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Top tips for success at interviews

We’d  probably all  love to be great at interviews but the truth is that many of us are daunted by the process and sell ourselves short. As is common for recent graduates, who haven’t had many interviews and don’t know what to expect, the process can be strange. We may feel uncomfortable under the microscope of being scrutinised by a panel, or feel that we don’t have enough to offer. Some people hate talking about themselves, others talk too much without saying anything! Whatever the reason for interview nerves, they are normal.

Preparation will help to overcome nerves, give confidence and arm you with lots of knowledge to help answer those tricky questions .

Here are some top tips and recommended links from AUB Careers service for preparing for an interview.

Understand what employers want. Interviews are about showing the employer you’ve got the skills, experience and personality they want. To state the obvious, to be able to prepare you need to find out what these are. There are some general rules to follow.

Creative choices have a summary, just for creatives, which touches on the value of experience, qualifications and your portfolio.

For a general overview, the official graduate careers website Prospects provides information on what employers want from graduates

A bite size article: the top ten skills that will get you a job when you graduate (target jobs) is an easy to read summary.

All this is really useful but can only take you so far. To really get to the bottom of what the employer is looking for you need to…

Research the job and company.  This is so important Having an in depth knowledge  of the job and company will not just show off how keen you are, it will arm you with much of the knowledge you will need to answer the questions well.

Research demonstrates you are interested, diligent and hard-working. Take the time to read leaflets, publicity, websites, reviews and job descriptions. Speak to people in the organisation if you get the chance. Talk to customers or people who know the organisation. You will pick up things about the culture; the things they are proud of; and how things actually work on an operational level. You can then use this to provide intelligent answers based on real information.

Taking this further, start to imagine what it would be like to work there.  Think how you would approach the job, what you can contribute and how you might tackle various tasks. Then you are prepared for any number of questions they might ask.

The Guardian has a concise guide to researching companies for an interview. It also has a comprehensive collection of articles on all aspects of interviews

Creative Skillset has a wealth of information on the creative sector and the jobs within it. Just search for the job that best matches your application.

Think about what you will be asked and your response. A good interviewer will ask about your skills for the job, and your ability to fit in (your personality). There will be questions to check your enthusiasm and probably questions to check your knowledge and previous experience.  There may be questions to check your intelligence and your ability to learn, or how you might approach a particular problem. The job description will provide clues to specifics as will your extensive knowledge of the job and company following on from your research.

Many questions or variations on a theme do come up time and time again, these are worth knowing:

10 most frequent interview questions (Daily Telegraph)

Having done the hard work of getting an interview you don’t want to blow it with a badly thought out comment.

10 things not to say (The Guardian)

When giving answers, interviewers are not quite so interested in the ‘team’ or the ‘role’ or the ‘we did’. Using these phrases can sound as if you were quite passive.  They are interested in your contributions, your role in a team, the way you do things, how hiring you will make a difference. Prepare suitable examples to back up comments you make about yourself.

It will clearly help to…

Know Yourself

Being aware of your skills and personality will help you answer questions like “Tell me about yourself?”. Self awareness is sought after by graduate employers and interviewers will like to feel that they know you after the interview. Do keep answers relevant to the job and the role unless asked otherwise. Your dog and cat don’t come in to it!

One problem, knowing yourself can be a lifetimes work in progress. It can be tricky to cram before an interview! Two things you can concentrate on are:

Understand how you would tackle all aspects of the job using your skills and qualities. You may even want to make a list.

Secondly your portfolio can be a script as well as a showcase for your work.  You can use illustrations within to prompt about some of the key skills you want the employer to know about. Which means that you also have to…

Prepare your portfolio

In an interview, your portfolio should be used to show off a whole number of skills and attributes. It can be about much more than your creativity. Remember, you will be, in most cases, talking through your work. So prepare a narrative that highlights, using evidence, why you are the candidate they need.  You can illustrate:

Your competence. It is often desirable, for example, that you can manage a project from start to finish. Include images that show this ability. If you haven’t got suitable experience then show this in a self initiated project.  Talk through your technical abilities with a range of software/equipment needed for the job.

Your commitment. This can be shown by examples of work over and above what might be expected. Competition entries, self initiated projects and charity projects are all examples. You may be able to think of other ways to show this such as going the extra mile on a job.

Your professionalism . In what ways are your processes well thought out? What procedures do you put in place to ensure the job runs smoothly? Give examples of meeting deadlines, solving problems, satisfied customers, and working well with others.

Your range of creative intelligence. What you actually demonstrate depends on your experience and skills, and the job you are going for. Particularly, illustrate skills you know the employer is looking for.  You may show your ability to communicate sophisticated ideas and messages visually . Bear in mind  your appropriate use of colour, scale, composition, narrative, creative vision and share where given the opportunity. Be articulate about layers of meaning in your work if relevant.

Your unique selling point(s) Make sure that you share the thing(s) you are particularly strong at: editing, storytelling, typesetting, ideas generation, project management, speed, accuracy, client focus, price, experience,  technical prowess, whatever it may be don’t be shy. They won’t know unless you tell them.

Practice makes perfect!

You can take a mock interview with some high profile interviewers right now using these video clips. They are going to ask you some searching questions, but they will also give advice on how you might answer.

Look the part.

What you look like and the clothes you wear will say a lot about you in a short space of time. The employer will want to see that you can fit in. By ‘making an effort’ you show that you respect the interviewers and want the job.  Lots of advice and opinions are freely given on tactics. These are recommended:

What to wear at an interview? (Daily Telegraph)

Unsuited and booted? You’re not hired. (The Guardian blog with comments)

Body Language

This is a subject of its very own, and it is difficult to naturally change unconscious behaviours in the stressful situation of an interview. Nevertheless the way you ‘carry yourself’ in an interview has been shown to be influential when choosing a candidate. So knowing a few basic principles should  help.

A video from how to highlights “how to ace an interview with your body language”

Still need help?

As an AUB student or graduate your Careers Service can offer practical advice based on your situation. Book an appointment or visit the Careers and Counselling office to find out more:



Telephone +44 1202 363355

Prospects, the official graduate careers website has an entire section on interview tips. This includes sections on different types of interview, preparation and example questions.