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Interviews

An interview is your chance to show employers that you have the skills, motivation, and values that make you right for a role.

Preparing for your interview

Congratulations, you've been invited to an interview, recruitment test or assessment centre.

This means that you’ve convinced the employer that you meet the basic requirements for the position. You now have the chance to demonstrate to the selectors that:

  • you can do the job (skills)
  • you want the job (motivation)
  • you will fit into the organisation (values)

During the interview, your knowledge of the position and organisation will be explored, along with your skills and experience.

Prepararing for your interview will help you to feel more confident on the day and it will also impress the recruiter. 


Interview format

The interview format used by an employer will vary. Here we cover the types of interview you can expect and how they're structured.

Face-to-face interviews

You may be invited to a face-to-face interview with one person or a panel. 

Panel interviews are with two or more representatives of the organisation. See this targetjobs article on how to face more than one interviewer.

It's possible you could attend a group interview with multiple candidates. For advice on what group interviews can involve and how to prepare, see these websites: 

Video/Telephone interviews

These methods are increasingly used as a way of screening candidates before a face-to-face interview. They may also be an alternative to a face-to-face interview. Telephone interviews are usually pre-arranged, but not always.

You should prepare for a live or pre-recorded video interview or a telephone interview in the same way you would for a face-to-face interview.

You can video record yourself answering questions using our practice interview tools, Shortlist.Me and Graduates First.

For further advice on video and telephone interviews, see the following websites:

Accessibility

The time allowed to read and comprehend questions in pre-recorded video interviews is usually limited. Students with some disabilities might find this particularly challenging.

You may want to share with a potential employer that you have a disability if you think a video interview is going to disadvantage you. Companies should be able to make alternative reasonable adjustments if given enough notice. For example they could offer a Skype or telephone interview instead.

You can discuss whether you should share information on a disability with one of our careers consultants. This free advice is also available from EmployAbility.


Interview structure

Your interview could be structured in a variety of ways.

Competency-based 

You will be asked to provide examples of the skills or competences that are key to the job.

For example, you may be asked to provide an example of:

  • when you've worked effectively in a team
  • when you've handled conflict in the workplace.
  • how you manage and organise your time

Check the job description for key competencies needed in the role.

targetjobs and WikiJob have more information on this type of interview. They also highlight the key competences employers look for in candidates.

Strengths-based

Some recruiters use strengths-based interviews rather than competence-based. These recruiters include: EY, Nestle, Norwich Union and Standard Chartered.

Strengths-based interviews focus on your natural aptitudes and strengths and seek to find out what you ‘love to do’, rather than what you ‘can do’.

For more advice and examples, see: 

Technical 

You will be asked questions about specific technical skills relevant to the job, for example programming skills. See the following websites to help you prepare:

The Forage website offers a free virtual experience programme on Technical Interview prep. This includes a whiteboard challenge, coding test and a case study. See also their 5 Technical Interview Questions For All Careers article.

Informal

Most interviews are formal in style. However, employers in some sectors, eg design, architecture and media, may have more informal interviewing techniques. These can have a more relaxed and conversational. The people interviewing you want to put you at ease and get to know you. Try to relax, but take care to remain professional, they are still assessing you.

See targetjob's guide to succeeding at an informal interview.


Researching the role

You need to research the job you're applying for, the organisation you're applying to, and the sector.

Role

You need to show the employer that you understand what the position and area of work involves. Be enthusiastic, consider what appeals to you about the role. How does it fit with your career aspirations and goals?

Organisation

Try to focus on key aspects of the organisation, such as:

  • turnover
  • products and/or services - what do they do?
  • recent press coverage
  • clients they work with
  • any key activities that interest you
  • the company culture 

Don’t only use the company’s website to do research. Look at our researching employers page for links to company profiles and news sites.

Sector

Employers will be assessing your commercial awareness (also known as ‘business acumen’). Keep up to date with current affairs, trends and important topics in your field. What are the challenges facing the industry and what impact might they have?

Take a look at our researching employers page to help you find relevant industry news. 

Targetjobs' Organisations section is a particularly useful resource if you’re applying to large graduate recruiters. Speaking to employers at our events and on LinkedIn can also help with your research.


Identify your skills

Review the skills and experience the job requires. These are often highlighted in the job description or person specification.

Think of specific examples when you have demonstrated these skills. Your examples could be from work experience, a part-time job, volunteering or from within your degree course.

If you're not sure what the employer is looking for, the skills section under the relevant job profile on Prospects can help as a guide.

For advice on identifying your skills, see:


Preparing your answers

Be prepared to discuss the skills, experience and achievements highlighted on your application form or CV in more detail.

Expect your answers to be challenged with follow-up questions and be prepared to explain any gaps or changes in your career history. Admit mistakes, but be positive about what you've learnt from them and don't blame others, for example a teacher for poor results.

Structuring your answers

A good way to structure your answers to competency questions is by using the ‘STAR’ technique.

Describe the situation (S)

You should briefly provide some context to help the employer understand the example you are giving. You don't need to go into a lot of detail at this stage.

Explain the task (T)

Provide a concise overview of the task, ensuring that your example is relevant to the question.

Describe and analyse your actions (A)

This part should form the bulk of your answer. State what action you took, focusing on your contribution. Explain what, how and why you did it and include any impact your actions made. Avoid ‘we’ if talking about a situation in a team.

Explain the result (R)

What was the outcome? What did you learn from this example? Remember, it's not just what you did, but how you did it. Be specific in your answers.

For further advice on using 'STAR' successfully, see the following websites:


Example interview questions

We've listed some common interview questions on topics such as:

  • knowledge of the organisation
  • skills
  • career motivation

Read our tips on how to answer the different types of questions.


Practise your interview

Got an interview coming up?

The Careers Service can help you practise and improve your interview technique through our 1:1 appointments.

Login to MyCareer and use our Appointment Finder tool to help you book the right appointment type for you.

Alternatively, for written advice on preparing for your interview, please submit a query via the Resources tab on MyCareer and an adviser will get back to you within 5 working days.

Video interview practice

Video interviews are becoming increasingly popular with graduate employers in the early stages of recruitment.

They can save companies time and money, as applicants can record their interviews from home. This can be useful for candidates too, as you can choose a time that suits you to complete it.

However, they’re not without their challenges. Not everyone is comfortable on camera and it can be distracting to see yourself on screen. It is also a much less personal experience as you won’t be speaking to a real person, and so there are no non-verbal cues to help you gauge your performance.

You’ll typically be presented with written questions or a video of an interviewer asking pre-recorded questions. You’re given a short amount of time to think about your answer, then you’ll have to record your answer on video within a set time limit.

To help you prepare for video interviews, it’s really useful to practice to get a sense of what it’s like before you do the real thing. 

With our video interview practice platform Graduates First, you can review your recordings after the interview to see how you come across on screen. As well as reviewing the content of your answers, think about your body language and tone of voice – how effective are these?

This is a great opportunity to put yourself in the place of a recruiter – what did you do well and what could have been improved?

Graduates First

Current students and registered Newcastle University graduates can use the Graduates First video interview software to:

  • record yourself answering interview questions, save and review your recordings at any time
  • receive automated feedback on your performance based on artificial intelligence technology
  • access advice on interview technique and how to prepare for interviews

Graduates First also includes example psychometric tests, game based assessments and examples of case study and in-tray exercises.

If you have any technical problems with the tests, please contact Graduates First at enquiry@graduatesfirst.com. The Careers Service will not be able to help with any technical issues.

To access the practice interviews:

Current students

  • Go to the Newcastle University Graduates First portal
  • Register using your Newcastle email address (@ncl.ac.uk) and complete the registration form in full
  • If you have a disability that could affect your performance (eg. dyslexia), you can request additional time (25%) when registering

You should receive an email providing you with a link to confirm your email address, and then you’re ready to start your practice interview. If you don't receive an email after registering, please check in the Clutter folder of your Newcastle email account.

Graduates

If you're a registered Newcastle University graduate, you'll need to , stating your full name and email address, to request access to Graduates First. Please also let us know if you require additional time for the tests. This may take a few days. If you have an interview coming up shortly, please let us know.


After the interview

Once the interview is over, it’s a good idea to reflect on your performance.

Make some notes on the questions you were asked, those you thought you answered particularly well or those you could have answered better.

You may receive a job offer. Initially it could be by telephone, but you will always receive a written copy which you must formally accept or reject. For more information see our Handling Job Offers page.

If you have not been successful this time, it might be a good idea to ask the employer for feedback as this will help you in your future interview preparation. targetjobs has useful information about requesting feedback.

If you are getting first interviews but not being offered second interviews or job offers, then you may want to discuss your interview technique with a careers consultant.


Help and support

The Careers Service provides advice and resources to help you prepare for interviews. There are also a range of useful websites that provide further advice.

Getting help

You can get help with preparing for interviews through our in-person and online 1:1 appointments. Log into MyCareer, click on 'Book', then 'Appointments' and use our Appointment Finder tool to book the right appointment type for you. Alternatively, for written advice on preparing for your interview, please submit a query via the Resources tab on MyCareer and an adviser will get back to you within 5 working days.

Depending on availability, we may also be able to offer you an interview coaching session with a careers consultant, where you'll have the chance to practise answering interview questions. To access this, you will need to have an interview date in place and have already had advice on preparing for interviews from the Careers Service.

We also run careers events and workshops for students, including sessions on interview techniques.

The Careers Service has rooms available for current students and registered graduates who need to take part in a telephone, Skype or video interview, subject to availability. Rooms in King’s Gate would be available Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 17:00 only. If you require a room, please call into the Careers Service, Level 1, King’s Gate to arrange or contact us, providing as much detail as possible. (Not available at present)

Other useful resources

Find further support and advice on these websites: