- Be yourself: if you adopt a new persona for the interview, the result is likely to be insincere and transparent.
- Think about the impact of your voice i.e. the pace, tone and volume (for more information on making an impact see our pages on how to make a good first impression).
- Think about the structure of your answers: you might summarise at the end rather than trailing off. Use the S.T.A.R technique and make sure to emphasise your actions if describing a situation. For more information on the S.T.A.R technique see our pages on how to show you fit the job criteria.
- Honesty is the best policy – and if it is discovered later that you have been dishonest, you are very likely to be dismissed. Admitting, for example, to a period of poor motivation during your A-Levels shows more integrity than blaming someone else for poor grades, so don't feel that you should 'cover up' these incidents - present them positively as learning experiences.
- Be prepared to talk: avoid 'yes/no' answers and expand as often as possible, but don't over-communicate or waffle. Take your cue from the interviewer. Ask, "should I continue?" or "does that answer your question?" if you are unsure whether you have said enough.
- Ask for clarification if you need it, or request a moment's thinking time, before tackling a particularly difficult question. You might also take a sip of water to create a natural pause. This is better than saying the first thing that comes into your head.
- Be balanced in your answers, and try not to sound too obsessive about any one aspect of your life.
- It’s OK to make your interviewers smile or laugh, but don’t try to be a comedian with every answer you give – you need to show your professional side.
- No-one is allowed, by law, to ask you about your marital status, ethnic background, disability, sexual orientation or religious affiliation, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification, so be aware that you can politely decline to answer such questions, by saying for example, "I don't see what relevance my sexual orientation has to the job for which I have applied, and I must ask that you withdraw the question" or "I really don't see my marital status as having any effect on my ability to do this job, or my commitment to the organisation, should I be appointed".
- Finally, book a practice interview with a Careers Adviser or employer via CareerConnect!
Answering difficult questions
Questions often perceived as particularly difficult include those which appear to be an invitation to shoot yourself in the foot, such as: what is your biggest weakness? What would you say has been your greatest failure? When answering these questions relax, be honest, and emphasise the positive. These can be good opportunities to show that you understand yourself and that you’re proactive about working on yourself. Think about answers in advance so that you're not floundering on the day.
Remember - no employer expects you to be completely perfect and self-awareness is preferable to blind arrogance! You might, for example, in answer to the question, “what is your biggest weakness?” say that, although you think well independently, you wouldn't be entirely happy in an environment where there was no teamwork; however you could then mention what coping strategies you would develop!
Or, you could tell them about your tendency to be nervous when presenting in front of large audiences and how, in an effort to overcome this, you have joined the debating society and now have strategies which help you communicate clearly to an audience when nervous.
Alternatively, you might say that your strengths lie in your ability to think problems through clearly, and that you can sometimes be frustrated with people who don't work logically, though you have learnt to appreciate the different insights that they can bring to a project.
These answers outline the weakness in each case, but turn the question around, so that you are able to stress both your strengths and your ability to learn from your mistakes.
Another line of questioning that can sometimes be daunting is if you are asked to think about yourself in a different way, so for example to compare yourself to an animal or biscuit (or colour, or piece of furniture). In this instance, think about the personal qualities that you want to emphasise in this situation, and explain your choice. A plain chocolate digestive might suggest a professionalism that a strawberry wafer possibly does not.