How to pass your placement interviews | Advice from Chemistry student Radoslav Petkov part 1


Every job that you apply, will require of you to pass a job interview and a placement is not an exception. Employers want to see whether you will fit the company, both in terms of the work tasks as well as the company culture. I have written this post to share my personal experience and give advice on how to pass your own interview. The examples I give will be based on AkzoNobel where I am currently doing my placement.

1. Be prepared

For any interview, you need to prepare no matter how much experience you may have. I know that there will be some people thinking “this is not for me, but for my friends who have more experience, who are more qualified, who are outgoing and involved with KCLSU.” However, you are qualified and you can get that placement; everything comes with practice. Experience does matter, however, if you are competing with students who have not had an internship, for example, then you will be tested on other qualities. You just need to be confident and keep going.

When I say be prepared, I am referring to knowing about the company and related field you are applying for. You are going to be stepping into a company, who have their own values, way of working and expectations. You need to be knowledgeable about these. This is comparable to going to someone’s house and not obeying their rules, but your own. Do you think you would make a good impression? The same principle can be applied to the company you will be working for. Some of the key information is listed below:

The company values – this is what the company stands for and all the work they do will revolve around those values. Most company websites will have their core company values in visible places like their home page. Alternatively, I found the company values at AkzoNobel in their 2019 annual report.

Annual reports – These are vital documents because they will show the strategy of the company, financial success or their industry success, new developments etc. You don’ t have to read it in detail, but highlight important parts. For example, I focused on the key financial breakthroughs such as the increase in revenue of the company for 2019 with information regarding
sustainability and interesting developments in each of the fields the company is involved in.

Important information about the company, such as partnerships and their global impact – Every company will have a global impact with the products it produces. AkzoNobel for example is one of the biggest suppliers of paint products to different industries. I found it very interesting that one of AkzoNobel’s customers is the McLaren F1 team. This really encouraged me to look deeper into the company because I was interested in F1. Some of this information may not be found on the company’s website, however it is a good idea to look at the company socials like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn!

Key company leaders and brands – It might be useful to research the way the company is run as well as key company leaders and brands. For example, I researched the company CEO Thierry Vanlacker and other leaders in the Amsterdam headquarters. It will be unlikely that you will be asked a question specifically about them but if you are interested you might mention that in the interview questions around motivation. This will show that you are interested in the company as a whole and not only your specific field.

Specific industry facts– Finally, make sure you know some specific facts about the company you’re applying to. For example, I was interested in knowing what raw materials AkzoNobel use in their paints. I found that strontium chromate was used in their paint products for aerospace coatings to reduce corrosion. I remember that my interviewer was impressed when I mentioned this specific raw material. Therefore, make sure to know a few specifics about the company and its activities. This information can normally be found in the company annual report, special magazines the company releases or the company’s website.

Keep a look out for part two which covers showing confidence and knowing why you want to do your placement.