Employers use interviews to assess candidates experience, skills, personality and overall motivation for the job. How you answer and how you behave during the interview allows employers to consider the ‘fit’ with the team and the organisation.
Update: Covid-19 continues to impact the way organisations interview candidates. From our discussions with employers, some are continuing to offer online interviews while others will reintroduce in-person interviews.
Our advice covers both face-to-face and virtual interviews such as video and telephone interviews.
I first engaged with the Careers Service after receiving my first interview offer, when I felt like I was way out of my depth!
Having one-to-one support after having a go at writing an application was invaluable to me and is an avenue I would encourage anyone to take advantage of.
Hannah Wright, MSc Mental Health: Research and Practice
Read the rest of Hannah's blog
Interview types and online practice resources
Interviews can take a variety of forms, use the drop down boxes below to find out more about the most common methods and online resources to help you ace that interview.
We have one online resource from eCareersGrad to help you practice for all interview types plus several specialist resources for virtual, telephone and case study interviews as highlighted below.
You may be interviewed by one person or a panel of three or four people but your preparation and performance should be the same.
Being in the same room allows you to use your body language, facial expressions to express your personality at the same time as answering the questions fully. A face-to-face interview can involve a variety of question types including competency, strengths-based, behavioural and technical. It is important to research the organisation and the type of interview questions you can expect.
Telephone interviews with free access to video tips
These are used by employers, who have high volumes of applications, to screen candidates using three or four questions. Usually you will be given a day and approximate time to expect a phone call.
You should try to be located in a quiet room with your application form or CV and any relevant information about the organisation with you.
Preparation for telephone and video interviews should be just as thorough as a face-to-face interview.
Seven top tips for acing a telephone interview
- Speak slowly and clearly
- Sit up straight as this will alter the way you sound
- Smile – this will change the tone of your voice
- Give concise answers while not underselling your experience. You don’t have the luxury of reading the interviewers body language over the phone.
- Avoid calling in a public place
- Check connection to the network
- Don’t use the speaker phone in case the interviewer can’t hear you clearly
Video interviews - with free access to Sonru and Graduates First video practice software
Video interviews can be done in two distinct ways. Non-interactive and interactive.
Non-interactive video interviews
Non-interactive interviews typically involve you providing video responses to a set of pre-recorded questions. The questions may appear as text on the screen or as a recorded audio clip.
These can be daunting as you will not be facing a live panel and do not receive feedback; however you will generally be given a chance to practise your response and will also be able to undertake the interview at your convenience.
How to approach a non-interactive video
Interactive video interviews
Interactive video interviews will involve e-conferencing software such as Skype or FaceTime and will involve a live feed discussion between interviewers and interviewees. These are effective in assessing your demeanour and provide better insights than a telephone interview
We have subscribed to two virtual platforms – Sonru and Graduates First – to help you practise your video interviewing skills. Both are free for you to use.
Sonru interviews are created on request by our advisers. This means that the questions can be tailored to your sector, company and/or role of interest. You may find a Sonru interview especially useful if you are preparing to complete a real video interview in the near future.
To use Sonru:
It may take three working days to set up the video interview. If you have an interview sooner than this, please use Graduates First.
If you would like feedback on your Sonru interview, please mention this in your request and one of our advisers will get in touch to arrange a follow-up appointment.
I had two video interviews for the NHS and a pharmaceutical company. SONRU enabled me to practise my interview skills and provided me with the confidence to tackle the real video interviews.
Remote interviews podcast
A 19-minute podcast brought to you by Jen Balloch, Employability Officer.
She is joined by colleague Chloe Davies who shares her recent experience of having a remote interview.
They discuss the similarities and differences between online and face-to-face interviews and tips for handling nerves.
Competency-based interviews with free access to videos
- Structured to reflect the competencies the employer is looking for
- Your competencies are assessed against selection criteria that is often outlined in the person specification and job description
- Questions can relate to past failures as well as to past achievements, try to focus on what you have learnt from past experiences positive or negative.
- Some key competencies that an employer will focus on are, communication, leadership and teamwork. To find out which competencies are being assessed look on the employer’s website.
- Give an example of a time when you dealt with conflict in a team. How did you deal with this?
- Tell me about a time when you failed to complete a task or project on time, despite intending to do so
- Give an example of when you have had to solve a problem
How to answer these questions
When answering competency based questions you need to think about real life experiences and how you can demonstrate these from past work experiences, volunteering opportunities and competencies from studying or time abroad.
A helpful technique to use is the STAR Technique.
- Situation - Describe the situation
- Task - Explain your task
- Action - Describe your actions
- Result - Explain the result
Watch our videos to help you answer competency-based questions
- The employer is looking to find out what your strengths are and what energises you
- This style is based on the concept that if employees are playing to their strengths at work they are likely to be more productive and fulfilled
- One of the reasons this style is becoming more popular, is that it allows the individual to speak about what they are good at.
- When preparing for this style of interview question research the organisations values as it is likely that the interview questions will closely match these. Relax and be open when answering these questions, try to be yourself.
- What things give you energy?
- What things are always left on your to-do list and not finished?
- Do you think this role with play to your strengths?
How to answer these questions
Talk about who you are, you know yourself best.
What are your strengths, skills and attributes that will work well within the organisation?
If you are struggling to articulate your strengths and skills, book an appointment with one of our advisers.
- Are used for positions that require technical competence, for example engineering, IT and scientific roles
- The interviewer will ask you questions that will enable you to demonstrate your technical knowledge and skills that may have been developed through your course or work experience
- Require candidates to solve actual technical problems that they would be likely to face if employed.
- How did your education help you prepare for this job?
- How would you rate your key competencies for this job?
- Tell me about a project you were most proud of, and what your contribution was?
How to answer these questions
When answering technical questions it is important to think about how you can showcase not only your technical know-how, but how you approach problem solving and construct your own thought processes into a complex situation or task.
Showcasing your personal skills and attributes will enhance the quality of your answers and give the interviewer and insight into who you are.
Behavioural or values interviews
- Involves focusing on your values, behaviours and attitudes, rather than your experience and skills
- The employer is looking at how past behaviours inform the person you are and how you deal with future decisions based on your past behaviour
- This questioning style allows the employers to focus on you as a person, how you will fit into the wider team and your values and beliefs.
- What attracts you to this role?
- Could you give an example where you actively went out of your way to learn something new in order to achieve a personal goal?
- Give an example that demonstrates your professional integrity
How to answer these questions
When answering behavioural or values based questions try not to think too deeply, think about your behaviours and values as competencies and how you are going to get these across to the interviewer.
Instead of the situation think about the context giving solid examples.
Case study interviews includes FREE access to eCareersGrad
During a case study interview, you will be given a business scenario or problem to work through. The employer will be assessing your analytical thinking skills, the way you identify key issues and your approach to problem-solving during this type of interview.
Mastering the Consulting Case
We've partnered with eCareersGrad to provide FREE access to a modular, video-based, interactive eLearning course.
Master the Consulting Case contains:
- 15+ video-based candidate answers showing what good looks like (and doesn’t) for key case scenarios including market sizing, market entry, revenue growth and more…
- recruiter answer scoring guides and illustrated answer structures for handling the case introduction, issues analysis and dealing with the numbers
- Spotlights on how to use case ‘frameworks’, essential financial concepts and mastering note-taking
Here are some examples of companies using case study interviews. They all provide interview tips on their websites.
Bain & Company
Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
NEW eCareersGrad interview resource for all types of interviews
eCareersGrad have created resources that will help you develop your interview skills whether it's a in-person or online interview.
- 30+ video-based candidate example answers for popular sectors including consulting, banking, finance, law, policy and the public sector
- 10+ recruiter answer scoring guides and illustrated answer structures for introductory, motivation, competency, strength-based (and weakness) and scenario questions
- Spotlights on anticipating potential questions, dealing with video interviews and what to ask the interviewer.
Register using your UoN email
Alumni: email us to access
Register for free access
Interview preparation - our top tips
Do your homework
- Show that you have taken the time to research and learn about the company or organisation. Find helpful tips on how to do this on our Researching employers page
- Find out whether the company has been in the news recently, what contemporary issues are pertinent.
- Use social media networks, for example LinkedIn to network with contacts in your target company
- Go back to the job description and think about what skills and attributes they are asking for, and how you are going to evidence this information in the Interview process.
- Either using a mind map or writing a list, highlight evidence that can be used in the interview, this will help you to visualise and retain the important information needed on the day.
Blog post: My top three tactics for interviews Interview Questions: Answering "Have you got any questions for us?" TARGETjobs - Questions you should ask at an interview Common interview questions including 10 possible answers
- An interview is a two-way process so at the end of the interview you will get the opportunity to ask questions that are important to you. Read our blog post:
How to overcome interview nerves
Everyone has interview nerves but what can you do to let the real you shine through?
Kirstin Barnard, Senior Careers Adviser, talks you through the various ways you can overcome your nerves before and during the interview.
- Your body language can play a huge part in giving you confidence therefore making you feel calmer. You can watch this short clip which explains the theory and practice behind positive body language. You can also attend a making applications workshop where you can practise these techniques.
- Yoga breathing is a fantastic way to relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga breathing can also work on your mental strength increasing concentration and supports you in your reflective practice.
- Music is used in many different ways including managing your career confidence. When in a stressful situation, think about a time when you felt confident and use music to represent these feelings.