When it comes to sailing through a job interview, preparation is always key - whether you're a first-time job hunter or a seasoned veteran. Regardless of the industry you’re in, interview prep for any role should have a few key items on your to-do list, such as doing your homework on the company, practicing answers to difficult questions, building your confidence, and even planning your interview outfit.
We’ve put together an interview preparation checklist so that you don’t miss out any of the essentials when preparing for the big day.
Research the company
Doing some research on the company is a must before for any type of job interview-whether it's face-to-face or by phone, video, or through assessment centres. Start by visiting the company’s website and social media profiles, then do some online research to find news articles and press releases about the business. You may find out about key clients and partnerships, competitors, business mergers and acquisitions, or expansion into new markets.
Your research should give you a better understanding of the company's values and recent achievements, whereas company newsletters and information on their social channels can give you an insight into the culture and their customer brand. Don’t forget to check out Glassdoor for reviews by previous and current employees to get an idea of what it’s really like to work there.
Besides the company itself, brush up on the wider industry –the current climate, competitors, trends, challenges, and forecasts.
Thoroughly doing your homework on the company and the industry should help to boost your credibility and confidence ahead of the interview. You’ll be able to demonstrate a good level of knowledge to the employer or recruiter, as well as showing them how interested and invested you are in a career there.
Go through the job description and research the role
As part of your interview preparation, take the time to go through every inch of the job description and person specification, matching your skills and experience to what they’re looking for. You should prepare to answer questions about your reasons for applying, and why you’re qualified for the job. If it’s a popular and well-established role, why not research similar positions at different companies, to get a better understanding of the day-to-day activities and responsibilities you can expect?
Stock up on examples for competency-based questions
For almost all job interviews, you should expect to be answer a series of competency-based questions. The employer or recruiter will ask you to describe a real-life instance where you demonstrated a particular skill or behaviour. The assumption is that past behaviour is the best way to assess a candidate's potential future performance.
Think about the key qualities, experience and skills mentioned in the job description, and plan out 5-10 real-life examples that you can share in the interview. Not sure where to start? The competencies will depend on the exact role you’re going for, but employers often look for the following key skills in candidates:
- Problem solving
- Decision-making skills
- Conflict resolution
- Commercial awareness
The STAR model is the best way to answer these questions in an interview. STAR stands for:
- Situation: Set the scene and context.
- Task: Define the challenge.
- Action: Explain what steps were taken to overcome the challenge and why.
- Result: Highlight the positive outcome and how your personal action made an impact. Mention the lessons learned and skills gained from the experience.
Prepare your examples using STAR and practice your answers until they don’t feel too rehearsed. This is your chance to show why you’re great for the role, so the time spent preparing for the interview will be worth it!
Prepare for Interview Questions
While it’s not possible to prepare for absolutely every interview question, there are some ever-popular questions that have a good chance of coming up in your interview. Have a think about how you’d respond to these:
- "Tell me about yourself."
- "Why do you want to move on from your current role?" or "Why are you leaving your current job?"
- "Why do you want to work for this company?"
- "What would you say are your key strengths?"
- "What would you describe as your main weaknesses?"
Other common questions:
- "What interests you about this role?"
- "What are your goals for the future?"
- "Can you tell me about a challenging work situation and how you overcame it?"
- "What are your salary expectations?"
Extra interview tips
- Make sure you feel fresh and alert.
Although pre-interview nerves can play havoc with your rest, try to make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the interview, and top up your energy levels on the day with a healthy breakfast. Avoid sugary food and drinks, as these don’t improve mood or fatigue.
- Suit up for confidence.
Wear something smart and professional for your interview –as a guide, aim to dress one level above your usual work wear.
- Be punctual and check your route.
Proper planning will help you arrive on time for the interview and eliminate the stress of running for a train or fighting for a taxi! Check and double-check the interview location and your best route to get there. Arrive 5-10 minutes before your interview time -no earlier, and never be late. If you’re getting there by car, it’s a good idea to check with your recruiter or the company about parking.
- Respond clearly and concisely.
Listen carefully, and don't speak too quickly. Pause before answering, especially when asked difficult questions–it’s better to take a moment to compose your answer rather than giving a rushed response.
- Mind your body language.
Don’t slouch or lean on the desk–it doesn’t shout ‘I’m excited to be here!’ and can give the impression you’re uninterested. Try to avoid fidgeting and fiddling with things like your jewellery or pen. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and look them in the eye. It’s easy to forget when you have a lot to think about, but smile, and maintain a good level of eye contact with your interviewer/s throughout the interview.
- Be friendly to the Receptionist - they may be asked for their opinion on you.
- Accept a drink if it’s offered.
Even if you’re not thirsty, a glass of water is a good option in case you get a dry mouth and having a sip of your drink can buy you time when planning how to answer a question.
- Along with a notepad and pen, take a copy of your CV with you.
Make notes if you want to expand on a particular part of your CV during the interview.
- Take in your surroundings.
Remember that part of the reason you’re there is to assess the company and see if you want to work there. They will want to impress you too. Think about this as you walk in and around –could you see yourself working here? The role and company have to be right for you too.
- Plan how you’ll close the interview.
If you want the role, tell them you are interested and why. Ask if there are any reasons they don’t see you being suitable for the role, so you have an opportunity to overcome their objections(which could be minor or a misunderstanding). Ask when you can expect to hear back.
- Plan some questions for your interviewers.
It’s sometimes difficult to think of a question when asked at the end if you have any, and your questions might have already been answered. If that happens, you could say that all of your questions have been answered but that you thought A, B & C were really interesting.
- Be yourself!
This might sound obvious, but the interviewer is there to meet you, and they want to get an idea of how you’ll fit into their team and get along with your colleagues. Although interviews aren’t the most natural setting, try to be yourself and show off your winning personality. You’ve got this!
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