Interviews

There are many interview styles. These vary depending on the role you are applying for, the employer’s objectives or simply changing styles.

This page offers general advice on preparing for an interview. You will also find tips on how to approach specific interview formats, and deal with a range of questioning styles.

Preparation

  • Re-read your application, the person specification and job description. Refresh your understanding of the role.
  • Identify any potential weak points in your application (e.g. gaps in your work or study history) and think about how you will answer questions on these.
  • You may be nervous before your interview but don’t be tempted to skip meals. Food is key to maintaining energy levels and concentration.

Interviews - the basics

  • During the interview listen carefully to each question. Ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify the question if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to pause briefly to think about your answer.
  • Look for verbal and non-verbal clues to tell you whether you are answering satisfactorily and at appropriate length.
  • Do not feel pressured to go on speaking if you feel you have answered the question fully.
  • Convey interest and enthusiasm at all times, but maintain a professional manner.

Resources

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Types of interviews

In-person interviews

The basics

  • Be punctual and dress appropriately – first impressions matter.
  • Be polite and courteous to everyone you meet. Any one person may be asked for their impressions of you as a potential colleague.
  • Make sure your phone is turned off before you go into the interview.
  • The first 60 seconds are when you make your crucial first impression. Make eye contact with  the interviewer(s), smile and shake hands if offered.
  • You may be interviewed by a panel who will ask questions in turn. Address your answer to the individual asking the question, but be aware that other panel members are observing and assessing your response.
  • See below for advice on the types of questions you may be asked.

Telephone interviews

Telephone interviews present a unique challenge. Without eye contact or body language you are reliant on speech alone to engage the interviewer.

The basics

  • Choose a quiet location with no visual or noise distractions.
  • Sit comfortably but upright – you will feel alert and your tone of voice will reflect this.
  • Pay attention to the speed of your voice, speaking steadily and clearly.
  • Smile when you speak – this will be reflected in your voice, and will convey confidence and enthusiasm.
  • Don’t be put off by pauses or lack or encouragement from the interviewer. They may be taking notes and looking at the questions they need to ask next.
  • Don’t drink or smoke, as telephones amplify noise.
  • Have a pen, paper and your job application to hand for reference and to make notes.
  • See below for advice on the types of questions you may be asked.

Types of telephone interviews

Unannounced

  • The interviewer will call without prior warning.
  • If the call is at an inconvenient time, be prepared to say so and arrange a more suitable time.

Prearranged

  • You will be notified of a date and time when the interviewer will call.
  • You may be briefed as to the style of the questioning employed.

Sales

  • You will receive a call asking you to sell something to the interviewer. The object is to test your telephone manner and persuasive/negotiation skills.

Automated

  • You will be asked to call during a specified time frame.
  • You will hear a series of pre-recorded questions, and your answers to these will be recorded.
  • As there is no opportunity to have a dialogue with the interviewer it is especially important to practice your responses and make sure these are thorough and concise.
  • You may be able to re-record answers, but don’t assume this will be the case.

Video interviews

The basics

  • Choose a quiet location with no visual or noise distractions.
  • Use your webcam to check that you are clearly visible in the image frame.
  • Dress appropriately, as you would for an in-person interview.
  • Turn off the 'monitor' box which shows your own image - it will distract you and give the impression that you are avoiding eye contact.
  • Close any web browsers, apps, etc.
  • Have a pen, paper and your job application to hand for reference and to make notes.
  • See below for advice on the types of questions you may be asked.

Types of video interviews

Real-time

  • These mimic the format of an in-person interview (see above) and should be approached with the same level of preparation and formality.

Asynchronous

  • These resemble an automated telephone interview, with the added advantage of using facial expression and body language to bolster your answers.
  • You will be given a url and login to access the interview.
  • You will be asked a series of questions and invited to record your answer after each one.
  • You will probably have a time limit for each answer. Make your statements clear and concise, but avoid rushing.
  • You may be able to re-record answers, but don’t assume this will be the case.

Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

MMI is a specialist format used by medical schools and healthcare professions. This consists of a series of short interviews used to assess qualities including cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability and communication skills. Typically you will have two minutes to consider a given scenario and eight minutes to give your response to the interviewer.

Practice is key to success here. Use sample questions to rehearse your delivery style.

Resources

Types of questions

Competency-based questions

Competency-based questions are designed to assess the skills and experience outlined in the person specification for the role. You should give examples of times when you have demonstrated these skills. Your answers will be marked according to how well you meet the job criteria.

Examples:

  • How do you deal with conflict in the workplace?
  • Tell us about a situation where you made a decision and then changed your mind.
  • How important is communication in team working?
  • How do you maintain good working relationships with your senior colleagues?
  • How do you deal with conflicting demands on your time?

Notice that not all questions directly ask for examples. You should always provide examples, regardless. Practice giving answers using the STAR method. Describe the Situation, the Task to be completed, the Action you took and the Result.

Resources

Strengths-based questions

The aim of strengths-based questions is to assess your interests, passions and motivation. This in turn will evaluate your cultural fit. A recruit who enjoys their job (as well as being capable of doing it) and their working environment will perform better and be more likely to stay in post.

Examples:

  • When do you feel you are most like “yourself”?
  • Are you a starter or a finisher?
  • What qualities would you bring to this team?
  • Are you a big picture or a detail person?
  • What do you love to do in your spare time?
  • Give me an example of a weakness.
  • Tell me about an achievement you were particularly proud of.
  • What would your closest friend say are your greatest strengths?

There are no wrong answers, since you are describing personal qualities. Even so, these questions still require preparation.

Consider your strengths and weaknesses, what you enjoy about your past roles, and what is important to you in and out of work. Think about how these relate to the job specification and the culture of the organisation.

Resources

Tests and presentations

You may be asked to give a presentation or take an aptitude test as part of the interview. See our page on Assessment Centres for advice on preparing presentations and links to practice tests.

Interview support

contentbox-exclaim-orange.gifThe Careers Service can help you prepare for your interview. Book an appointment to talk to us and/or set up a mock interview.

Career video player

Find out more about writing CVs and covering letters, and preparing for interviews and assessment centres. UoB login required.

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Interviews and assessment centres

Download our interviews and assessment centres leaflet (pdf) which includes all the content from these web pages.