Ask any job interviewer about the errors most regularly committed by their candidates, and they will most likely tell you that, right up there at the top is the failure to do significant research on the company or the job. Well, university interviews are not so different. You are also applying to a ‘company’ (the university) for ‘a job’ (a place on a particularly course) and it is a cardinal sin not to research these two separate aspects.
Preparation is a huge part of interview success, whatever that interview may be for. Don’t think for one minute that you will be able to breeze your interview based on academic knowledge alone. Failure to answer meaningfully any basic introductory questions such as ‘what do you know about the university?’ or ‘why are you applying to this course?’ will make you look unenthusiastic, disorganised and perhaps even arrogant. You are going to have an uphill battle ahead of you to turn around the negative first impression that you have created.
Be aware also that giving the answer ‘because I’ve heard it had a brilliant reputation’ to the question ‘why are you applying to this university?’ can come across as glib and sycophantic, and not particularly well thought out if not backed up with any further information. So, be honest here - why ARE you applying to the university? If it is the reputation then tell them where or who you heard the ‘good stuff’ from. Someone who studied there in the past? A teacher on your course who recommended it? It scored well in the league tables? These are all legitimate reasons. Perhaps you just liked the feel of the university when you visited on an Open Day? Or perhaps the content of the course suits your own particular areas of interest? But, whatever you do, think about the answer to this question as part of your general interview preparation. Maybe it won’t be asked but it is a good opportunity to reflect on your motives.
In the same way that every job role is different from one company to the next, so too is every university course, even if they have the same name. So in preparation for your interview you need to research the course that you are interviewing for. Look at the modules on offer and think of this as your ‘job description’ so that if you are asked “what do you know about the course?” you should at least be able to pinpoint information such as areas of teaching specialisms and any particularly unique features that the course offers. Again, even if it doesn’t come up as a direct question, it should help to shape how you answer other questions that come up and also, the questions that you can ask them at the end of the interview.
Of course, this is not the only preparation you will need to do in advance of your university interviews but we shall be addressing some of the others later in the series.
Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice provide a mock interview service for just £60.