Top Tips for Interview Success

As graduates of Norwich Business School now turn their attention to job applications and interviews in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought we would offer guidance to those graduates and alumni now job hunting within this often more challenging market.

If you are wondering how to navigate the challenges of graduate job seeking, do remember there is still plenty we can do to support you.  With three years of access to CareerCentral services following graduation, you have free access to practical help and constructive advice on how to research your options, tailor your applications, build your profile, network, and practice your interview skills. 

Further information on the support available to you can be found within the Norwich Business School ‘You’re Still Covered’ publication, available in both PDF and as an accessible word document.

Icon of a mortarboard style graduation cap, followed by the title "You're still Covered - NBS Graduate Support Programme 2020"

Through the success of the Graduate Job Programme, Norwich Business School has witnessed first-hand how employers have adapted well, continuing with recruitment where possible and many moving quickly to online interviews, with some carrying out online inductions and remote working.

Feedback from employers of the Graduate Job Programme tells us that the successful candidate is often the one who shows that human element, can give eloquent stories of personal hurdles they have overcome; they show a passion for the role and a real interest in the organisation and are able to demonstrate they have actively researched.

One of the biggest challenges facing candidates is dealing with knock-backs and finding that resolve to keep going in a more complex and challenging jobs market.  It is always worth asking recruiters for feedback since quite often we can ‘overthink’ why we were not selected, or assume we were totally wrong for the job, when sometimes it may be something quite simple which can easily be rectified.  Sometimes it can just be a matter of confidence and practice, or just patience.  If you were one of the preferred candidates but were ‘pipped to the post’, it is worth finding out what made the other person stand out so you can do the same at the next interview. 

Employability Week, whilst online, is open to graduates and alumni and will be running online in November 2020, so do follow our social media posts for details of this and other events on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

We are here to support you towards your next steps, so do please take full advantage and benefit from the support services offered by UEA CareerCentral, the Library services and the advice of the academic team.  If you would like any further support UEA CareerCentral can offer support for 3 years after graduation. This includes one to one support, quick queries, longer 45 minute guidance appointments and mock interviews for job and further study applications. Contact career.central@uea.ac.uk in the first instance to book an appointment. Graduates can also access vacancies and support via GradCentral and this service is also available for 3 years.   

Interviews are daunting for most at the best of times, but virtual interviews can add another layer of complexity and stress. Virtual face-to-face interviews are becoming increasingly common and a necessity for many employers in the current COVID-19 era. A recent April 2020 survey from the Institute of Student Employers found 71% of employers have moved interviews online for internships, placements and graduate jobs. Students and graduates navigating the job market are bound to encounter this type of interview and should take the necessary steps to prepare. Darren Johnson of UEA CareerCentral has provided some top tips for managing online interviews.

Ten Top Tips for Online Interviews:

  1. Test your technology – Avoid potential technical glitches by testing your equipment before the call. If your video conferencing software produces grainy visuals or muffled audio, it might be time to invest in an external webcam or microphone. You should also secure your internet connection. Nothing stifles conversation quite like a call dropped mid-persuasion point.
  2. Keep Your Virtual Identity Professional – In today’s digital world your email address and username. Don’t give the hiring manager a reason to question your professionalism before they even meet you by providing a once hilarious college or school address you might still be using.
  3. Rid yourself of distractions – Virtual interviews come with possible distractions you wouldn’t normally have to consider when you travel to an employer’s office. If you share a home with others make them aware well in advance, silence devices such as TV and close windows to avoid external noise.
  4. Anticipate questions by referring to the job person specification. Write your unique selling points (USP) on Post-it notes. You can then place these notes on the sides of your computer screen as prompts to BRIEFLY refer to.
  5. Dress for success – Dress as though you are preparing for an in-person interview.
  6. Create a set – If possible sit in front of a blank background, so that you remain the focal point. Check your lighting is appropriate.
  7. Practice makes perfect – You may not know the exact questions you will be asked in advance, but you can practice how you look and behave on camera. Record yourself answering anticipated questions and watch them back to notice any bad habits, such as touching your hair or tapping your finger. Get friends and family to also comment to get another perspective. Make use of the free virtual mock interview and feedback service through UEA CareerCentral. Book by emailing career.central@uea.ac.uk for a 1-hour appointment with a Careers Adviser or Placement Officer.   
  8. Monitor your body language – Unfortunately that firm handshake you typically greet employers with won’t translate via video. Instead, convey enthusiasm and confidence through positive body language. Keep the camera at eye level to avoid looking up or down. Research has shown employers are more likely to remember what you said if you maintain eye contact. Smile regularly but in particular to questions around career motivation such as, “why are you interested in our company /the role.” Keep hand gestures to a minimum as this can be distracting in a video. You could try holding a pen in your lap to keep your hands out of sight.
  9. Get familiar with knowing your strengths, how they fit with the job role and company values. More employers are taking a strengths based approach to virtual interviews. The reason being, research has shown candidates are more likely to come across as genuine when talking about things they enjoy and perform well. This differs from the traditional competency style interview approach as the interviewer is not looking for an example of a skill using the STAR approach but wants to know why you enjoy using a particular strength. This allows your personality to shine through and really demonstrate to the employer what motivates you. Be aware some employers may use a combination of strength and competency questions.  
  10. Employers may request a video CV so make sure it is up to date, original, relevant and lets your personality shine through!    

Jenny Bach, Marketing and Business Relationship Executive

Darren Johnson, UEA Careers Advisor

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