Interviews are nerve-racking, unnatural and infrequent experiences. As a result, the thought of having to prepare for an interview can send even the coolest customer into a flap.
We aren’t ourselves when we panic. We freeze and spend our time pre-interview worrying about having to talk about ourselves as opposed to preparing properly. As the adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
There are so many things to think about, and since you only have one shot to convince a complete stranger that you’re the most employable person they will meet that day, anxiety is understandable, but simple to rectify. All it takes is breaking down the tasks into manageable chunks and dealing with each in turn.
Thankfully for those of you currently mid-flap, we’ve done all the hard planning work for you. Follow our simple guide to make preparing for your next interview a doddle.
The ideal place to start is to thoroughly research the employer and the industry - this will give you the perfect background you’ll need.
Begin with a good dig into the depths of the business’ website. Pay particular attention to its history, service offering, and recent news. The language and images used will give you a helpful steer on the company’s mission and values.
Next, immerse yourself in their social media feeds to create a better view of the organisation’s culture. If you’re careful to avoid drowning yourself in information, when done properly, this important step will give you great context for the interview.
As described in our CV guide, employers are mainly concerned with how you will benefit their organisation. Their questions may be phrased in a way that makes it appear they are trying to find out more about you and your experience, but try not to forget that this isn’t just friendly social interest - they are interested in how your personality and experience can benefit their business. Your research will allow you to focus your answers on the work they do and how you have the specific skills to help them grow.
It’s also a good idea to swot up on the wider industry too - especially helpful if you’re looking to move into a completely new area. Industry websites, magazines, and newsletters are good places to find information on the latest news and developments in that particular sector. These print and digital publications will help you to identify who your potential employers are and give greater clarity to their position in the marketplace.
Now you are armed with all the necessary information regarding your potential employer and its marketplace, it’s time to think about you. During the course of an interview, the interviewer will always ask a series of pointed questions regarding your experience, claims made in your application, and how both apply to the job role specified. As with the point above, you cannot afford to go into an interview situation hoping to wing it. You need to be fully prepared and able to answer anything thrown at you.
Start with the job spec. You want to enter with complete clarity, knowing exactly what the advertised role entails and what would be expected of you should you be offered the job. Go through each point with a fine-toothed comb, considering everything you picked up from your initial research to gain a sense of the role you will play within the wider organisation.
Next, compare your skills and qualifications to the job requirements. If you’ve been invited to interview, the employer will likely have already done this, and will come armed with questions regarding the statements you’ve made. It’s imperative that you can back up all points made in the application, giving the employer confidence that you are both trustworthy and sure of yourself. If you fall short of any of the skills and qualifications required, don’t panic - you were honest in your application, so the employer is already aware, and happy to interview you anyway. Just make sure you are prepared to explain how your transferrable skills and experience fulfil those requirements, if asked.
Pull together a list of questions to ask the employer, as well, as there will no doubt be some elements unclear from the job spec and by using your initiative and asking questions it shows the employer you care and have done your homework. If they are so thorough that they pre-empt your prepared questions, a good fallback is to ask the interviewer their favourite thing about the organisation, or to ask if they can describe a typical day for someone in the role you’re interviewing for.
If possible, run through a practice interview with a friend - or give us a call - to make certain that you have all the basics covered.
Now you’ve got your head sorted, it’s time to tick off all the little practical worries that can play on the mind and distract you from the task at hand.
First, get the venue sorted. Double-check the address provided, use Google Maps and Street View to find out exactly where it is and give you an idea of the surrounding area, and work out how much time you’ll need to allow yourself to get there around 10 minutes before the allotted time. If you are still worried or unsure of anything, do a timed test run to take away that element of chance.
Next, get your interview outfit sorted. You can find a more detailed overview in this guide (INSERT LINK HERE), but to summarise, our general advice is to pitch your outfit one notch above the day-to-day level of formality at the company you want to join. For example if a business’ social feed show staff members wearing casual shirts, jeans and trainers, upgrade to a button-down shirt, chinos and leather shoes, or trousers and a smart blouse. Get everything you plan to wear ready at least one night before, ideally sooner than that, as this will give you the opportunity to get to the dry cleaners or pick up that missing item if you need to.
Finally, organise all the miscellaneous bits you’ll need to take along with you. A bottle of water, a packet of mints and an umbrella will keep you hydrated and smelling and looking your best whatever the weather. It’s also a good idea to carry a couple of extra copies of your CV, a notepad and pen, as well as a portfolio with examples of your work, if appropriate.
Thorough preparation means you shouldn’t have too much to worry about come interview day. You’ll know where you’re going, what you’re wearing, what you’re going to be asked and how you’re going to answer. This means that you can concentrate your mind on non-verbal communication. When you’re flustered and looking desperately for answers to questions, your body language can throw an interviewer off. You want the interviewer to be impressed with your confidence, not sympathetic with your mild panic! Being prepared will mean you can think more closely about your posture, how much eye contact you maintain, the firmness of your handshake and your facial reactions to questions or statements.
By getting a handle on all of the above, any bubbling nerves shouldn’t appear on the surface.
Preparation is paramount to a good interview. If you’re still struggling to prepare properly, we can help you develop a personal interview plan suited to your learning style and personality.