Prepare for your Interview
How to prepare for an interview?
Prior to attending an interview, it is highly recommended that you review the job description, underline all the key requirements for the role including qualifications, work experiences, skills needed to do the job effectively. Then come up with at least 2 to 3 questions you could be asked on each area together with your examples that prove to the interviewer that you have the necessary level of experience to do the job. When preparing your examples, write a few out in the STAR format below, which will help you to get used to structure your answers in a clear and logical way required during the interview. Also, you can draw on the examples from across the 3 areas of your CV – academic, work experiences (paid/unpaid, relevant/non-relevant work), hobbies and interests – all your experiences are valuable. Remember to use positive examples that highlight YOUR strengths and achievements. I contributed to the team by…… My initiative was taken on board by the employer…..
- Situation (describe the context of the example)
- Task (explain what you had to do/what issue you faced)
- Action (describe the actions you took. Give details about the steps you took to work through this task/issue.)
- Result (what was the outcome of learning for you? What made it successful or unsuccessful? What would you do differently another time?) Employers like stats and outcomes so do highlight any measurable achievements eg. I increased sales by 10% over my targets during the 3 months of my internship.
Preparation is key if you are going to succeed at interviews, therefore understanding the process of preparing for interviews is essential.
The best way to think of an interview is as a focused conversation where you and the hiring manager are exchanging information in order to come to a decision. For the interviewer, this means learning more about your experience, skillset and personality. For you as a candidate, it means finding out about the employer’s needs and showing how you can add value if they decide to bring you on as part of the team. It’s also a chance for you to determine whether the role is right for you and whether the company is a place where you would really learn to thrive.
What are the key things the interviewer wants to know?
- Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills, experience and personality for the job?)
- Will you do the job? (How motivated are you? Are you really interested in working for this company? Will you turn up on time every day?)
- Will you fit in? (How flexible are you? Will you fit in with their way of working? Do you prefer to work alone or as a member of a team?)
Top Tips for Video Interviews
With the impact of COVID-19 and the recent move to remote working, chances are, your next interview is a video interview. Be prepared by following these video interview tips gather from recruiters and HR professionals.
- Find Out What Type of Video Interview – Live vs. Pre-recorded?
- Prepare Your Technology - audio, mic, webcam
- Prepare Your Answers – to typical interview questions
- Prepare How You Present – eye contact and body language can be a challenge online
- Prepare Yourself – check the time zone, have your phone on silent etc.
- Dress for Success – dress professionally, bright colours or patterns can be distracting online
- Prepare Your Surroundings – quiet, tidy space with no distractions
- Closure – end on a positive, enthusiastic note
- Practice: Practice, Practice – online practice resources available
- Check out Further Resources – for more information on any aspect of video interviewing
What Type of Video Interview – Live vs. Pre-recorded?
- Live video interviews - you will join a video conference from a link that the employer shares with you, or you might receive a call via Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts or another video conference provider. You’ll be able to see and speak with an interviewer.
- Pre-recorded video interviews - you will be given instructions on how to join the interview. You’ll be prompted to answer interview questions that have been pre-recorded or appear in writing on the screen without being connected with a person. You’ll record your answer to each question. There is often a time limit for your answers, and you may or may not be given more than one chance to record each answer.
- The pre-recorded format can feel unnatural to some people. Imagine that you are having a live conversation, your preparation for the interview will be especially important for this format.
- It’s important to know which type of video you are preparing for, it’s completely acceptable to ask the recruiter who is scheduling the interview if they haven’t already given you that information. Just ask in a polite and professional way.
Prepare Your Technology - Testing, Testing, 123
- Ensure your internet connection is sufficient, check and test your computer’s audio, webcam and mic volume, close any unnecessary web browser tabs and applications on your computer that could interrupt or slow the internet connection., charge it up.
- If you’re using a personal Skype or Google account, make sure that you have a professional username and check your privacy settings.
- Familiarize yourself with the video interview platform. New to Skype? Get comfortable and practice with the program before your interview.
Prepare Your Answers - Usual Rules Still Apply
- Prepare for video interviews as if they're regular in-person interviews. Research not only the company, interviewer, and role but also what you need to know to impress the company.
- For pre-recorded video interviews if you get the questions in advance, prepare prior to the actual interview so when you go on video.
- Find out what you can about the interview, types of questions etc. is it competency-based, strengths-based, business scenarios etc. You can email the recruiter and ask if they haven’t already informed you.
- Plenty of resources online to help you to prepare for your interview, in our UCC Career Services Presentation Library and our Prepare for an Interview Resources found below.
Prepare How You Present - Lights, Cameras, Action
- Maintain good eye contact and body language, when listening, nod and smile to show you are engaged, Use hand gestures when appropriate.
- Keep your eyes forward; this can take practice and feels unnatural, but during your interview, you should look at the camera as much as possible, not the picture of the other person on the screen. Looking at the camera is as close as you can get to making eye contact with the interviewer, if you look at the screen it will appear to the other side like you’re staring off into space.
- Project your voice. Check your volume controls and speak clearly so the microphone picks up your voice and the interviewer doesn’t have to strain to hear you. And remember that digital connections can sometimes be delayed.
- Be a well-prepared early bird, check the time zone.
- Have a pen, notepad and copy of your resume on your desk.
- Place your phone in silent mode.
Dress for Success
- Dress as you would for an in-person interview from head to toe. Doing so will make you feel more confident.
- Don’t try the old trick of wearing a shirt with sweatpants assuming you’ll only be seen from the waist up.
- Be sure to wear solid colours, as stripes and complex patterns can look awful on video.
Prepare Your Surroundings
- Set the stage for a distraction-free video interview, with no distractions.
- Make sure you choose a quiet space for the interview and tidy the area, so it looks presentable.
- Close by sharing your appreciation and enthusiasm.
- Follow up if something happened with the technology if you feel you weren’t clear on a point or misunderstood something. It shows initiative.
Practice: Practice, Practice
- Systems like Zoom let you record your meeting, so use this to polish your interviewing skills.
- Shortlist.me allows some free practice video interviews.
Check out Further Resources
The next step is to practice speaking out your examples. This is very important so you can reflect on whether you are speaking too fast or too slow, and if you are including all the information you wanted to get across for each example. Practising also helps manage our nerves, so the more practice the better. Do consider contacting the UCC Career Services and making an appointment with one of the Career Advisors to do a mock interview.
Ending the Interview
At the end of the interview, the employer could ask if you have any questions for them. We would recommend preparing one or two meaningful questions but only ask one e.g. 'It mentions on the job description that there are opportunities for training and development as part of the role, I wonder could you say a little about the training available'. Be careful not to ask any question where the information is available on the job description, company website or through your industry research.
Think honestly about how things went – do you need to brush up on any aspect of your interviews technique? Ask a Careers Advisor for advice if you identify any particular issues you want to discuss. Also do keep a log of all questions you were asked for future reference as these could come up again in your next interview.