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Prepare for a job interview in the UK
Interview (c) Hemera Technologies Inc
  Company research
Interview technique
  Example interview
  After the interview


The interview is probably the hardest part of getting a job, especially if English is not your first language. This section will help you to prepare for the interview. The sample interview will help you to think about some typical questions which you may be asked, so that you can think about how you would answer those.

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If you are invited to attend an interview, confirm the appointment by letter, telephone or e-mail. Check that you know where it is, how to get there, and the name and job title of the person who is interviewing you.

Think about your appearance - first impressions are important. Dress smartly. Polish your shoes. Make sure your hair is neat. Do not wear strong perfume or after-shave.

Take a copy of your CV or application form to the interview. Sometimes the person who is interviewing you hasn't seen it. If you used a recruitment agent, a simplified version of your CV may have been given to the company (sometimes this is not accurate or misses out important details).

Prepare a list of questions which you may want to ask the interviewer. Possible subjects include the industry, the company, the job, pay, working hours and holidays. Use the internet to research about the industry and the company (see below).

Prepare answers for questions which you think the interviewer may ask you. In particular, think of examples of your achievements in previous jobs or while at school, and how you have managed any difficult situations. Think about your personal strengths and weaknesses, or how you would describe your own personality. Make sure that you know the correct English expressions to describe what you have done in the past.

Think about what the interviewer is looking for. Remember these points when you answer questions during the interview. Ask yourself why the company should choose to employ you, instead of the other people who are applying. These are some examples of some things the interviewer may want:

(1) Hard worker (so that you can do jobs quickly and efficiently)
(2) Team player (you should be able to work well with the other members of staff)
(3) Customer skills (for example, providing a good service or dealing with difficult situations)
(4) Communication skills (including adequate English speaking and listening ability)
(5) Flexible (so you will do whatever tasks are necessary, cover for sick staff etc)
(6) Friendly and fun (so that other members of staff can enjoy working with you)
(7) Honest (so that you can be trusted with money or the company's things)
(8) Long-term (the manager doesn't want to waste time recruiting and training new members of staff)
(9) Business-minded (so that you understand the need to make profits or to keep costs down)

Think about what you are looking for. Make sure that you learn enough from the interview to let you make a proper decision if you are offered a job. Examples:

(1) Pay (enough money to allow you to live comfortably; overtime payments if you are asked to work longer hours; if you serve customers, can you keep tips?)
(2) Suitable working hours (at most the number of hours allowed by your visa; hours which do not interfere with your studies; enough holidays)
(3) Good working conditions (a safe and clean workplace ; friendly work colleagues; a good manager)
(4) Training (help for you to learn how to do the job and to develop your skills)

Top tips on how to land your first job: Insights into interview techniques for students
(this article is sponsored by Sainsbury's. For more information visit:
Are you leaving university soon? Are you worried about how you're going to cope with the gruelling process of filling out job application forms and interviews? If so you're not alone, according to new research a lot of people stumble through the interview phase. A surprising four out of five confess to have cried, fallen over, spilt coffee on themselves or had a coughing fit during an interview - leaving a less than desirable first impression! Nearly two in five people also admit to lying in interviews and 18% have yawned their way through the process. A bold one in twenty have actually walked out mid-interview because they were less than impressed with the experience.

Obviously if you find yourself in the interview seat in the next couple of months then we wouldn't recommend any of the above as a plan of attack. According to the research by Sainsbury's, who believe that having an affinity with the people you work with means you get more done and have more fun doing it with people who share your attitudes and values; there are some simple ways of engaging with the interviewer. Almost eight out of ten said that they maintained eye contact to create a connection with the interviewer and respondents also sent positive body language messages by smiling (78%) and offering up a firm handshake (58%).

You might also want to be careful about what information you put up on social networking sites. Over a quarter of respondents admitted they didn't edit content on their online profile despite the risk that an employer could stumble upon it. Social networking is a great way to enhance relationships with potential co-workers, however it pays to bear in mind what kind of information and pictures you're uploading and who is going to view them.

To improve your chances take a look at the following tips:

- Research the company before you get there. They're unlikely to have prepared a pop quiz on their corporate history but exhibiting a bit of background knowledge will show them you're dedicated to getting the job and will help with that much-dreaded "So why would you like to work for us" question.
- Check and double check the time and date of your interview. Turning up an hour (or a day) late does not make the best first impression.
- Pay attention to your interviewer. Asking them to repeat a question because you zoned out or calling them by the wrong name is not likely to result in a call back.
- Check your appearance before entering the interview. Is everything buttoned and zipped?
- Be friendly to everyone as soon as you enter the building. You never know, you might be chatting to the CEO without even realising it.

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Make sure that you know about the company before you go to the interview. This can help you to answer questions such as "What do you know about this company?" or "Why do you want to work here?", and may make it much easier to ask intelligent questions during the interview. It may also tell you if the company has problems

You do not usually need to have detailed knowledge about the company's finances, but some basic knowledge may be helpful. You should try to get an idea about:
(1) Size (how many staff does it have, how many branches are there, in which countries or locations does the company operate?)
(2) Sales growth (are sales growing or falling; has the company bought or sold any businesses?)
(3) Ownership (what is the name and nationality of the parent company if it is a subsidiary?)
(4) Profitability (is it profitable or loss-making, what are the company's future prospects?)
(5) Organisation (what are the main products and how are departments organised?)

Read the company's website. You can find it by typing the company's name into a search engine such as: The company re is usually a lot of useful information there. However, remember that this information is not independent (it is produced by the company itself), and that it may not be updated frequently.

For financial and share price information, go to Bloomberg's site: In the box, click on "look up symbol". Enter the company's name on the "ticker lookup" screen which appears and click on "go". The symbol ("ticker") for companies matching this name should appear (usually a code of 3 or 4 letters). Click on the symbol and information about the company will appear. You can see a share price graph (it normally displays a 1-year graph, but you can choose to see a 5-year graph). The behaviour of the share price compared to the market will give you some idea about how well (or badly) the company is doing. You can also see a brief company profile and a few recent news stories. To find out more news articles about the company, type the company's name in quotation marks (for example: "costa coffee") in the search box for Google News at:

If you are applying for a job in a shop, visit the shop or one of its branches as a customer. Look at what products are offered, what kind of customers there are, the type of service offered, and what the staff do. If it is a chain shop, it can be useful to read customer reviews about the shop from a website such as: (enter the shop's name in the "Search ..." box and click on Go). You should be able to see what customers like and dislike about the shop and get a good idea about the type and quality of the products and services.

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Travel to the location of the interview early in case there are any problems with transport or in case it is difficult to find the place. However, it is best not to report for the interview until about 10 minutes before the time of the appointment, because the interviewer may not be ready for you and may feel pressure. Instead, go to a nearby library or coffee shop to relax or to prepare for the interview, and go to the toilet there if necessary.

When you arrive at the interview building, say your name, the time of the interview and the name and position of the interviewer (for example "My name's Huijin Kim. I've come for an interview with the manager Mr Chandler at 3 o'clock").

The interviewer will introduce himself/herself and probably shake your hand. Shake the hand firmly. Do not bow (it is not a British custom). State your name clearly, especially if your name is difficult for a British person to pronounce. For example, "Hello. I'm Huijin".

Think about your body language during the interview. Smile. Try to look relaxed. Do not cross your legs. Make sure that you make enough eye contact with the interviewer (but without staring).

During the interview, try to focus on your achievements. Be truthful, but don't be too modest (you have to sell yourself). Be active in the conversation. It should be a two-way process: they should persuade you why you should want to work for their company, and you need to persuade them that you can do the job well. If you always give short answers, it is much harder for the interviewer to understand your strengths, and it is also more difficult for the interviewer to relax. You have to persuade the interviewer that you can "add value" to the company, for example, by providing good customer service, by increasing sales, or by working efficiently and flexibly.

Be positive about your previous jobs, the reasons why you left them, and why you came to the UK. If you have some previous experience in a similar job, make sure that you say this. For example, if you are applying for a job in a coffee shop and you have worked in a similar job before, you can say something like "I worked part-time for 1 year in a Korean coffee shop while I was studying at university". Don't give the name of the company unless the interviewer asks for it or unless it is well-known and you think the interviewer will have heard of it. A simple description of where you worked such as "a Korean coffee shop" or "one of the leading coffee shop chains in Korea" is clear.

If the job's salary has not been fixed and you are asked what salary you expect, try to ask the interviewer what he/she is thinking of offering, or give a range of salaries (the lower end of this range should be the least that you are prepared to accept).

Make sure that by the end of the interview you understand when you will be told if you are being offered the job, what the job involves, what hours you will be asked to work, and what sort of training you can expect.

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Huijin has an interview for a job as a part-time worker in a branch of a coffee shop chain.

Huijin: Hello. I've got an appointment at 10 o'clock with the manager, Mr Smith
Receptionist: What is your name?
Huijin: Huijin Kim.
Receptionist: That's fine, thanks. I'll let him know you've arrived. Please take a seat and he'll be right with you.
Mr Smith: Hello. I'm the store manager, John Smith (offers hand)
Huijin: (stands up and shakes his hand firmly) I'm Huijin. Pleased to meet you.
Mr Smith: Would you like a drink?
Huijin: Thank you. Could I have a regular latte, please?
Mr Smith: Certainly (asks one of the members of staff to bring a drink for Huijin)
Please come over here and we will talk about your job application.
Please take a seat ...
Huijin: (Sits down) Thank you.
Mr Smith: It's Huijin Kim, isn't it?
Huijin: That's right.
Mr Smith: Where are you from?
Huijin: I'm from Korea.
Mr Smith: What are you doing in the UK?
Huijin: I'm studying at an English language school. I came here a couple of months ago.
Mr Smith: How long do you plan to stay in this country?
Huijin: My visa expires at the end of June, but I would like to extend it for at least another 6 months after that.
Mr Smith: What kind of visa do you have?
Huijin: I have a student visa, so I'm looking for a part-time job. I can work up to 20 hours per week.
Mr Smith: I see. We do have a part-time vacancy, but it is for 10 until 2 each day. Could you manage those hours?
Huijin: I can be flexible. The school has 3-hour lessons each day. At the moment I am studying in the mornings from 9 to 12, but I can change to the lessons from 3 to 6 if you offer me this job.
Mr Smith: That sounds fine. Why do you want to work for this company?
Huijin: Well, I think the shops sell good products and that the atmosphere is good. I sometimes come to them myself as a customer, and I have always received a good service. Also, my school classmate worked in one of your branches and recommended the company to me.
Mr Smith: Have you had any previous experience of working in a coffee shop?
Huijin: Yes, I worked part-time in a coffee shop while I was a university student in Japan. I was at Costa Coffee for about 9 months.
Mr Smith: Really? What sort of work were you doing there?
Huijin: My main job was to serve the customers, but I also helped to wash up, to clean the shop and to operate the till.
Mr Smith: Did you ever have to deal with customer problems?
Huijin: I'm sorry, would you mind explaining exactly what you mean by "customer problems"?
Mr Smith: Of course. Sometimes a customer is unhappy because something is wrong. Can you give me an example of how you managed a difficult situation?
Huijin: Yes, sometimes there were small problems. For example, one day a customer complained that his cup was dirty. He sounded upset. I apologised to him and offered to get him a replacement. The cup did look dirty, so later I had a quiet word with the person who had cleaned it.
Mr Smith: Do you think you provide a good service to customers?
Huijin: Yes - I always try to provide a friendly and efficient service to customers. For example, when customers wanted a product that was not available, I recommended another product instead. They usually accepted my suggestion and were glad that I helped them to choose something else.
Mr Smith: Do you think you are good at working as a member of a team?
Huijin: Yes - I like to work with other people. When I was at Costa Coffee we used to share the tasks - we would always help each other, and show new members of staff how to do things.
Mr Smith: How do you think the people that you worked with in the past would describe you?
Huijin: I think they would say that I worked hard, I was well-organised and that I was friendly to customers.
Mr Smith: What would they say your weaknesses are?
Huijin: Maybe I was a bit impatient sometimes when things weren't done properly. But I think it is important to have high standards.
Mr Smith: OK. Well, do you have any questions for me?
Huijin: Yes. If you offer me the job, when would you want me to start?
Mr Smith: We have a vacancy now, so as soon as possible. Would you be able to start next week?
Huijin: That would be fine. What would the pay be?
Mr Smith: 4 pounds 50 per hour
Huijin: Which days would I work?
Mr Smith: Normally from Monday to Friday. You can take two days holiday each month.
Huijin: How would you describe the working atmosphere in this store?
Mr Smith: Well, it is often busy but there is a friendly atmosphere, I think. We work hard, but like to have fun too.
Huijin: When will you be able to tell me if I have got the job?
Mr Smith: I can tell you now. If you want the job, you can start next Monday.
Huijin: Yes, I want the job, thank you. I look forward to working here.
Mr Smith: Good. Well, come here at 10 o'clock on Monday morning and we can sort out the other details then.
Huijin: Thank you. See you on Tuesday. Goodbye
Mr Smith: Goodbye, Huijin. I'm sure you will like working as part of our team.

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If you are offered a job
Make sure you understand when you start and where you should go on the first day. You should receive a contract stating the salary, the working hours, the notice period (the amount of warning you need to give the company if you decide to leave) and your entitlement to holidays. Normally tax will be paid on your salary before you receive the money.

If you are rejected after an interview
Don't worry. Be aware that you may need to apply to many jobs before you are successful. Telephone the interviewer to ask for feedback - maybe you can use this to improve your CV or interview skills

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