CAREERS BLOG: Interview Tips & Tricks Q&A

UoY Careers Imagine the possibilities LARGE dark green Blog written by Rachel Jenkins, Employer Liaison Assistant, Careers

Interview Tips & Tricks – Wednesday 28 January 2015


  • Becky Jones: Careers (Chair)
  • Rebecca Fullam: Nestle
  • Connie Parkin: Nestle
  • Sarah-Annis Brookes: PwC
  • Kristien Esser: Guided Solutions
  • Tess Marsden: Guided Solutions

Event Summary:

Are you preparing for an interview, or planning on applying for a graduate job or internship scheme next academic year?

This is your chance to put any questions and worries to a panel of graduate recruiters from Guided Solutions, PwC and Nestle. Following this, you will be able to to sign up for two of three taster sessions. The sessions are:-

Competency Based Interview Workshop – PwC’s interactive presentation will provide you with some hints and tips on how to succeed during a Competency Based Interview. This type of interview aims to assess people against predefined criteria usually based around skills, knowledge, behaviours and attributes that are necessary for someone to perform effectively in a job. It provides employers with a complete picture of your capability and helps predict your behaviour in future situations.

Strength Based Workshop – Nestle’s workshop will cover the basics of what a Strength Based Interview involves and will also include an interactive game where you will answer a series of questions to discover which Nestle graduate scheme you are suited to. The objective of this type of interview is to identify where you can naturally play to your strengths, looking at what candidates enjoy doing and have a natural aptitude for, rather than what they can do.

Telephone Based Interview Workshop – Enterprise Rent-a-Car will run you through their hints and tips of how to succeed during a telephone interview, with time to practice what you’ve learnt in groups and receive feedback.  Telephone based interviews are an increasingly popular form of screening candidates. Recruiters are looking for a calm, confident telephone manner and an intelligent set of responses to the questions, meaning managing your nerves is crucial.

Panel Q & A

  • Do you have any body language tips for interview success?

Rebecca (Nestle) advised being as open as possible. Sitting with your arms crossed, slumped in the chair makes you look very disinterested. Make sure you smile and perhaps use your hands when answering a question. This helps in making you seem far more engaged.

Sarah (PwC) mentioned making the most of the first few minutes when you meet your interviewer. Often you will be greeted in reception and then escorted to the interview room. This is a great opportunity to make small talk and ease yourself into the process.

Tess and Kristien (Guided Solutions) discussed how the interviewer is likely to be nervous too; they want the interview to run just as smoothly as you do. It’s important to remember that they aren’t trying to catch you out. So just prepare as much as possible, relax and do your best.

Becky (Careers) noted a ‘Readiness for Work Toolkit’ session being run by Nestle on Thursday 5 February. This workshop is designed to help you prepare for an interview and understand the different types of selection processes. You will gain insight and practical help on what and where to search for information prior to an interview, how to prepare and the chance to practice different scenarios to make you feel more comfortable and confident during an interview. Attending sessions like this is a great way to practice before the big day!

  • In preparation for an interview how should you go about researching a company and what are the key points to make sure you know?

Connie (Nestle) commented that anyone can Wikipedia a company and find out the basic facts. You need to think outside the box. Find someone from the company on LinkedIn, maybe if you know the name of your interviewer and have a read through their career history. Bringing this up during your interview shows that you’ve gone out your way to research the company and are also interested in how the interviewer got to where they are now.

Kristien (Guided Solutions) recommended getting work experience by shadowing someone in the position you are applying for. It doesn’t necessarily mean with the same organisation you are applying for but if you have built a relationship with a professional and organised this work experience opportunity with them it shows your commitment to succeed.

Becky (Careers) suggested making the most of networking opportunities available through Careers as a great chance to meet and network with employers, and to find out information about organisations.  The upcoming ‘Women in Business’ (Wednesday 11 February) event and ‘Working in…’ (Thursday 26 February) offers one-on-one engagement with employers, the opportunity to gain exclusive information about the company and build invaluable contacts.

  • How is it possible to make yourself stand out from all the other students who have similar experiences such as part-time job, being a member of a society, having done some volunteering etc?

Kristien (Guided Solutions) encouraged the audience to talk about their achievements with enthusiasm. If you show that you are passionate about what experience you have had you are more likely to grab the interviewer’s attention.

Tess (Guided Solutions) agreed with Kristien about showing your personality and your excitement for the things you’ve done. Don’t wait to be asked about your experience and skills; jump straight in and tell them. Match yourself to the company and link what you have achieved to their needs.

  • Are there any interviews in particular that you still remember in a positive way or a negative way?

Sarah (PwC) explained how she had a candidate present a letter to her half way through the interview which was from the CEO of a company where he had carried out an internship. It was encouraging to see him so proud of what excellent work he had done there and have him sell himself by bringing it along.

Tess (Guided Solutions) mentioned how impressed she is with the candidates that call the company to ask questions and gain advice. It shows their confidence and use of initiative rather than just sending an email and then waiting for the company to call.

Rebecca (Nestle) highlighted that candidates that asked genuine questions at the end of the interview impress her the most. You can tell when someone is genuinely interested in the job and wants to get the role. It’s important to have questions prepared that differ from basic ones such as “when would I start?” and “how much would I get paid?”

  • What questions would you ask interviewers, then?

Rebecca (Nestle) stated “Will I have a mentor during my time in the position?” “What should my development look like after a year?” and bringing up any recent news articles relating to the company or industry is great.

Connie (Nestle) recommended asking the interviewer about themselves – how have they got to where they are now, what parts of the job do they particularly enjoy or don’t enjoy.

Sarah (PwC) also recognised that this is a great way to get the interviewer engaging back with you.

Kristien (Guided Solutions), like Sarah, encouraged the idea that an interview should be a two-way communication process. He also mentioned not saving all your questions until the end of the interview – ask them throughout, to keep the conversation flowing and both parties engaged.

  • Are there any common themes that you could provide us with that mean candidates are less likely to succeed in an interview?

Tess (Guided Solutions) noted how candidate’s lack of preparation would often be the downfall. The more you’ve researched the company you are applying for, the industry that they are in and matched your skills to their needs, the more you have up your sleeve to answer any question they direct to you.

Sarah (PwC) stressed the importance of preparing your answers as much as you can. Think about structuring them and having enough to say to avoid answering with just one sentence.

Rebecca and Connie (Nestle) discussed being genuine. You want to avoid sounding like a talking textbook and focus more on connecting what you know about the company to you as a person.

Kristien (Guided Solutions) explained how he had interviewed various candidates that have performed excellently throughout but would ruin their hard work by stating all the other jobs they have applied for. Often candidates think this is a way of making the interviewer think you are in demand when actually if they are a range of different professions it can be discouraging to think that the candidate is not passionate about this career path.

Connie (Nestle) highlighted how employers are often aware that having finished your degree, you are in the process of choosing a career so it’s therefore natural to have applied for a number of different jobs.

Becky (Careers) suggested the award-winning Employability Tutorial offered through Careers as a method of helping you to see what you can do with your degree, what other graduates from your department have gone onto do, and for helping you decide what’s important to you in your career.

  • Finally, what would be your number one top tip?

Rebecca – Make use of any breaks you have during your interview to ask questions and find out more about the company. Even though you’re not always being assessed during lunch breaks, it’s a good opportunity to show your interest.

Connie – Don’t see failure as a bad thing. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up getting the first job that you walk into. So learn from each interview you do. Ask for feedback after your interview on how you did and make use of the advice for next time.

Sarah – Make sure you know the market you are applying for. Read about anything happening recently in the news, any recent developments with the company specifically and that you’re clued up about the industry.

Tess – When selling a product you need to know it inside out. You have to be able to sell all of its benefits and turn any disadvantages into positives. Think of yourself as a product. Know your skills and attributes inside out and exactly how they will suit you to the role you are applying for.

Kristien – Involve yourself as much as possible with opportunities that can make you stand out on. Whether this is taking on a summer internship, joining a University society or volunteering in your spare time, you need to have plenty to talk about and in a passionate way to make yourself exciting for the employer to listen to.

Some further useful resources to help you on your way to interview success:
CV guide (VLE)
Interview guide (VLE)
– Information sheets on application forms, CV and covering letter, interviews, assessment centres and aptitude tests
– The Employability Tutorial helps you keep a record of your skills and experience to use in your application progress
– Book a careers appointment to discuss your interview technique -you can even try a practice interview!