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Durham University

Careers & Enterprise Centre


Congratulations! An invitation to an interview or assessment centre is recognition that you have convinced an employer of your potential. You have been invited to the next stage because you have effectively demonstrated your competencies, knowledge and career motivations in your application. An interview is your opportunity to market yourself in-person to an employer, by demonstrating your:

  • Enthusiasm for the role and the organisation
  • Understanding of and interest in the sector
  • Skills, attributes and knowledge that show you can do the job
  • Potential to succeed in their organisation.

During an interview or assessment centre, the employer will assess you by asking interview questions and providing exercises for you to complete on work-related scenarios. An interview is also a good opportunity for you to assess the employer, and whether or not it is the right job for you.

Thorough research, preparation and practice will give you the best chance to impress in the final stages of your job, placement or internship hunt. The sections below give an overview of different interview types, and what to do before, during and after an interview. See the job interviews help sheet (in the resources section below) for in depth information on: interview preparation; types of interview: types of questions; what to do on the day; useful resources. You can also access the Preparing for Interviews careers help video for further guidance (use your university login credentials to access this).

You can prepare for your interview by using our practice platform, ShortlistMe. It’s available to all Durham students and graduates, and you can access it through the Resources tab on the Student Services Portal. ShortlistMe is a video interview practice platform, but will help you prepare for all types of interview.

The most common types of interview are:

  • On-screen Interviews: During the coronavirus pandemic, with social distancing measures in place, more employers are using virtual interviews as a way of selecting their staff, and the increase in these approaches is likely to be sustained to some degree. These can be either:
  • Pre-recorded video interviews in which you’re not communicating live with another person, instead you are responding to pre-recorded questions that appear on the screen. You have a set amount of time to prepare your answer eg 15 seconds and then a specific amount of time to give your reply eg 1-2 minutes.


  • Live on-screen interviews using platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams, which feel more like traditional face to face interviews, with one or more interviewers asking you questions.

With both types of interviews, it’s important to prepare well:

  • Position yourself in a tidy, quiet, well-lit space - Check out what your background looks like on screen prior to the interview, and make sure that it looks uncluttered, clean, and has good lighting.
  • Test your equipment - Do a test run of your technology before the interview to ensure that your wifi connection, camera and audio and video conferencing platforms are all working well.
  • Dress Appropriately - You’ll be expected to look the part in appropriate business dress. Wear something that you feel good in and gives a professional image.
  • Let Your Personality Come Across - Develop a rapport with your interviewer(s), as well as showing your knowledge of the role and the company. Show enthusiasm for the job, use positive vocabulary about yourself and smile!

Target Jobs has a really useful section covering interview techniques for zoom and video calls.

  • Telephone and video interviews: Often occur early on in the selection process. Prepare as thoroughly for this as for a face-to-face interview. You may also be asked about your interest in the post, company and sector.You could also be asked competency or strength based questions.
  • First interviews: This is often a 'getting-to-know-you' experience where a graduate or HR officer will probe your reasons for applying for the position, and your commitment to the organisation.
  • Second interviews: Usually involves more senior members of staff who may be your line manager or departmental colleagues if you are successful. They are interested in how well you will fit into the department – make sure you let your personality shine through.
  • Panel interviews: These usually include HR staff, senior staff from relevant departments and a potential line manager. This ensures a better chance of the most suitable candidate being selected.
  • Case interviews: Typically used for project management or consultancy firms, and are designed to test your analytical and problem solving skills. There are a variety of types of case interviews, so if you are likely to encounter this type of recruitment method, we strongly recommend you carry out extensive research and practice examples.

Before the interview

  • As with your university assessments, the amount of preparation and effort you put in will determine your chances of success at interview.
  • Ensure you know the job description, person specification and company – and your application and CV – inside out. Carry out additional research if you need to.
  • Analyse how your employability skills and attributes match the requirements of the post.
  • Prepare a range of examples using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method (see the relevant help sheet below, in the Resources section), so you can be flexible in providing relevant evidence as to why you’re a good fit for this specific job, organisation and sector.
  • Practice case study examples, psychometric tests or any other types of activities you may be assessed on.
  • Are you ‘Google-proof’? Beware: employers may search for you on social networking sites – consider your privacy settings and delete any out of date social media that could create the wrong impression.

During the interview

  • A positive start is essential: be friendly and professional from the outset. Shake hands and make eye contact as each person is introduced.
  • Consider each question carefully before you answer. What evidence of your suitability are they looking for? Be prepared to give full answers with, ideally, recent and relevant examples of your experiences or clear and detailed reasons for your career aspirations.
  • Avoid going off on a tangent. Remind yourself mentally of what you need to cover and ensure you stick to what is relevant. The more articulate you are, the more confident the employer will feel about your potential to interact with important clients.
  • If a question requires clarification, ask. Likewise if you need a few seconds to think about your answer, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • If you are asked about your weaknesses, use an example that you turned into a strength and go on to explain how you are now more effective.
  • Sometimes you will face a surprise question that you weren’t expecting. Stay calm and think about how you can relate your answer to the post. You may be challenged by an interviewer so make sure you can justify your answer.

After the interview

  • Reflect on how you performed. What went well and what could be improved? Try to remember what you were asked for future reference.
  • If you were unsuccessful, ask for feedback so you can improve and succeed in future interviews.

Interview advice from the Careers Centre

Careers Advisers are also on hand to give you a practice interview during Michaelmas or Epiphany term. Alternatively, why not sign up for a mock interview session with an employer? You can find a list of skills events on our website and in the Careers Centre plus our website includes details of how to book an appointment with a Careers Adviser.