How to Prepare for an Interview
Having used our CV Tips to secure yourself an interview, it’s now time to start preparing to impress your prospective employer face-to-face.
An interview shouldn’t be feared, it is a great opportunity for you to make sure you get the job you desire. Whilst you have no opportunity to overcome objections on a CV, when face-to-face with an employer you are given the chance to shine.
Read our CV tips to learn how you can come out of every interview knowing you gave it your best.
Telephone interviews are an increasingly common stage of the interview process. They are convenient for both employer and candidate and give you the opportunity to find out more without committing to the travel time or expense of a face-to-face.
It goes without saying that you should ensure you are in a quiet place without any distraction. We also recommend you stand when taking the call. Standing is proven to enable people to think quicker (hence the term ‘thinking on his feet’), your voice is also projected more clearly.
It’s important to smile. Smiling can be heard through the phone and will make a huge difference to the sound of your voice and the enthusiasm you convey.
Perhaps the most important part of any telephone interview is listening. There are no verbal clues to read hear so all communication is verbal, make sure you listen carefully and don’t be frightened to seek clarification should you require it.
Speak slowly and naturally throughout the call and remember to thank the interviewer for their time. If you don’t have them already, ask for contact details and follow up with a thank you email.
They say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. You have been given the opportunity; it is now time to get prepared.
Beyond ensuring you are totally comfortable discussing any details about your CV and your working history, you should make sure you are fully prepared for the interview from a logistics perspective.
You need to:
- Confirm the time, date and location
- Know the interviewers name
- Familiarise yourself with the journey
- Research the company’s background
Take particular care if you expect travel disruption or delays. It’s OK to arrive early, but don’t make yourself known any earlier than 10 minutes prior to your appointment. If necessary take a walk to clear your head or gather your thoughts at a coffee shop.
This will vary from company to company, it’s best to ascertain prior to your interview what you will be expected to wear. The general rule of thumb is to dress to match your environment and interviewer. If in doubt, dress up rather than down.
Don’t forget that an interview is not a one-way street. Whilst it feels like you’re the one on the spot, a successful interview will involve you asking questions too. Remember, this is a chance for you to get to know more about the company as well. Interviewers will expect you to ask intelligent questions.
Have a list ready prior to the interview, but take opportunities to ask questions naturally as they arise in conversation if possible. Example questions might include:
- Will I be working independently or as a team member?
- What are the common characteristics of employees who excel in this position?
- When and how is an employee’s performance evaluated?
- What made you join the company?
- What do you think would be my greatest challenge in this position?
If one of your pre-planned questions has already been answered during the course of the interview make sure to mentally cross it off your list.
Of course you should also be well prepared for the typical questions you can expect to be asked. There will always be the odd question you can’t possibly prepare for, but the majority of what you are asked can be preempted.
For instance, you can reasonably expect to be asked many questions surrounding your current role, your responsibilities, your achievements and why you are looking for a change. Typical questions include:
- Explain your current role to me
- What skills can you bring to our organisation?
- Why are you looking to leave your current role?
- What are your key strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should I hire you?
When asked about your current employers don’t be drawn on criticising them. However bad the situation may be in reality you must never bad mouth a former employer during an interview.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming people will clearly see your merits; you have to make an effort to market yourself. You are competing against other candidates and you have to ensure you stand out.
The best way to do this is to provide evidence of situations where your skills and experience have provided tangible business results. Demonstrate that you can replicate these results for your prospective employer. Highlight the value of hiring you as an employee. Think of yourself as an investment and demonstrate the return they will make on bringing you into the team.
If the interviewer starts asking tough questions don’t be put off. This usually means they are interested in you and are delving deeper to find out more. If you notice this during an interview use it as a confidence boost.
How you communicate is nearly as important as what you say. Speaking clearly is paramount; you don’t want to be misunderstood because of a mumble. If possible perform some simple vocal cord exercises prior to the interview, such as on the journey there.
Practice typical interview answers with a friend to get a feel for pacing. When in the interview be sure to sit up straight, smile and maintain eye contact. Do your best to maintain any nervous habits. If you’re prone to nerves decline a glass of water, raising it to your mouth will only highlight your shaky hand.
Don’t be afraid of short pauses, it’s OK to give yourself a few seconds to formulate an answer and your interviewer time to digest it. Think about conversation patterns in everyday discussion, they don’t rattle back and forth like a Ping-Pong match, maintain a regular flow and pace.
When greeting your interviewer do so with a firm, but not too strong, handshake and make eye contact. If you’re already seated when they enter the room stand to greet them.
During the interview be mindful of your posture and correct it if you find yourself slipping into a slouched position. Also take a note of the body language of your interviewer; if possible mimic his movements occasionally to demonstrate you are at ease together.
Remember to smile! Even a nervous smile is better than no smile at all.
Attributes Employers Look for in Interviews
An employer will be looking for the following attributes during an interview:
- Communication Skills
- Self Organisation
- Willingness to Work Hard
- Professional Appearance
Traits to Avoid During Interviews
- Poor Appearance
- Poor Communication Skills
- Lack of Confidence
- Negative Attitudes
- Abrupt Replies
- High-Pressure Selling
Interview Do’s & Don’ts
- Plan to arrive a few minutes early
- Ask for directions when making arrangements for the interview
- Greet the employer by his/her surname (if you are sure you can say it correctly) and shake hands firmly
- Dress and act conservatively and businesslike
- Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting
- Act alert and interested
- Show a passion and determination for the job
- Bring spare paper and digital copies of your CV
- Appear overly nervous
- Chew gum
- Cross your arms during an interview
- Become preoccupied with taking notes
- Give yes or no answers. Elaborate whenever possible. However, don’t waffle, lie or imply you are a miracle worker
- Ask yes or no questions. Open questions encourage conversation
- Ramble in your answers. Keep to 3 or 4 clear points and a 1 to 2 minute maximum
The second interview stage can be more thorough than the first. It might involve you meeting with a variety of different individuals from your prospective employer, including fellow colleagues and HR managers.
You may also be required to perform competency based interviews or psychometric testing.
The important thing to remember with second interviews is to take nothing for granted. Prepare just as thoroughly as you did for your first interview. If interviewing within a short time frame from your first interview we recommend wearing a different suit, or at least alternate your shirt and tie colour.
Be prepared to answer some tough questions. If there were any weakness from your first interview expect to have to cover them again.
At this stage it is worth considering how you would react if offered the job on the spot. Make sure you are clear on your salary expectations, notice period and other particulars should this be asked of you.
Most importantly, try and remain relaxed and be yourself. You have been invited back for a second interview for a reason so the employer is clearly interested. Remain calm, prepare thoroughly and the job could be yours.
After the Interview
Before you leave don’t be frightened to express confidence and an interest in the job. If this is your first interview, thank the interviewer for their time and ask for their contact details if you don’t already have them – send a thank you email and include a brief note of interest.
When leaving a final interview, there is no shame in stating your interest in the job and asking for an initial opinion, or at the very least when you can expect to hear feedback. Following up with a thank you email is again advised as a polite gesture and means of staying front of mind.
Now you know how to prepare for your interviews why not find out about the different Types of Employment Interviews you can expect to face.