Video on interview preparation

Career Snapshot - Interviews

Interviews are an integral part of the application process. Employers get to meet you and decide whether you are going to fit into their organisation. You also get a chance to meet them and see if you really want to work for that organisation. Interviews can be the most nerve-wracking part of the application process and the more prepared you are for them, the better. Start with the Career Snapshot: interviews video which gives an overview of how best to prepare.

Try watching our mini presentations on Types of Interview and Application and Interview Questions to find out what to expect during the process. You can use the Shortlist.Me platform to practice video mock interviews, as well as book a mock interview with a careers consultant. 

Interview Tabs

The basics

An interview can be defined as a ‘conversation with a purpose’. Employers want to meet you in person to check out:

  • whether you can do the job - do you have the right skills and qualifications?
  • whether you really want to work for them
  • if they can imagine you fitting into the team and getting on well with staff, superiors, peers, customers, suppliers, and business partners

It’s also your chance to find out more about the organisation and the job. What exactly will you be doing? Who will you be working with? Would you enjoy working there? Is the job really right for you?

Success at interview is based on solid preparation. Your pre-interview research needs to focus on yourself and the employer.

Prepare to talk about yourself

  • Make sure that you are clear on exactly what you have to offer to the organisation. Understand your strengths, your most well-developed skills and all the factors that make you a strong candidate
  • Be ready to offer evidence to support all of these points
  • See yourself as a valuable resource that is potentially available to the employer
  • Review your application form or CV and make sure that you can expand confidently on everything that is written there. What do you think the employer liked in your application? Are there any particular weaknesses or gaps in experience which an employer may want to explore in the interview?

Dealing with nerves

We all suffer from nerves to an extent. Adrenaline can help us perform at our best, but too much is a problem and can result in butterflies, hands or knees trembling, sweating, your mind going blank and feeling over emotional.

  • Prepare – then you will feel confident in your research, and in how fluently and positively you can talk about yourself and the job.
  • Be organised – know all the practicalities of how to access the interview, who might be on the panel, and prepare what you will wear in advance. Do not allow any risk of being late or creating a disordered impression.
  • Visualise – see yourself as a confident candidate, smiling and dealing smoothly with the interview questions.
  • Relax – develop a relaxation strategy, which could involve some yoga, deep breathing, positive visualisation or whatever works for you.
  • Breathe – nerves can make you rush – so slow down and take time to breathe!

Research the employer

What do you know about the employer, the industry and the competitors? What are the key issues affecting this sector at present? Employers are extremely frustrated when applicants don't understand the job or the organisation. In contrast, being well informed makes you appear highly motivated.

Ensure that you carry out some thorough research before attending the interview. Finding out about an organisation and the industry is likely to help answer some of the interview questions in more depth, demonstrating that you are a well-prepared candidate. Compile a list of what they will be looking for in the interview e.g. commercial awareness, attention to detail, time-management. The ‘About Us’, ‘Latest News’ and ‘Annual Reports’ sections on their website can be helpful for understanding the organisation. Do some extra research into current issues and trends affecting that sector.

You may also find that your research may give you some ideas for topics for questions at the end of an interview as well. A guide to the wide range of resources available to help you research companies can be found in Plan you career.

Research the job

What are the competencies and knowledge that the employer is looking for? The company website and/or the job advertisement should be a good starting point but you need to go further than this. Think about the evidence which you can provide that will show you have the qualities and skills required.

Are you clear about what the work will involve? If you are applying to a company which offers a range of different opportunities for graduates, do you understand the differences between the various career options? Would you be able to describe why, for example, you have applied for sales and trading rather than investment banking?

  • Talking to people who have knowledge of the type of work can be helpful – see our section on Networking for ideas of how to approach people.
  • Use specialist business databases such as MarketLine Advantage to get up to date information on the industry sector you are interested in as well as researching more about the job role and occupation.

Think about interview questions and answers

Learning the answers to questions completely off by heart could make you appear very stilted and inflexible in the interview. You will need, however, to be very clear about the key points which you wish to convey during the interview in order to answer a range of possible questions.

  • Look at our interview questions page, which will give you an insight into the types of questions often asked at interview and some suggestions on how to answer them.
  • Practice answering questions out loud - get used to hearing yourself talk about your achievements and why you want the job.
'Do you have any questions for us?'

You are likely to be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. Topics which you could ask about include training and career development. Be careful not to ask about things which you should already know through reading information on an organisation's website. Don't feel that you have to ask questions if everything has been covered. Explain that this is the case and you don't have any questions.

Practical preparation

Don't neglect the practical details. Whilst the following suggestions are quite obvious, it can sometimes be easy to overlook them.

Things to remember
  • Look a credible applicant - first impressions are important so look smart and tidy on the day. If in doubt, too smart is better than too casual. Decide on and check what you are going to wear before the day to avoid any last-minute panics.
  • Make sure you know how and when the interview will be held and and how you will access it. Check you are comfortable with the technology that will be used.
  • If you are being interviewed in person check on the timetable for the day and make sure that you give yourself enough time to get to your destination. Aim to turn up 15 minutes early. Being late creates a dreadful impression and could erode your confidence.
  • If you are delayed for any reason, then contact the employer to let them know - ensure that you have contact details for the employer saved separately in case you have technical or logistical issues.
  • Re-read your CV, application form, job description, and invitation for the interview in good time before the real thing.
  • Believe in yourself! You have a lot to offer, that's why they want to meet you!

Interview questions

  • Watch our mini presentation on Application and Interview Questions well in advance of the interview to find out about the type of questions asked in interviews and some suggestions on how to answer them. Think about how you might respond if faced with these question
  • You may have already used the STAR Technique for answering competency and behavioural questions (see typical quesions in application forms) in your initial application. Go back over the key transferable skills in the job description and practice your answers in the STAR format. Try to think about a range of examples you could give. There are further worked examples using the STAR technique in the Imperial Guide to Career Planning and Successful Applications.

General tips for handling interview questions

  • If you don’t understand a question then do ask for clarification rather than risk giving an irrelevant answer
  • Try and give optimistic responses to questions. An interviewer may pick up something in your CV which is less than positive or where something has not been successful. Talk about what you have learnt from the experience rather than focussing on the failure
  • If you are faced with a particularly difficult question then you can ask for a few moments to think, but don’t do this too often
  • Make sure what you say is relevant and to the point, don’t be too brief but avoid very lengthy answers
  • Practice your interview questions before the actual day. Get used to hearing yourself speak out loud. Try and speak fluently and watch out for lots of ‘ums’ and 'errs'.

Learning the answers to questions completely off by heart could make you appear very stilted and inflexible in the interview. You will need, however, to be very clear about the key points which you wish to convey during the interview in order to answer a range of possible questions.

Use the Shortlist.Me platform to practice recorded video mock interviews and don’t forget you can book a mock interview practice with a careers consultant in advance. You can email us directly to arrange a session.

Informational Interviews

An informational interview is an informal conversation you have with someone working in an area of interest to you. This technique can provide valuable information and build a better awareness of a role or industry. The goal of an informational interview is to help you learn more about a particular job role or sector, or get exclusive insights and advice; it is not about asking for a job or internship.

Below is a list of some suggested questions and themes for your informational interview, these are just a start to help you think about what exactly you want to find out. Tailor your questions to match your goals for the conversation and ensure you plan open-ended questions to get the conversation flowing.

The individual

  • How did you get into this role? What is your career path to date?
  • How did the skills or knowledge you gained from your degree help you in this field?
  • Where do you see your career going next?
  • If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself?

The Job profile

  • What are your primary responsibilities?
  • What do you do in a typical workday?
  • What do you like most and least about this role?
  • How does your job affect your general lifestyle?
The company/industry
  • How does your position fit within the organisation?
  • What are the common misconceptions about this organisation or industry?
  • What do you see as the biggest competitive challenge for this organisation?
  • What motivates you to continue in this organisation/industry?

Early graduate careers

  • How do most people get into this field? What are common entry-level jobs?
  • What kind of job responsibilities could I expect as a new graduate?
  • What steps would you recommend I take to prepare to enter this field?
  • What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job?

Disclosing a disability

Imperial Careers Service has close links with the Imperial Disability Advisory Service, other disability organisations, diversity recruiters and a wide range of employers. This ensures that we are well equipped to provide appropriate information, advice, and guidance to students and recent graduates making the transition into employment.

Your decision of when to disclose may vary depending on the organisation and the particular job that you are applying for. To help guide you, please see our section on disclosing a disability.

The AGCAS Disability Task Group have produced some resources on disclosure and adjustments for students with neurodiversity conditions (e.g. dyslexia, autism, ADHD etc), along with a worksheet on Explaining Mental Health. The worksheets can be found on the relevant resources part of the AGCAS Disability Task group website below:


Our events programme includes a variety of talks and workshops which are designed to enhance your chances of success in the application process. We run regular presentations and workshops on interviews - for details, see JobsLive.

A variety of one to one appointments can be booked via JobsLive including access to mock interviews. Please check our Book an appointment section for further details.

The Imperial Guide to Career Planning and Applications also has a large section on  preparing for interviews[SVM1] 

Additional resources include:

Telephone Interviews:

You can find further information to help you prepare on the Target Job website How to Handle a Telephone Interview 

Recorded Interviews

The PWC Video Interview e-learn platform provides some advice on how to best prepare for a video interview. It will help you to understand what employers like PwC are looking for and steps to take before, during and after your video interview.

Use Shortlist.Me to access a variety of practice video interviews. You can record the answers to questions and use the feedback tools to reflect on your performance to help you improve.

Interview Questions

Both Glassdoor and Prospects list a variety of typical interview questions and suggestions on how to approach them.

Academic Interviews

The Vitae website has an academic job interviews section, which includes a list of commonly asked questions in academic interviews.