Build your problem-solving skills

hands putting thread into a needleDepending on the job you apply for, the interviewing process can be different. For some positions, you could be asked a series of practical questions or to solve a problem right there and then. You might be nervous because of the whole process, and under pressure, you might go blank.

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Preparing to impress at interviews

What to expect

Being invited for an interview might turn your legs to jelly but it is actually a good sign, it means you have passed the first stage of your application and they have liked what they have read. If you have applied for a graduate position you are likely to have more than one interview but sometimes this can be true for work placements too. Some large employers will get an agency to conduct the first interview, but there is an increasing trend for the first stage interview to be by telephone. For second stage interviews it is typical to have more than one interviewer. Interviews can last anything from 20 to 50 minutes but employers generally advise candidates on this and who will be interviewing; if you do not receive this information you may wish to ask HR.

Typical First Round Interview Questions

  • Why do you want the job?
  • What made you choose to study your discipline?
  • Tell me about your final year dissertation
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Who are our major competitors?
  • What do you know about us?
  • Competency based questions eg. When have you worked with others in a team and what was your role? Tell us about a problem you have faced, how did you overcome it and why did you choose that solution?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
  • Questions re. current affairs

How to prepare what to say

If you are feeling very anxious at the thought of an interview you may wish to jump to the section on Keeping the nerves under control, however thorough preparation will help as there’s nothing worse than feeling underprepared for an interview! First stage interviews are about checking out the application form, is the candidate as good as they sounded? Therefore candidates often feel like they are repeating what’s on their application form but to be successful you need to be able to take this to the next level. You will be scored against the criteria advertised for the position. The following steps will help prepare you for this:

  1. Check the employer’s website; From the job specification list the competencies (skills), aptitudes, personality required for the post
  2. Re-read your application form, look at the examples you gave and think about how you could expand on them.
  3. Ask yourself: ‘What did this situation teach me about myself? How could I improve? What other solutions were there to those examples?
  4. Identify any potential gaps in what they are looking for and what’s on your application form and get examples at the ready from a range of situations eg degree course, voluntary work, sports, clubs etc.
  5. Knowledge of the job – prepare to answer questions that explore your understanding of what you have applied for e.g. Management, HR, marketing etc.
  6. Knowledge of the organisation – check their website to see what’s new (any Awards, mergers or new CEO in post?) prepare for ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ and ‘Who are our competitors?’
  7. Commitment and drive – all employers want motivated and keen employees (ie ‘Where do you want to be in 5 years time?’) research what the career path can be at that organisation for new graduates and although it’s good to be ambitious avoid the cheesy ‘Doing your job’ or ‘Managing Director’ responses!

Second Stage Interviews

These can be more in-depth so expect to be asked more about your experiences. You may get more specific questions related to the post eg ‘What do you think of our latest marketing campaign?’ or ‘What is the current Interest Rate?’

You may get scenario questions eg ‘What would you do if…’ Often there are no wrong answers they just want to make you think on your feet.

How to answer the questions with confidence

A good interviewer will put you at ease and ask a lot of ‘open’ questions to give you the opportunity to expand on your answers and demonstrate how you respond to a challenge and how articulate you are. The following guidelines may help you handle the questions:

  1. Always be positive about yourself, and if asked what your weaknesses are identify a weakness that can be corrected or even better how you have already worked on it.
  2. Look at the person who asked you the question when answering, but glance at the others on the panel too so you avoid excluding them
  3. Seek clarification if you are not sure what has been asked
  4. Answer a simple question with a brief answer, but ask if that has answered the question or would they like you to expand further?
  5. If you need time to think about a question before you answer then just ask for it
  6. Speak a little slower than normal, nervousness speeds us up!
  7. Try to sit still and ask your friends if you have any annoying mannerisms you need to avoid

Telephone Interviews

Ensure you have a quiet place to talk and have your application to hand. Speak slower as most people speed up on the telephone and still smile to project warmth. If you need time to think, tell them so they don’t think you’ve gone! Some people find it helps if they dress the part.

Creating the right first impression

It is often said that we have four minutes to impress at an interview. First impressions start when you arrive (early but not too early!) be polite to everyone you meet (including the other candidates!) it is not unusual for interviewers to ask reception staff how the candidates came across. When you enter the interview room smile and shake hands with confidence. This is something to practise if you are not used to shaking hands. It is a good idea to wear a smart version of what the normal style of dress is in the organisation. Check their website to get an idea of what this is.

Preparing questions for the interviewer

It is a good idea to have two questions prepared. This will demonstrate your enthusiasm for the post as long as they are good questions! This is not the time to ask about salary; this information will be in a job offer and if you wish to negotiate over the terms that’s the time to do it. Avoid questions you could have answered by reading their website, instead use the opportunity to ask more about the training or career development, try and follow on from what was said to you at the interview. However, if you are at the end of the interview and are kicking yourself for not having had an opportunity to tell them something about yourself then this is your golden opportunity. ‘I have only one question but I am aware that I haven’t told you about my final year project that could be of interest to you could I briefly tell you about it now?’ But do keep it brief, the interviewers will be on a time schedule and will not appreciate someone who makes them overrun.

Questions for the Interviewer

  • How will I be assessed/my performance appraised?
  • Will I be assigned a mentor? If so, who will they be?
  • What has happened to previous post holders?
  • Do they think there would be an opportunity for you to use/develop your language skills?
  • When can you expect to hear about the outcome of your interview?

Preparing how to say it

Like preparing for exams everyone has their own preferred style of getting ready for an interview. If you are not used to interviews then speaking out loud and ‘blowing your own trumpet’ can be a challenge. The more practise you get at this the more relaxed you will be at interview so ask friends/family to ask you questions and get used to talking about yourself. If you are very uncomfortable at doing this then start talking to yourself! Summarise your examples to brief bullet points so you are not trying to learn passages of text which will sound too rehearsed at interview.

Key points to remember

  • Interviewers have been in your position and may be nervous themselves
  • It is normal to be nervous at interviews; it shows you want the job!
  • You have been invited for interview as your application was good!
  • If you are unsuccessful ask for feedback and do better next time
  • The worst thing that can happen? You don’t get the job, but there will be others!

Keeping the nerves under control!

Everyone gets nervous in interviews, but if your knees begin to knock as soon as you get the invite it may be a good idea to have a mock interview with a Careers Adviser when you have an interview coming up. Thorough preparation can really help, so following the advice above is a good start. Normally people get very nervous because they have experienced a bad interview before so it is worth thinking back to that and analysing what went wrong eg Did you talk too fast? Did you say too little? If you can identify what went wrong then it is easier to fix. If you feel anxious and think you could do with boosting your self-esteem then you may wish to look at the training programme offered by Counselling and Wellbeing and attend some of their sessions. Other practical advice is take water with you to the interview in case your mouth goes dry, chew gum before you go in to help relax your jaw (remember to get rid of it though!) and do some gentle exercise before you go to release those endorphins and relax. Remember no one gives a perfect interview and just because you may struggle with a question or two it does not mean you won’t pass the interview, you will be considered on your whole performance.

What to do next

  • Sign up for a mock interview with a graduate recruiter in the Careers Centre – see website for details or if you have an interview coming up book a mock interview with a Careers Adviser
  • See the Coaching sheet on Assessment Centres (include link) for second interviews
  • For further ideas on questions you might be asked see the following websites whatwilltheyask, Prospects and TargetJobs

How to prepare for an interview

This article is courtesy of Samantha Meredith, of Enterprise Rent-A-Car

“What is the old saying ‘to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail?’ I am sure that this is also the case with interviewing. As a Talent Acquisition Specialist for Enterprise Rent-A-Car I can separate a well prepared candidate from a #winging-it candidate in a matter of minutes!

So how do you prepare for an interview? First things first: you need to look the part. Did you know that according to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics 55% of another person’s perception of you is based on the way you look? So in the first few seconds of meeting a potential employer, before you have even said a word, they have already formed an opinion.

Hence why it’s important to look professional during an interview, be careful of trends, ensure that you look smart (guys: that’s top button done up and tie, yes tie, all the way to the top!) Purchasing a suit seems like a huge investment, however it’s money well spent , and will always come in handy for the work business lunches once you have secured the role! My advice on interview dress is – if you are not sure ask! If you don’t want to ask it’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Right, how you look the part, how are you going to convince the recruiter that you are a great fit for their position? The key is research:


  • The Company
  • The Role
  • The Career Path


  • The Internet
  • Careers Fairs
  • University Careers Centers’
  • Contact the Company

So why is this research important? When you go through any recruitment process the employer is not just assessing whether you are the right person for the job. It’s also about ensuring that the company and role match up with your goals, values and aspirations too. Not only that, but knowing more about the company will help you gain confidence – we all feel more at ease talking about subjects on which we have some knowledge, and this will also help you appear enthusiastic about the role.

Every recruiter wants to know that you are truly interested in the position that you are applying for. Once you have researched the company you will probably find that you will have some more questions about the company or the role you are applying for – what better than to have some good, relevant questions already prepared for the typically dreaded question at the end of interviews: “So, what questions do you have for me?”.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you found it useful. For more advice like this and for a range of Graduate Management jobs available please visit the Enterprise Rent-A-Car website

What to wear to an interview

Written by Simon Howarth, a graduate from the University of Leeds, writing on behalf of House of Fraser.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re interviewing for a university or college position, or applying for internships and jobs, if you’re clothes aren’t comfortable it will make you feel uncomfortable. Even the most immaculately dressed interviewee will come across as awkward and ill-at-ease to an interviewer if the clothes they wear are making them feel uncomfortable and fidgety. An interviewer is much more likely to pick a candidate who comes across as comfortable and relaxed, rather than someone who appears awkward and clumsy.

If the invitation to a job interview doesn’t specifically state what the dress code is, don’t be afraid to ask. No one will hold it against you, many potential employers will even see it as a sign of good preparation skills, and showing a desire to comply with the dress code is good manners when trying to integrate yourself seamlessly into the business.

Most job interviews call for formal wear, assume this is the case unless stated in the invitation and you can’t directly find out. For males this is relatively straight forward as it means a suit and tie, a jacket is not always necessary but a shirt, tie, and smart trousers are absolutely necessary. For females there is a bit more room to show off your individual style, but a pencil skirt with neat blouse is classic office wear, or a trouser suit combination.

One item of clothing many young men tend to neglect is the belt. Having low-rise trousers may be seen as fashionable casual wear, but interviewers prefer waistbands around the waist. Smart trousers also seem a little odd without a belt; a simple plain black belt will usually suffice.

This also applies at university or college interviews where the dress code is often smart/casual. For men this can mean a short sleeve polo shirt combined with a cardigan or jumper. Chinos can sometimes be considered acceptable, but if unsure stick to trousers and smart shoes. For women smart/casual can mean a number of things, including maxi dresses and day dresses; when combined with a suitable blazer or jacket they can look both smart and sophisticated.

Unfortunately it may be necessary for many students or recent graduates to purchase new clothing for an important interview, wearing faded or fraying clothes that have been used once too often gives a negative impression. If purchasing new clothes for an interview it is best to try and get high quality as they will last longer and stay in better condition. But don’t pay more than you can afford, the interviewer won’t be checking the labels on the way out. It’s also a good idea to wear the outfit a couple of times before the interview, even if it’s just around the house. This will give you a feel for the outfit and avoid it looking box-fresh. You may want all your clothes looking new when you’re out and about, but turning up to an interview with a shirt still creased from the packaging shows signs of last minute preparation.

Shoes are also very important to get right. Ladies should avoid wearing high heels, they can seem awkward when walking and make standing up a bit of a chore. If the business is very serious high fashion clothing may come across as frivolous and make you seem like you’re more concerned in your clothes than the interview. Remember you want to look smart, but not draw attention away from the reason you’re there, you! A closed flat toe pump looks smart and is most importantly comfortable, but low or medium court shoe in dark or muted colours would be suitable. Obviously wearing trainers is a non-starter, smart men’s shoes should be plain, humble, and preferably leather. Shoes like this in brown or black are suitable for a host of social situations from weddings to, most importantly, job interviews.

Remember the first impression is often the most important part of an interview. So you want to look smart, yet not draw attention away from your personality”.

Bizarre interview questions

Preparing for an interview is great practice to get into so you can give a competent, satisfying answer to questions, particularly when applying for graduate jobs. However, sometimes this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s tricky to be prepared for any eventuality that might occur in the interview.

As a prime example, recently, Currys asked their applicants to have a ‘Dance off’ during the session – something which nobody was prepared for!

It’s good to be aware of some of the slightly less unorthodox questions which might be thrown at you and even better to understand why they are asking them and what they expect from your answer.

Anna Pitts of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau gives you a taste of the crazy questions out there:

– If you were an animal what would you be and why?

– Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

– How would you explain Facebook to your Grandma?

– If your friend was seriously injured and you had to get him to a hospital, would you speed and go through a red light?

– Explain why you are wearing this outfit.

– How would you fit an elephant in a fridge?

This article has been provided by an external organisation – please read ourdisclaimer

So, do you have any questions? Top tips from Deloitte!

This article has been provided by an external organisation – please read our disclaimer

Have an interview for your dream graduate job or placement? James Nugent, Graduate Recruitment Officer at Deloitte offers these top tips on how to ace the question that comes at the end of the interview ‘So, have you an questions for us?’

“While there is no such thing as a silly question, your choice and wording of a question may have an important impact on its outcome. This is a valuable opportunity to demonstrate why you are the right candidate for a position.  It is therefore important that this opportunity works for you, not against you. Ideally you should prepare a number of well researched questions that demonstrate a deep understanding of the organisation that you have applied to and which provides a platform for you to really engage with the interviewer.  Remember, you aren’t simply trying to get a job – you want to ensure it is the right job for you. So do ask questions that really matter to you and not what you think you should be asking. One top tip is to ask the interviewer for their experiences of the company. This will offer a unique personal insight into the team/firm you may be joining.”

For more information on opportunities available at Deloitte visit:

How to ace a Skype interview!

Travelling globally for work  is commonplace today and has led to big changes to the employment process – particularly the dreaded interview!

Skype interviews have become a standard for HR departments even though the conventions might seem alien to first-time students or young professionals.

Viking employs over 1,300 people and operates in over 11 countries worldwide so, using their experience of internationally reaching recruitment and HR departments, they have put together a guide to the formalities of the Skype interview and the tips on how to ace it! Check it out!



You can find out more information on Skype interviews here: