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Graduate Job Interviews: How To Prepare

Preparing for a job interview is essential to help settle your nerves and make sure you give your best performance on the day.

Make that job interview a successful one with our top tips.

Find out about the company/organisation/employer

  • What products and/or services do they offer?
  • How big is it?
  • How long have they been running?
  • Who are their competitors?

Some personal research can be useful here – Google is good at digging up information on a particular company, e.g. if they have been in the news, or featured in a well known publication, etc.

It's a good idea to study any recent press cuttings about the employer, and try to inject them at an appropriate moment into the conversation during the interview - this way, they will see you really have done your research!

Make sure you have a job description before the interview to find out how much of your skills, experience and qualifications are relevant to the company. This will help you to prepare specifically for this role.

Find out about the structure of the interview

You will find that most job interviews follow a similar format:

1. Questions based on your CV

  • These questions will be CV based for you to explain your career path and ambitions.
  • Pick out your skills or achievements that are directly relevant, and rehearse these.
  • Be prepared to explain any unusual parts of your CV, such as any time taken out from employment or education.

2. General questions about you

  • What do you know about the job?
  • What interests you about the job/why did you apply for it?
  • What skills or experience do you have that make you a suitable candidate for this job?
  • What interests you about this company in particular?
  • When have you had an opportunity to show initiative?
  • Who and what were you responsible for in your last job? (they could ask you this about any part-time and/or temporary jobs you’ve had since you were at school).
  • Can you give an example of when you coped well under pressure?
  • Do you prefer to work as an individual or as part of a team?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your long term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
  • Can you tell me more about your hobbies and interests?
  • Have you applied for any other jobs?

3. The interviewer(s) telling you about the company and the position

  • Which department the vacancy is in, and how it fits into the company.
  • Who you would be working with and who you answer to.

4. Your questions

  • Asking relevant questions shows you are interested, organised and able to think ahead.
  • Salary and benefits are important, but an employer will be more impressed if you ask questions about the company, the department and the position first.
  • Good questions to ask include those regarding training opportunities, who you will report to, who you will be working with, promotion prospects, what the working hours are, etc.

5. Informing you of the next stage of the process

  • Whether there is a second or third round of interviews.
  • When you will hear if you have been successful or not.

Find out about the details of the interview

When, where and what time?

Give yourself plenty of time for the journey and aim to arrive at least ten minutes early.

If you are held up, phone ahead and let them know – make sure you have their contact number stored in your mobile before you leave.

Do a trial run at getting there if necessary (e.g. it’s a complicated route, or will take you a long time), and don't forget to check public transport timetables and/or parking availability.

Remember to take enough cash with you on the day to cover any transport costs.

Who will be interviewing you?
Be prepared for the possibility of a panel interview.

In a panel interview, answer questions looking from one interviewer to another and don't direct your answer just to the person who asked the question.

You should normally be told how many people will be interviewing you in the invitation letter, and sometimes who they are.

What should I take with me?
A copy of your current CV and all relevant documents and references, including some form of identification, e.g. passport.

You can carry all of this in a briefcase if you have one, or something similar.

A notepad and pen may also be useful, along with your questions to ask the interviewer.

Consider your personal safety

  • If the interview is not held at the employer's office, make sure it is taking place somewhere public.
  • Ensure that someone knows where you are being interviewed and who by.