Congratulations – you’ve been invited to an interview. Your application was strong enough to meet the requirements of the job or course!

You can be confident that you have the necessary skills and knowledge they’re looking for, so here’s your chance to talk in more detail and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate.

Whether you’ve been invited to an interview for uni, college, or a job, there are many different styles of interview recruiters use, and they’ll choose a suitable one depending on the course or job role they want to fill.

If you’re preparing for a performance-based interview or audition, we’ve got more information on conservatoire auditions.

How to prepare for an interview

Preparation is key to a successful interview. You may feel you could get away without doing any, but if you’re unable to answer a question with enough detail and another candidate can give a more concise answer, you’ll find yourself out of the running. Here are some top tips on how to prepare:

  • Check over the advert or person specification again and note down the skills listed as important, e.g. teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. Prepare two or three examples for each of these skills, using your experience to showcase how you have demonstrated them.
  • Re-read your application and put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. What questions would you ask based on your application or your CV. Think about the main skills you want to emphasize in your answers – which ones will make you the stand-out candidate based on your experience and knowledge.
  • Do your research.
    • If you’re applying for a job, make sure you learn about the company you’re applying to. Not only will you appear more interested, but you may be asked questions about it, and the research you do may give you ideas for questions to ask them too.
    • If you’re applying for university or college, make sure you know your industry well.
  • Plan what you are going to wear well in advance – and if you’re unsure what to wear, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
    • Make sure you’ve showered, and your clothes and hair are clean. First impressions count and you don’t want them to remember you for the wrong reasons.
  • Make sure you know exactly where you need to be and give yourself at least 15 minutes extra to arrive in good time. There’s nothing worse than being late, the interviewer won’t be impressed by it and you’ll be out of sorts for the rest of the interview. Being early will create a good first impression and will give you some welcome time to catch your breath and relax.
  • Take a copy of your application, your CV, and examples of work you’ve produced that are relevant to the job you’ve applied to. Check the job description again to refresh your understanding of what’s expected.
  • If you’re making a presentation, make sure you take a back-up, e.g. on a USB stick, and printed handouts to give to the interviewers.
  • Think before you speak. How you communicate in an interview is really important, so think about the style, speed, tone, and volume you use when answering. Imagine you’re speaking to someone you know, and you’ll probably feel more relaxed. Avoid using slang, jargon, and definitely don’t use unsavoury language.
  • Make eye contact with everyone in the room, not just the person asking the questions.
  • Ask relevant questions which reflect how much you would like to work for the company, and not just want the job.
    • Try not to ask about pay or holiday entitlement, you can iron out these details later, if you’re successful at this stage.

What to expect

When you arrive for your interview, you’ll meet a range of different people – from the receptionist to anyone else you interact with. Be sure to treat everyone you meet with respect – all impressions you make on this day will count, and you never know who the interviewer will speak to about you.

The interviewers will expect you to be slightly nervous, and it’s likely they’ll try to put you at ease when they welcome you. You can’t undo a first impression, so try to create the best positive impact you can.

Interviewers want to meet the ‘real you’ so it’s important that you don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Be confident, honest, and positive, but try not to over-do it. By being authentic, you’ll feel good, you’ll build rapport quickly, and earn respect from the people you meet.

Here are some tips on how to make a positive impact from the moment you meet your interviewers:

  • Smile, be confident, and offer a firm handshake.
  • Make eye contact when you’re speaking to people – this will help you seem confident, even if you don’t feel it!
  • Try not to slouch, fidget, or use too many hand gestures. If you tend to use your hands when you talk, hold them together ­– but avoid crossing your arms as this can make you appear defensive.
  • Avoid playing with pens or any accessories you have as this may draw attention away from what you’re saying.
  • Finally, turn off your phone and leave it in your bag or pocket.

Skills and qualities that employers look for

  • Confidence
  • Resilience
  • Versatility
  • Ambition
  • Professionalism
  • Organisation
  • Resourcefulness
  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Creative
  • Adaptable to change
  • Decisiveness
  • Energy and enthusiasm
  • Evaluative
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Trust

Relate the skills and qualities listed above to the role or course you’re applying for where relevant to emphasise your suitability and strengths.

After the interview

Usually, the interviewers will give you an idea of when they’re likely to let candidates know if they’ve been successful, and you can ask this question if they don’t tell you. If you have got the job, or a place on the course, great news and congratulations!

If you haven’t been successful, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to think back over the interview and note any of your answers to which you feel you could improve on. Were any of your responses rushed? Could you have provided stronger examples? Did you prepare and practise thoroughly enough?

It’s always worth contacting the interviewer for feedback, particularly about what you did well, and if they have any tips for improvement. It can be very tempting to shy away from feedback, but the interviewer won’t be mean to you, instead they’ll do their best to ensure the feedback they give is constructive. You may even find out that you were very close to succeeding, which will give you confidence for the next interview you attend.

What next?

Now you know how to prepare, we've got more information on the types of interview you might be invited to, and the kinds of questions you may be asked.