Interviews really don't need to be dreaded, writes Charlotte Ashley-Roberts

Interviews really don’t need to be dreaded, writes Charlotte Ashley-Roberts



I have had a few interviews in the last few months but I haven’t been successful. I have an assessment centre interview coming up soon for a job I really want and I wondered if you might give me some advice to make sure I secure it.

A Firstly, it’s great news that you are getting interviews. Secondly, even if you perform your best, sometimes there really is someone there with more experience than you. However, I hope that I can share some tips with you that might help if you feel there is more you can be doing. 

Assessment centres are slightly different to other interviews as they tend to be longer, usually taking the whole day. You will meet the other candidates and there will be times where you are interviewed together as a group and times where you are on your own. 

There could be a variety of things going on which might include:

Presentations  - from the employer (this will provide useful information) or possibly from yourself. If it is you who needs to do the presentation then you will be given notice in advance to allow you time to prepare.  

Group exercises - these will vary from company to company and possibly from year to year within the same company. They might be a discussion or an exercise from a role-play scenario such as devising a strategy to building a bridge out of paper.   

The assessor isn’t necessarily looking at whether you finish the task, but how you interact with the group.  

Written exercises  - where you might write a letter, report, policy document or you might check a document for errors.  

In-tray/e-tray exercises   - you could be asked to sort through a number of documents or emails and prioritise each one accordingly.  

Psychometric tests  - in chemistry roles these usually consist of numerical or verbal exercises. You may have to do these online before you go to the interview and then again when you get there to verify the results. Not all employers use them. 

You may be watched by different assessors at each part and there may be an overlap between the skills you are being observed for at each stage. It is important not to worry if you feel you have done badly in one part as there will be other chances to shine throughout the day.  

Additionally, it is important not to forget the times when you are not being formally interviewed or observed. These may include arrival on site, lunch or break times, any tours and leaving the site. You should relax, be yourself, but try and interact positively with everyone you meet as they will be giving feedback on the group.  

Interviews  - this might be a one-to-one interview or it may consist of a panel, which could include at least one senior manager.  

When preparing for an interview you should always refer to the job description and look at the essential criteria and think about the types of questions that the panel may ask you.  

Competency based questions will look at your skills in relation to such things as team work, communication and problem solving. The panel will be looking for you to give examples of when you have done something in the past as this is normally a good indicator of how you might tackle something similar in the future. 

The SHARE model (also known as the STAR model) will help you to make sure you give a rounded answer to any question. 

Situation  - what are you going to talk about? 

Hindrances  - what was the problem, what issues did you have? 

Action  - what action did you take? Make it clear what you did, so say ’I did ...’ rather than ’we did...’ 

Result - what was the outcome? 

Evaluation  - what went well and what might you do differently next time? 

Finally, try not to over-rehearse any examples before an interview but do spend time anticipating what you might get asked so that you don’t have to think on your feet too much. Try not to let nerves get the better of you, be yourself and give 100 per cent in everything you are asked to do. 

There are lots of resources available on the careers pages on MyRSC and we will also be introducing mock interviews online via webcam. For more information or to book an appointment email careers.