Interview & CV Advice
Common Interview Questions
- Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
- Why do you want to work/study here?
- Why do you think you are suitable for this role/course?
- What are your goals?
Good Questions To Ask (College/University interviews)
- How does your college help pupils secure employment?
- At the end of this course, where have past pupils gone on to study?
- What does your college offer that I might not find elsewhere?
Good Questions To Ask (Job interviews)
- What would my typical working day be like?
- Would there be the opportunity to progress my position in time?
- What are the most challenging aspects someone in this position might face?
Follow the 6 tips below to prepare for a successful Virtual Interview
1. Test Your Technology
A few days before the interview test the computer, camera and any software that you've been asked to use. Make sure the picture is clear and the sound quality is good. It is also worth checking your internet connection - perhaps there is a better location for a clearer signal. On the day of the video interview ensure everything is fully charged or plugged in. You do not want to be still setting up as the interview starts, so switch everything on at least half an hour before the interview and sign in to any software that you'll need.
If there are any technical hitches, for example if you can't hear the questions very well, don't struggle through as you won't put in your best performance. If it's a live video interview, mention the problem. It may easily be fixed, or the interviewer may be happy to end the call and redial.
2. Check Your Background
Plan in advance where you are going to be situated during the interview. Use a quiet location, where you won't be disturbed by noises and people. Make sure the room you choose is tidy and use a clean and simple background. You need to think about the lighting as it won't be a great interview if you can't be properly seen. To ensure you don't get a shadow either use natural light from a window or put a lamp in front of the camera and adjust the distance to get the best result. Close any software on your computer that might play notification sounds, and switch your phone to silent to guarantee you won't be distracted. Also, let everyone in the house know you're about to start the interview so they don't interrupt.
3. Dress Appropriately
You may be at home but it is still an interview and this is your opportunity to give a professional first impression. For virtual interviews, dress as though you’re preparing for an in-person interview.
4. Body Language
It's best to avoid slouching, moving too much or touching your face. Instead employers will be looking for you to make good eye contact, smile, listen and take an interest in what they're saying. To help you do this your camera should be at eye level and you should look into it rather than at the screen. If you are nervous it can be easy to rush what you're saying. Remember the interviewer wants to hear your answers. Speak clearly, and be careful not to interrupt as this is more easily done with the slight delay over the internet than during a face-to-face meeting.
Write your talking points on Post-it notes. You can then place those notes on your computer screen to avoid shuffling papers or clicking around during the call.
5. Practice Answers to Common Interview Questions
There’s no way to know exactly what the interviewer will ask, however there are some common questions that you could prepare for. This is another occasion where Post-It notes with your answers can come in handy. Just avoid memorizing your responses as you want the conversation to flow naturally, not feel forced or rehearsed.
6. Do You Have Any Questions?
One of the final things you will be asked will be, 'Do you have any questions for me?' Always say yes. Having a list of questions to ask an interviewer makes you look interested, enthusiastic and engaged. It also gives you one final chance to further highlight your relevant qualities and experience. Not having any questions to ask will give the impression of unpreparedness and a lack of interest.
Writing a CV
Your CV is like your very own advertisement – a chance to sell yourself and tell people exactly why they should choose you. It can be tricky to know how to write a CV, especially if you haven’t had any/many jobs. The following CV tips are here to help you make sure that your “ad” does the job.
How long should a CV be?
The general rule is that your pupil CV shouldn’t be any longer than two sides of A4.
Be concise and pull out your key skills and experience but don’t go too far in the opposite direction and leave off important things either. If it’s less than a single page, have a think about whether you’ve forgotten something. If you’ve got lots to say, don’t try to get too clever with teeny tiny margins and big blocks of text to cram it all into two pages as that can be off-putting. Just prioritise the most important aspects that highlight your skills.
What should I include in my CV?
- Personal details – full name, address, phone number, email address.
- Personal statement - The opening paragraph of your CV should be a personal summary of your achievements, skills, work experience and education. Think of it as a personal statement where you tell employers why they should hire you – so make sure it's written with the job in mind.
This part of your CV shouldn’t be too long, keep it short and concise and try to limit it to around 100 words or so.
- Achievements – This can be a good chance to show yourself off. You could include things like winning an award, doing work experience or being captain of a team or club.
- Skills – List yourkey skillsand give practical examples of them. Skills to put on a CV can include organisation, communication and interpersonal skills.
- Work experience – this can be actualwork experience, voluntary roles or any previous jobs (includingSaturday/holiday jobs). Include job title, dates you worked there and a summary of your tasks.
- Education – list all the qualifications/exams that you are studying for along with the name and address of the school where you intend to take your exams.
- Interests – add a few lines about hobbies or personal projects (like a blog or website you created, or learning a language in your spare time). You don’t have to have this section but if you’ve got something good to put in it then you should. It’s not worth including the usual stuff like going to the cinema or reading though.
- Referees – it’s a good idea to include two people who can give you a reference. Usually this is someone who has managed you in a job or work experience and/or a tutor or teacher.
- Get a formal email address: If your contact email on your CV is email@example.com it doesn’t give off the most professional vibe. If you need to, open a new email account for job applications and use your full name as your email address.
- Update your CV every time you achieve something new
- Adapt your CV to make it relevant to the position/course you are applying for. Highlight specific skills for different jobs.
- Back up what you say. Don’t just write, “I have excellent communications skills”, you need to explain why.
- There is no need to add a photo, your date of birth, relationship status or even your gender. Let your skills and work experience do the talking.
- Adding some formatting and a splash of colour to your CV can be great, but don’t go too far. Make sure that your basic CV is straightforward and text based.
- Be honest about your skill levels. Say if you’re in the middle of studying something at a higher level, but don’t say you’re a pro until you get there.
Ways To Improve Your CV
Get involved in extracurricular activities
You might not be aware of it, but school has a heap of activities that you can take part in that will help you gain valuable experience. Some activities to consider signing up for include:
- Pupil Voice (shows that you have passion)
- Sports clubs (shows you’re a team player)
- School Performances (shows that you’re organised & a team player)
Above all, what these activities show is that you have initiative. Most employers are aware that young people find it difficult to get their first break and will appreciate the effort you’ve taken to gain as much work experience as you can.
Consider volunteering for a few weeks
A great way to improve your working experience is to volunteer for a few weeks. If you have a particular type of job in mind that you’d like to do, why not search for companies within that industry and request to do a couple of weeks volunteering with them? The company will benefit from having an extra pair of hands for a few weeks, and you’ll benefit from improving your knowledge, understanding and experience, which will look great on your CV! Finding volunteering opportunities is easier than you think. The first place you should start looking is in your local area. Drop by some of the places that you wouldn’t mind working in for a few weeks and ask if they have the capacity to take you on as a volunteer.
Mention your academic achievements
Most people list their GCSE results, but very few make the effort to make their qualifications stand out. For example, if you’ve been highly commended for a particular project or assignment, why not mention it on your CV? Although your CV should follow a set structure, you should also do what you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Draw attention to your online skills
Regardless of what industry you’re looking to get into, having a good working knowledge of the online world is hugely beneficial. Companies in all different industries now have an online presence, so if you have a particular skill set that could help, you should definitely mention it on your CV, even if it doesn’t directly relate to the position you’re applying for.
Perhaps you’re aprogramming whizz, or are really good with Excel spreadsheets? These types of skills can prove invaluable to companies that don’t have employees who are well-versed in online matters.
- Keep it short and sweet
- Check spelling and grammar
- Keep updating your CV
- Get a formal email address
- Adapt it to different jobs/courses you are applying for
- Back up what you say
- Get too personal
- Be too creative