Interview Helper Guide

Important contacts

Consider asking your college for these numbers and saving them in your phone:

College Student Lead

Safeguarding Officer

Admissions Office

Porters' Lodge



This Guide is only intended to supplement any training given by your college. Where there are any conflicts between the instructions in this guide and those given by the college, the latter ought to be followed.



This guide was made possible with the work of Cat Jones and Eden Bailey (Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs: 2015-16 and 2016-17)


Quick Links



Pastoral Support

Part of your role as an interview helper is to create an inclusive environment, to reassure candidates, and to organise entertainment.

Logistical Support

Another part of your role as interview helper is to register applicants, give them directions, take them to and from interviews, and help track down missing applicants.

Answering Queries

It is not part of your role to make admissions decisions. Helpers should give only general advice regarding the content or conduct of interviews, and make this clear to applicants. You have experience of being a student so can give a real view of what it is to study here. Be honest but not in a way that will scare candidates and express these are personal views/experiences which will be specific to the individual.




The interviewees will come from a wide variety of backgrounds, with very di erent amounts of preparation. It is important that we ensure damaging myths are debunked and interviewees go to their interviews as relaxed as possible so they are able to demonstrate their potential.


The vast majority of interviewees you meet will not receive an o er and this will therefore be their only experience of Oxford. We have an amazing opportunity here to ensure that thousands of people go back to their schools spreading the message that Oxford is a positive and inclusive place.

Implicit Bias

After a student-led push, most student-facing sta during the interview process (particularly admissions tutors) undertake implicit bias training. This is to help applicants thrive at the interview stage and feel welcome.

Implicit, or unconcious, bias refers to a bias that exists for or against di erent social groups that we may not be aware we have. This can be as a result of stereotypes, a lack of cultural sensitivity, or other systematic forms of misinformation. This bias can manifest in a number of ways, such as through macro or micro-aggressions. All such manifestations can reinforce an exclusionary culture and a
lack of appreciation for our di erences. As such, it is important to remain respectful and understanding of our di erences, to further our collective ambition for a more inclusive environment.

For more information:

Harvard Implicit Association Tests:

Insight Education Systems:

Perception Institute:




A lot of applicants will be nervous, and providing a fun and inclusive space outside from intense academic process can help applicants feel much more relaxed and positive about the whole process.

It’s important that as far as possible you run events that are free or designate a budget, and also inclusive of people with di erent needs e.g. big groups. step free access etc. If you’re worried one event might exclude certain groups of people, make sure there are other alternatives.


Quizzes (Fun and creative, not canonic and intense!)

Tours of Oxford/the college

Visiting the covered market

Film screenings

Board games

Crafts and colouring





Pre interview

Try not to place the emphasis on this as an interview. Interviews are often similar to a tutorial which is how teaching happens here. It is your chance to have an interesting conversation with a leading academic in a field you are interested in! You don’t need to worry about knowing all the answers, tutors aren’t expecting the finished product, they are just interested in how you engage with tough problems and new ideas

Post interview

How you feel it went does not always match how the tutor felt it went! Some people come out crying and get o ers, others come out happy and don’t. Even if it wasn’t the best, Oxford isn’t everything! We simply don’t have enough places for every talented person. Where else have you applied?

Behaviour on shift

Don’t use bad language

Avoid topics of conversation that could be upsetting, particularly to certain marginalised groups of people

‘Banter’ in the form of micky-taking, or boasting about drunken/sexual/any inappropriate behaviour is not acceptable around candidates

Ensure that all candidates feel and are included in activities

Do not disparage other colleges or universities, or talk excessively about how excellent your own college is – the vast majority of applicants will not get in and others will be reallocated.




Helping run interviews can be a big task for students. If you’re running the process, don’t forget to share out tasks so all the burden doesn’t fall on you, and make sure to make use of the college sta support available to you.

If you’re helping but not leading the process, make sure you turn up for shifts on time and if you’re hanging around not doing much, always check that there isn’t anything else that needs doing.

Make sure you know where all the colleges and interview locations are

Put a list of interview locations and the approximate walking times up in the JCR, or other spaces candidates will come for information and support

Have maps available if you don’t have enough helpers to walk candidates between interviews

Have wifi codes and meal times pinned up so you don’t have to answer the same question repeatedly

Exchange phone numbers with other helpers so you are contactable if a shift is unexpectedly busy

Collect the mobile numbers and room numbers of candidates as they register so you can locate them if they don’t show up

Ensure that all the helpers have each other’s mobile numbers. A facebook group can also be helpful.



Note for helpers on being asked for advice

As a current student, you may be perceived as being able to give ‘insider information’ or other support to candidates. Interview Helpers should make clear their role is to provide pastoral and logistical support and they play no role in admissions decisions.

Although you have all been through the interview process, please note that their format varies between subjects and between tutors so try to ensure what you are saying is universally applicable. Helpers should give only general advice regarding the content or conduct of interviews.

General Advice for Interviewees

Preparing for interviews

Tutors will be looking at how well candidates meet the selection criteria for their subject

Candidates may like to read through their personal statement and any written work they have submitted.

Sleep rather than cram! Being able to think clearly and flexibly is likely to be more valuable than knowing one more fact.

There is no dress code, wear something you’re comfortable in.

During interviews

Interviews are conducted by at least two, sometimes more tutors. How the interviewers organise question asking/note taking will vary. They may ask 1 or 2 ‘settling’ questions about non-academic matters at the start. These are intended to ease candidates’ nerves and are not used in the selection process.

Tutors may ask some questions based on topics the candidate has already studied at school, but they will also want to take them beyond what they have already studied. A question they don’t immediately know the answer is not an indicator that it is going badly!

It is not uncommon for students to be given a text, graph or object to discuss.

In science interviews, it is not uncommon to be asked to solve problems, perhaps with the aid of paper and pen.

If unsure of the meaning of any questions, words, or other content during the interview, ask! Tutors are not trying to catch candidates out.

The personal statement may be used to inform a significant part of the interview, or it may not be referred to at all. This doesn’t reflect on the quality of the personal statement.

For languages interviews where you have previously studied the language, some of the interview may be conducted in that language but the amount varies.

After interviews

The number of interviews, and whether these are at additional colleges does not give an indication of success.

Decisions will be sent by post in early January.



You should never be alone with a candidate outside of a public place.

Do not promise confidentiality whilst dealing with any disclosures – you may need to share information from a private chat if you are concerned.

Always have the contact of your college’s safeguarding lead with you, and get in touch as soon as you have any concerns.

If a concerning incident or conversation has occurred, as well as making the appropriate people aware, write down what has happened in as much detail as you can, as soon as you can after it has taken place.

Make sure you know your college emergency procedures

Be friendly, not a friend.



The next two weeks will be intense and so it is vital you look after your own wellbeing while working. You are part fo a TEAM and so collective care is a really important part of the support network for this job. Make sure you have a clear structure of communicating within the team to avoid conflict/stress during busy periods. Fill in your contact and resource page at the front of this booklet so you know where to get support.

Top tips

Don’t let things build up, report worries/concerns ASAP

When you are not on shift, take your break. It’s important that you look after your own health and wellbeing. Allow yourself time to recharge.

Team work and communication to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible

Don’t panic. Things inevitably will happen that are out of your control. Stay calm and professional to work through issue and avoid panicking candidates.

Should you experience harrassment from anyone during this period, know that it will not be tolerated by the university: