Skip to main content

How To Prepare For An Interview

Written by: John Eccleston
Published on: 12 May 2014

There can’t be many people who enjoy job interviews. They can be stressful situations, made worse by the fact you have to perform well in order to get the job you want.

But while they’re not usually fun, there are ways to make them easier to cope with. And by preparing yourself thoroughly, you can increase your chances of performing well on the day.

Do your research

Before an interview, don’t just research the role you’ve applied for. By the time you turn up, you should know about the company, its history, what it does, its competitors - even details like where its various offices are and its headcount.

The internet is your friend. All of this information is at your fingertips, and a few hours’ research will give you a good picture of the organisation.

You should also find out what the format of the interview will be. Will you be interviewed by more than one person? Will it be a group interview? Are there any tests or exercises involved? By finding these out in advance you’ll avoid any nasty surprises on the day.

This research will also help you to put together some questions of your own, which are essential. It’s not enough to answer the interviewer’s questions successfully – you’ll be expected to ask your own.

As examples, you could ask whether the role is a new one or a replacement, how it fits in to another team and the wider organisation, what the company’s future plans are, or whether there’ll be any expectations of you that you don’t already know about. And if you can ask questions based specifically on things you’ve discovered through your pre-interview research, even better.

Also, dig around for any recent news or developments across the wider sector. You’ll impress by showing an awareness of industry issues and general current affairs.

Know your story

This might sound strange, but it’s just as important to do some research into yourself.

The interviewer will be asking questions about your skills and experience, as well as possibly asking some questions about your personality and preferences.

Review your CV and refresh yourself on the details of what you’ve done in your career so you can confidently answer any questions about yourself. If you’re well versed in your career history it will be much easier to link yourself to the needs of the role and the expectations of the organisation.

Think about the career path that has led you to the interview. The recruiter will want to see that you have a firm career plan in mind and that you haven’t simply stumbled from one role to the next. Consider how your previous roles have got you to this stage and be prepared to communicate that in the interview.

Prepare some answers

Like it or not, there’ll be some standard interview questions that you won’t be able to avoid.

You’re likely to be asked questions such as ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ and ‘why do you want to work here’, so take time beforehand to think about what your answers might be.

It pays to build a basic profile of yourself and to think about how your skills and experience tie in with the expectations of the recruiter. This will help you to deal with the type of generic questions you’ll hear across various interviews.

Don’t blow the basics

At the risk of stating the obvious – if you’re late for an interview you might as well not turn up at all (unless you have a seriously good reason).

An interview is your chance to make the best impression with the recruiter. If you can’t make it there on time, why should they expect you to turn up on time once you’ve got the job?

Plan your journey well, and give yourself plenty of breathing space beforehand. It’s better to have a spare half hour with a coffee to prepare yourself rather than turning up sweaty and red-faced after rushing to arrive on time – or even worse, being late.

Don’t turn up empty-handed – take paper, a pen (or two!), and a copy of your CV and cover letter to help jog your memory. If the recruiter has sent any materials in advance of the interview, take those along too.

And of course, turn your mobile phone off. It’s bad enough when a phone rings in the cinema – imagine how much worse it is during a job interview.

Look the part

Unless you’re applying for a role in a sector where casual dress is the norm (your research into the organisation and role should make it easy to determine whether this is the case), you should aim to dress smartly.

Business attire is a safe bet, and for men this includes a tie. Think ahead – you’ll need to look like the kind of person the recruiter will be happy to have representing their business.