Prepare for a placement interview in 5 days

A placement interview can be a nerve-racking experience. Sweating in your old suit and several people tracking every word you say.

However, if you create yourself a procedure – a plan to follow – before every single interview – you will increase your chances of getting that placement drastically.

5 days before the interview – Familiarise yourself with the company

The first interview I ever went to, I was totally unprepared. I didn’t  have a clue what the company was actually about. All I read was that it was a pharmaceutical company. Well… During my interview, they told me that they weren’t actually making drugs, but only doing analysis on the behalf of companies that are making drugs. I had the most shocked face ever. And they saw that. After that, no matter what I said, I knew they weren’t interested in me. In conclusion, you guessed it right – I didn’t get the placement.

Spend 30 minutes of your time looking at their website and writing down their key goals and values. Most companies will have this somewhere on their websites. Think about how you can incorporate that in your answers, which you will practice in later days. Furthermore, write down key bullet points about the company and what it does.

In addition, I like to see if they have won any prizes and awards in recent years (look at their Wikipedia page if available). You can include this when answering the question “Why do you want to work for us?”. A good answer is:

“(your other reasons)… Furthermore, your company has been really successful in recent years. I read that you have won several awards 2 years ago. This is one of the reasons I want to be part of this growing/well established company”.

Employers would love that you have actually spent time researching the company and preparing for your interview, instead of doing something like me.

4 days before – Research your role

You have to be able to talk about the role. You need to be able to explain how your degree and past experiences will help you excel during this placement. You need to be able to understand the majority of the job description and be able to talk about it (or at least ask about it).

Look at your job description and write down brief summary of every part of the role. Google any terms you don’t understand, so you can have a general understanding.

In the job description, some of the competencies they are looking for might be written down, which will be very helpful for your next task.

3 days before – Competency based questions

The thing we hate the most – competency based questions. Unfortunately, most companies nowadays use them in their hiring process. I don’t know why. Is it because they actually work or simply due the company’s laziness? But the fact remains – we need to learn how to answer them.

Depending on the position, they will ask different types of questions. Base your research on your role. Do you need communication in your work? Do you need critical thinking? Or analytical skills?

Write down the main questions and answer them using bullet points. Don’t try to write down full sentences and memorize them word for word. You will quickly forget them when the interview begins.

I have found a great government document for civil service hiring, where they list a lot of competency qualities and bullet point what they want. You can read the document here. However, you should do your own research for the competencies you need.

2 days before – Study your CV and covering letter

This might be harder than you think. You are probably saying “What is the point of reading my CV and cover letter? I know my skills and past experiences.”

However, this is not true for everyone.

You need to be able to talk freely about everything you have done in university and past jobs. In addition, you need to be able to link these experiences with the competency questions. In your head, think how every job or every volunteering work has helped you develop communication, team work, meeting deadlines and so on.

This will greatly improve the smoothness of your answers and will make you even confident in the eyes of your interviewers.

1 day before – write down your questions. Iron your shirt!

At the end of every single interview, the people who interview you always ask you “So, do you have any questions for us?”. NEVER reply with a negative answer. These people want to know that you are interested in the job and that you are hungry for more information than you already know.

You can think of questions yourself, but these are ones I usually ask:

  • Will I usually work with people outside my team, or the job is concentrated within my team?
  • Is the company involved in any volunteering and any extra-curricular activities?
  • Do you provide any extra training to your employees, so they can improve on their weaknesses and polish their strengths?
  • [my favourite] As an employee of this company, can you summarise what is your experience working here?

And lastly, don’t forget to iron your shirt. You need to look good and presentable.


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