Interview Tips: Advice With Gemma Harris





Gemma Harris, Work Based Learning Officer

Graduated with LLB (Hons) in Law and a DipHE in Management Studies – including a work based learning placement!

Before DMU, I spent three years working within the HR department at Experian, a global (FTSE 50) company. I held the role of ‘Early Careers Programme Consultant’ where I was responsible for attracting, recruiting and managing our talent schemes, including Graduates, Placement Students and Apprentices.

I’ve been at DMU for six months now and love working in Higher Education, supporting students first hand with my experience from industry!

How should students prepare for an interview or assessment center?

Gemma: You must carry out extensive research and learn as much as possible about the company prior to the interview. This will allow you to hold an intelligent and well-informed discussion about the company. Students must also prepare for the skills required for the role they have applied for.

How can students stand out at an assessment center/Interview?

Gemma: First impressions can easily become lasting impressions. Turning up 10 – 15 minutes early will be a good start. Network with others by asking question and being friendly to everyone, which will allow you to establish relationships early on.  However Students should be mindful that they are being assessed from the minute they walk in to the minute they walk out, so make sure not to be caught off guard. Avoid making jokes on how drunk you got over the weekend to other candidates during your lunch break.

How should students introduce themselves to the interviewer?

Gemma: When you first introduce yourself to the interviewer stand up, smile and greet him/her with a firm handshake whilst maintaining eye contact. This makes you appear confident and could instantly help convince the interviewer that you are capable of handling the stress of the first meaning.

What is the best method to follow when answering interview questions?

Gemma: Telling a story with the STARR techniques is the method to follow.

For more information on the STARR technique visit HERE

How should students answer interview questions about their weaknesses?

Gemma: Self-awareness is important. You should mention a weakness on what you genuinely struggle with, but put a positive spin on it by mentioning the steps you are taking to overcome it. This suggests to the interview that you are aware of what you are missing but are taking steps to grow and develop your skills.

What would you say are three things students must not do/say during an interview?


1) Try not fidget – It is distracting and reads nervousness and anxiety

2) Avoid looking around the room: Could give the impression to the interviewer that you are disinterested.

3) Must not use slang – Must be aware that they are in a professional environment therefore, should stay professional at all times.

What would you say are three things students must do/say during an interview?


1) Be well presented – The clothes you wear and the way you physically present yourself is vital so turn up in smart/formal clothing.

2) Make eye contact – Conveys confidence and demonstrates non-verbal communication skills.

3) Be mindful of body language – Your body language could determine whether you come across as confident and capable or nervous and tentative to the interviewer.

What can students do to control their nerves during an interview?

Prepare and practice as it helps ease the tension and gives you confidence in the points you make. Students must also be mindful in what they are saying. Take deep breaths and take time in answering questions.

What are good questions to ask at the end of an interview?

Gemma: To make the interviewer aware that you have been listening and paying attention, ask a question regarding something they have mentioned during the interview. You can ask interviewer about themselves, any training required and whether they have a graduate scheme in place. Don’t ask questions you should already know and don’t ask jokey questions. It is important to come across as confident but also maintain your professionalism.

Do you remember any particular interviewees or individuals at an assessment center that impressed you and how did they manage to do so?

Gemma: There was one individual who stood out to me by being really polite and engaging. They showed immediate interaction by instantly breaking the silence and asking lots of questions to keep the conversations following.  Another student who stood out was actually a De Montfort University student who created a SWOT analysis of herself detailing why she has the right skills for the role, which really impressed the managers.


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