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It’s natural to feel nervous and apprehensive before an interview. The nerves demonstrate clearly you want to be successful.

An interview is a two way process. The employer can decide if you will fit into the team and be able to do the job. You can decide whether the job and work environment is the right fit for you. During the interview, the interviewer will measure you against the requirements of the role and organisation through your knowledge, skills and experience.

Explore the help and advice in the different sections to help you succeed at your next interview and be offered the job.


Research is key in helping you to effectively prepare. Always follow the five P’s of interview success:






Commercial awareness

This is key when preparing for an interview you need to understand the role, industry and most importantly the employer. Firstly, read information about the role from the job description, person specification and your application and think about how your skills and experience match the role. The next key information is about the employer and understanding the industry,  focusing on their mission statement, values and beliefs, products and services and the current trends in the sector.

Planning ahead

Plan your journey before the interview. Always check the route and the mode of transport you are going to take to get you to your interview. Consider the time of day you will be travelling and if you will need to allow extra time. We always recommend that you make a practice journey if possible.

Dress sense

If you’re unsure what the dress code is before your interview, you can always contact the employer and ask. We would always recommend that you dress smartly as it’s much better to be too smart than too casual.

What to take

Make sure you have the contact details and location of the employer in case you need to contact them for example, if you get stuck in traffic or your train is cancelled. Ensure you take all relevant documentation with you including personal ID, bank details and your application form. It can also be a good idea to take a bottle of water with you for the interview.

Potential questions

Reading through the person specification, the shortlisting panel will select several questions against the criteria listed. This can help you anticipate potential questions being asked at the interview and give you enough time to practice your answers and examples.

Your questions

Think of two or three questions to ask the interviewer at the end. These questions could be:

  1. What future career aspirations are there working for you?
  2. What professional training/qualifications can you offer?
  3. Would it be possible to work in different departments?

The interview panel

Try to find out who will be interviewing you. Use LinkedIn and the ‘About Us’ section of the company website to find out more about their professional interests and experience. This may help you to connect with your interviewers and create a positive impression during the interview.

Types of interview

Different types of job interview are used in the recruitment and selection process.  For large graduate employers you may face different formats of interview at the different stages of the application process.  For example a telephone interview, then a 1-2-1 interview and finally a formal panel interview. The various types of interview are explained below.

Find out more about types of job interviews


A face-to-face interview is the most traditional and commonly used interview format.  Typically, the format is a 1-2-1 interview or a panel of different people. The interview itself could last anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours. In a face-to-face interview you will be asked a number of questions that are usually related to the person specification. Most interviews use a strength or competency based approach.

Strength based interviews


A telephone interview is slowly being replaced by the use of video interviewing. However, some companies still make use of a telephone call in the initial stages of their recruitment and selection processes. Telephone interviews are used by employers to filter out applicants before inviting them to a face to face interview or assessment centre.  As you can’t see the person on the end of the telephone it’s important to speak clearly and slowly and make sure you still smile and choose a quiet location.

Telephone interviews


According to the Institute of Student Employers, 53% of graduate employers are now using video interviews instead of a telephone interview. Video interviews normally last between 20-40 minutes with 5-10 questions. You might have to participate in a video interview in a pre-recorded or live situation. Use Shortlist.ME to help you practice your video interview technique.

More about video interviews

Assessment centres

When recruiting a large number of candidates employers commonly use Assessment Centres . They comprise of a number of different tasks which applicants participate in. These can include psychometric tests to group or individual presentations, interviews and group tasks. You can practice psychometric tests using Graduates First.

Take at look at our section on how to prepare for an assessment centre.

Advice from Prospects on assessment centres.

Interview questions

Ice breaker/knowledge questions

These are questions which are normally based around yourself and why are you applying to the role based on your motivation and experience to date. You are likely to be asked about your knowledge of the company, sector or industry and the role you are applying for.

Examples include:

  • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
  • Why have you applied for this role? What can you tell me about the organisation?
  • What are the latest challenges facing the organisation and industry now?

Competency based questions

These questions are structured and based upon your behaviours or situations, which are designed to test your specific skills or competencies. These work on the basis that what you have done in the past will show how you might perform in the future. The STAR Framework is an effective tool when answering competency-based interview questions.

Find out more about the STAR Framework

Strength based questions

Answering these questions entails reflecting on your past experiences and current interests. Whilst competency-based questions focus on what you can do, strengths-based questions focus on what you enjoy, what motivates and energises you. More employers are now using strength-based questions as a bench mark, as candidates can prepare examples of competency-based questions. Strength based interviews are more personal and allows the employer to gain a genuine insight into the personality and characteristics of the candidate.

Practice interviews

If you have been invited for an interview, you can book a mock interview with a Careers Adviser.  This will last for 60 minutes.  The adviser will take the part of an interviewer and will ask you questions and provide you with feedback on your performance.

The interview questions will be based upon on your job application/further study, which will need to be submitted before the appointment.

Use Shortlist.ME to help you practice your video interview technique. Would you hire you? You can practice interviewing anytime, anywhere. 

Ask for feedback from a Careers Adviser

Postgraduate study interviews

A number of universities don’t hold postgraduate interviews, but if you’re applying for a competitive course or prestigious university, there is a possibility you will have to complete one.

The different types of interviews:

Formal- face to face interview

This is like a job interview. This could involve a course tutor or by a panel including admissions and a current student.

Skype/ video interview

This more commonly used especially if you’re a an international student, studying abroad. Just like a face to face interview this could involve one person or panel interview. Make sure you have a quiet and well-lit environment, with a clear webcam and fast reliable internet connection. Book a Skype/MS Team Appointment or practice using Shortlist.ME.

Informal chat

This doesn’t often happen, but you could be invited for a discussion with a prospective tutor in their office or coffee shop. This is normally a relaxed conversation, but ensure you prepare appropriately, demonstration your interest, enthusiasm for the course and university.

Practical test

These are normally graduate entry tests, typically for engineering, medicine, and pharmacy as part of the admissions process.

Interview skills

Our video gives some top tips on how to prepare effectively: