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Preparing for an Interview

By UCL Careers, on 15 October 2014

This post originally appeared on the International Futures blog


Preparing for an interview: The Basics.

For those of you with little or no experience of job interviews in the UK, please read on and make use of this checklist:

Research: Whether you are applying for a temp job at a retail store or your Graduate role, it is vital that you show the person interviewing you that you have an awareness of the business. Having worked in a number of sectors, I can say that not having a general understanding of the sector or their operations can act as a nice way of sifting you out. Be aware of what the business does, where it operates, its main competitors and any recent issues or highlights that may have been publicised. Most of all, be able to demonstrate a personal connection or admiration for the company.

-Dress to impress: When applying for a professional role there is no such thing as too smart – best practise is a suit and shirt. If applying for a non professional role, the rule of thumb which you will never be penalised for, is to wear smart black trousers and a smart top.

-Be prepared for the handshake: This is a standard greeting at an interview; nothing less and definitely nothing more! A firm handshake shows confidence and self assurance, it’s very easy to fake that confidence so practise makes perfect.

-Eye contact: Culturally eye contact can mean different things but in the UK it shows confidence, respect and attentiveness. Take note. This will tie in with nodding your head as a means of engaging or acknowledging what is being said. Think of it as a form of agreement.

-Pre-emptied questions: There are a number of things that although basic, will be the foundation of everything you may need to talk about when attending an interview. Typically this will be based around; why you wish to work for this company, your strengths/weaknesses, biggest accomplishments and perhaps discussing a challenging situation. Do think outside of the box and do not think that all of your answers should be based on your time in education. You should have a real enthusiasm for what they do and not generic in your answers. Nobody will believe that the reason you are applying for a role with BT is because you have an enthusiasm for network and telecommunications services. Be specific with your answer and make it sound like you want to be in that company over any other. With regards to strengths and weaknesses, it is always a good move to be able to turn your negative into positive, such as: ‘I don’t like being idle, If I’ve done my work, I like to get involved in something else’; a positive spin on this is ‘I have learnt more about my wider teams work’ or ‘I have gained a better understanding of the business areas’. When discussing a challenging situation, the interviewer will be keen to know what happened, what your role was in the process from problem to solution. Demonstrating that you can show initiative and are a team player will also bode very well.

-Ask questions: At the end of almost any interview, you will be asked if you have any questions for those sitting opposite you. Do try and have some prepared, again this shows you are proactive and keen to know more, it also shows further interest in understanding the company as your potential employer. Do not discuss salary unless it is brought up by the employer. Good questions to think about are around career progression or in relation to what you may be required to do as part of the role.

Best of luck!

Picture thanks to xianrendujia on Flickr via Google Images, under free Creative Commons Licensing.

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