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How to cope with interviews

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Whether you are applying for a graduate scheme, an internship, work experience or a full-time job, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you are going to have to sell yourself by means of an interview.  While you can usually find help with interview technique and preparation from someone at your university, and every company you apply to will have a slightly different interview style, we’ve put together a little list of preparatory tips that we think can be of use to everyone.

1. Do your research: Not only will researching what companies do help you to decide if you actually want to work for them in the first place, but knowing your stuff is incredibly handy when it comes to an interview.  It’s very likely they will ask "so why do you want to work for us?" or "are there any of our campaign/elements of our work you’re particularly interested in?"  If you can quickly refer to one or two examples that interest you, or that you can at least pretend to identify with, it really will work in your favour.  You are showing that you have taken the time to look into this company and have decided they are someone you really want to work for, rather than them being just another business you’ve applied to in your desperate search for ANY job.

2. Look the part: Depending on the job you are applying for, what you will be expected to wear can differ massively.  But, as a good rule of thumb, looking formal is the way forward.  Obviously, applying for a job in a field like law or finance will usually mean wearing a suit or smart skirt/blouse combo but, for roles in areas such as marketing or teaching, you can be a little less rigid; be sure to look smart, but don’t be afraid to perhaps wear a bright colour or a quirky print.  You should be able to judge for yourself what will be appropriate, but the most important thing is to feel comfortable so that you can relax, be yourself, and sell yourself to the best of your ability.

3. The two-way Q&A: Chances are you’ll already know that you’re going to be asked several questions.  Common ones that crop up are along the lines of ‘tell us about yourself’, ‘why do you want to work for us’, ‘what made you want to go into this area of work’, ‘where do you see yourself in ten years’, or ‘tell us about a time you overcame a difficult problem’.  These are all pretty straightforward, but can completely stump people (myself included!) when it actually comes to answering them on the spot.  Have an idea of what you can say to each of these before you get to the interview, and you will feel a lot more prepared and confident when it comes to answering any other questions.  Also, have a few questions in mind that you can ask them about the role, the company, or anything else you are curious about – they WILL ask you if you have anything you want to ask about at the end of the interview!

4. Know yourself: It sounds obvious, but make sure you know your CV inside out! They may very well ask about certain subjects you studied, jobs that you had in the past, skills that you have stated, or your personal interests.  It’s very easy for your mind to go blank when you are nervous, so your CV can act almost like a cheat sheet and give you something to refer back to as a starting point.

5. Show and tell: It’s a good idea to bring along some examples of your university work, or things that you have done outside of your degree, such as articles for the student newspaper, creative pieces or projects. Even your dissertation might be useful. While they won’t read your 10,000 back to back, they may very well ask to flick through it or to glance at some of your work to get an idea of how well you write or present things. They can also provide a good talking point, as you are likely to be more confident in explaining a piece or project that you care about. It shows you are proud of the work you do, and provides a means to show what you can do, as well as telling what you can do.

6. Don’t stress!: Easier said than done, but try not to panic! It’s very easy to get stressed out before an interview for a job that you really want, and you can end up feeling like you’re not good enough or imagining the worst case scenario before you’ve even set foot in the room – but remember, the people interviewing you WANT you to get the job, they wouldn’t have bothered inviting you in if they didn’t. They are interested in you, and think that you are suitable for the job, and it can be very hard for employers to narrow it down to just one person.  Whatever the outcome, it will always be for the best.

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