Ideas for getting students ready for an interview at an art, design or media university.

Interview preparation

Almost all applications to creative courses will be by interview. To have the best chances, students will need to be able to discuss their work and ideas. Being able to talk openly and passionately is absolutely key. But students may not have the opportunities to develop interview skills. Here are some methods you could employ relatively easily before the interview takes place:

  • Give lots of opportunities to students to talk about their work: presentations, seminars, discussions, questions in lectures and workshops, group work etc. Participating in all of these will mean that students are practicing communication about creative issues and ideas.
  • Practice interview: peers in the class can ask ask the kinds of questions that interviewers might ask, they don’t need to be artists or designers. Just having someone ask questions  will generate some pressure and give students an idea of what it will be like.
  • Respond in writing: hand out a sheet of interview questions and ask students to complete and return it in their own time. The benefit here is answers are recorded and can be used as a discussion point for improvement.
  • Place questions around the class: students will inevitably try to answer some of the questions.


Common interview questions

Here are some of the questions that applicants were asked. You could use these in a mock interview or give them out as a handout during a lesson on progression. It would be useful to have a class discussion about these questions and see how individuals might respond. Reflecting on some of these points between projects way in advance of applications can also be useful.

  • Why have you applied for this particular course?
  • What do you expect to achieve whilst studying here?
  • How will your contribute to the University or course?
  • How did you learn about the course?
  • Which newspapers and magazines do you read regularly and why?
  • Which art and design journals do you read and why?
  • Which films have you seen recently – which filmmakers do you admire and why?
  • Are there any books or authors which have made an impression on you?
  • Which artists and designers (particularly contemporary) do you admire?  Why?
  • What exhibitions have you seen recently and what did you think?
  • Have you any strong passions which you find to be a motivating force?
  • What will you do if you are not offered a place?
  • Do you believe that your portfolio of work properly represents your past performance and future potential?
  • What has your course been like and what have you learnt?
  • What are your major strengths?
  • What are your major weaknesses?
  • Is there a particular piece of work or project that you learnt a lot from?
  • What are you trying to communicate through your favourite piece of work?
  • Which piece of work do you think is the strongest in your portfolio?
  • What questions do you wish to ask? Definitely have a short list of questions – these will depend on what information you were able to find out about the course.

Perason Portfolio - Interview Techniques_2

At the interview

It is very difficult to determine what kind of an interview it will be. Students have all sorts of stories about the questions they get asked and how surprised they were, which is why practicing can only be a good idea. However, regardless of the questions, here are some tips to give to students:

  • Make it personal: when talking about work or projects, avoid saying: “we did” or “we were asked to”. Starting sentences with: “I thought it would be interesting to…” sounds more independent.
  • Open: try not to be defensive. Most discussions that sound negative are actually trying to focus attention on something that may have been missed. Take these points positively and appreciate that the interviewer is taking time to look at the work.
  • Listen and look: listen to the points that are being raised. Try and make sure this is noticed by using positive body language. Take note of the interviewers body language and responses to your points and questions. This will help steer the discussion as much as possible.
  • Talk: stick to the point at hand, but talk passionately. Most importantly, focus on personal interests and what ideas were behind the work. If the interviewer is having to ask too many questions, they may feel the applicant is not confident about your work. Putting a little energy into your tone and sentences can make even the most insignificant point seem exciting.
  • Open to improvement: try not to infer the work is perfect or resolved by keeping in mind there is always room for improvement. Suggest ways the work could be taken further, but don’t make excuses for the way it is.

At the end of the interview:

There will usually be some time allocated to students to ask questions. This is where many students get a little stuck because they have focused so much on their work and the effort to impress. However, having some good questions will demonstrate students are keen on having a positive experience. It will also demonstrate an awareness of what it takes to study well. Here are some useful questions students may want to have before their interview:

  • Are students allocated their own space?
  • What is access to workshops like?
  • What are the enrichment activities like?
  • How often will I be able to see my personal tutor?
  • Is the academic tutoring separate to the pastoral?
  • Who were recent guest speakers?
  • Do they have an exchange programme with other Universities?
  • Is there opportunity to exhibit during the course?
  • Are there relationships with employers?
Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer