How to prepare for an interview
Congratulations! You’ve sent off your CV (see our blog on How to write your CV) and now you’ve had a call or email inviting you for a job interview. But once the initial excitement has died down, you need to think about how to prepare for your interview.
Here are some tips for preparing for an interview – from what to say to how to dress.
1. Do your research
Spend some time on the company’s website and make sure you understand what it does and the company profile.
For example, is it a small company with one office or a large one with sites across the UK, which could mean the potential for travel or promotion? Is it family run? Does it have particular ethical concerns – for example, an organic food company or a not-for-profit organisation?
Find out as much as you can about the job you have applied for. Take another look at the job specification and see what particular skills they are looking for. Make some notes about how your own skills are relevant to the job requirements, with concrete, practical examples.
Base your approach on what you can offer the company rather than what it can offer you.
2. Question time
Think about some of the questions you might be asked and how you could answer them.
Common interview questions include:
Why should we hire you?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why do you want this job?
Why did you leave your last job?
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Ask a tutor, a family member or a friend to conduct a mock interview with you and to give you honest feedback about how you can improve your answers.
Prepare some questions of your own to ask at the end of the interview.
3. Location, location, location
Check that you know where the interview is being held – and how to get there. Plan your route and mode of transport. Add in some contingency time in case you get delayed, especially if you are relying on public transport. You can always wait in a café if you arrive too early.
The last thing you want is to turn up late. Not only will it send the wrong signals to your potential employers but it will leave you feeling flustered and unprepared for your interview.
4. Dress for success
Think carefully about what you’re going to wear and make sure it’s washed and ready in advance of the interview. Don’t start trying on outfits the morning of the interview.
Make sure you dress appropriately for the job. For many job interviews, a suit or a smart outfit such as a dress and jacket or trousers and a shirt are the best option. Exceptions tend to be creative industries, where they may like to see some personality in the way you dress, but remember they will still expect you to be smarter in an interview than you would be around the office once you got the job.
A new outfit and a hair cut can also give you more confidence for your job interview, although it’s probably best not to try out a radical new hairstyle the day before you go for an interview.
5. Combat the nerves
We all get nervous at times, and a job interview can be extremely nerve wracking, especially if there is a lot riding on the outcome.
Try out some breathing exercises and use them before you go into the interview. Some people use an object or technique to ‘ground’ themselves, for example, touching your watch or putting your thumb and middle finger together each time you feel stressed.
Practice speaking in front of a mirror, keeping your head up and looking straight ahead, as well as giving a firm handshake and looking the other person in the eye at the same time.
Remember that the interviewer is human too! At some point they will have been a junior member of staff and will have sat on the other side of the desk at job interviews.
6. Think positive
If you decide in advance that you are not going to get the job, then you probably won’t.
A positive attitude is essential for interview success. It will help you stay calm and answer questions clearly and will be more attractive to your potential employer than a candidate who turns up with their head lowered and mumbles their answers.
Don’t focus on the negatives – for example, worrying what they’ll think about time you’ve spent out of work or fixating on a bad experience you had at a previous workplace. Remind yourself that of all the CVs they received, yours is one of the few that stood out enough for them to offer you an interview.
Go to bed early the night before the interview so that you feel rested the next day. Just before you go into the interview building, find a quiet place where you can laugh out loud – it will release tension and you’ll go in feeling positive and with a smile on your face.
Whether it’s a much needed job after some time out of work, your first step on the career ladder, or your dream job, it’s up to you to make the most of this interview opportunity.
A little preparation and a positive attitude will definitely help you on your road to success, but don’t get disheartened if you don’t get the job this time around – it’s all good experience for the next time. Good luck and happy job hunting!