How to Prepare for an Interview

Snappy CV? Check. Killer cover letter? Check. Now it’s time to walk the talk in the interview stage. We’ve compiled the definitive guide for job interview prep to help you land your dream job.

On first thoughts, a job interview can seem scary. You’re in for an hour of non-stop questioning, after all. But don’t let that phase you: they’re investing time to meet with you, meaning you’ve done something right!

But in order to succeed in the job interview stage, you need to prepare for each and every scenario, whether it’s a phone, group or face-to-face interview. With enough preparation, a job interview should go to plan, and you’ll be confident you did the best job that you could.

Preparing for different types of interview

An interview doesn’t necessarily have to be face to face these days. There are multiple formats – from phone and Skype interviews, to the group interview – that give an employer an idea of how you’re likely to fare in the business. However, every type of interview requires a different form of preparation, so make sure you’re clued up on what the format is likely to be so you can give it your all.

  • Telephone interview: Telephone interviews are usually a screening process before you get to the face-to-face stage. You’re likely to be interviewed by a member of the HR or recruitment team, to talk through your CV and experience in more detail, ensuring you’re as skilled as you say you are. You should prepare thoroughly for this, as all preparation will be useful for the face to face stage. Prepare your elevator pitch, think of your successes at previous roles, and get your answers together for these most popular interview questions, too. And don’t forget to prepare your ‘call zone’ in advance – you don’t want to find yourself in a noisy environment with no signal!

You can read our in-depth guide to telephone interviews here.

  • Face-to-face interview: This follows the same procedure as a telephone interview, but you’ll likely need to go into a lot more depth. You’ll need to explain why you’re the best candidate for the role, with hard evidence of previous projects where you’ve gone above and beyond. As well as preparing your evidence, you need to think about why you want to make your next step and why at this company. This all requires research of the company and the job spec, and a snoop of your interviewer online, too!

You can find even more top interview tips here.

  • Skype interview: A Skype interview is a fusion of a telephone and a face-to-face interview, and it’s up to you to read the situation. If it’s a screening call, prepare for it in the same way you would a phone interview (but make sure you look the part). If you’re interviewing for an international role, or the interviewer is based abroad, you should prepare as you would a face-to-face. Make sure your internet connection is good, and you’ve tested out your Skype details – nothing sets a job interview off to a poor start like technical glitches!
  • Group interview: Do not fear – the group interview isn’t as scary as it sounds! There’s an art to the group interview, however; make sure you have a voice, but make sure you don’t talk over others. It’s about showing that you would be a good addition to a team, and that you listen to and respect your peers, too. Prepare your answer to any potential ice breaker questions, as you can guarantee there’ll be one. This might be to say one interesting fact about yourself, what your top talent is, or even naming your most embarrassing moment. It’s also a good idea to think of some questions to ask at the end of the group interview – this will set you apart from the competition.
How to prepare for a job interview

Image: Adobe Stock

Preparing for the interview

There’s no better way to prepare for an interview than to research. And once you’re armed with your findings, you need to think about how and why you’d be a perfect fit for the role.

We’ve rounded up our top research tips below.

  • Research the job: First things first, take a look at the job specification and make sure you know it inside out. Do you need analytical skills, or to demonstrative creativity? Will you be required to drive your own workload a lot of the time, or will you be working as part of a team? Are presentations a key part of the role, or do you need to have management skills?

Once you know what the job entails, you need to think about how your skills match the required experience, and keep a note of it. If you’ve managed a team to deliver a successful project – write down what the results were. If you took initiative on a creative project and a client loved it, include it in your portfolio. Maybe you’ve delivered successful presentations to win new business – it all counts!

To help you identify your key achievements, we’ve put together our top tips here.

  • Research the company: Next up, you need to gather as much knowledge as you can about the company – your interviewer is bound to ask you why you want to work there.

Check out the employer’s website and social media pages. Do they have particular charitable initiatives, or sports teams you would like to get involved in? Have you seen them in the news, commenting on industry topics? Are there particular projects or campaigns you like that they are directly behind?

Going to an interview with this information in mind will help demonstrate your eagerness to join the company. You want them to feel like you’re only applying with them. You don’t just want a job. You want a job there.

  • Research your interviewer: If you know who your interviewer is going to be, make sure you check them out online, too! This is where you use LinkedIn to your advantage, to find out their position within the company, and their area of expertise, so that you know what to expect.

You may even find out about their personal interests, or where they study, helping you to steer the conversation and break the ice.

  • Prepare your answers: Now you’re armed with your knowledge, you need to think about the interview questions they are likely to ask you, and prepare answers that include your findings.

If it’s a competency based question, using the STAR technique can help you to lay out your key achievements. Lay out the situation you were facing, the task you had to do, the action you took and what the result was. This will help you formulate answers clearly and concisely, and prove why you are relevant to the role.

  • Situation: Start by outlining the situation you were in.
  • Task: Talk about the task at hand. What was required of you?
  • Action: What did you do? What action/s did you take and why?
  • Result: Summarise the results of your actions.
  • Address your weaknesses: While job interviews are largely an opportunity for you to focus on the positives, you might be asked to state your biggest weakness, so make sure you’ve an answer prepared. The key is to turn this into a positive, recognise that you are working on it, whilst showing your human side – saying you’re a perfectionist isn’t going to do you any favours!

For example, you may cope well under pressure, but you might come across as bossy in those situations, and are improving your ability to communicate in stressful environments. Or, you may have a tendency to take on a bigger workload than you can handle, but you are improving your ability to manage and delegate tasks to others.

How to prepare for a job interview

Image: Adobe Stock

Making a good impression

Prepare your questions: The interviewer will likely ask if you have any questions for them, so make sure you’ve got some in the bank! We’ve put together six of the best questions to ask in an interview here.

Plan your outfit: The first thing an interviewer will notice is how aptly you’re dressed for the occasion. If you’re interviewing at a corporate company, you don’t want to head there in jeans. But if you’re meeting the owner of a trendy startup for coffee, a suit might be a little over the top!

Find out what to wear to an interview, here.

Plan your route: No matter how much you prepare, if you show up late, your interviewer is not going to be impressed! If you’re using public transport, map out your route, check out the timetable and make sure you account for any track closures or route diversions on the day. If you’re driving in, ask the HR team if there’s parking space, so you can make different arrangements if needed.

On the day and during the interview: On the day itself, it’s time to give it your all! If you know you’re going to be nervous, try some relaxation techniques in the morning, try meditating, or go for a run to clear your head.

On your way into the interview, go over your elevator pitch, as well as potential interview questions and answers, to keep them fresh in your memory.

Think about your non-verbal communication too. Shake their hand, smile and keep eye contact. It’s all about confidence! You can find more top tips here.

Following up after the interview

Once the interview’s done and dusted, make a note of all the questions you were asked, what you thought went well, and how you could have improved. This will be useful if you’re invited to a second interview, or if you start out afresh at a new company.

Remember to follow up on email and thank the interviewer for their time, too. It’s all in the detail.

If you’re preparing for your first interview, good luck! With enough practise, you’ll no doubt get invited to a second. You can find our top tips for the second-stage interview here, to take you one step closer to that all-important job.

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