Careers and Employability: Summer Sessions; CV’s, interviews and using your summer wisely!

Are you applying for a graduate or part-time job and you need to update or re-design your CV? 

Are you a first or second year student wondering how best to make use of your summer, in order to develop your graduate profile?

Or have you secured an interview but would like to develop your interview technique?

The Careers and Employability Service will be running a series of sessions over the summer term focusing on these areas, plus workshops on the graduate recruitment cycle, Postgraduate support and what to do after your exams! Search for the opportunities here to book on!

The best and worst questions to ask in an interview!

‘And lastly, do you have any questions you would like to ask us?’  The final question which usually rounds off an interview. Although this may not seem a prevalent question to prepare for, having at least one or two questions to ask a prospective employer demonstrates enthusiasm for the role, and the company.
To help you when preparing for your next interview take a look at these top questions to ask, and those to avoid, which will help you become a memorable candidate!

Top best:

What can I expect from you in terms of development and support?
This type of questions demonstrates to an employer that you are keen to learn and develop professionally within the company.

You mentioned that you implemented X last year, how would this affect my role within the company?
Listening to the interviewer and asking questions that relate to the company show you are engaged and interested.

How would you describe the company culture and management style?
Asking questions about the company culture will give you an insight into what it is like to work for this particular business.

From my research, I noticed that you do a lot of X, how would this affect my job role?
Doing some research into the company prior to interview will demonstrate your knowledge of the industry of that company, and that you have actively thought about the interview, thus making a good impression.

What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?
This type of question shows you are interested not only in the business and its future, but also the interviewer’s perspective.

Top worst:

How quickly could I be considered for a promotion?
Keep focused on the job at hand, rather than jumping ahead.

How many days holiday do I get?
This question is not necessary to address at the interview stage, and it may have already been included in the job description already.

Can I arrive early or leave late, as long as I get my work done?
Asking for flexibility in your working pattern before being offered the job may come across as a lack of commitment to the job.

How did I do?
You shouldn’t ask about your performance during the interview, if you would like any interview comments, this can be requested after the interview in the form of interview feedback.

The worst question of all is not asking a question!
Failing to ask any questions tells the employer that you are not fully engaged with the role or company, and may appear as a lack of enthusiasm for the job.

E-learning Hub – videos, articles and tutorials for career and business skills

If you need guidance on interview techniques, CV tips and career specific advice including from those working within the Civil Service, Public Affairs and Public Administration, the   E-Learning Hub can provide you with lots of useful information to help.

The E-Learning Hub offers a range of resources. This includes informative video clips i.e. telephone interviews, competency based interviews, body language techniques.

You can also browse films from experienced hiring managers and career coaches, demystifying career challenges and providing you with practical tips based on the reality of the workplace.

If you would like to explore the different career options available to you, the Careers Pathways section can help! These videos show real life career journeys, providing you with the inside story on how careers work and helping you make the most of your talent and potential, by showing how others have used theirs.

The E-Learning Hub can be found on the Careers and Employability Services page: .

Interview Techniques – how to make a great impression

Going for an interview? Or the thought of one fills you with dread and feeling a little bit nauseous?! Don’t worry, we have a few key tips to help you prepare …

  • Body Language- keep your posture open at all times, crossing your arms throughout the interview can come across as defensive and unwelcoming. You should make eye contact with the interviewer(s) – a great deal of communication is made using eye contact. Hand gestures are also a great way of aiding communication, helping you to reinforce key points. Keep your actions natural, smooth and measured.
  • Dress – make a good first impression by looking tidy , dressing formally and appropriately (avoid short dresses/skirts and jeans!).
  • Smile and give a strong, firm handshake
  • Research the company/interviewer – It’s crucial that you look into the company before you go to an interview. Research their aims, ethos and future goals and think about what you can bring to their company. If you have the name(s) of the interviewer(s), see if you can find out a bit about their interests and role. Proving that you’ve done some prior research demonstrates your enthusiasm and interest to work for this particular firm.
  • Answer questions succinctly –keep your answers concise and to the point and try not to waffle on! You may want to practice a few answers before the interview, preparing some questions you think may come up.
  • Think about your skills and experience, and what you can bring to the role – An interview is your chance to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Ensure you highlight your key skills and show examples of where they are demonstrated.
  • Take a pause before answering a question – If you are unsure of a question or feel quite nervous remember to take a moment before answering to really think about your answer and if you’re unsure always ask for further explanation.
  • Book an appointment with the Careers Service – you can arrange a session with CES to get some interview advice and to go through your application with them. For details on their drop-in hours visit:
  • Practice difficult interview questions – There will normally be a few more tricky questions asked during an interview such as ‘what is one of your weaknesses?’ or ‘where do you hope to be in five years’ time?’ so it’s best to prepare so you aren’t caught out! Take a look at this previous blog ( which addresses these type of questions and how best to tackle them!
  • Check to see what type of interview you are going for – telephone, panel, competency based interviews (skills tests), graduate employers use different kinds of interviews at different stages of the recruitment process. It’s important to know what to expect, if you are not sure, always contact their HR Department to confirm.

Interview questions – get prepared!

Going for an interview? Or are you unsure of what to expect when you enter the boardroom? To help you prepare, here are a few common and slightly tricky interview questions which may crop up. Use these as a guide, to help you get ready, to get that job!

1. What are your weaknesses?

Interviewers do not expect you to be perfect, and like everyone else, we all have weaknesses. The key to answering this question is to turn your weakness into a positive. For example, you may be fairly reserved or quiet, but to overcome this you have completed presentations as part of your seminars or led a group in a task.

Or you could portray a weakness as a professional strength. Let’s assume that you’re detail-oriented, a workaholic and that you neglect friends and family when working on important projects. You can turn these weaknesses around by saying that you’re very meticulous and remain involved in projects until you’ve ironed out all the problems, even if it means working after hours or on the weekend.

2. What can you tell me about our company and/or industry?

Research, research, research! Ensure you have looked into the company you are applying for, focusing on what they do and their aims. Write down a few key points that you can cite when asked. Interviewers want to know that you’re interested in their company, not just any job.

3. What sets you apart from other applicants?

This question is designed to show your passion, readiness and ability for the job. Describe how your experience, career progression, qualities and achievements make you an asset. Keep it professional, and focus on the value you’ll bring to the position. Highlight your ability by discussing your specific skills and accomplishments, but don’t forget to show your interest in the job itself.

4. Where do you hope to be in three years?

This question is often asked of recent college graduates, and the worst answer is to say that you want to be president of the company or have the interviewer’s position. Instead, talk about what motivates you especially what will motivate you on this job and what you hope to have accomplished.

5. Do you have any questions? Can you think of anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t say “no,” or that everything has been thoroughly discussed. If you think the interviewer has any doubts, now’s the time to restate why you’re the most logical candidate for the opening. Prepare at least three or four questions in advance that you can ask. This demonstrates your interest in the job and that you have taken the time to prepare for the interview.

6. Who else have you applied to/got interviews with?

You are being asked to demonstrate the consistency of your career aims as well as your interest in the job for which you are being interviewed. What you can certainly say in your favour, however, is that the present employer is your first choice.

Mock Aptitude Tests – how they can help YOU to be prepared!

Part of an interview may involve taking an aptitude/psychometric test. Aptitude and ability tests are designed to assess your logical reasoning or thinking performance. By doing so, employers can evaluate how well you perform on tasks or react to different situations.

Psychometric tests may be used at different stages of the graduate selection process:

  • After you submit your online application form.
  • Alongside a first interview.
  • With a second interview or as part of an assessment centre.

In order to prepare fully for an aptitude test, try and find out what type of test you are going to be required to do.

Types of tests include:

  • Numerical Ability – Includes basic arithmetic, number sequences and simple mathematics. In management level tests you will often be presented with charts and graphs that need to be interpreted.
  • Verbal Ability – Includes spelling, grammar, and the ability to understand analogies and follow detailed written instructions. These questions appear in most general aptitude tests because employers usually want to know how well you can communicate.
  • Non-verbal reasoning tests– assess how well you follow diagrammatic information or spot patterns. Can check spatial awareness.

Before taking an aptitude test, make sure you practice by taking a few mock tests. This will not only help you to prepare for the real thing, but allow you to see what is expected in a test.

Take a look on these links for advice on aptitude tests and offer mock tests so you can practice.