We asked a panel of career advisers how graduates can ensure they shine during job interviews and convince recruiters they're the one for them.
Steve McLellan is a careers adviser at Edinburgh Napier University
Don't forget, practice makes perfect: You might find it useful to think of your interview as a performance. As with any performance, practice makes perfect. It might not always be practical to learn your answers like an actor learns lines, but you should certainly have considered the rough outlines of how you will answer any given type of question. You need therefore to write down the questions you expect to be asked and then an effective answer for each.
You then need to focus on how you will look and sound on the day. To judge this successfully, you should, at the very least, interview yourself in the mirror a number of times, using the written materials you have prepared. Be honest about how professional, credible and friendly you look and sound. Edit and rewrite your answers until they meet the standards you will require on the day. Practice dealing with difficult moments such as when you forget what you are saying. Think about the structure of your answer - it is normally helpful to have a clear beginning, middle and end, with the end summarising what has just gone before. Think carefully about your posture and use of gestures. The pitch, tone, clarity and volume of your voice is also important. Interview nerves can affect all of these areas, so just being aware of them can help you control them and therefore be more effective on the day.
It will really help if you can find a trusted friend to ask you the questions - it might feel a bit strange at first, but the experience of speaking your words publicly should give you more confidence. Even better, ask your university careers service if they offer mock interviews. At these you will normally get very useful feedback from a professional adviser and sometimes the chance to watch yourself on video as well as the chance to deal with questions you hadn't previously thought of in a safe environment.
Jane Standley is director of careers and student employability at Brunel University
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Ask a hundred recruiters what disappoints them most about the people they interview and I can safely predict the top answer - lack of knowledge of their organisation. And for lack of knowledge, they read lack of interest. Interview over.
Any degree develops research skills, so apply them to your job hunting and don't forget the social networks that provide so much inside information. Find out how the organisation you are applying for has developed in recent years, how its products or services and markets have changed, who its competitors are, what its ethos is and what the future holds. Then use that information intelligently. Interviews are not like Mastermind – regurgitating facts won't win any prizes. Instead, you need to demonstrate an understanding of what it all means for you as a prospective employee, what the challenges would be and the skills and attributes you'll need to make a positive contribution.
Sarah Nicholson is a careers adviser at Bath Spa University
Be prepared to convince the employer you're perfect for them: Preparation for the big day is essential and key to this is knowing yourself and knowing the company. Before the interview, take the time to re-read your application and CV and identify what it is about you that makes you a great potential employee. Convince the employer that you are not just another job seeker by pinpointing the gems in your experience and creating a clear match between your goals and the employers goals.
Tim Reed is a careers adviser in the Careers Advisory Service at the University of Kent
First impressions are very important: Three-quarters of interviews are failed within three minutes of entering the room. Interviewers are put off by weak handshakes, a lack of eye contact, poor body language, poor posture (slumped shoulders suggest a lack of confidence) and a grim demeanour. Many recruiters make early judgements about your trustworthiness, likeability, competitiveness and professionalism and spend the rest of the interview confirming these opinions.
You should shake hands firmly and warmly, but wait to be invited to sit down. Handshakes originated as a way for knights to show that they didn't have concealed weapons. They communicate sociability and friendliness: normally desirable qualities in candidates whereas weak handshakes may communicate introversion and shyness. At the start of the interview you should smile at and maintain good eye contact with the interviewer. Try to relax without perching on the edge of your chair, but don't slouch either. Speak clearly and not too fast. Give yourself a moment to think about your replies. Avoid fidgeting and using phrases like "you know" and "I mean".
Nick Keeley is director of the Careers Service at Newcastle University
Go one step further in your company research and you'll really impress: Inevitably, you will be asked at some stage during the interview why you want to work for the organisation you are applying to. This is a great chance to demonstrate your commercial awareness - an area lots of students struggle with at interview - but it will take a bit of preparation. Prior to the interview, contact one of the organisation's customers - you can most likely identify some through a simple internet search - and ask them questions such as: "What it's like to do business with company X?", "What makes them stand out?", "What do you think it would be like to work for them?", "What makes them successful (or not)?". And then at interview, by explaining the research that you've done and including their customer's responses in your answer, you're almost guaranteed to stand out from the crowd; not only will you be able to give evidence of your personal enterprise, your research skills and your genuine interest in the organisation, but also a strong sense of business acumen.
Janice Simpson is a senior careers adviser at the University of York
Be prepared to tackle competency-based interview questions: Most employers are looking for applicants to demonstrate a specific set of skills and competencies which they believe are essential to the job role, for example team work, communication, problem solving and time management. At interview, you are likely to be asked to give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated those competencies. Employers recognise that you might not have lots of directly relevant work experience, so when they ask these questions they will usually be happy for you to provide examples from any aspect of your life, such as your studies, part-time work, volunteering, interests or extra-curricular activities. So, before you go to an interview, check the job description for the skills and competencies required, then reflect on your experiences and think about examples that you could use as evidence.
A good answer will give a specific example, rather than vague generalisations, and will emphasise your role and actions. A tip to help you structure your answer is to use STAR, which stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result: briefly outline the situation and your task or objective, then provide details of what you actually did - your role and input. Finally, tell them what the result was - did you achieve your goal or deadline ? Be prepared for follow-up questions, which might ask for more details of what you did, or require you to reflect on the way that you approached the task.
Antonia Clark is a Careers Adviser at London South Bank University
Never leave an employer feeling the company is just one of many you are applying to: With competition for jobs at a premium, interviewees should ensure their answers to interview questions stand out. Avoid poorly-targeted and bland replies. Each organisation sees itself as unique and wishes to project its own identity, so never leave an employer feeling it is just one of many companies to which you are applying. Having made it clear what you admire about the company, explain how you meet its requirements and could contribute wholeheartedly to meeting its goals. Tailoring your replies in this way injects a personal touch that is convincing and brings results.
Alexandra Hemingway is a careers adviser at the University of Surrey
What you're really doing in an interview is living up to your promise: When it comes to interview advice, "just be yourself" is a popular cliché that sometimes makes students roll their eyes. For once, though, the cliché is true. It's natural to be nervous about interviews and waste energy worrying about what you don't know. However, the fact of being invited to an interview is definitive proof that the employer already believes you can do the job. If they thought you weren't good enough, they simply wouldn't waste their energy (or time and money) and on getting to know you. What an interviewer aims to do is find out whether what's written in your CV or application is genuine and how well you'll fit in. Are you as charming, intelligent and helpful in person as you seem on paper? Of course, they'll also be testing your understanding, motivation and ability, most often by asking you to talk them through examples of your experiences that showcase the attributes the job requires. You'll probably need to expand on what you've written and it's a good idea to have some new examples ready, too. But as long as you've been truthful, what you're really doing in an interview is living up to your promise.