How to prepare for your interview
The single-most effective thing you can do to enhance your likelihood of success at interview, is to prepare fully and well. It will improve your ability to answer questions appropriately, confidently and make a good impression.
Outlined below are interview techniques showing you what type of preparation to undertake in order to help you shine on the day.
From a practical point of view, it is important to be clear about what to expect on the day. So check the following with the employer or agency:
1. The interview timetable:
• What type of interview it is likely to be (e.g. one to one, panel)?
• How long the interview is likely to be and whether there will be subsequent interviews?
• Will you be shown around the department, meet potential colleagues etc.?
• Will there be a test involved?
• Will there be further interviews?
2. Who will be interviewing you on the day?
• Find out their names and job title. You can even see if they are on LinkedIn (www.linkedIn.com) where you may be able to read their business profile and see their photo
• If it’s an interview panel, then each member is likely to bring a slightly different perspective. Think about what this is likely to be and how you can address these in your answers e.g. an Operational Manager may have a different perspective from a Manager from a Head Office Function like Finance
3. Location and travel arrangements
• Double-check location, travel times etc to ensure that you arrive in plenty of time
• Prepare two clean copies of your CV to take with you, one for you and one just in case they have the wrong CV for you (it does happen)
• You may be asked to bring in your passport, national insurance details, permit rights, qualifications etc so make sure that you have sorted these out well in advance rather than having a last minute panic
• Bring with you a copy of the advert, job description, any research notes etc and collect all of this information together in a smart folder
Research the Company
It is essential that you research the company before you go for the interview. This will help you:
• Talk more knowledgably about why you think you are a good fit for the company
• Demonstrate your keen interest and enthusiasm for the job
• Show professionalism and diligence
Most candidates will have only checked out the company’s website. You should also look at:
• Corporate literature e.g. annual reports, sales brochures
• Internet research for market intelligence, on-line journals
• Informal research by talking to people who know the company to find out more about the company’s way of working
Your research should cover the following areas:
• Statistics – company size, turnover, market share, key people, etc
• Key products and services
• Target customer
• Who are its competitors and how do they compare?
• What does the company see as its competitive edge?
• How does it market itself?
• What are the likely challenges and opportunities ahead?
• What are the projected trends in its market?
• What it’s like to work there?
Make notes of your findings so that you can impress at the interview by:
• Using relevant facts and figures within your answers
• Showing you understand the organisation’s priorities and challenges
Research the Job
You should have the job advert, a job description and often a copy of the selection criteria they are using to assess candidates. If you haven’t got these, then it’s worth asking if they’re available as they may just have forgotten to give it to you.
If there is an opportunity to talk to the relevant manager before the interview, then always take advantage of this. You can then find out more about how the manager sees the role, while having an early opportunity to sell yourself as an ideal candidate.
Go through all of the job details and consider your wider research to identify the key things they will be looking for at interview.
Prepare answers that show you meet their requirements. Wherever possible use real-life examples to illustrate your relevant skills and experience in action. Remember that regardless of the role, employers are always most interested in hearing about how you have added value to a company e.g.
• Increased profitability
• Reduced costs
• Improved quality
• Problems solved
• Built/re-built relationships
• Identified opportunities
• Generated business
• Greater efficiency
However, in your answers, be careful not to get bogged down in providing too much detail. Rehearse your answers out loud and pare them to the minimum, usually 2-3 sentences. They will ask for more information if they need it
Where you think they may be looking for something that you don’t have, then don’t ignore it and hope for the best. Be proactive in thinking about how you might close the gap or perhaps minimise its importance e.g.
• Start reading up now on the area in question
• Investigate courses that could help you bridge the gap quickly
• Arrange relevant work experience
• Identify transferable or complementary skills e.g. while you may not be familiar with a particular database, you may have used other similar ones in the past
It is very difficult to be objective about yourself and know whether your interview preparation is likely to hit the spot in terms of its content and delivery.
Wherever possible, test it out with someone who can give you honest and constructive feedback. This may be a career coach who can help you with all aspects of the interview process or a trusted friend or colleague.
The interview is a win or lose situation with no prizes for coming second. So if this is a job you want, then do everything you can to maximise your chances by thorough preparation, and a dress rehearsal to obtain good quality feedback before the big day.
• Know what to expect on the day e.g. interview format
• Prepare your paperwork in advance
• Research the company
• Prepare answers with examples
• Get feedback from others
Corinne Mills is Managing Director of the UK’s leading career management company Personal Career Management and author of the UK’s no. 1 bestselling CV book “You’re Hired – How to write a brilliant CV”. You may like to read Corinne’s CV Tips featured on our website.
Personal Career Management provide a free introductory meeting to find out how career coaching can help you with your particular career issue.