To be invited for an interview is to have to overcome the first hurdle. However, now is not the time to become complacent – there is still a long way to go before being offered the job.
How we can help
We offer students Practice Interviews where the careers consultant prepares questions specific to the sector, employer and job you have applied for so that you are prepared for the real thing.
If you have an interview coming up, you may want to practice by recording yourself answering typical interview questions from a bank of hundreds available via InterviewStream, an online interview simulator. This is a valuable way of assessing where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and for practicing your answers before the real thing.
The first time you use InterviewStream, register at the magenta “SIGN UP NOW” button, and select SOAS from the drop down menu. More information can be found at this user guide for InterviewStream.
How can you prepare yourself for an interview?
- Read through your application or CV and think about it from the employer’s point of view. What might the employer ask you?
Know the job
- Re-read the job description and person specification and think about evidence and examples of how to demonstrate to the employer that you have the skills and qualities that it takes to do the job. The more you can demonstrate that you know about the job, the more likely it is that the employer will believe you when you say that you are well suited to the job role.
Know the organization
- Find out as much as possible about the employer. You can do this by visiting their website, or doing some research in the City Business Library or the British Library. We also have information on employers at the Career Service and regularly organise employer-led presentations.
- Know the details.
- Make sure you know the time and the location of the interview and the name and the job titles of the interviewers.
- Have the employer’s phone number with you in case something goes wrong or you are delayed.
- Check in advance the route to the place of the interview and how long it takes to travel there.
- Have enough cash with you in case you need to take a taxi.
- Make sure that you have the right set of clothes washed and ironed and that you have set the alarm clock.
- Try to get a good night’s sleep.
On the day
First impressions matter
- Always arrive on time, preferable early, so that you can give yourself time to calm down, go to the toilet etc.
- Be aware of your body language. Shake hands firmly, smile, make eye contact, be attentive and do not fidget.
- Make sure you’re comfortable when you first sit down as this will help you to relax.
In essence, employers want to find out three things:
- Can you do the job? Do you have the appropriate qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience to do what they want you to do?
- Will you do the job? Do you have the right motivation, commitment and enthusiasm? Are you really keen to do this job or would you rather be doing something else?
- Will you fit in? Will you fit in with the people who work there and with the ‘culture’ of the organisation? Would people enjoy working with you? Can you see yourself working with these people?
Tips for answering questions
- Try to relax and be yourself. Breathing deep and sitting comfortably will help.
- Answer the question the interviewer asks, not the question you’d like to be asked.
- Speak slowly and clearly. This will also give you time to think if necessary.
- Don’t give ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers. Volunteer relevant information about yourself. Your responses should be long enough to answer the question, but not so long as to bore the interviewer.
- Always watch the body language of the interviewer. This will give you cues whether to expand your answer or to bring it to a close.
- Be truthful but positive. If you have to present negative information (e.g. a failure or a weakness), say how you learned from it or overcame it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand the question. You may also ask for a little time to think – but not too often.
- Be enthusiastic, interesting, animated, or whatever else comes naturally to you (with reasonable caution, though). You don’t have to be like a robot.
- Don’t ask anything you should already know from details the employer has sent you.
- Don’t ask about salary or holidays.
- Ask about the job. How long has it been vacant? Why did the previous employee leave? What are the exact duties?
- Ask about the organisation. What are its strategic goals? What challenges are they facing? What are the most significant recent developments in the organization?
- Ask about the application process. What happens next? When are you likely to hear whether or not you’re being offered the job?
If you would like to learn more about interviews, SOAS Careers Service has books that you can consult. We also have leaflets on interviews which you can pick up at the Careers Service; current SOAS students can also access these via MySOAS Student.