HOW TO PASS YOUR INTERVIEW WITH FLYING COLOURS!
It’s that time of year when people are opening their mail and looking at Track to find out if they have had any responses from the universities they have applied to in the UK. Some of you will be rejoicing at the words “unconditional offer “, others will be looking at their “conditional offer” and trying to calculate whether they will get the grades. And still others are looking at one word – INTERVIEW.
The word can send shivers down people’s spines. It sounds like an interrogation, an impossible and very personal test, and something to worry about.
Here are a few tips which will help you sail through your university interview and walk out of the room, or replace the phone, feeling happy, satisfied and sure that you did really well.
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Let’s start with the practical things you need to consider. Is it a phone interview or are you being asked to come to the university and meet with members of the faculty? If it’s a phone interview, you need to check the proposed date and time (are you on holiday or at the dentist’s?) and think about your broadband connection. If it’s going to be a Skype call, will you be able to guarantee that your internet doesn’t go down, or would you be better off going to a friend or relative’s house or somewhere quiet with public Wi-Fi? You can’t just hope for the best, so decide where you will take the call well in advance, and check your mic and camera are working. You can accept the interview time suggested by the university in Track or click on the option which offers you a new time. Think before you click! And remember you can be seen on a Skype call, so don’t drift down to take it in pyjamas, with unbrushed hair.
If it’s a personal interview, then make sure you arrive at the interview on time – and this means checking travel arrangements, maybe booking a B&B for one night, looking at the route and setting out in good time, so you are ready 15 minutes before the interview is about to begin. Being late is unacceptable, stressful and leaves a poor impression.
Dress sensibly. You are not going to a party, a tennis club or hanging out with friends. Streetwear is out, but you could team jeans with a tailored jacket and crisp t-shirt, and if it is likely to rain or be cold, there is nothing wrong with wearing a jumper and trench coat. Avoid eye-catching, garish hairstyles, jewellery and look-at-me accessories – particularly slogan or so-called funny t-shirts . Interviewers are not interested in your views on Trump, Stormzy, Venezuela or legalising cannabis They want to meet you, not your persona.
Be aware of your body language and try to relax. There is no point sitting on the edge of your chair, squeezing your hands tightly as if you are about to be executed. Neither should you slump back and yawn. Be attentive, smile, use eye contact. The interview could last up to an hour, so make sure you are sitting comfortably and don’t have to constantly change your position.
Ensure that you have gone through your portfolio if you have been asked to bring it with you – this is commonly the case for art, design and architecture interviews. Organise your work and ask a friend to be your audience as you go through each piece and explain what it means to you, why you chose this approach and what it conveys. The more often you repeat this exercise – and remember to encourage your friend to ask questions – the more comfortable and word-perfect you will be in a real interview situation. Don’t forget , your views are your own – they cannot be wrong, just badly explained.
Universities tend to ask the same range of general questions from year to year. You will probably be asked to explain why you have chosen this particular course and university, invited to reflect on your school and academic achievements, prodded to talk about your strengths and weaknesses and invited to describe yourself. You may also be taken through your Personal Statement and questioned about work experiences, hobbies and anything else you have written about.
It is therefore essential to prepare yourself for this part of the interview:
do some background reading about the university, its history, alumni etc
make sure you have gone through all the modules included in the course, and draft a few comments and questions on the course content.
read through your Personal Statement once again and refresh yourself about what you have said. Consider what questions your PS throws up. For example, if you mention entering a series of competitions, or volunteering at an animal shelter, think of one or two points you could make about these experiences.
read around your subject, so you are up to date on the most recent events/controversies/discoveries or debates.