It is interview-season for those applying to Uni. Today, we’re going to show you how to prepare in advance and what to remember on the day of the interview.

Do your research

One of the best things you can do in advance of an interview is to fully research the Uni, department and course. The chances are you could well have an interview as part of a department open day and so this will also help you get the most out of your visit.

Start by taking a detailed look around the Uni website: most are very good so it should be a fairly easy task. Another good place to try is the UCAS Search website: simply select the course and then click on the name of the Uni to reveal various demographics and other useful data.

Plan a list of questions

Next, plan a list of any questions that you may still have. This will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm by showing the interviewer that you have done your research. It also allows you the chance to check anything that wasn’t clear on the website – e.g. how many students are in a typical year group for the course or how many hours a week will there be of lectures?

Match your skills to those which the Uni values most

Identify your skills and key qualities and be ready to show how they match to those the Uni values most – we’ve covered Transferable Skills before and will do again very soon. Put simply, it’s like a Dating Agency! Identify what they are looking for – from the website/prospectus/talking to your teachers – and create a list of the skills you have that match: nothing invented or they’ll catch you. These skills and achievements are the ones you’ll need to be ready to talk about as they’ll be of most interest.

Rehearse and practice

Now you have done your research and prepared a list of questions and achievements, familiarise yourself with them and practice answers to possible questions either in the mirror or with a trusted friend or relative. We covered the ‘Tell me about a time when …” interview question technique in an earlier blog.

Invest in yourself

It may be wise to spend a little on a new item of clothing or on a haircut or a few accessories to smarten up an existing outfit. You will want to make a good impression to show how keen you are to get on the course, but it won’t require large sums of money. Again, look in the mirror to check your appearance and simply try to avoid anything which might be ‘distracting’ for the interviewer.

First impressions count!

The interviewer will form an impression of you within the first few seconds – and certainly before you start answering any questions!

It’s the same if you’re ever introduced to someone that you’ve not met before. You weigh them up, form an early opinion, decide if they’re your sort of person and whether you’re likely to get along.

This first impression could be based on appearance, mannerisms, an initial greeting or simply bad timing so when it’s your turn to impress, aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early to relax and ‘warm up’ after your journey.

And don’t forget to look the part: if you make a poor first impression – for any reason – it can take a very long time to recover yourself in the interview.

On the day, be confident!

After all, you’ll have thoroughly researched the course, the department and the Uni both before you applied and now in preparing for your interview. You have a list of questions ready to check your understanding and to show genuine enthusiasm for the course, you’ve rehearsed your Transferable Skills in anticipation of potential interview questions and you have perhaps invested in a new top to create a positive impression.

To complete the image, make eye contact, smile, be friendly yet professional and ensure you have a sincere hand shake! Your handshake will have a very powerful impact straight after the visual first impression!

During the interview, be positive!

In answering the interview questions, try to be both positive and selective about previous experiences. If something did not go quite as intended, talk about what you learned from the experience and potentially even what you might do differently on another occasion. For more on this, take a look at our recent blog about things not always going to plan (09/12).

And remember your aim is to ‘get the sale’

Your goal is to help the interviewer see why they should make you an offer of a place – and potentially even an unconditional offer!

We hesitate to say that your goal is to get the ‘date’, but it is a ‘sales pitch’ to show how your skills match to those they value. Above all else, remember to focus your attention on the Uni to be able to then show how your skills and qualities match to what’s important to them.

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