So you fancy getting yourself some work experience? Good for you! Work experience is actually extremely beneficial, and arguably more important than qualifications. In fact, 57% of UK workers who have studied toward a degree admit that their current job role isn’t related to their degree at all, and a further 71.9% of workers feel that it would have been more beneficial if their university had included more business and office-based skills.
With that in mind, here are five ways to ace your work experience interview to help you kick-start your career.
Since preparing for your work experience interview is extremely similar to a ‘real’ job interview for a permanent place of employment, it’s important that you research the company.
In your work experience interview, it’s likely that the employer will quiz you on how the company operates, its mission statement, how it makes its money, for example. Therefore, we suggest Googling the company and browsing its site – particularly its ‘about us’, ‘meet the team’ and ‘work for us’ pages. Don’t forget to check out its social media channels and any other forms of literature it may have online regarding its products or services, too.
It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the company’s industry, its biggest competitors and if there are any current trends or news stories about the sector. This will help reinforce your talking points and prove you’re a knowledgeable, passionate individual worth having on board.
Another way to ace your work experience interview is by dressing to impress. You may not normally give your wardrobe much thought, but you shouldn’t underestimate what your interview outfit says about you – especially when it only take seven seconds to make a first impression!
No matter what the dress code, it’s important to dress cleanly and professionally as it will show your potential ‘employers’ that you’re taking this opportunity seriously. What’s more a professional outfit can actually have a positive effect on your mood and overall confidence – it’s what scientists are calling ‘enclothed cognition’.
So, before your interview, make sure you ask the company what the dress code is; it’s likely to be either business attire or business-casual.
You can always visit the company website and double check the vibe. If it’s a corporate company, you’ll want to shoot for traditional business attire, but if it’s a smaller company or a startup, you can loosen the collar a little and be a little more creative with your choices.
If you’re in any way unsure of what to wear, err on the side of caution. You can’t be chastised for dressing too smartly, so if in doubt go for overdressed rather than under-dressed.
Your work experience interview is likely to play out in a similar way to a typical interview for employment. Therefore, it’s worth practising some common interview questions.
You’ll want to prepare responses to questions that will demonstrate your strengths and reflect the skills you have. While the purpose of your work experience placement is to help you learn new things, your potential ‘employer’ also wants to know what you can bring to the table.
You may also want to prepare a response to the common interview question ‘what are your weaknesses?’. When planning your answer, remember that the interviewer isn’t looking to catch you out; after all, no one’s awesome at everything. Instead, they just want to know what your shortcomings are and what your self-awareness is like. Therefore, be honest and treat this question as the opportunity to plug what you want to learn while you’re at the company.
At the end of your interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions of your own.
It’s always best to have some prepared in advance, especially for a work experience interview as you’ll only be with the company for a short stint, so you’ll want to glean as much information about the opportunity as possible.
You might want to find out more about the company, your job or the people you’ll be working with. You may even want to ask your interviewer what they like about working at the company or where they started out in their career to get to where they are today.
In short, make sure you’re asking questions that will provide useful answers.
Our final tip for acing your work experience interview is to make sure you plan your journey there. You don’t want any last-minute slips ups on the day, so you need to make sure you know exactly where you’re going and how long the journey will take you.
When finalising the last few details of the interview, it’s worth asking the company what traffic is like in the area, or the best route from the train station etc., especially if that company’s location isn’t particularly local to you. And when interview day arrives, remember to give yourself plenty of time to travel in case there are any unexpected hiccups on route.
If you really want to ace your workplace interview, these five tips will ensure you’re fully prepared and ready to show off your stuff. Remember to research the company, prepare some questions and answers and keep in mind what you really want to get out of this placement. That way, you can’t go wrong.
About the author: Laura Slingo is Digital Copywriter for the UK’s leading independent job board, CV-Library. For more expert advice on job searches, careers and job interview success, visit their Career Advice pages.