Why have you applied for this job?

This can be a perplexing interview question, particularly if you are applying for jobs which are closely connected to your internship/work experience and degree area. If you’ve spent the last three years studying marketing, for example, as well as seeking out marketing work experience, it might seem obvious that you’re interested in marketing. In addition, we all need to pay for food and somewhere to live, so the answer ‘well, I need money’ might be on the tip of your tongue.

To answer this question, it helps to know why the employer is asking it and what they’re looking for:

  • Genuine motivation: People who care about and are interested in what they do tend to go the extra mile – they often suggest new ideas and bring energy and enthusiasm to teams. Employers would rather hire people who have a real interest in their jobs. Remember that enthusiasm is conveyed not just by what you say but how you say it – show your interest through your body language and tone of voice.

For example: ‘I’m applying for this role because I learnt from my work experience placement that I relish the challenge of inventing innovative ways to reach new customers, and I find that I’m motivated by the buzz of meeting regular targets.’

  • Understanding of what the role involves: Make sure you’ve done your homework and have a realistic understanding of the position, its role within the team and its day to day duties. This shows you’re keen and that you are aware of the purpose of the job and its function in the organisation.

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Guest blog: 5 style mistakes that can make you look unprofessional

There have been so many changes in business attire over the years, and many people have come to forget why proper business attire is important. Instead, they would rather dress comfortably or dress in the latest styles.

The first few seconds make up the biggest part of an overall impression, when meeting for the first time either with an interviewer or a future employer. The rest of a conversation is usually spent by confirming or discarding that first judgement the individual had, and rationalising it.

You have done a good job writing your cover letter, preparing your CV and practising answers to interview questions, but there is one little (not that little in fact) thing you might have overlooked – your professional attire. And it matters much more than you think! 

Too many students fail to understand that how they look is how they are perceived by others; and how we are perceived by others can have a huge effect on how successful we are at work and in life. 

93% of the first impression is based on how we look and sound and only 7% is on what we say.

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Careers & Enterprise: Who we are

Whether you need help finding a part-time job, writing a CV or cover letter, or preparing for a graduate scheme, we can help.

Where are we?

queensThe Careers & Enterprise Centre is based in the Queens’ building (pic on left) on the Mile End campus, which is number 19 on this campus map.

We’re in room WG3, on the ground floor, near the Octagon and the Student Enquiry Office . From the main entrance, head down the corridor on the left-hand side and follow the signs.

What can we do for you?

We help QMUL students and recent graduates (up to 2 years after you graduate) with anything careers-related, from writing a CV to exploring your options after graduation. A career might seem a long way off if you’ve only just finished your first year, but whatever stage you’re at on your QMUL journey, come and see us! Even if you’ve never even thought about life after university, we’re here to help you …

Appointments with Careers Consultants

We offer 20 minute 1-2-1 appointments with a Careers Consultant, and these appointments can cover any careers query, including: CV & application feedback, finding and applying for jobs, or deciding what to do after graduation.

Job hunting

Whether you’re looking for part-time or temporary work, or a full-time role after graduation, take a look at our jobs page for a range of opportunities: careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs. We also have a range of industry-specific resources in our information room and on our website.

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Guest blog: How to prepare for the 6 most common interview questions

If you’ve recently graduated, you may already be thinking ahead to what your next steps might be in terms of your career. As you begin to do so, your mind will start posing questions about the interview process – and that can feel quite daunting if you aren’t sure what to expect.

Read on to find out the 6 most common interview questions, with some tips on how to prepare for them and answer with confidence on the day.

Tell me about yourself

This is always one of the first questions in an interview. The reason you’ll be asked this is not because they want to know about your likes and interests, but because they want to hear what you value most about yourself in your career.

Think of it as a little bit like the overview you give on a CV.

The company will want to hear about your commitments to your career and what kind of person you are as a professional.

It’s useful to find out a bit about the company’s ethos ahead of your interview, so that you can gauge how you should approach this question.

cup-1615074_960_720What is your greatest strength?

If blowing your own trumpet is no easy task, then this question can be a tough one to answer.

The key here is to keep it relevant and think about what the company is looking for in you. It’s worth reflecting on previous jobs where possible (part time, internships and volunteering are all noteworthy), so that you can demonstrate your strengths.

This is a question that could ultimately set you apart from or give way to other candidates, so take this opportunity to closely match the qualities that the company is seeking.

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5 quick interview tips

handshake-2056023_960_720So, you’ve been offered an interview – congratulations! But how do you start to prepare? Research from CV Library suggests that 87% of UK workers research the company before an interview, 43% practise common interview questions, and 43% also prepare a smart outfit.

We’ve pulled together 5 quick tips to help you get started:

  1. Do your research – explore the company’s website and find out what they do, where they’re based and who their competitors are. You could take a look at their social media profiles or look at recent news articles to gain an understanding of what’s happening in the sector. See our recent blog from Careers Consultant Gill for further advice on how to research a company.
  2. Re-read the job description – it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the role you’ve applied to. After all, it could be a while since you filled out that application form. Make sure you understand what skills and experience the employer is looking for, as it’s likely you’ll be asked about this at your interview. Don’t forget to re-read your CV too!
  3. Book a mock interview – we run 30 minute face-to-face mock interviews where you can practise your interview technique and answer questions relevant to the role you’re applying to. These run throughout the week, so call us on 020 7882 8533 as soon as you have been offered an interview, and we can book you in. Please note that you do need to have an actual interview lined up in order to book one of these appointments.
  4. Practise common interview questions – try our online interview simulator (middle of top row) and browse a range of commonly asked questions, and read helpful do’s and don’ts. For each question, there’s also a short video from a recruiter outlining exactly how to ask the question.
  5. Make sure you’re prepared on the day – check your interview confirmation and remind yourself of exactly where you need to go (why not go take a look before the day?), who you need to speak to and allow plenty of time in case of transport issues.

For more information on interviews, see the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus – good luck!

Do you have any questions?

You’ve reached the end of the interview. You’ve navigated your way through difficult questions with answers that are well-structured, evidence-based and enthusiastic (well, hopefully!) But don’t relax just yet. Almost all interviews end with the seemingly simple ‘Do you have any questions for us?’

Inexperienced candidates may fall into the trap of interpreting this literally, and say something like ‘When will I find out if I’m successful?’ Don’t make this mistake! ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ is just as much an interview question as any other. The only difference is that your answer is a question.

One good thing about this question is, since you can almost guarantee it will come up, you can prepare your questions in advance. So it’s a great opportunity to put the knowledge you’ve gained about that company or organisation to good use. Questions such as ‘How do you think X challenge will affect your company over the coming years?’ are good, but it’s even better if you can insert yourself into the scenario – for example, ‘What challenges relating to X would I be expected to deal with in this position?’ By doing this, you’re creating a connection between yourself and the job you want to get in the interviewers’ minds.

There are many other ways of approaching this question, and some may become clear to you depending on the industry you’re applying to or the experience you already have (for example, ‘Would I be able to utilise my experience with X in this position?’). The most important thing is to show enthusiasm for the role, knowledge about the company or organisation, and preferably also that you’re already imagining yourself there and thinking about what you’ll be doing. These will all create a positive impression.

Of course it’s possible that the question(s) you’ve prepared will be answered over the course of the interview, in which case you’ll have to think on your feet to find another. The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to prepare at least three in advance of the interview.

The interviewer will usually make it clear whether they want just one or more than one question, but if in doubt, stick to just one. If they want more than one, a combination of a broader question (e.g. ‘What are the main challenges…’) and a more specific one (e.g. ‘What would I be expected to do on my first day?’) can work well.

The questions you ask are unlikely to ruin a good interview, or save a bad one, but they can ensure that the interview ends on a high and leaves the panel with a good impression of you.

Joe Cronin, Application Adviser

Don’t forget you can find a range of interview resources on our Knowledge Bank, including a mock interview simulator. If you have an interview lined up, you can also book a 30 minute mock interview with a Careers Consultant by calling 020 7882 8533.

What is your biggest weakness?

Joe, Application Adviser

There are few interview questions which provoke the same mixture of fear and bewilderment as ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ The entire premise seems counter-intuitive. Aren’t you there to impress them? To show them your best qualities? Candidates who haven’t prepared for this question either panic, or assume that it’s some kind of trick. But, just like any other interview question, answering it is relatively straightforward if you know how.

There’s no single method to answering this question, and recruiters disagree as to the best approach. Some favour the classic ‘strength dressed up as a weakness’ method, while others see this as too transparent and not honest enough. As such, I’ll leave it up to you to decide what your weaknesses are (don’t choose more than two!), but remember that they should reflect on your professional aptitudes in some respect. The best strategy – in my opinion – is to be fairly honest, but ensure that these weaknesses are not too serious, and most importantly, that you’ve made an effort to rectify them.


The structure to this answer is quite formulaic, and the answer itself needn’t be as long as for competency-based questions. Start by saying what your weakness is, then outline a situation in which it manifested itself, then say what you’re doing to improve it. Let’s take the example of perfectionism (which many would argue is a strength dressed up as a weakness!) Your answer could run as follows:

While I pride myself on my excellent attention to detail, sometimes I can be a bit of a perfectionist. On a couple of occasions in my current/previous job I struggled to finish a task on time because I wanted to get things absolutely right. I spoke to my manager about this and she told me that, while it’s great to have such a conscientious team member, more often than not it’s better to get the task finished on time, even if it’s not perfect. Following this, I enrolled myself on a time-management course / started to use time-management software / bought myself a book on time management and put the techniques I learned into practice. Since then I’ve found I’m less stressed when working to a tight deadline and am better at getting tasks finished promptly without obsessing over the detail.

If your first example is quite short, you can supplement it with another. But that’s really all there is to it!

Don’t forget to visit the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus for our top interview resources.