French Duncan: Five great interview tips for graduates

Interviewees waiting in reception
By French Duncan, Chartered Accountants

6 December 2016

As you prepare to leave university and enter the world of work, you will no doubt be applying for graduate positions across various organisations. 

Applying for positions is only the beginning, and the next big hurdle is attending the interview and securing your ideal graduate position. Below are our top five tips for tackling interviews: 

1. Be prepared

  • Research the organisation in detail, including using their website and all forms of social media. Remember, the interviewer will have heard similar answers on “What do you know about the firm?”, so you want to stand out and demonstrate your eagerness to be part of the firm.
  • Look at the interviewers’ profile on the firm’s website and LinkedIn accounts so that you have a good understanding of their background and the service line they work within.
  • Re-read your CV and application prior to the interview: the interviewers will have both documents in front of them and will ask questions around this.
  • Prepare questions that you can ask at the end of the interview using the relevant information you have gleaned from research, to show your interest.

2. Look professional

  • First impressions are key – it takes only seconds for your interviewers to form an opinion of you so you need to look professional.
  • A business smart dress code is always recommended - this is generally a suit and tie for men and a smart dress, skirt or trousers for women. Jeans or revealing clothing are never appropriate, and interviewees should avoid unbuttoned or untucked shirts, or any clothing which is damaged or has not been ironed.
  • Along with what you wear, interviewees should ensure their general appearance is neat and professional. For example, avoid unkempt facial hair, excessive jewellery including facial jewellery, heavy make-up and visible tattoos.
  • The interview is the first opportunity to prove you are presentable – ultimately, the interviewers are assessing your suitability to engage with clients and contacts and be ambassador for the firm.

3. Answer questions effectively

  • Listen carefully to the questions being asked, and remain focused in the conversation.
  • If you have not understood the question or feel you have misinterpreted it, ask the interviewer to repeat the question – this is much better than waffling or not answering the original question asked.
  • Competency questions tend to be dreaded by candidates at all levels, but they are a very effective method for you to showcase your knowledge and past experience if you are prepared to answer them.
    • Firstly, you need to have a couple of good examples prepared beforehand of situations where you have excelled. Popular question choices centre on teamwork, using initiative and handling difficult situations.
    • Answer questions using the STAR technique, where possible. Explain the Situation, the Task assigned, what Action you took and the Result (STAR).
    • Answer the question in the first person to demonstrate your participation in the task.

4. Be engaging

  • The interview is your opportunity to not only demonstrate your professional skills, but give the interviewers an insight into your personality.
  • First off, make sure you stand up when the interviewers arrive – make eye contact and shake their hands firmly – a weak handshake can be off putting.
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the interview, and nod as the interviewers are speaking to show acknowledgement and interest.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic throughout – avoid speaking negatively about other interviews or work placements.

5. Calm your nerves! 

  • It is normal to feel nervous in an interview setting regardless of whether you are a seasoned interviewee – you are meeting people you do not know who are scrutinising your skills, experience and suitability for a job.
  • Some nerves are good as it will motivate you to do your research and think about your answers.
  • However, it is important to remain calm; nerves could overshadow your personality and knowledge.
  • There are various calming techniques you can undertake, but the most simple and effective:
    • Before the interview, make sure you arrive in plenty of time - you could even go to a local café ahead of the interview to gather your thoughts
    • When you arrive, ensure you take a few deep breaths whilst waiting in reception and reminding yourself of all your achievements to date.
    • During the interview, you could take a few sips of water before answering questions.
  • Good luck in the graduate interview process!

This article is provided by French Duncan Chartered Accountants, a forward-thinking accredited training firm with graduate roles available in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling across Audit and Tax. 

To apply for the latest training vacancies with French Duncan, start here


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