Telling someone about your best qualities, achievements, skills and experience can be nerve-racking. Preparation is the key to making a great impression.
Assess your skills and experience
Self awareness is the key to effectively understanding your strengths and what skills and capabilities you have to offer an employer.
Start by assessing which employability skills you have. What kind of things are you good at? What areas do you need to develop? Once you know what you're good at, it's easier to know which jobs and careers you're more likely to enjoy, succeed at and get hired for.
Being self aware and having a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses will help you to develop yourself as a "brand".
A good way to look at this is to see yourself as a brand that you are trying to promote to a consumer (the employer):
- What does your brand look like?
- What are the key strengths of your brand?
- Why should the buyer purchase your brand and not your competitors' (i.e. another candidate)?
- How do you stand out from all the other products that are on the market?
- Start by listing the skills you think you have.
- Provide specific examples of how you have acquired and used these skills.
- Identify what skills you need to improve or gain and how you will do so.
Your skills audit is a "live document", so keep it up-to-date as you acquire new skills or develop better examples to support existing skills. The examples from your skills audit should feed through to your CV as well as being used at interviews.
Prove your skills and experience
The STAR approach
We recommend that when discussing your skills in an interview you use the STAR approach. Using STAR really helps to show a potential employer that not only do you possess a certain skill but you have used it to achieve a positive outcome.
S Situation. Set the context.
T Task. What were you required to do?
A Action. What did you do? (It is important that you focus on your role, particularly when talking about team-based activities).
R Result. What was the outcome? What did you help achieve? Demonstrate that the skills you applied had a positive result. Be specific. Use numbers ("I served over 300 people a day"); percentages ("I increased sales by 25%"); or examples ("I won the XXXX Award").
To help you on your way, here is an example of a candidate highlighting a specific skill using the STAR approach:
Example: In the second year of my degree I was a member of the student charity board (situation) which had a target of raising $25,000 (task). I set myself a personal target of raising $15,000 and went about writing a personalised letter to local companies. I followed up each letter with a visit to present my proposal (action). This approach resulted in me raising $17,000 and the committee exceeding our target by 20% (result).
Remember, make sure that the examples you give are realistic and truthful. Do not lie or exaggerate your achievements.
Attend an 'Interviews explained' workshop
Register and attend our workshop "Interviews explained". You can view workshops and registration details on our Book a workshop page.
Book a mock interview
If you would like a Business School career development adviser to help you prepare, you are welcome to book a 50-minute mock interview appointment via MyCDES.
These are useful websites to help you prepare for interviews:
- Prospects (the UK's official graduate careers website): Interview tips
- The University of Edinburgh Careers Office:
- MIT Careers Office: Interviewing
- Yale University: Preparing for case interviews
- Practice using Interview Stream – available via MyCDES
Interview tips from Business School students
In our recent Business School student recruitment experience survey, students had the following advice for you:
- Spend a lot of time researching the company and knowing what they do before the interview.
- Try learn as much as you can about the company you’re applying to, and about the interview process.
- Always talk to other people who have gone through the specific application process or interned at the company before applying, and tailor your application and interview answers to these insights (can't stress how important this is!).
- Be yourself, be authentic and make sure to know the values of the organisation you are applying to.
- Know your own strengths and weaknesses extremely well, and be confident in your abilities to be able to carry out the role you are applying for.
- Diversify yourself, 90% of my interviews were talking about my extracurricular involvement.
- Don't be stuck up! The interviewer appreciates honesty. Apply to a lot and make sure you get interview experience. Tailor your applications and CVs to each company.
- Be self-aware. It is important to know how your experiences have shaped who you are today.