How To Prepare For An Interview
So, like a relentless Duracell Bunny you have been sending your CV to every corner of the job market. No job advert, no HR Manager and no organisation has failed to receive your CV – and because you have turbo charged your job search with our earlier blog on how to convert more applications into interviews…you are in demand more than a Turkey at Christmas.
All well and good, you are potentially just an interview away from nailing your dream job. The only catch I hear you mutter is the actual interview.
You could be super confident when it comes to interviews and just want a couple of hints and tips, or at worst you are a nervous wreck and would rather run naked through the winner’s enclosure at Crufts covered in dog food than be at a job interviewed. Well, no matter which end of the spectrum you sit, just relax and put the dog food down as our guide can help you.
Let’s start with the old fashioned, tried and tested piece of advice that never fails. Research! Have a look at the job description, look at the company website….and then go a whole lot deeper. Yes, you need to know the basics but how about looking at them with Google and trying to identify if they are in the news, who are their clients, what are the challenges facing their business sector. Can you see them attending trade shows and what did they do there?
It is also considered acceptable to research those people that are interviewing you. I’m not just talking a LinkedIn scan, but again a detailed search engine approach to see if they are being quoted in the trade press or have been linked to projects previously undertaken.
Practice Your Interview Answers
Unless you have psychic powers, you will not know the exact questions you are going to be asked at interview. But – I bet you still have an incredibly good idea!! When it comes to skills or behaviour-based questions (e.g. tell me about a time you demonstrated good communication skills) you need to have a list of projects and achievements under your belt that you can use to tell a story with.
For example, I once went through the process of changing payroll facilities within my company and bringing in a new supplier. I can use that as a way to answer a question about good communications skills, a time when I made unpopular decisions, had to deal with conflict or simply an example of a project that required organisation and preparation.
Practice telling that story. Ask yourself a possible interview question and if needs be answer it out loud even while stood in the shower. And don’t just talk, think about your body language, what you are doing with your hands, how you are going to pause for dramatic effect.
If you practice answering 5 theoretical interview questions 500 times, you will interview better than someone who practiced answering 500 theoretical questions 5 times!
An interview is a performance, make no mistake. The more comfortable you are talking through highlights in your career, the stronger your performance and the better your interview.
Now, some interview questions are not going to allow you to tell a story! Things such as “why should we hire you”. You can still prepare for them, but in part experience is going to be what you rely on. If your mind goes blank, if you find you are a rabbit in the headlights you need to teach yourself to pause, take a breath and then go for it. Just remember what the job is and what they want from successful candidates and you’ll be fine.
What questions should you ask?
One thing which has changed a lot in the last decade is candidates are expected to ask more questions. I have actually had candidates fail an interview because they did not ask the client a question at interview.
You are nervous, you want a job, you are under pressure…probably the first thing to fail is your memory especially if you are nervous at interviews. So, do not be scared to write the questions down before the interview. There is nothing wrong if the interviewer asks if you have any questions for you to say “yes, in fact I wrote them down so I wouldn’t miss anything”. It shows you have prepared for the interview.
Ask questions about the role, about the training, the company culture, ask questions about what is important to you. One word of warning on questions about progression….you are being interviewed for role ‘A’, some interviewers can be upset if you show more interest in progression to role ‘B’.
No stone need be left unturned if you feel brave enough. You can ask about a company’s rating on Glassdoor and what they attribute that to and how they hope to improve or maintain it? What is it about the interviewer’s job that makes them cling to the duvet in the morning? In a professional sense nothing is off limits and the more intelligent your questions, the more you are showing you are interested in the role and will be impressing the interviewer.
Do not go overboard though…like anything in life too much of anything (including questions at interview) is not a good thing.
Where are you going, who are you meeting and what are you wearing? I have met plenty of candidates at interview that have not prepared those basic details.
It is common sense to look at your journey and figure out where you are going. Plan the journey and leave at least 30 minutes spare so any delays do not mean you are late.
Make sure you know the name of the person you are meeting and you have a contact telephone number. Sometimes trains simply do not work or traffic jams happen out of nowhere. Put yourself in the position that you can communicate professionally if the unexpected does happen.
What are you wearing for interview? I mean you know right?…you ironed, dry cleaned (if needed) and polished the various components of that outfit at least the night before your interview. You are not one of those chancers who just opened the wardrobe to see what hadn’t fallen on the floor – your career is more important than that – right?
This is the most important aspect of your interview preparation, especially if you are nervous. I apologise now that this is the last section on this blog – but logic dictates you need to have thought about the above before you reach this section.
When you walk into your interview you need to be calm, quietly confident, ready to give the interview performance of your life. You can try just walking around the block a couple of times, listened to some music or just having a couple of quiet moments to yourself to enter the interview zone – which is all good. Sometime though you need to work harder at the mental side of things.
You may have heard of something called the self-fulfilling prophecy? Basically, it is a psychological technique where you make the future happen because you have held onto a vision of what is going to happen. You can have a negative self-fulfilling prophecy “this interview will be a nightmare; I won’t get the job” or you can have a positive self-fulfilling prophecy “this interview is going to be brilliant and I will be offered the job”. You choose your attitude. Are you about to be positive or negative?
Of course, positive. So, you can start working on this belief system days before your interview. Imagine yourself waxing lyrical as you answer the interview questions, you see the interviewers leaning forward in their chairs, smiling and hanging on your every word. You own the entire interview! You are rehearsing how your interview will go.
I have no doubt if you search the internet there will be countless interview guides available. They all offer tips and insights, and in many senses they all cover some common ground as we have done. If you are really nervous about interviews, I suggest searching around and educating yourself about interviews from a variety of sources. Literally, the more you read the more second nature interviews and interview preparation become.
And remember, we have all had awful interviews! You are allowed to have some bad ones, just dust yourself down, do not be tough on yourself and try and learn from the experience. An interview is a performance, it is a set of behaviours that you bring together, it really is something you can learn and improve on.
About the Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency with offices in Aldershot and Brighton that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.