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Ambassador view: Interviews

Hi everyone, my name is Aiyla, I'm an Uptree Ambassador and currently in year 13 studying Biology, Chemistry and Physics. I aspire to go into Dentistry.

Whilst transitioning from a teenager to a young adult I have realised that interviews are one of the most crucial steps not only for jobs but also university applications.

Here, I’ll share my top tips and experiences to help you gain confidence and smash your interviews.

The reason I chose to become an Uptree ambassador was due to my love for mentoring and leadership. I enjoy passing on the knowledge that I learn through experiences. Having completed Uptree’s employability skills course, I feel more comfortable facing professional life and want to use this opportunity to enlighten others.


The big news

After weeks of patience you’ve just received an invitation to an interview! As exciting as that news is, it’s normal to feel anxious.

So, what do you do next?

Step 1: Congratulate yourself and acknowledge this achievement. It’s really important to recognise your hard work before rushing into the preparation stage.

Step 2: Start reviewing possible interview questions and make sure you are familiar with your CV as you will need to justify your answers.

When practising questions, these are crucial tips to consider:

  • Role plays; practise answering questions with a friend or family member
  • Time yourself to see how long you’d take for each question
  • As a minimum, think of 2-3 reasons why you're enthusiastic about this role
  • Think about how your experiences can benefit the company

Top tips - how to sell yourself

Use the job description as your guide as it’s concise in directing you towards the kind of candidate they’re looking for. Ensure you can explain STAR (situation, task, action and result) examples of the listed skills as it comes in handy for scenario based questions. One of the most poorly answered questions is ‘what is your weakness?’.

Most candidates vaguely mention a weakness with no signs of improvement, which demonstrates negativity in your statement. To tackle this question, state a true weakness but with an explanation on ways to improve. Not only does this show the interviewer that you’re aware of your weaknesses but it demonstrates that you take initiative to progress. Make sure that the weakness you share has no direct relation to the job role itself as you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage.

Research the company to show them your enthusiasm. It's true they’re the ones hiring you but it’s crucial to show why you're interested in their company. Mentioning an event or experience that intrigued you shows your eagerness to work. Remember when talking about an experience, don’t focus on the role of others, for example being part of a team, but instead focus on what you did. The interviewers are more interested in your skills and achievements.

When planning answers, don't write paragraphs and learn word for word as this could mess up your answer if you get nervous. Start by making bullet points on how to answer the question and use those to create a point. This is more likely to sound natural and not staged. The best way to not sound repetitive is by planning some sentence starters, e.g., instead of saying ‘I think’ use words like ‘I believe’, ‘I understand’, or ‘I acknowledge’ etc. This shows your assertiveness.


Day of interview

Upon entering an interview, treat everyone nicely. Remember, your interview starts as soon as you enter the building as this is a way of examining candidates’ behavior. Creating an amazing first impression is crucial, and, aside from this, body language, posture and tone are quite significant to portray a well-mannered and prepared candidate. A confident smile and firm eye contact shows your focus.

Speed talking is a common side effect of becoming nervous and can cause miscommunications if the interviewer hasn’t fully understood you. Take a breather and pause every 5 to 10 seconds to create a natural flow of conversation. When they ask you a question, it’s okay to take a couple of seconds to think about the answer or ask them to repeat the question. Even though you’ve prepared for these questions, they won’t always be worded the same.

The most feared phase is when you forget your point and start to blank. The best way to approach this is to have a drink with you as it gives you enough time to collect your thoughts. Always take a bottle of water with you. Lastly, never end by saying you have no questions, always prepare 1 or 2 because this shows your sincere interest in the role.

Key notes about common questions

Tell me about yourself

This question revolves around the idea of what value you can bring to the company. Don't talk about your personal background, instead show them how your skills and strategies would bring success to their company. A way to approach this is by putting yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, what qualities would you look for? What kind of person would be right for this role considering the challenges? This is the time for you to connect the dots between your passion and ability to perform well.

What are your strengths

Don’t just state a strength, explain why it matters and how it could benefit the company. Ask yourself why this skill is important and examples of where you have showcased it. Choose a strength that directly correlates as a benefit to your role.

What motivates you?

Share what genuinely drives you, then link it to the company and your job role. Remember that linking your points back to the company demonstrates that you're compassionate and a great fit for the role.

Why should we hire you?

Answering this can be simplified into 3 key points:

  • Demonstrate your understanding of this job by mentioning skills and experiences that are crucial to this role
  • Use examples to show why you’re a great fit and how you can add value to the company
  • Show your passion for the role and how it excites you.

Scenario-based questions

Interviewers could possibly give you a scenario and see how you’d respond to the situation. The best way to answer this is to talk through your thought process and give reasons as to why you would pick that, highlighting the company’s key values. Again, always link back to the company.

Tell me about a challenging situation that you faced and how you overcame it

Honesty is key here. Interviewers don’t expect you to be perfect. It’s the method you use to overcome the problem that will make you stand out. Describe a specific problem from your experiences and showcase your problem solving skills. Justify your reasoning. The STAR method is gold.

At the end of the day, remember how hard you've worked and that no matter the outcome, you tried your best!

Huge thanks to Aiyla for sharing her guidance on interviews. Don't forget to check out our courses to further develop your career skills. Don't have an Uptree account? Sign up here.

By Uptree
Published on: Fri 10 Feb 2023

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