6 Tools to Improve your Interview Technique: A Guide for University of Surrey Students

Navigating the competitive job market requires more than just an excellent CV; your interview technique plays a pivotal role in securing that dream job. Here are six essential tools to hone your interview skills.

1. Research, Research, Research

The best way to start your interview preparation is through thorough research. Know the company inside out—its values, mission, recent projects, and industry trends. Understanding the company culture will help you tailor your responses to align with their expectations. Employers appreciate candidates who demonstrate genuine interest and initiative.

When preparing for an interview, explore the organisation’s website, recent news articles, LinkedIn page and employee reviews. Familiarise yourself with the industry, competitors, and the challenges the industry faces. With this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to showcase how your skills and experiences align with the company’s goals.

2. Master the STAR technique

The STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a powerful tool for answering competency-based questions. Practise formulating your responses using this structured approach, ensuring that your answers are clear and impactful.

For instance, when asked about a challenging situation you’ve overcome, describe the Situation briefly, highlight the specific Task at hand, outline the Action you took, and conclude with the positive Result of your efforts. This method not only provides clarity to your responses but also showcases your ability to handle diverse scenarios.

You can prepare some STAR examples in advance by checking the person specification for the required skills or competencies for the role, and then looking back over your experiences (this could be from project work, clubs or societies, or other extra-curricular activities.) Read Surrey’s STAR leaflet for more tips on using this structure for answering questions.

3. Develop Awareness of your Strengths

Strength-based recruitment is a growth area, with companies becoming increasingly interested in who you are and how they can help you perform at your best. A strength is an activity that you perform well in and which energises you.

Acknowledging and articulating your strengths allows you to present yourself as a valuable asset to prospective employers. Use Surrey’s Self-Awareness resource to discover what your strengths are and help you articulate them in interviews.

4. Mock Interviews

Practice makes perfect, and mock interviews can really help you to refine your interview technique. Arrange mock interviews with friends, Surrey’s Careers Consultants, or use Interview 360 on Surrey Pathfinder to simulate real interview scenarios. This allows you to identify areas of improvement, fine-tune your responses, and build confidence.

Pay attention to your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions during these mock interviews. Use feedback constructively to enhance your overall interview performance.

5. Develop your Elevator Pitch

Crafting a compelling elevator pitch is a useful tool for any job interview. This concise and persuasive speech introduces you to the interviewer, summarising your skills, experiences, and career goals. Use this opportunity to leave a memorable impression and set the tone for the interview.

Your elevator pitch should include your academic background, relevant skills, and a brief overview of your experiences. Tailor it to match the specific job role and company to ensure it resonates with the interviewer. Emphasise your excitement about the role you are applying to. 

An elevator pitch can be used as a starting point in response to the question often asked at the start of an interview ‘Tell me about yourself.’ This article gives more tips about creating an elevator pitch.

6. Ask Thoughtful Questions

Another tool in your toolkit is the ability to ask thoughtful questions. When given the chance, enquire about the company culture, team dynamics, or the challenges the team is currently facing. This not only showcases your genuine interest but also demonstrates that you’ve done your research.

Prepare a list of insightful questions and use the interview as an opportunity to learn more about the company. Remember, an interview is a two-way street—you’re not just being evaluated; you’re also assessing whether the company aligns with your career aspirations.

Learning from your interviews

Mastering the art of interviewing is a continuous process, and these six tools will help you sharpen your technique. Learn from each interview by asking for feedback. Stay confident and remember that each interview experience contributes to your growth. With these tools, you’re well on your way to making a lasting impression in your next job interview.