#PlacementSeries: How to Ace the Interview

how to ace placement interview

I started this #PlacementSeries last year, writing posts about cover letters, CVs, when and where to start looking etc. – but I’ve realised that I never actually finished the process.

On Monday, I had started to write a general post about why we shouldn’t fear interviews and wondered if I’d already written something similar for the aforementioned placement series, but alas, no. It may have taken me a year to get here, but I intend to see this series through before I finish university and no longer think about placements.

I will link the previous posts that I’ve written about placements below, just to give you a recap. But following on from this, I’ll go through my own experiences of interviews, psychometric/aptitude tests, the assessment centre and securing and preparing for a placement year.

If you had one shot, or one opportunity…

We’ve all been there. Sat opposite a panel of interviewers, your palms sweating, knees weak (am I about to break into Lose Yourself by Eminem?), trying to keep a smile on your face, making eye contact with everyone and answering every question as best you can. All whilst trying not to vomit due to nerves (mom’s spaghetti optional).

I know how nerve-wrecking interviews can be. I’m not a fan of them either. One thing I have learnt, however, is that they really do get easier with time. The more interviews or mock-interviews you carry out, the better you become.

The judging panel

Every time I walk into an interview I feel like it’s an audition for the X Factor and Simon Cowell (the interviewer) is judging me as soon as I take that first step inside the room. But it doesn’t have to be as nerve-wrecking as that and thankfully, your experience won’t be broadcast on national TV.

Why do we fear interviews so much? Is it the fear of rejection? Of crashing under pressure and not being able to answer the questions? Or do we fear talking about ourselves and being the centre of attention? There really is no reason to fear interviews. Unless you’ve been arrested and are sitting in an interrogation room… then you should probably be a little scared. But we’re talking about a job interview. Hopefully a job that you want.

I’ve had a lot of experience with interviews since starting university and always felt sick at the thought of them. Now though? They don’t faze me too much. Unless I really, really, really want the job then I’ll have knots in my stomach the entire week leading up to the interview. The main thing I tell people when it comes to interviews is to remember that is is simply a conversation. The interviewers want to get to know you as a person and to see if you’d fit in at the company and be able to perform well in the role.

I’m no human resources expert, but here are my tips for how to ace an interview:

pr placement interview

Treat it like a normal conversation

The face-to-face interview is all about how you communicate. Walk into the room, shake hands with your interviewers and look them in the eye. Body language is a huge factor in interviews, so make sure your body looks interested to match the words you are saying. Try not to be robotic in how you converse. The employers are trying to get to know you as a person and to see your personality so that they can assess if you will fit in with the company culture – don’t be afraid to show who you are as a person.

Do your research

Some of us have a fear of looking like an idiot in interviews. Like we don’t have a clue what we’re talking about. As long as you haven’t lied on your CV, you shouldn’t have any issues with being caught out on something. But make sure you research the company before heading to the interview.

Look at any recent news articles involving the company; any scandals, their market position, their culture/values/mission statement etc. Know as much as you can about the company. After all, you would want to know as much as possible about somewhere you will potentially be spending 40 hours per week working for, right?

Be yourself

One of the main things I always remind myself when going for an interview, is that the interviewers are trying to assess whether you will fit in with the company as well as being capable to perform in the role. They want to see what you’re like as a person. They will also probably have stalked all of your social media profiles by this point, so there’s no point denying you go out every weekend when it’s all over your Instagram (note to self).

Depending on the culture of the office, they’ll want to see whether you can fit in with the current team, whether you portray the company values and whether you fit the specific person they have in mind for the role. For certain roles, you might think of yourself as the perfect candidate, with all of the right skills, qualifications and experience but you might just not be what the company is looking for. It’s not something to beat yourself up about. I always think, if it’s meant to be and the job was the right one for you, then you would have got it. If not, it simply wasn’t the right career move or it wasn’t the right time.

In my placement interview, I was asked what kind of worker I was; whether I was someone that came in, did the work and kept to myself or if I was someone that could take time out and have fun while also getting the work done. Every company/department/team is different but I knew straight away in my interview for Coty that I got along really well with the girls interviewing me and could see myself working with them. Thankfully, they saw that in me too.

Don’t leave the interview thinking ‘I should have said this, I should have said that’

There’s nothing worse than leaving an interview and knowing that you didn’t say all that you had prepared, or knowing you could have answered the questions a lot better. This is why you should seize every interview and make sure you say everything you want to and don’t be too embarrassed to do so. If you haven’t been able to talk about previous experiences that you think are relevant to the role, ask if you can add something when the interview comes to an end.

Make sure you let them know why you would be the best candidate for the role and show that you really want the job. Don’t come across as too desperate though, that wouldn’t be great. It definitely comes with practice and the more interviews you experience, the better you’ll be. I find that I’m not as nervous as I used to be when it comes to interviews. I have experience to talk about, my blog to talk about and I’ll know why I should be the person for the job. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and don’t feel bad for doing so. The other candidates will be selling themselves as best as they can, so give yourself the same opportunity.

I always go into an interview thinking, What have I got to lose? I’m going to give this my best shot and if it doesn’t work out then that’s ok with me.

Ask questions!

Don’t be that person that says ‘no’ when asked if they have any questions for the interviewers. This is your chance to find out more about the company, the role and the culture. You may be being interviewed for the vacancy but this is also an opportunity for you to figure out if this is somewhere you could see yourself working. Do you think you’ll fit in? Could you see yourself working in this office every day? Is this somewhere you could grow and progress?

I usually ask the interviewer what they like about working for the company and then I suddenly feel like I’m giving the interview. Ask about the culture, about the team you would be working with, career paths etc. At the end I would also ask when you would expect to find out if you’ve got the job too. Even ask about the small things – working hours, options to work from home or flexible working hours, dress code etc. I’ve never asked about salary in an interview, but it’s not a big factor for me at the moment as I’m only starting out.

One of the best things that helped me when preparing for my placement interview was taking advantage of the LJMU Employability Support Unit. I set up a meeting with them to run through my presentation and to also carry out a mock interview. It definitely settled a lot of my nerves and a little pep talk from them was very much needed at the time. If your university offers something like this, definitely take full advantage of it!

Any questions, drop them below!


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