How to prepare for an interview

This article introduces you to the steps required to be fully prepared for an interview and gives you practical tips to support you to perform your best during the interview.


A job interview can be a daunting experience, whether in person, on the phone or online. However, with solid preparation in advance you can minimise those nerves. The purpose of the interview is to find out if you have the potential to do the job effectively. The recruiter is looking to establish:

  • Can you do the job? Do you have the right skills, knowledge and experience
  • Will you do the job? Are you interested and enthusiastic, will you be loyal and committed
  • Will you fit in? Do you have the right attitude in line with the company values

There are a number of different types of interviews:

  • Telephone Interview: these are commonly used to shortlist and screen candidates for a more formal process
  • Formal Interview: usually with two to five interviewers. This can be virtually or face to face
  • Group Interviews: where you could be interviewed at the same time as other candidates
  • Assessment Centres: where you may be asked to perform a series of tasks, exercises and an interview, either individually or in a group

How may this affect me?

Most people are nervous when being interviewed. However, you may find some elements of the interview more challenging, for example:

  • Communicating with strangers or a group of interviewers
  • Deciding if you should declare your disability
  • Understanding long, unclear questions
  • Handling ambiguous questions
  • Adjusting to a different setting or environment 
  • Thinking about nonverbal language and how you come across
  • Making eye contact may be difficult

Many recruitment processes are designed to understand your strengths and skills. To ensure you perform at your best during an interview, you may want to consider asking for reasonable adjustments such as:

  • Asking for an individual interviewer rather than a panel of interviewers
  • Asking for additional time to answer the questions
  • Asking if you can have a copy of the interview questions in front of you or provided ahead of the interview
  • Asking for clarity in advance around the expectations of the interview

For a full list of possible adjustments before and during the interview, use our Profile Builder tool: Select reasonable adjustments for an upcoming interview.

What can I do next?

Prepare for your interview well in advance, using our 7-step approach

Practical tips

Use these steps below to help you be as prepared as possible for your interview.

1. Research the organisation

Ahead of time, find out as much as you can about the company. Familiarise yourself with the structure of the company. Find out about the company’s history and values. Often the company will have an internet page where you can find information that will help you. Your University library can also help you find information on companies and often have financial information relating to companies. Often companies will have a LinkedIn page or social media account, this is often a good place to look. You can also look on Glassdoor, a web page that tells you more about companies from an employee’s viewpoint.

Here are some questions you can use to find out more about the company:

– When was the company established?
– What is the organisational structure of the company?
– What is the company’s mission, vision and values?
– What has the company achieved in their industry or sector?
– Who are their customers?

In your interview, demonstrate that you have done your research. For example, you can use statements like;

“When doing my research, I discovered you have a project on… “
“I’d be interested to hear more about <a current project or initiative>….”

Researching a company can make you stand out from other candidates as someone who is interested, focused and keen.

2. Arrange any extra support you may need

If you have any special requirements or additional materials that you may need for your interview, make sure you get in touch with the organisation before to let them know. Consider how to talk to your employer about your autism.

Use our profile builder tool to identify the types of reasonable adjustments that are right for you before and during the interview, then use our template builder to draft a request to the company.

3. Prepare possible questions and answers

Interviewers tend to have three types of questions.

1) Traditional questions
These can include “Tell us about yourself?” or “Why did you apply for this role?” or something like “What are your strengths?”. When answering these type of questions, remember to clarify exactly what they would like to know, remember to be concise and mention things that are relevant to the job.

2) Competency based questions
These aim to find out how you behave and react in situations. Keep your answers specific and give examples of how you demonstrate these competencies. An example here would be, Tell us about a time when you delivered excellent customer service?

3) Behavioural questions
These are to assess your character and specifically how you have approached situations and how you would do so based on your previous behaviour  facing a similar situation. An example question could be, Give me an example of something in your job that didn’t work, how did you learn from it?

When answering these questions it is best to use ‘I’ even if it was a team effort. It may also help you to use the mnemonic STAR:

S – Situation, what was the situation you were in
T – Task, what was the task you performed
A – Action, what did you do exactly
R – Result, what was the outcome

Here is an example below of a question you could be asked;

“Tell us about a time when you worked as a member of a team.
What part did you play?”

Here is an example of a good answer;

S = Whilst at university one of the pieces of coursework was to work as a group to produce an assignment, we had a short deadline to achieve this in and our grade was a shared grade between the team. The team was chosen by the lecturer and I had never worked with them before.

T = We each took time reading the brief and I suggested we organise some meetings so we could split the work up.

A = I offered to set up the meetings and coordinate everyone’s diary, some students had part time jobs that I needed to work around. I used a Doodlepoll to see when everyone would be free.

R = The result was we all met and worked on tasks independently then together we completed the assignment and we achieved 80% which we were all pleased with.

4. Plan the route

Make sure you know where you are going and how long it takes to get there. If you can, go online and work out the easiest way to get there. Or try out the actual route to the company gate or the building where the interview will take place, a few days before the actual date. Look for landmarks to help you find your way. Always add additional time to make sure you will be on time.

5. Figure out what to wear

Planning what to wear a few days before will let you focus on the important things. Establish from your research what the company dress code is. Ask friends or family what they think about your choices. Make sure you are comfortable in your clothes.

6. Prepare some questions to ask them

Often when you are in the interview your focus is on responding to questions you are asked. It is always useful to take with you some questions written down or typed out that you might like to know. Some examples could be;

– What would a day in the life of this role look like?
– What is the biggest challenge for this company (or this department) at the moment?

7. Practice

Imagining what the interview will be like can help to make it less daunting. By practising your responses to questions and rehearsing can help you be more confident and more prepared.

Your University Careers Centre will often offer mock interviews to help with this. You can also ask a family member to practice the interview situation with.

Some more practical tips

  1. The day before the interview, read through your notes and your practice answers
  2. Get a good night’s sleep the night before
  3. Listen carefully to the question asked by the interviewer
  4. Do a trial run, try on your outfit, have a mock interview and do a test travel/walk to the location
  5. Prepare everything you want to take with you: pen, paper, a copy of your application and CV
  6. If relevant, take a laptop or tablet to show any previous work you have done (e.g. if you apply to be a programmer, or a designer, or a writer, etc.)