Written by Caroline Thomas, final year BSc Geography (Physical) student
In the current day and age, students are often required to complete many interviews throughout their time at University, sometimes needing to attend multiple interviews just for one position. This commonly creates a lot of anxiety, especially with competition remaining high, and pressure building up as the days before the interview become closer.
A ‘fight or flight’ reaction is perfectly normal when under the stress of an interview when the adrenaline kicks in and the reality of the situation comes to light. Even now, in my 3rd year at Reading (and after quite a few different interviews!), I still find them incredibly daunting and find that I continue to panic beforehand, and often ramble throughout the interview when my mind goes blank. This is why I was so pleased to see that the Careers Centre was organising an online webinar to explore some different tips and advice for feeling more confident in interview situations, which I recently attended.
One of the main tips that was given during the webinar was to counteract any negative feelings, such as by using positive internal language. A few examples of this could be:
- Knowing that they are interviewing you because they believe you could do the job
- Remembering that if you can get yourself into a state of panic and anxiety, you have the ability to think yourself out of it
- Feeling reassured that it is totally normal to be anxious about a new experience
- Preparing some typical answers
It would be impossible to predict the exact questions that an interviewer could ask, however, it is easy to get yourself well prepared and familiar with the type of questions that could come up. Easy ways to do this at home are to:
- Carefully look over the job advert for the skills that the post requires (read their website and look over the emailed details)
- Get friends and family to ask you general interview questions to help you become more familiar with talking about yourself, in a confident and positive manner
- Research the key values of the company beforehand
- Identify qualities about yourself that you could bring to the company, along with weaknesses that you are actively working on to improve
Feeling more prepared by knowing exactly what is required from you for the job, along with knowing your own strengths and weaknesses are just a few ways that can boost your confidence before entering the interview, as you can be reassured that you have some answers prepared for common questions. This is great – as it leaves fewer questions completely unknown!
The STAR Technique
A great technique to structure your answers to any skills and competency questions that you may get asked is to use the STAR approach. This provides adequate information covering all aspects including the situation, task, action and result, allowing you to expand your answer thoroughly. In more detail:
S – Situation (Give a brief outline of the situation. Don’t assume the interviewer has read your application form in detail, so give them some context)
T – Task (Describe the task that was required of you)
A – Action (Talk about key actions you took – this should make up approximately 60% of your answer, so don’t be shy to go into detail here!)
R – Result (Conclude by describing the result or outcome. Provide specific, ideally quantifiable, details to make your response credible and believable)
The STAR approach can also be used on written application forms, or for any situation where a detailed answer is required and is better to practise by yourself, or with others to feel more confident using it before the big day. This will boost your confidence by knowing that you’re able to supply detailed examples of events that highlight your key skills.
The main thing to remember is that the adrenaline rush is completely normal – the nerves show how much you really want it! If the interview is in-person, there’s no harm in arriving onsite early and finding a local café to sit at and treat yourself to and take this time to phone someone you trust, let your feelings out and tell them how you are. Never rush an answer in the interview, speaking slower and in a calm manner will portray you in a more confident way (even if you don’t feel like that!). Remember that interviewers like to be asked a couple questions from their interviewees, as this shows their interest in the company and the position, so be sure to have a couple questions pre-prepared to ask at the end of the interview. No question is a silly question, and sometimes they give credit to the more creative ones, where it is clear that some thought and research has gone into them.
These tips have already helped me personally, by allowing me to feel more collected and confident in interview situations, and by removing some of the ‘unknown’, which was something that often used to make me nervous before any interview. Especially since I am now in my final year of University, these tips I gained from attending the webinar will be ones that I take forward with me for future job interviews. I really enjoyed learning how I can help myself out in these situations, all within a one-hour session, and within a safe and friendly environment with other students in the same position as me.
Aside from practising some typical questions with friends and family, along with researching some key values of the company, making use of the support available here at University is critical. It is easy to book a mock interview with an experienced Careers Consultant by heading over to My Jobs Online, to practise your interview technique and gain tailored feedback on your performance. Alternatively, you can head over to Shortlist.Me to perfect your interview skills using employer-accredited video interviews, or check out our Graduates First page, giving you access to psychometric tests and job assessment preparation.
Got a video interview? Practice online for free with Shortlist.Me
Want to practice with an experienced Careers Consultant? Book a mock interview!
Are psychometric tests part of your interview? Head over to Graduates First.