Interview formats; how to prepare and practise

How to improve your chances of success at interview. Find out about the preparation you should do and the ways you can practise.



Interview formats can vary widely, depending on the type of job and organisation, from digital to in-person. Recorded digital interviews often replace telephone interviews, during the early stages of the interview process, and can include a number of questions. 

The employer should provide information on the interview format, in advance; if not, it's acceptable to ask what format your interview will take prior to attending.


Have you had an invitation to attend an interview? You have done well to get this far - the employer thinks you can do this. You have already impressed them at the application stage; now build on that and give yourself the best chance of success by preparing thoroughly.

The employer will use the interview to assess your motivation and suitability for the role, as well as your knowledge and understanding of the organisation and its culture. In essence they want to know:

  • Can you do the job? (ability)
  • Do you want to do the job? (motivation)
  • Do they want you to do the job? (fit)

To demonstrate these, you will need to: 

  • Review the job description and person specification so you have an understanding of the role and know what skills, qualities and experience are required. These will also act as clues to potential interview questions.
  • Read your application

    • Your application may form the basis of your interview so the interviewer may ask you to elaborate or provide further examples.
    • Employers value transferable skills, so think about this in terms of what you have gained from academic studies, part-time work, volunteering and involvement in clubs and societies. Find a way to map out your skills and experience - you could create a mind map or list some examples.
  • Research the employer or organisation

    • Employers expect interviewees to show evidence of commercial or business awareness, which is an understanding of what the job involves, what you'll be doing, and how your role will fit into the organisation's structure. Keep up to date with news, press releases and follow on social media.
    • Find out as much as you can about the organisation, its culture, the sector, past successes and future developments. Talk to employers at fairs, presentations and events, and use LinkedIn to identify Edinburgh students/graduates who might have worked or interned there.

For further advice, visit our webpage on:

Build your commercial awareness

Careers research in simple steps

Interview formats

Considerations for in-person interviews

  • Check your travel arrangements and allow for delays and navigating rush hour traffic. Arrive ahead of time but not too early - why not find a cafe or quiet spot nearby?
  • Follow any instructions you've been given beforehand e.g. bringing a portfolio or examples of your work, qualifications, certificate or identity documents.
  • Dress appropriately; outside of the creative sector you are well-advised to stick to more conventional interview attire. If you are looking for smart outfits on a budget you could try local charity shops.

The interview

The type of interview you can expect will vary and depend very much on what you're applying for and who is interviewing you. For information on the most common types of interviews and questions, see our webpage:

Interview types; how to prepare

It's normal to have some pre-interview nerves. This handy article provides top tips to calm your nerves and approach the interview with confidence:

Five tips to calm your interview nerves (University of Edinburgh login required)

Remember: it's  not simply what you say that is important, but also the way you say it. Be enthusiastic - reflect this in your approach and body language. Don't rush your answers - take your time and think about what you want to say. If you're not sure, ask them to repeat or clarify the question.

Finally: smile. You will be surprised how much difference this can make.

Questions to ask the interviewer

There is invariably an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Stick to areas related to the job and the company, and avoid asking about holiday, salary or benefits. Don't ask something you could easily have answered from reading the website or job description.

Have a few questions in mind - that way, if one or two have been covered during the discussion you have some in reserve. Equally don't ask too many as this can irritate the interviewer. You can find some examples of what to ask in this article:

10 questions to ask at interview (University of Edinburgh login required)

Careers Service support

There are a range of ways we can support you:

Information and Advice drop-ins

Offered online and on campus. No need to book! Great for asking quick questions and getting answers.

Information and Advice drop-ins (University of Edinburgh login required)

Online Interview Booth

Ideal if you need a quiet space for an online job interview. This booth is located in our office in the Main Library and is available between 10am - 4pm, Monday to Friday. Book using the "Talk to us" tab in MyCareerHub.

Book an appointment (University of Edinburgh login required)

Interview practice

Getting used to talking about your skills and experiences aloud will help you feel more natural during your interview; avoid over rehearsing answers as you will sound stilted and robotic!

  • You can book an appointment with any of our Careers Consultants via the "Talk to us" tab in MyCareerHub:

    • Select the “Discuss my career (up to 30 minutes)” option to talk through aspects of the interview situation, interview technique or any concerns you have.
    • Select the “Practice interview (up to 45 minutes) option –book well ahead of any potential interview to ensure maximum benefit. You will need to upload the job description and application documents. If you don’t do this, we won’t be able to prepare the relevant questions.

Find out about our appointments system:

Appointments system

  • Use Interview360 (also called IV360) to help you shine at a recorded or video interview.

    • You can also record your responses. A huge advantage is the option to record and play back how you appear on camera: this will help you hone your interview performance by checking out your eye contact, body language and tone of voice.

Watch this short recording on Interview360:

Develop your interview skills with Interview 360 (University of Edinburgh login required)

Access Interview 360


I think Interview360 is particularly useful as it provides you with loads of commonly asked interview questions and key points to consider in your answer. You can even create a mock interview based on your CV content. That's quite cool!

Are you short on interview preparation time?

If so, read this Inform.ed blog that provides tips to help you shine and keep your preparation on track when your time is limited:

How to shine at a short notice interview