Interviews can be a nerve-racking experience. In a short space of time, you need to make a good impression and sell yourself to a potential future employer. Remember though, you have already impressed the employer with the information you included in the application you have made. To help you along your way, we have put together our top tips to help you prepare.
1. Do your homework
Find out as much as you can about the company you are applying to. Make the effort to understand their business and also identify the competition; research widely by reading newspapers, industry papers and articles, company strategies, social media and forecast documents.
Don’t forget to spend some time looking at the job description and the application you submitted. Revisiting the job description and person specification will ensure you understand the role you have applied for and will help you write some intelligent questions ready to ask the employer at interview.
When used alongside your knowledge of the job, reminding yourself of the information you have submitted to the employer, by revisiting the application you made, will help you identify any areas with the role where you may not have the required experience or skills. If these come up at an interview, you won’t be focusing on them but you should have created a plan of dealing with any challenging questions.
Devote some time to identifying specific examples of where your experience matches the employer’s requirements. Go through the job description with a highlighter pen and highlight any skills, experience or knowledge which is important to the role and decide on at least one specific example from your own experience that matches these.
When the employer asks you competency questions, such as ‘Give me an example of a time where you worked well under pressure’, then hopefully you will have a tangible example prepared. The delivery of your answer is also important, and you must clearly outline the situation, task, action and result of your example. This is widely known as the STAR method and ensures you give the employer the information they need to understand the situation and to see how competently you dealt with it. The focus of your answer should be on the actions (this should make up around 70% of your answer).
Similarly, use your research from step one to help you answer questions such as ‘Why do you want the job?’ and ‘Why do you want to work here?’. Try to answer with three distinct reasons, which are backed up, perhaps by linking them to your experience (where possible) or aspirations.
3. Preparing for the day
Interviews are usually run on fairly tight schedules, so not only does turning up late point at disastrous organisational skills, but it also cuts your own interview short. Allow lots of time in your schedule for delays and if you’re super early, locate the building where the interview will take place and then go and have a coffee.
Even if a company prides itself on an informal dress code, it always pays to look smart for an interview. The clichés are right, first impressions do count.
4. Tell the truth
Body language, shifty eye contact, there are usually several unintentional signs that you give off when you’re being a bit liberal with the truth. Don’t make things up, you will be found out eventually. Focus instead on the positives; what you have to offer.
5. Two way process
It’s easy to focus entirely on trying to impress at an interview and secure the job, but remember that an interview is a two way process. You also need to decide whether you want to work for them. Prior to coming to the interview, decide on a handful of questions you want to ask. These questions may be born from the research you have done into the employer, or may be related to asking for clarification on a specific part of the job description. Depending on your level of experience, you might want to ask about how the company is dealing with changes to legislation in their industry or similar, to start an interesting discussion. If you aren't convinced by the answers the employer gives, or you can’t see yourself fitting in, you can always walk away from the offer of the job.
Good luck with your upcoming interview!