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Interview techniques for graduate job hunters

Golden rules for preparing for a job interview, and how to maximise your performance when you get there.

These tried and tested tips will help you to show yourself at your best during a job interview.

In advance

  • Think about the company: review the research you did when you applied for the job; check their website and others for up-to-date news; re-read the job advertisement; think about the questions you might want to ask them.
  • Think about yourself: review your application, think about the skills you can offer and some examples to back this up; prepare some answers to commonly asked questions. Imagine yourself in the job: this will help you to be convincing about your ‘fit’ for the role.
  • Practise: rehearse answering interview questions. Get a friend or careers adviser to play the role of the interviewer. Try out some calming and confidence techniques.
  • Practical: check the location and how to get there; check that your interview suit is clean.

The day before the interview

  • Review the preparation that you have done, and revise your particular strengths for the job.
  • Realise that they think you can do the job – you would not have an interview otherwise.
  • Then clear your mind by taking a brisk walk, concentrating on another task, taking a relaxing bath or listening to music.
  • Relax, and get a good night's sleep.

On the day

When you get there

  • Be friendly and courteous. Initial impressions are important: you never know who you might be talking to.
  • Leave your coat at reception, and freshen up before you enter the interview room.
  • Switch off your phone.

Body language

  • Make eye-contact, have a firm handshake, and smile.
  • Sit upright: don't slouch.
  • Use gestures sparingly.

How you speak

  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Take time to think before you answer a question.
  • Appreciate others' points of view.
  • Don't interrupt other speakers.
  • Listen closely, showing you are responsive to the interviewer’s questions.

The best answers to interview questions

  • Be prepared to elaborate on something the interviewer seems to be interested in; keep things short if they don't. If you are asked a question which demands a yes or no answer, do not leave it at that – provide some supporting information.
  • Emphasise the positive aspects of the things you have done; play down the negative. Use the ‘but’ technique, eg ‘we haven’t covered that yet but we will have by the end of the course.’
  • Have ready some questions of your own.
  • Remember the interviewers are not there to interrogate you. It’s in their best interests to put you at ease and bring out the best in you.

Finally – the golden rule for job interviews

  • An interview is not just about the employer assessing you: it's also about you assessing the employer. It's not an exam that you pass or fail – it's a chance to find out if you and the job make a good 'fit'.