A few days ago, I mentioned that I’d applied for some internships and volunteering opportunities on MyCareers (if you missed the post, have a look here). Well, booking an appointment with the Career Development Service to help me with my CV seemed to work! I soon found out that I’d been accepted onto a two week placement within the University’s Press Office, which is very exciting. What wasn’t so exciting was the news that I was invited to an interview that would be used as practice, and to prepare me for future opportunities.
Although the knowledge that I had secured my placement regardless of my performance at the interview did help to calm my nerves, I was still a bit daunted by the whole prospect. What would they ask me? How could I best prepare? How long would it even last?
Stumped with these queries, I decided to ask my friends for some advice; I would have usually taken advantage of the Career Development Service’s mock interviews/ assessment centers, but the idea of practicing for a practice interview was a slight overkill even for me. The tips my friends gave me were quite useful, though…
It’s a good idea to find out everything you can about the company and department you are hoping to work for. Make sure that you understand what the company does as a whole, as well as the details of your desired role; if you are unsure, study the person specification as well as the job description that were advertised and make sure you know what will be required of you. For my interview, I researched who worked at the press office, and when I was asked to guess how many staff members there were, I could show off by knowing the answer!
- Go over your CV and application
In your application, you probably submitted a CV. You need to be able to explain everything on your CV in more detail, provide reasoning for breaks between employment, and perhaps answer why you left certain companies. This wasn’t as important as the research part in my interview because the questions were more general, but a good recap of what I’d already claimed to be my strengths reminded me of ways to sell myself, and about the relevant experiences I could talk about.
- Answer questions
You definitely need to be able to answer an array of questions about yourself and your academic and work experiences. The opening question in my interview was the vague and dreaded ‘tell me about yourself’, to which I talked about what I study, and which extra curricular activities I take part in that were relevant to the role. Before my interview, I Googled difficult questions and practiced answering them to get my creative side working quicker; you could be asked a puzzling question such as ‘if you were a biscuit, which would you be and why?’. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked anything quite that obscure(!), but I had prepared to answer similar questions with original answers that related to the particularities of the role in question.
For me, practice was the big one. I can answer questions quickly on paper, but something about the intensity of an oral interview often makes my mind go blank. By using a helpful volunteer (such as a housemate) to go through questions in a professional manner, you can get used to thinking on the spot and communicating your responses out loud. It sounds silly, but it helps.
All interviews are obviously different; you can get group interviews, assessment centers, all kinds of different questions, but preparation is always key. Remember that it’s almost never as bad as you anticipate it to be.
My placement starts on November 30th, so if you are interested in following my experiences, keep an eye out around then!