You wore your smartest outfit, you showed up on time, you thought about all your relevant past experience and really sold your skills. When the interview finished you felt like it all went really well. So well that when you don’t get the job it’s a big surprise and, quite frankly, a crushing disappointment. What went wrong?
As the QProjects Coordinator in the Careers & Enterprise Centre I sit in a lot of student and graduate interviews and the area where students and grads most commonly fall short is not focusing at all on the employer sitting across from them. While it’s very important to talk about your past experiences and what you want from the role during an interview, you also need to highlight what you can offer the employer and why you are interested in them. My top tips to help tone down the ‘me, me, me’ are:
Do your research.
Most interviewers will ask you something like ‘What do you know about us’ or ‘What do you think we do?’. Don’t just have a quick glance at their website, make sure you have thoroughly researched them- understand what they do, how they’re structured, who their main clients are, who their competitors are, what their biggest achievements are, their company culture, whether they’ve been in the news for anything recently, etc.
Reflect and make connections.
Re-read the job spec and think about the role, the department or team it’s based in and the other research you’ve done about the company. Then start thinking about how your experience and career interests relate. One of the most common interview questions is ‘Why do you want this job?’ Making this connection between what you want out of a job/employer, how you can contribute to their team and what interests you about the company itself will help you to illustrate that you are a perfect match for the job.
Ask really good questions at the end of your interview.
Most interviewers will allow you to ask any questions that you may have at the end of an interview. Don’t use this as an opportunity to ask how many days off you’d get or something you could have found the answer to yourself by reading the job spec or the home page of their website. I would recommend bringing 3 good questions to ask about the company, role, sector, industry-related news stories, etc. This is your chance to show off (without being too show-offy) that you’ve done your research and are interested in them.
Help on how to prepare
Guardian Careers has recently published two great articles that will help you to research employers, think about what you can offer them and come up with good questions to ask at the end of interview:
You can also get interview tips and mock interview sessions in the Careers & Enterprise Centre. Just pop by the Queens’ building room WG3 or call us on 020 7882 8533 for more information.