Job Interview Preparation: Part 1

First interviews


Preparation is a key part of any interview process and yet many fail to commit enough time. Remember,
you only have one chance to make a good impression! Preparation will help you better manage any nerves once the interview is underway.


What format is the interview? Don’t be afraid to ask:

• how long will the interview last;

• are there any group exercises;

• do I need to prepare anything;

• are there any other tests or selection methods being used?

Finding out as much as possible not only helps with your preparation but also puts your mind at ease. Where is the interview? Make sure you:

• know how to get to the venue and how long the journey takes;

• have maps, train times, etc, in advance;

• check for any planned disruptions to road or rail services; • leave plenty of time so you are not rushing;

• if necessary, find out if travel and overnight accommodation are paid for;

• if you have a disability, check the physical access to the premises and indicate any additional support that you might require in the interview.

Try to remember to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return (you may want to leave an address and telephone number). Beware of going into private dwellings for an interview. What to take? Plan what you want to take with you so that you can pack your bag in plenty of time. You should consider taking:

• the interview letter, with the name(s) of the interviewer(s) and their address and phone number;

• a map of how to get there – consult an A-Z if you have not been sent a map;

• a copy of your CV and/or application form;

• a note of the key points you want to make and any questions you want to ask;

• money, for a taxi in case you are running late or to make a phone call if necessary (or a mobile phone but remember to switch it off when you arrive).

What to wear?

Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the position for which you are being interviewed. Some companies have a much more relaxed approach to dress than others but, if in doubt, wear a suit. You won’t be criticised for being too smart but employers will notice if you walk in wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt! Check the letter carefully, particularly if there is a social element to the interview (perhaps a dinner for candidates the night before). The following tips from employers should help:

• Ensure that you maintain impeccable standards of personal hygiene but avoid using overpowering deodorants, aftershave or perfume.

• Your hair should be neat and tidy and your shoes and clothes clean.

• Avoid inappropriate jewellery. Visible body piercings, ankle chains or personalised necklaces may not be suitable. Men should restrict jewellery to cuff-links and a signet or wedding ring

• Dress appropriately. It is important that you look smart for your interview but equally important that you feel comfortable. Men should avoid short-sleeved shirts and gimmicky ties or socks. Socks, by the way, should never be white. Women should avoid very short skirts, very high heels and heavy make-up. Make sure that your interview outfit is ready the night before, get a good night’s sleep and set off in good time.


It is important to think about how you might answer certain types of question beforehand but you should also consider the competencies they are looking for (as detailed in the job description/ person specification/advert) as well as actual questions. How will you provide evidence of certain qualities? If you are asked about being a team player, what evidence will you use to show this? Make sure you cover the five areas below in your mental preparation. Knowledge about yourself It is important to remind yourself of the messages you have conveyed through your CV/application form and to be prepared to discuss anything you have included. Read through your application and imagine you are the interviewer. What questions would you ask in their position? Make sure you can give at least one positive example (preferably more) for each of the skills and attributes the employer is seeking.

Ask yourself these questions:

• Why do I want this job?

• Why should this organisation select me?

• What are my ambitions?

• What are my strengths and weaknesses?

• What have I gained from my degree?

• What skills have I gained from my work-related and extracurricular activities?

If you need to think about when and how to declare a disability, you should think carefully about the message you want to convey and how you can best highlight the coping strategies you have developed. These will convey positive messages about your competence, motivation and perseverance. For further advice about disclosure, contact SKILL (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) and refer to the AGCAS publication A Level Playing Field.

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