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Getting to know you

Please use the discussion below to introduce yourself to other learners.

Perhaps you would like to tell us about your experience of interviews? Have you got
an interview coming up or have you never been to an interview before? You can also
share with us what you hope to get out of the course.

Discussion tips
There will be lots of discussion steps like this one during the course. Have you
noticed you can filter the comments on FutureLearn? Try using the links below to
switch between all comments, comments by people you are following, the most-liked
comments, and your own comments. Click theActivity icon at the top of the page to
see the latest comments posted across the whole course, or click Replies to see any
comments others have posted in response to you.

Interview nerves

If you are offered an interview it means all your hard work has paid off and you
have made the leap from applicant to real contender. You are likely to be
pleased but also a bit apprehensive.
Most people react to the news of an interview with some degree of anxiety.
Interviews are often regarded as stressful because theres a lot at stake. Theres also
an element of uncertainty and, as human beings, we naturally become nervous when
faced with a situation we arent in control of.
Possible concerns you may have about interviews include things like:

What should I wear?

Who will interview me?

How can I deal with interview nerves?

What sort of questions will they ask me?

What if I cant think of something to say and make a fool of myself?

What questions should I ask them?

But remember, there are lots of positive messages to be drawn from the prospect of
an interview:

Your application was good enough to get you to interview.

On paper, the selector believes you may have the necessary requirements now you
can convince them!

Its an opportunity to find out more about them, and decide if you want the job or

Youll get valuable interview practice that will be of help in the future.

With a little thought, you can anticipate most of what will come up in the interview and this course will help you to do just that!
What concerns you about interviews?

Remember that at this stage, the people who want to interview you see you as
a strong prospect. They want you to be successful, look forward to meeting
you and know that you are likely to be nervous.
At the start of the day, your interviewers will be looking forward to talking to
enthusiastic and able candidates and to recruiting promising people. They want to be
impressed and get a feel for how well you will fit in. There is nothing worse for
interviewers than to spend a whole day interviewing and have nothing to show for it.
So use the interview to make their task as easy as possible by being friendly and
ready to talk about yourself.
Regardless of their level of experience, interviewers will be matching you to the
criteria they have established for the job or course. This is no mystery; you have
already done this in your application and have met their requirements.
Interviewers are human beings too and will understand just how anxious candidates
can be and will make allowances for this. So dont panic if you have a memory lapse
or if you stumble over an answer occasionally. You may be nervous at the start of the
interview, but you will probably find that your nerves are controllable and subside as
the interview progresses.
In an ideal world your interviewer will be highly trained, experienced, and a good
judge of character. In reality, your interviewer may be some or none of these things.
Whoever you are confronted with, it is up to you to adapt to the situation.

Most interviews are challenging and you will need to demonstrate evidence of your
motivation, thinking and communication skills. But they are also designed to give you
an opportunity to talk about why you are right for the job or course. By preparing for
it, you should be able to take full advantage of that opportunity.

The practicalities
Preparation is the key to a successful interview so dont overlook the practical
details or leave things to the last minute.

Make sure you know where to go and how long it will take to get there. Aim to
arrive at least fifteen minutes early.

Decide what you are going to wear beforehand and try it on for comfort
(theres more information on this next week).

Do your revision. Read over your application and think about the questions
that you might be asked.

Take a copy of your application or CV, and if required, examples of your work.

If you can, try to find out about the format of the interview, how long it will last,
and who will be interviewing you.

If you are making a presentation take a copy along on a memory stick and
hard copy handouts.

Think more deeply about yourself, the role or course, and the organisation or
institution you are applying to.

Most of us experience some nerves in the run up to an interview but if you have
prepared thoroughly and retain a genuine interest and enthusiasm for the job or
course, then you will have done your best - and thats all you can really do!

Making your research count

Recruiters expect you to know what their organisation does, and this needs to
come across in your interview. You should have done some research before
you wrote your original application but this is something you need to revisit
and do in more depth.
You would be amazed how many candidates turn up for interview not knowing what
the organisation or institution does or what the job or course involves - and what a
bad impression this creates!

Try using the web, relevant journals and other media to find out as much as you can
about the place where you will be working or studying. If the interview is for a job or a
vocational course, you should research the employment sector you hope to enter
and the current issues facing the profession.
You can find out a lot about a potential organisation or institution through their social
media channels such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Look up the name and go
online to find out what theyre doing.
How do they present themselves? What news have they been sharing? These things
are important to them, so theyll be impressed if you mention them in your interview.
It shows youre serious.
To summarise, if you are to be interviewed for a job you should understand:

the services or products the organisation deals with

the organisations aims and values - what does it say in its mission

how you will fit in with its values. Can you identify its culture?

who its clients / customers are

who its competitors are and how the organisation compares to them

if the organisation has been in the news recently and why?

Researching an institution
If you have applied for a course, you may be invited for an interview, although this
varies between departments and at different universities or colleges. If you have
applied to do postgraduate research you will almost always be invited to interview.
Before you attend, you should understand:

the institution and department that you wish to join and its strengths

the aims and values of the institution - what does it say in its mission

how you will fit in with its values. Can you identify its culture?

the key areas of research currently being undertaken or the structure of the

the types of careers that students progress on to after completion

if the institution has been in the news recently and why?

Pick an organisation or institution that youre interested in and do some

research. If you cant think of one, try searching for The Sheffield
Childrens Hospital or The University of Sheffield.
Now imagine an interviewer has asked you:
What do you know about our organisation / institution?
How would you reply to make a positive impression, based on your research?
Write your response, in no more than 100 words, and post it in the discussion
below (remember to tell us which organisation or institution you have
researched). Once you have posted, comment on the answers of others.

Remember your key skills

Remember that from reading your application the selector already believes
you could be a good match for the skills they require. Now is the time to
convince them.
Here are some of the skills most commonly sought by selectors. You may be familiar
with them if you have already completed our previous courseHow to Succeed at:
Writing Applications. If you havent completed this course, but would like to, please
select the link and register your interest.


Ability to communicate clearly and succinctly both orally and in writing.

Willingness to question and listen to others to aid your own understanding and
that of others.

Ability to convey complex information at the right level so it is understood by



Ability to form relationships at all levels and motivate and support other team

Willingness to ask others for advice or help when solving a problem.

Ability to work fairly and productively alongside others.

Organisation and time management

Setting objectives and planning activities and resources to achieve a goal.

Ability to manage time effectively to prioritise activities and meet deadlines.

Achieving a productive and satisfying work-life balance.

Problem solving

Ability to understand information quickly and accurately.

Appreciation of all the variables affecting an issue.

Ability to evaluate and choose workable solutions to problems.


Energetic and enthusiastic approach to work/tasks.

Desire to continuously learn and develop and evaluate own performance.

Perseverance in the face of obstacles.


Having a clear vision that can be translated into action through effective

Ability to enthuse and influence others by gaining their trust and support.

Ability to listen, share and delegate when appropriate.

Creativity, flexibility and openness to change

To be original and express different views, ideas or solutions.

Willingness to challenge the status quo when appropriate and consider


An openness to others ideas with a willingness to adapt.

Confidence / assertiveness

Willingness to express needs, views and feelings clearly, confidently and


Appreciation of the value of ones own abilities and role.

Willingness to put forward ideas and stand firm on a minority or unpopular

view when appropriate.

Interpersonal, intercultural and global awareness

Awareness and tolerance of the diverse needs, feelings and views of others.

Willingness to support, help and share information with others.

Ability to communicate and work with people from different social and cultural
backgrounds and from different countries.


Ability to interpret statistics and numerical data.

Ability to solve numerical problems.

Familiarity with the ways in which numerical information is gathered and


Information and IT literacy

Confidence when using information technology with an ability to learn new


Ability to identify how IT can be applied to improve efficiency and solve


Knowing where and how to find relevant information.

Business / commercial awareness and


Understanding of the need for high quality customer service and innovative

Awareness of how economic and political issues can affect organisations and
their products or services.

Recognition of the importance of a professional and responsible approach to

your own role within an organisation.

Try to anticipate questions

As part of your preparation, re-read the job or course description again so that
you have a good understanding of exactly what is involved and what will be
expected of you.
Try to anticipate the key questions you might be asked by the interviewer, list what
you can offer and identify concrete examples of your suitability for the job or course
you are applying for. Most importantly, you will need to think about how you can tailor
your answers to what the selector is looking for.
A key part of interview preparation is thinking about the topics and questions that
may come up and how you can use the opportunity to market yourself as the most
suitable candidate. This kind of preparation is difficult and quite time consuming, but
if you cant honestly say youve thought through what the job/study/research would
involve and how best you could meet its demands, then you shouldnt really
complain if you dont succeed at interview.
The questions that an interviewer asks are likely to be quite detailed and some may
be hypothetical. They are likely to be based around key topic areas such as:

your skills, education, abilities and personal qualities

your knowledge of the job/study/research you are applying for

what you know about the organisation and the industry or subject area it
operates within

your motivation for applying, along with your work or study preferences and

your work experience

It may help to note what the recruiter is looking for from the job or course description
and then write down bullet points of how you meet this criteria.
Here are two examples if you are attending an interview for a job

Skills, knowledge, experience etc

How I match the requirements

Staffed the customer service desk at
BestEverFoods and maintained a helpful,
approachable manner.
Dealt with a broad spectrum of customers via
face-to-face and phone enquiries.

Must be able to provide excellent

customer service

Thanked by my manager for going out of my

way to help an elderly customer who had lost
her purse and was very upset. Kept calm,
found her a seat, put out a call to all staff to
be on the look out and retraced her steps.
Found her purse in the cafe where she had
been sitting.
As part of my work experience at Redlink
Outfits I was asked to create a Google form
asking colleagues to prioritise their training
requirements for the next year.

Must have experience of using Google


Hadnt used Google forms before, so

researched it thoroughly via Google support
and liaised with my line manager to make
sure that I understood the requirements.
Colleagues were able to input their
requirements into the form and I analysed
the data, producing a summary of key
training requirements for the next year.

Heres an example if you are attending an interview for a course

Skills, knowledge, experience etc,
required for the MA in Social Work
Must have suitable experience. The
experience must demonstrate your
potential for social work, so it must be
sufficient in quantity to test your

How I match the requirements

Have volunteered as a care worker for over a
year at the Tulip Residential Respite Home
for disabled children, aged 5 - 10 years.

Skills, knowledge, experience etc,

required for the MA in Social Work

How I match the requirements


Provide another pair of hands to support staff

during music sessions and story time. Bring
in pop music from the latest bands requested
by the children and teach them the words to
sing along to, whilst also playing percussion.
Also, organise a regular story time session
and try to vary the books to suit the tastes of
all the children. Often act out the stories to
make it more enjoyable and engaging.

An ability to use basic IT facilities,

including word processing, internet
browsing and email, is also essential.

A confident user of most standard IT

packages including Microsoft Office. Used
Word throughout my degree in sociology to
write essays and reports. Used Excel to
produce spreadsheets and statistics to
support my dissertation Class and culture in
Used online journals and e-books within the
library to support my research.
Daily user of email and social media such as
Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter to maintain
professional and personal contacts.

Dealing with gaps in your application

If there are time gaps in your application, you should think about how you can
talk about this positively in an interview.
You may have gaps in your application for any number of reasons such as ill health
or exams not going to plan. Perhaps you decided on a career change or took timeout to travel or raise a family.
Be prepared to expand upon what you wrote in your application. Remember, it was
good enough to get you an interview. If you had to overcome any obstacles, describe
how you did this and any coping strategies you developed in the process to show
your problem-solving skills.

Gaps in my application

Started a teacher training course but after one
term I realised it wasnt for me so I decided to
Spent six months working in a call centre developed excellent communication skills. Then
spent three months travelling around Vietnam
and Cambodia - developed organisation,
decision making and problem-solving skills.

Left a teacher training course after one term

Realised that although I didnt want to teach I did
want to work with children in a supportive role so
contacted my local careers service and talked
through my options with a careers adviser.
Did some voluntary work for a local childrens
charity dealing with eating disorders to gain
relevant work experience and then applied for a
course in social work.

Analysing a sample job or course description

When you analyse a job or course description prior to interview, try to put
yourself in the interviewers shoes and think about the kind of a person you
would look for.

What sort of questions would you ask?

What sort of evidence would you be looking for?

Here is an example of a job description and the skills required. Use the discussion to
post a question that you would ask candidates at interview.

Learning and Community Officer - The Exciting

Outward Bound Centre
Were a charity run by a team of 20 staff who see the importance of offering outdoor
opportunities to young people from inner city schools.

About the role

You will work as part of a team to organise and deliver an education activity
programme for school groups on day or residential visits. By liaising with school
leaders and providing exceptional customer service, you will ensure that all visits are
a great experience for young people.
You will provide information for teachers and leaders of school groups to ensure that
visits are of a high quality and suitable for young peoples needs. You will also help
to develop appropriate resources.
You will assist in promoting the Centre as a residential venue for school groups. You
will maintain bookings and a financial audit to monitor the performance of the Centre
against our annual targets.
You will need to remain up-to-date with safeguarding guidelines to work with young
people, helping to promote their well-being and enjoyment and protecting their
health, safety and welfare.

About you
A good understanding of the importance of exceptional customer service is essential.
You will have a passion for working with young people in community development
and environmental initiatives, including recycling, composting and energy usage. You
must have an interest in, and good working knowledge of, outdoor activities,
gardening and history.
Good working numeracy and literacy skills are a must, as are Microsoft Office skills.
You must also display excellent communication and organisational skills allowing you
to prioritise effectively. Its essential that you can develop and maintain effective
working relationships with colleagues within the team.
Some final thoughts

Weve reached the end of the first week of How to Succeed at: Interviews.
From this weeks activities, youll now be aware of the importance of thorough
planning and research so that you feel confident and prepared before the interview.
Next week well take a look at how to make sure you perform well on the day.
Getting a head start

If you want to make a start on Week 2 now, visit the To do list. You can always use
the To do icon at the top of the page to see whats coming up or go back to previous
weeks and catch up.
Check your progress

If you wish to check your progress, click on the Progress icon at the top of the page
to see your progress page. This will show what percentage of the course steps you
have marked as complete.
If you havent completed every step by the end of the final week, dont worry! The
course will remain open to you so that you can carry on at your own speed.
Introduction to Week 2

Dr Hilary Jones introduces Week 2, where we will explore how to deal with an
interview on the day itself.
This includes not only the sort of questions you might face and how to approach
answering them, but also how to use non-verbal communication or body language to
create a good impression.
Well also take a look at what sorts of questions you might ask the interviewer to
show that you are genuinely interested in the job or course that you have applied for.
Preparation and practice are key to succeeding at interview. If you havent already
completed Week 1 its a good idea to do that first before embarking on this week.
That way, youll have covered the necessary basics of preparing for interviews
before we look at how to succeed on the day.

You may feel confident about how to dress for interview to create a favourable
impression, but what about other forms of non-verbal communication?
Rightly or wrongly, we all form opinions about people before they even say anything
to us.
The secret of success in an interview situation is to understand how other people
perceive you and use this to your advantage. Even though you are nervous, try to
create the best first impression that you can. Make eye contact, smile and offer a
firm handshake. Try not to slouch during the interview, fidget or use too many hand
gestures while you are making a point. If you tend to flap your hands around when
you talk, hold them together but avoid crossing your arms as this can make you
appear defensive. Avoid fiddling with pens or any accessories you have.

Try our light hearted quiz

Have a quick look at each photograph and choose the answer that you feel best
describes each person.
Its likely that you will form different opinions about each of them, just based on how
they sit or stand, and their facial expressions.

Using your voice

Getting your message across isnt just about what you say or how you look
when youre saying it. The style, tone, and delivery of your voice plays a big
part in communication.
Nerves often make us talk too quickly or in a voice that is a different pitch than usual.
You may need to consciously slow down the pace and keep your tone moderate.
Make sure you take a deep breath before you start to answer a question. It might
also help to imagine that you are talking to someone who you know well so that you
start to speak in a more relaxed manner.
Dont use slang or jargon and watch out for too many ers and ums. Pauses are
usually fine, and can buy you a bit of thinking time, just as long as they dont go on
for too long. Regional accents add variety and interest to how we sound so dont be
too self-conscious, although if you have a strong regional accent you will need to
enunciate clearly. Similarly, if you are interviewed in a language other than your first
language, make sure that you speak slowly and clearly.
Practising beforehand can help. Either practise your answers in front of the mirror to
see how you appear to other people or get someone you know to ask you some of
the questions that might come up and see how you sound to them. Well get the
chance to look at some examples of interview questions later on this week.
Of course, you also need to make sure that what you do say is meaningful and

Typical interview questions

There are many publications claiming to provide the correct answers to

popular interview questions. However, there often isnt just one correct

In most interview situations, you are being asked to talk about things that YOU, not
the author of the book, are best placed to answer. For example, only you can truly
answer questions about the experiences youve had and what you got out of them,
or express your opinions on things that matter to you and the recruiter.
Over-scripted or rehearsed answers will come across as insincere and lacking in
spontaneity. Even worse, if you try to use a pre-scripted answer you might not
actually answer the exact question youve been asked on the day.
That said, you should certainly spend time before the interview thinking about the
type of question you may be asked and what key elements you would include in your
response, without fully scripting your exact answer. Noting just the key points of your
answer, not the full script, will help you recall what you need to include whilst
ensuring you use spontaneous and natural language to get your message across.
On the next pages are some of the most common types of interview questioning
styles you might face.

Answering motivational questions

Motivational questions are designed to check how serious you are about
applying for a particular job or course. These questions could include:

Why do you want to do this job / course?

What do you know about our organisation / institution? Why would you find us
interesting to work for / study with?

Which aspects of the job / course interest you most?

What do you think will be the main challenges of this job / course? Why does
that appeal to you?

What steps have you taken to find out more about the job role / course?

Which aspects of your previous work experience / course have you enjoyed
and why?

Tell us about a current news story that has caught your attention and why it
interests you. How might it relate to our organisation / institution?

Questions like this highlight how important it is to do plenty of preparation so that you
understand what sort of job or course you are applying for and know as much as
possible about the organisation or institution.

Applying for a job

If you are applying for a job, think about:

why you are interested in the main duties of the job

the organisations values and culture and how these fit in with your own

why the core business activities of the organisation appeal

training and development opportunities

the aspects of the job that may be challenging

Applying for a course

If you are applying for a course, think about the:

departments strengths

structure and type of course

teaching quality

innovative research currently being undertaken

challenges that you are likely to face

Launch this interactive exercise to look at some sample motivational questions and
read our analysis of the answers given. You can also download this information for
your portfolio.

Answering Motivational
in interviews
Motivational questions are designed to check how serious
you are about applying for a particular placement, job or
course, and how much you genuinely want to be part of that
particular organisation or institution.

Common questions in interviews include 'Why have you

decided to apply for us?' and 'What interests you about this
particular job/course?'

How do we answer motivational

To answer a motivational question effectively, you need to
show that you have a clear understanding of the role you're
applying for. In the answer, you'll need to describe how it
suits your interests and motivations, and then explain why
you consider yourself a strong candidate.

Trainee journalist for the Great

Outdoors magazine
Why have you chosen to apply to our organisation?
I love most outdoor sports, particularly cycling and road
running and spend most weekends pursuing them in
the Derbyshire Peak District. Additionally, having
studied English at college, I have developed an interest
in writing news content and have published my own
blog for the last two years covering outdoor pursuits. I
have also undertaken voluntary work at my local
newspaper which has confirmed my choice of career.
I am particularly interested in working for the Great
Outdoors magazine. As a subscriber, I enjoy reading
your interesting, innovative content. Following
research, I was impressed by your organisation's future
plans to expand into health and well-being which I
believe would be an exciting new area of growth as
readers become interested in healthy lifestyle choices
that complement their sport.

You also have an excellent reputation for staff training

and development and I feel I could successfully develop
my career with you.

Motivational question for a job analysis

This answer clearly states specific aspects of the
organisations business that the applicant finds attractive,
and explains why these aspects appeal. The applicant
includes activities from their experience that show they share
the organisations values. The answer shows how the position
and business relate to the candidates career objectives. It
uses language that shows enthusiasm and interest with the
Remember to find out as much as you can about the
organisation to demonstrate a genuine interest in working for
them. Show that you have a clear understanding of aspects
such as: what the organisation does, the training and
development it offers, and its values and ethos. You also
need to persuade them that their values match your own.
Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy University of Sheffield

What do you hope to gain from this course?

My interest in dental hygiene developed when I
participated in the Schools widening participation
scheme ADOPT. Through this scheme I was given an
invaluable insight into the field of dentistry and
university life. I also enrolled onto the Universitys
Discover Dentistry FutureLearn course which gave a

fascinating introduction into the history of dentistry, the

various professions that make up dentistry and how it
has developed into what it is today.
I am looking forward to developing my knowledge of all
aspects of dental hygiene and therapy from oral
disease to oral health. I already have some knowledge
of anatomy which comes from studying Biology at A
level and this course will further develop my
understanding of the subject, relevant to dentistry.
Im aware that the course will develop my
communication and customer care skills to help me to
empathise and relate well with my patients, who may
be from different cultural backgrounds and ages.
Im looking forward to undertaking the work
placements which will further develop my practical
skills and help me make a smooth transition from
student to practitioner. In future I hope to work within a
dental team in a large NHS practice.

Motivational question for a course - analysis

This answer demonstrates that the candidate has found out

about the course and explained why they find specific
elements attractive. The answer uses language that
demonstrates enthusiasm and interest in this work.
It's important to show you have a good understanding of the
course you're applying for. University applications in the UK
usually go through the University and Colleges Admissions
Service (UCAS), so in the application it's not possible to

specify unique details about each university as the same

statement goes to all universities you apply for. That's why
it's important to make sure that in the interview you talk
about the unique selling points of that institution or course,
and why it suits you.
You also need to describe the knowledge, skills and
experience that you hope to gain and how this relates to your
future plans.

Dealing with competency based questions

Competency-based questions are commonly used by employers to check that
candidates have the competencies or qualities that are required for a particular
job, usually detailed in the job specification or advert. Admissions tutors may
also use them in interviews, particularly for more vocational courses.
The interviewer is looking for evidence that you have the skills that they need and so
may ask questions such as:

Give an example of when you worked in a team to complete a task. What was
your role and what did you contribute?

Tell us about a situation where youve had to overcome a difficult problem.

Describe an occasion when you have had to manage your time to achieve a
deadline. What happened and how did you meet the deadline?

Can you give an example of when you have done work that required a high
degree of accuracy? How do you ensure that your work is accurate?

Outline a situation where youve had to communicate complex information in

an easy-to-understand way.

Tell us about a time when you have had to deal with someone who was angry
or upset. How did you deal with it?


If you have completed our previous course How to Succeed at: Writing
Applications, you will have already come across STAR, our technique for
answering competency-based questions in applications and at interview. If you
havent completed this course, but would like to, you can select the link and
register your interest.
STAR stands for:

Situation - provide some brief details about the situation you were in when you used
a competency so that the reader can understand the context of the example.

Task - outline what your objective or purpose was during that situation, again to put
your answer into context.

Action - describe what you did in that situation and how you approached it.

Result - state the outcome, for example: Were the objectives met? What did you
learn/gain from being in that situation?

Sometimes the selector will probe further by asking What would you do differently?
or What did you learn from the experience?

Some examples of using STAR

Launch this interactive exercise to look at three sample competency-based
questions and read our analysis of the answers given. You can also download
these examples and save them to your portfolio.
When asked this type of question, try to use realistic and recent examples from your
work experience, education, volunteering and sport and leisure activities.
Simple examples can be very effective when taken from everyday situations.
Remember, interviewers dont expect you to have sailed the Atlantic or crossed the
We have added a template that you can use to practise answering the competencybased questions that you think you may be asked. Download the template below and
save it in your portfolio. It is also available as a PDF file.
Top telephone interviews

Where the recruitment process involves more than one interview stage, your
first interview might be carried out by telephone or video as it is a cost
effective way of handling large numbers of applications.

Your performance will determine whether or not you move on to the next stage of the
selection process, and so you will need to prepare in exactly the same way that you
would for a face-to-face interview. This means: re-reading your application and the
information that the organisation or institution has provided, researching the job or
course, and thinking of recent, specific examples that you can use as evidence of the
required skills.
You may also be interviewed by telephone or video if youre applying to an
organisation or institution based outside the country where you currently live.