Interview Advice

At this time of year many students are about to embark on interviews, whether for courses at a 6th form or college, university, apprenticeships or employment. For those who have never had an interview it can sometimes be a daunting prospect, but also an exciting one as it is an opportunity to showcase yourself and make a good impression. Even for those individuals who are quite practiced at interviews, anxieties and worries can still manifest.

To help anyone going for an interview we have put together this helpful guide; you will find the information quite generic and mainly aimed at students in school (although the advice is applicable to most situations). If you are attending a specialist interview (such as university) we recommend you also seek out further guidance regarding how to prepare for these (a suggested reading list is provided below).


As with most tasks, preparation can help you tackle most potential issues before they arise. As the saying goes, “failure to prepare, is preparing to fail!” Make sure you are familiar with your application.  Whether this is for a job or course at a college or 6th form, it is useful to refresh yourself on the key points you made when applying.

Make a note if needed of key things you wish to remember, as writing  things down for some people helps them to retain key information (as a form of revision). Be clear in your own mind where you wish the course or job to lead.  Ask yourself what your motivation is for what you are doing. For example, you may be applying to a 6th form as you have a number of career options in mind.

If you have any questions you wish to ask, make a note of these. Having some questions prepared often shows the interviewer you are taking the interview seriously and are thoughtful about what you want. Remember, with an interview you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!

Check the details of the interview carefully: time, date and format (if given). From this, plan what you might wish to take and wear; often formal attire is better than casual if you are unsure of what you should be wearing. Some courses will require you take a portfolio (if, for example, an interview for an Art & Design course) or provide a performance (if a Drama course). Make sure you give yourself time to prepare these if required.  When applying you should have been aware of these, but if not, make sure you bring yourself up to their entry requirements now if you can (if difficult, seek help and support from a teacher or independent careers adviser to help you explore your options).

Make sure your clothes are ready the night before if possible and if you can, try and get a good night’s sleep. It isn’t recommended to do any late night cramming as this can sometimes do more harm than good (making you more anxious).

If you are worried about what may be involved in the interview, it is often good practice to contact the venue and ask how long the interview may last, if you need to prepare anything or bring anything with you. Many places are happy to help and see these questions as an example of your dedication and commitment.  Often you can find out what the interview format will be, whether group or individual. If applying for a job or apprenticeship, you may be put through a psychometric assessment or personality test.

Some colleges will put you through a basic Maths or English assessment to help them decide what level of course to put you on. Be ready on the day for these types of assessment which can test your mental agility.

If applying for an apprenticeship, make sure you research the company thoroughly so you know what the employer offers and their business. This will help you tackle any tricky questions that may arise!


If you have any Special Educational Needs or Disabilities it is worth making sure the prospective employer, university, school or college are aware so they can support you through the process as well as make special arrangements if required. To do this, contact them before the interview to share your needs. If you find that this is difficult for you, ask your parent/carer, SENCO from school or a friend (if older) to contact them on your behalf. Importantly The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against you because of a mental or physical disability.  Due to this act it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. If you have any concerns regarding this, the links below or your SENCO in school can help.

Transport and Food

Give yourself plenty of time to get there! Check before you attend your interview how long it will take you to get there and what arrangements you have in place.

Often giving yourself more time than you need to arrive can be helpful, just in case something goes wrong (such as your car breaking down or a train being cancelled). If you do, however, find yourself delayed, make sure you contact your interviewer as soon as it is safe to do so, to explain why you are delayed. In many situations interviews can be rebooked or rearranged.

Some people do better having a large breakfast beforehand and others prefer the opposite; do what is right for you as you will know your body best. If you are prone to feeling sick with nerves sometimes breathing and mindfulness techniques, or going for a walk to “get a breath of fresh air”, can help to calm you down. In contrast, other students I have worked with do better having a distraction before attending an interview, such as reading a book, watching a TV programme or playing on a games console; make sure you do what works best for you.

The Interview

Don’t let it build up in your head until it is something bigger than it needs to be; it is so easy for the mind to play tricks on you to the point at which your nerves take over.

  • When you arrive, introduce yourself and make eye contact. If you can, shake them firmly (but not too firmly) by the hand. If you have never shaken someone’s hand before, practice with a friend, family member or teacher beforehand.
  • Most interviewers are not trying to catch you out, all they are trying to find out is whether you are right for them.
  • Be polite; don’t swear, chew gum, use slang or slouch in your chair.
  • Answer questions clearly, try not to mumble, hide behind your hair or hands or speak to the floor. If, due to learning needs, you find this hard, sharing this information with regards any SEND support beforehand will allow the interviewer to make allowances for this.
  • Try to give full answers (not just “yes” and “no”) as these allow you to show more of yourself and what you are capable of. Some of the links at the end of the article provide examples of questions you may be asked; sometimes it can be useful to prepare answers to the most common questions before an interview.
  • Don’t rush your replies, give yourself time to think through how you wish to respond.
  • If you can, use your answers to show your enthusiasm and interest. Many interviewers really appreciate and respond well to individuals who are engaged and interested in the process.
  • If a question arises which you can’t answer, or don’t understand, ask for it to be explained to you again and/or ask for more time to think it through.
  • If your mind goes blank, don’t look down; try and look up. As one advice guide for the hospitality industry in the USA suggests, interviewers don’t want to see the top of your head!If you find that you are unsuccessful at interview, it is important to learn from the experience. Contact the interviewer for feedback and find out if there is anything you could do to be more successful next time.    All of us at CXK wish you the best of luck for the interviews you are about to embark upon!
  • Interviews can take practice and few people “enjoy” the process (although there are some rare people who do). Most people get nervous but hopefully the hints and tips above will help you to ride out these nerves and enable you to give a good interview.
  • On finishing the interview, it is often very easy to miss what they tell you or for your body language to slump (as the relief from finishing the interview kicks in). If you have missed anything they have told you, just ask for it to be repeated. If you get home and find that you haven’t taken in what they told you (such as when/if you will be offered a place or position) just contact them to clarify. On leaving, offering a handshake and a polite goodbye is useful; this will be how they remember you.

Where to Get Careers Advice

CXK provides confidential and impartial careers information, advice and guidance to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities. If you’re a young person looking for support, or a parent looking for careers advice for your young person, visit our Careers Advice for Young People page.

The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards.

To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use our webchat (8am to 10pm, 7 days a week)

Other Articles You May Find Useful

Typical Interview Questions

How to Write a Good CV

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