitating, getting flustered or at a nervous or erratic pace will be all the more convincing.
Note this doesn’t mean learning an unwavering script and being able to provide additional information on the fly can impress, but you can at least remind yourself of the details and prepare a way to best report them.
We mentioned this briefly before but being invited to interview means that they’re interested in offering you the position and are interested in listening to you sell your qualities, and you can easily enter the interview with a positive outlook. Further preparation and practice will help with confidence and self-esteem.
Obviously we can’t give you a script to learn prior to the interview. The questions are going to alter depending on the position you’re going for, the interviewer’s style and indeed their initial impressions on you. However there are a few questions that are almost guaranteed to turn up in one form or another.
One early, if not the first, question you’re going to receive is “tell me about yourself”. Seemingly innocuous, this is often the first pitfall for interviewees. It’s easy to ramble or move the discussion into irrelevant areas. Try to keep your answer brief and germane. The interviewer is looking for your background and education, any work history and recent experiences. Keep the details connected with your professional life. You can talk about hobbies and interests later. Although many people slip up, this is an easy question to prepare for so don’t despair.
Another common question is “where do you see yourself in five years time?” One of the rare questions you are afforded leeway to be a little vague, the question is intended to unveil your ambition and gauge interest in the current role. A safe answer often espoused is to express your desire for fresh challenges and opportunities and how this position would enable them, but be mindful that the internet is rife with guides – you are watching one now, after all – many of which advise on this response and interviewers may pick up on the inherent meaninglessness of such an answer.
One other question you can expect to hear is “what are your weaknesses?” This is still a question many applicants fall short on. The intention of the question isn’t to slip you up, but to gauge how you approach any shortcomings. Answers such as “I work too hard” or “I give too much into my work” tell the interviewee very little. Similarly this is not the right time to adopt a devout dedication to the truth and speaking on your lack of time management or the amount of stationery that goes missing whenever you join an office is going to earn you a fast invitation to the door. Pick something simple such as, say, your capacity for public speaking and, more importantly, what you are doing to correct it.
One last commonly-asked question: “why should you get the job?” Much like “tell me about yourself”, this should be answered succinctly with a mind to address your unique qualifications. Take into consideration any stated specifications or requirements in the job description and tie in the relevance of your own skills and experience. Again, avoid taking too much time to answer this question to ensure that you keep the interviewee’s attention.
WHAT TO AVOID
We’ve gone through what you can do to prepare, some tips on handling yourself in an interview and some questions you can expect to turn up in any interview. So we’re going to close with some very simple tips on what not to do in an interview.
Again, we’ve briefly covered a few easy ones: arriving late, talking too much and not knowing enough about the company or the role you’re applying for. You should also avoid using your phone during an interview, chewing gum, and do not forget to bring your portfolio. These sounds horribly obvious but they are things that happen all of the time.
But there’s one matter in particular that we wanted to talk about in a little more detail, and that’s badmouthing previous employers. Here’s an anecdote: one Employment4students member knows someone who interviewed with a company and not only bad-mouthed his current place of employment, boss and executive directors but also provided security details, server information and their colleague’s schedule of events… Needless to say, he was not offered the job. Badmouthing employers does not create a sense of camaraderie but tells the interviewer that you have a bad attitude and may be problematic after you leave the company. There is literally nothing to gain from it so please don’t do it.
Well, that’s it for today. Join us for our fourth episode where we’ll be talking about enhancing your employability. Not sure what that is? Well, check in and you can at least listen to the first two minutes, it’ll be covered in there.
Also remember our last episode will be a Q&A session where we’ll answer questions submitted by you guys so get your burning desires over to us.
You still have time to send us your questions either below in the comments or via Twitter @e4scouk, on our Facebook page facebook.com/employment4students, or just let us know what you think or how your day’s been.
In the meanwhile, check out our website at www.e4s.co.uk for loads of additional job hunting tips and a great selection of student jobs.
Thanks for watching, and we look forward to seeing you next time.
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