Careers and Employability Service
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People at work taking notes

Interviews are used to assess whether you:

  • can do the job ─ probing your skills and experience in more detail
  • will do the job ─ will you be committed to the job and achieve the tasks expected
  • will fit the role ─ will your personality and interpersonal skills fit the role, your colleagues and the organisation

Interview and other selection types

The most common interview formats are:

  • telephone interviews ─ often used as the first part of a selection process
  • panel interviews ─ between three and five interviewers including an immediate line manager, co-workers and representatives of other departments in the organisation
  • one to one interviews ─ may be more commonly used by small organisations and can be subject to more bias than the panel interview. They are sometimes used by larger organisations at a second interview stage following attendance at an assessment day


Interview preparation

Analyse the requirements of the job and your written application materials to remind yourself of the main strengths of your application. Prepare detailed examples which clearly illustrate these strengths if you do not your answers may be considered to be superficial.

Consider how you will answer questions in an area you have less experience in or which may be completely new ─ for example, undertaking a higher level of responsibility or having to use less familiar technical skills. Be prepared to show that you have considered how you will tackle any new challenges.

Click on the links below for further advice on interview preparation.

Things to consider when preparing for your interview  

You might also consider the following. 

  • The overall purpose of the job, why is it there, what potential problems might you be tackling?
  • What level will you be in the organisation ─ senior, middle or junior ─ and how much influence will you be able to exert?
  • How does this job fit into the overall company organisation?
  • Who will you report to?
  • What specific skills/knowledge will be necessary?
  • What could go wrong, eg potential problem areas you may need to provide solutions to?
  • Do you have autonomy to make decisions or will you always have to ask permission before acting? Will you need to be able to take the initiative and self-start?
  • How will your performance be measured and what key results will your boss expect from you?

Based on How to Get a Job You’ll Love by John Lees, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0077108248.  


Other helpful interview tips and hints  

  • Try not to question spot and rehearse set answers ─ as an alternative identify the key points you want to make which will convince them that you are the best person for the job. Try to use these as trigger words during the interview
  • Listen to entire question before you answer ─ a short pause before you begin will enable you to formulate a positive start to your response

You will tire during the interview and so can the interviewers. They may not always word their questions clearly, do not be afraid to ask them to repeat or re-phrase a question if you do not understand it.

Do not be distracted by what you may consider a poor or less convincing answer. If you do you may answer the next question badly and your overall performance will suffer from then on.  


Common interview questions  

Prepare for the following common quetions.

  • Why have you applied for this job?
  • What are your key strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?

These standard questions are usually the ones interviewees are most concerned about how to answer. You should prepare for them, but remember that you will be asked many more questions which relate directly to the job you have applied for ─ your answers to these questions will be the ones the panel will be most interested in. 


Further help and support

If you have had relatively little interview experience or have not had an interview for some time attending an interview skills workshop is a good starting point. When you have an interview, an individual careers appointment can help with specific preparation.


Other assessment and selection activities

These may include:

  • a formal presentation
  • group discussions
  • case studies
  • role play activities
  • timed exercises such as an in-tray or e-tray exercise which test decision making and working under pressure

For more futher information, go to the assessment centre page.




Careers and Employability Service

The University of Nottingham
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