Upcoming placement interview? Here are our top tips to help you prepare!

Person sat opposite an interview panel

At this time of year, some of you may be attending interviews for a placement year opportunity that you have applied for. These interviews may be online or in-person, and they may also be part of an assessment centre. We have listed some top-tips below, to help you feel ready and prepared to ace your placement interviews!

1 – Research the company

Before any interview, it is really important to research the company you are interviewing with. You can do this through looking at their website, their social media channels, in the news, or even a Google search! You can look at things such as:

  • The industry they are in
  • The projects they are involved with
  • The products/services they offer
  • The clients/ customers they work with
  • Their company values

It is common for organisations to ask why you would like to work for their company, and they are looking for specific answers, to show that you have researched them, and that you are genuinely interested in working for them.

2 – Prepare examples of your skills and experiences

In order to prepare effectively for a placement interview, it is key to refer back to the job description of the role you are interviewing for, and match your skills and experiences to the competencies they are looking for. For example, if they have specified that they are looking for a placement student who has good time management, organisation and communication skills, try to think about examples from your own experiences, where you can demonstrate these skills.

Where possible, try to draw on a range of examples, from experiences such as your degree programme, part-time jobs, volunteering, and any other experiences you’ve had.

3 – Practice your interview skills

It is vital to practice your interview skills, prior to attending a real interview! One of the best ways to practice is to book a mock interview with a member of the Careers or Placements Team! We can provide you with some tailored feedback, to help you improve and hone your interview skills, so that you can attend your placement interviews feeling confident and prepared. The more practice you do, the more familiar you will become with approaching interview questions. As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect!’ and this is definitely the case with interview skills.

When practising your interview skills, it may help to use the STAR technique, particularly for competency based questions. This acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result, and is a good way of structuring your answers, and staying on track. The Situation and Task are there to give context, then the main focus should be on the Action you took, and finally the Result (you can also include an extra ‘R’ for Reflection at the end if you wish, to speak about anything you might have done differently for example).

You can find further information on how to use the STAR technique, on our Careers website.

4 – Plan your logistics

Before any placement interview, whether online or face-to-face, it is very important to plan your logistics. This will help to reduce any pre-interview nerves!

Online interviews

For an online interview, you will be given instructions as to the format of the interview, including the timings, the platform (e.g. Teams or Zoom), and the length of the interview. We would always recommend logging on to your online interview nice and early (10-15 minutes), to ensure that everything is working correctly. It also gives a good first impression of you as a professional, if you are early!

For further tips on video interviews, you can take a look at this page on Prospects: Video interview tips | Prospects.ac.uk

Face-to-face interviews

If your interview is face-to-face, it might be that you have to travel locally, or further afield, to attend your interview. When planning your journey, you should allow plenty of time to get to where you need to go, as there can sometimes be delays such as traffic, or issues with public transport. Please carefully read any instructions sent to you, prior to the interview, to make sure you have the correct address, timings and any other important information you may need.

Check our our Interview Preparation checklist on the Careers website for lots more tips!

5 – Prepare your questions to ask at the end of the interview

Finally, at the end of a placement interview, the recruiter will most likely ask you ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ and your answer should always be ‘Yes!’. Try to prepare a few questions, specific to the organisation you are interviewing with, that you will ask at the end. These questions could be about the company (e.g. the team you might be working in, the company culture, or the direction of the organisation) or they could be about the role you are applying for (e.g. the training and onboarding process, or more information about the specific projects you might be working on). Your questions should be as specific as possible to the company and role you are applying for, and this is where your initial research can come in useful again, to inform your questions.

Further resources relating to interviews are available on the Careers website (Interviews | University of Reading) and also on the Prospects website (Interview tips | Prospects.ac.uk). If you have any questions, you can also email the Placements Team at placements@reading.ac.uk and we will be happy to help!

Best of luck with your placement interviews! 


Emily Dewell, Placement Coordinator