We've divided this up into sections, but take a look at all of them. Tips for competency-based interviews, for example, can help with telephone interviews, too.

  • Telephone and Skype interviews

    Employers often use telephone or Skype interviews in the early stages of selection. These can feel more daunting than face-to-face interviews, so we have some top tips:

    • Over the telephone, answer with your name. It reassures the interviewer that they have got through to you directly and puts the emphasis on them to start the process.
    • Decide where you want to be when they call - in your room, for example - and make sure there will be no interruptions or distractions from your housemates or family. Eliminate background noise like music and TV.
    • For Skype, be aware of what they will see behind you and move anything if necessary.
    • Prepare in advance as you would for any other interview - research the company, be ready to say why you want to work for them and why you're interested in the role.
    • It's OK to make notes and refer to them for a telephone interview, as the interviewer can't see you. For Skype, you could have some key points to glance at. You should also have a copy of the application or CV you used to apply, as they may ask questions based on this.
    • Have a pen and paper handy so you can jot down the key words from the interview questions, meaning you can answer fully and refer back if needed.
    • On the telephone, your body language won't matter, but try to speak enthusiastically and positively - smiling can help!
    • Give shorter answers and get clarification if they want more information - long answers can seem like you're rambling, and you can't see the interviewer's reaction to know if you're on the right track.
    • Have a glass of water beside you, in case you start to lose your voice!
    • If a question seems difficult, repeat it back to the interviewer for clarification. This will buy you time to think calmly. If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest, and show you're willing to learn if relevant.
    • Reinforce your interest in the post and the employer by asking a few well thought-out questions at the end, and thank the interviewer for their time.

  • Competency-based interviews

    At the application stage, you've focused on proving you have the skills and abilities they're looking for. Use that to help you to prepare for competency interviews. This type of interview examines what you can do. The questions will dig deeper into the skills you set out in your application, and you can often anticipate and prepare for questions based on this.


    The STAR technique is useful, because they will ask questions with the expectation that you really prove yourself.

    • Situation: set the scene or context for the example you're using
    • Task: briefly outline what you had to do
    • Action: give details of what you did specifically, focusing on your responsibilities, including any problems or challenges that you overcame
    • Result: include the outcome, and anything you learned from the experience

    Potential questions

    You may be asked questions such as:

    • This role would require you to work effectively as part of a team in a busy and challenging environment. Can you tell me about a relevant time when you've contributed successfully to a team effort and what the outcome was?
    • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are critical for this role. Talk us through a time where you've used these skills effectively in the past.
    • Good organisational skills will be the basis for success in this role. Can you outline an example from your university, or other experiences, where you've demonstrated this skill?

  • Strengths-based interviews

    Strengths-based interviews are becoming increasingly popular with graduate employers. Unlike a competency-based interview, an employer will expect you to talk about what you like doing, your interests, and what you think you are good at. The passion that comes from talking about these things helps to bring out the real you. It's important to an employer to select not only someone who has what they are looking for, but someone they feel will fit in well and make a difference.

    Questions to consider

    Strengths-based interviews can be more difficult to prepare for, as it's harder to anticipate the questions, but it would help to spend some time considering questions such as the following:

    • What are your greatest strengths?
    • What does success mean to you?
    • What are you most proud of and why?
    • How do you know when you've had a good day?
    • What energises or motivates you?
    • What things come naturally to you?
    • What gets done first on your 'to do' list? What never gets done?
    • When are you happiest?

  • What questions should you ask them?

    At the end of any interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them, so you need to prepare. The best questions are ones that reinforce your interest in the employer and the role.

    Things you might want to find out more about could include:

    • training and development opportunities
    • what a typical day or week is like in the team or department you'd be joining
    • future plans
    • anything topical for the employer (learned from their website and social media pages and the media in general)

    Don't ask about pay and holidays!

External resources


These videos were produced by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).

Help with interview questions