How to prepare for an interview

Are you preparing for an interview? Are you looking forward to actually getting the job?
Here are a few tips to help you out.

Prepare for an interviewHow to Prepare for an interview

Getting Started

Here is some information that may help you to successfully overcome the hurdles of attending an interview. Some of them you may find obvious, but sometimes we can forget the most obvious things!
This guide is broken down into four sections:

  1. Before the interview
  2. On the day of the interview
  3. The interview itself (including practice interview quiz)
  4. Potential questions for you to ask

Before the Interview

Preparation for an interview is an absolutely key process and will often be the difference between success and failure for applicants. Good preparation not only gives you an idea of what to expect but it will give you the all important confidence, which can carry you through.
So what specific preparation should you carry out?
Company Research:
Interviewers will expect you to have a good grasp of what the company does, how big it is, how it is divided up and who it’s main competitors are. With these facts at your command you will be able to hold a meaningful conversation about the company and put other company information into context.
Role Research:
You need to make sure you have fully understood the job description and know how it fits in to the overall company structure. If you have any queries about it then try to raise them before the interview or be prepared to bring them up as you go along.
Ask yourself what the key skills are that the job requires and think of examples of occasions when you have demonstrated those skills.
Interview Research:
Make sure you find out what format the interview will take. Often they can be combinations of standard interviews and role-specific tests (such as role plays or psychometric questionnaires). The fewer surprises on the day, the better.
Personal Appraisal:
You can never predict every question that you will encounter, so approach the interview with an inventory of important points.
Make a list of the points about yourself that you want the interviewer to know. For example, if you were to apply for a job as a Sales Representative, you might want to list the products you have sold before, types of customers (by industry, age, etc.), languages spoken, personal experience in that industry and related knowledge (perhaps from your academic program).
Each question will be an opportunity to provide some of this information to the interviewer.

On the day of the Interview

Take special care to dress appropriately – most of the time smart business dress will be appropriate. In some rare occasions, smart casual may be appropriate but ensure you err on the side of smartness.
Make sure you are punctual – try to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. If you are going to be late for any reason then make sure you inform the interviewer as early as possible.

The Interview itself

Some important points to remember:

  • Don’t assume anything. You will be evaluated on your answers, not your CV. Therefore, ensure you incorporate the relevant information from your CV in your answers.
  • Pause a couple of seconds before you respond to each question, even if you know exactly what you want to say. Take this time to quickly plan your answer, this helps to avoid misunderstandings and produces much more concise answers.
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. This is expected and is preferable to providing an unsuitable answer.
  • If you need time to collect your thoughts – take it. When people are nervous they tend either to “draw a blank” or to babble. It is better to think for a few moments and make sure that your answer is doing you justice and that there is a point to what you are saying.
  • Always expand. Never answer a question with a “yes” or “no.”
  • The interview is an opportunity for you to sell yourself. Don’t be afraid to ‘blow your own trumpet’. As long as you can back up what you are saying with examples which demonstrate that what you are saying is true, you are not bragging. Third party observations can also be mentioned. For example, “My last employer told me that I was promoted because of how I handled conflicts with clients.”
  • Be very positive. Don’t complain about anything – from your former employer to the weather – and don’t apologise for experience that you don’t have. Just sell what you do have and let the employer decide if you have what he/she is looking for. Also, avoid negative words. For example, you would not say “I have a little experience…,” you would say “I have experience…”
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat important points. In fact, it is a good idea to do this.
  • In terms of your manner and body language, try to ensure the following – be confident, positive and look directly at the interviewer when you talk and listen, speak clearly, be enthusiastic and express a keen interest in the position, keep to the point and be concise and always be honest.

Interviews generally follow a set pattern. The interviewer will:-

  • Tell you about the company and the job.
  • Ask you questions to assess your abilities, personality and motivation.
  • Ask if you have any questions.
  • Inform you of the next stage of the process and when a final decision will be made.

The most important thing to remember is that the interview is a two way process. You are there to find out information about them as much as they are there to find out about you. This is your chance to find out information that isn’t in the job description and this can help you make an informed decision about whether you definitely want the job.
To help you succeed at interview we have prepared a random interview question generator, which displays questions selected from a list of over a hundred. You can use this to try to think about how you might answer the questions in an interview situation.

Potential questions for you to ask

  • Can you tell me more about the company?
  • Can you describe my area of responsibility?
  • Is this post a new or existing one?
  • What are the promotion prospects?
  • Is there a clearly defined career path?
  • Do you run any training schemes?
  • What type of clients do you deal with?
  • Will you be holding second interviews?
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