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9 Top Tips for your University Interview (5) Show vocational/commercial awareness

City of London

OK, so this one isn’t going to be as relevant for some people as it is for others. Ultimately it will depend upon the course you are applying for and/or anything you have stated on your personal statement about future career plans. But it is time to start looking beyond the degree you are applying to and thinking about the realities of the workplace that you are likely to enter.

But I do want to make one thing clear - your university interview is not a job interview. That sounds simple but, believe me, lot of people get it wrong. I’ve seen a great many students over the years who, for example, want to enter the nursing profession, can show an adequate awareness of the career they are aiming to get into, but fall down at interview as they know nothing about the course, or are unable to convince the interviewers that they have enough academic commitment or enthusiasm to get them through the demands of the degree. First and foremost this is about the degree course and your suitability to it and you must be able to demonstrate this. However, certain vocationally focused courses are going to expect you to have an awareness of the workplace that you wish to enter.

So, if you are applying for a degree course with a clear career destination, then be prepared to answer questions about your understanding of that career. Not the glossy stuff that you see on the TV programmes, but the things you have learnt about the realities of the profession, either through research or work experience. Be aware of the issues facing that profession at the moment and the challenges it is facing. If you have previous (paid or unpaid) work experience in the area, be prepared to talk not just about what you did, but about what you learned from it all. They don’t necessarily want to hear you say “I loved everything about that experience and know I am going to be happy doing the job” but rather “it taught me a lot about the challenges of the job and I do realise how tough it will be”.

Those of you applying to courses which are likely to take you into a strongly commercial environment (think finance, marketing etc) or those of you who have talked on your statement about work experience placements within a commercial setting, be prepared to be asked to reflect on the value of the work you did or that you want to go on to do. Interviewers will be more impressed if you can convey the commercial impact that your role adds to an organisation rather than just seeing it as a stand-alone function. Think: how does this role contribute to the ultimate success of a company? Taking this more mature outlook and understanding of the world of work should help you to stand out amongst those who are less able to see beyond the skills they will be needing or using on a purely personal level. And interviews are all about standing out from your competitors.

Worried about your own upcoming university interview? Want to make sure that you are performing to your best on the day? Don’t forget that Momentum Careers Advice offers a fabulous mock interview service for just £60.