A bit like exams, job interviews can cause you to feel nervous as the day approaches. However, you’ll find these nerves dissipating somewhat if you spend some time in your interview preparation. Below, we look at how to prepare for an interview and the areas you need to focus on. Although some of this information may seem ‘obvious’, it is worth noting that most people are inexperienced when it comes to the interview process.
What Are The Different Interview Types?
You may believe that all interviews involve sitting down in a room with a recruiting team but there are actually several different kinds:
- Video: These interviews are generally held during a screening process and will take place via FaceTime, Skype or even YouTube. It is becoming more common for graduate roles in fields such as sales and marketing.
- Telephone: This consists of an initial call made by an interviewer where candidates are eliminated based on set criteria. If you get through it, then you will end up in the more traditional one-on-one interview.
- Traditional: This is the interview type you normally think of when applying for a job. Although the majority of these sessions take place in a formal setting, they can occasionally take place over lunch.
- Panel: This is essentially the same as the Traditional interview except there will be 2+ people assessing you.
- Group: This can be a tricky situation if you are not a natural extrovert. It involves several candidates being interviewed simultaneously. Assessment centre interviews can be added here; again, you will be one of several people involved and the process may involve role-playing, written exams and presentations.
Since there is no guarantee you will be attending a Traditional interview, it is best for you to get in touch with the relevant parties to find out more about the process.
Pre Interview Preparation
Review Your CV & Cover Letter
As you may be applying for more than one job, you should print off a copy of your CV, cover letter and the selection criteria for the role. Believe it or not, some people actually walk into an interview and completely forget the job they have applied for!
Carefully re-read everything to ensure you know precisely what is being asked of you. This process will also help you come up with some questions to ask at the end of the interview. Place this paperwork in a neat folder and bring it with you; this makes you look organised.
What research should you do on a company before an interview?
The first place you should visit is the company’s website. As well as learning more about what it does, you also get a sense of the culture and style of the organisation. You should also look for:
- Company’s product and services
- The Company Annual Report
- News about its industry
- The company’s competitors
- The main challenges
- A quick Google News search to find recent articles about the company is also a good idea.
Once you have knowledge of the company’s industry, culture and mission, you should have enough ammunition to write a few questions. When you display up to date knowledge of the company’s industry during the interview, you look like someone who is engaged and serious about your career.
Don’t do this at the last minute! There is likely to be a ton of information; especially if it is a major corporation, so you will need time to process all the data.
Practice Your Questions
While there are potentially hundreds of questions you may be asked, the majority of companies will ask variations of the same questions in most cases. Obviously, there will be the odd ‘curveball’ but typically, you will be very well ready if you read our list of common interview questions.
After you prepare your answers to the main questions, you can practice in front of a mirror so you can get an idea of what your body language looks like. You can also get a friend help you preparing for an interview and perform a simulation, as this may help reduce your anxiety.
Get Your Interview Outfit Ready
Never underestimate the importance of ‘looking’ the part. While you might get away with casual clothing for a ‘hip and trendy’ design company, dressing formally is virtually always your best bet. Make sure your suit has been dry cleaned and your shirt has been ironed. By the way, shine your shoes! Get a haircut if you need it and men should be clean shaven or else they must ensure their facial hair is well groomed.
It’s a known fact that being well-dressed not only improves your chances of making a positive first impression, it also increases your confidence.
Plan Your Route
Being late is one of the worst things you can do in an interview setting yet it happens surprisingly often. Most people will have never been to the location before and underestimate the time it takes to get there. With Google Maps and Sat-Navs at your disposal, there is simply no excuse for being tardy.
Plan your route and give yourself ample time to arrive. A good rule of thumb is to plan your arrival so you’re 30 minutes early. This should stop you panicking if you get caught in traffic and if you arrive with time to spare, you have the chance to observe how employees interact thus getting an idea of the company culture.
You should also have a Plan B in case something does go wrong such as your car breaking down. It sounds silly but… make sure your mobile phone is fully charged. The last thing you need is a dead battery when you REALLY need to check your phone map for directions.
10 Things You Should Bring with you
- A Sat-Nav if you’re driving or a fully charged phone with Google Maps at the ready.
- A bottle of water (in case you are not offered a drink during the session).
- Information about the person you need to meet when you arrive.
- Pen and paper.
- Your CV, cover letter and any professional certificates or educational qualifications you have (this is especially relevant for graduates).
- Photo ID (can be a driving licence or passport).
- A copy of the job description.
- Interview invitation.
Before you even enter the interview room, make sure you’re polite to everyone you meet within the organisation; you never know who you’re talking to! Although you will be focused on having a great performance, don’t forget that you are also assessing the company. Take note of the atmosphere around the place as this may help you determine if you want to work there. For example, a workplace with a lot of tired and unhappy looking employees is not a great advert for the company.
Greet the interviewer/panel with a smile, a cheery ‘hello’ and a firm handshake. As long as you have prepared your questions, there should be little that surprises you. Don’t be afraid to pause for a brief moment before answering a question; just don’t take too long! A common error made during the talk is to ‘rush’ through the process because of nerves. Don’t allow panic to set in; remember, you got called in for the interview for a good reason.
Be sure to ask a few questions at the end of the session based on your research and make sure you’re clear about the next steps in the process. It is common for organisations to take their time to respond so mention that you will get in touch if you haven’t heard back from them by a certain date.
When it comes to examinations, it is always said that you should above ‘post mortems’ but this is definitely NOT the case for interviews. Once you have left the room, find somewhere quiet to sit down and write out as many of the questions you were asked as your memory allows. Consider how you answered them and give yourself a rating. This should help you improve on ‘weak’ answers for future interviews.
It is polite to send a ‘thank you’ email to the interviewer the following day; it is also an opportunity to ask any questions you forget to during the actual session. Since most organisations have a protocol when it comes to getting in touch with candidates, don’t pester them with emails. Only get in touch if they haven’t responded within a reasonable period.
Even if you’re not successful this time, look upon it as a learning experience and vow to do better next time. Interviews also represent a chance to network which is a bonus.
Some Useful Job Interview Tips
Phone Interview Tips
Phone interviews can be tough since you have less of an opportunity to make an impression. An increasing number of businesses are using this type of interview as a low-cost way to trim the number of applicants. The interviews are recorded and while the length varies, you can expect to be on the phone for 25-30 minutes. We advise you to prepare in a similar manner to a Traditional interview and follow these tips:
- Give your LinkedIn profile address as this helps the interviewer have a better look at your qualifications.
- Make sure you take the call in a very quiet location where there is little chance of you being interrupted.
- Have a glass of water by your side.
- Be beside your computer with Internet access.
- Have your CV, cover letter and job description beside you.
- Switch off call waiting and have your mobile phone charged.
- Write down your key skills and achievements in advance and have these ready. This should help you get the most important information across quickly.
- Do not interrupt the interviewer.
- Even though the interviewer can’t see you (unless you’re doing a video call), it is important to smile as this can actually help you ‘sound’ more friendly and positive on the phone.
- Speak clearly, don’t rush through sentences and try to keep your answers as short as is reasonably possible.
How To Control Your Nerves
If you are the nervous type, an interview can be a daunting prospect. However, we have a few quick and easy tips to help you stay in control:
- Exercise before the interview as it helps release ‘feel good’ endorphins which should give you a nice little boost.
- Remember that interviews usually begin with ‘easy’ questions so use this time to get ‘settled’.
- If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.
- For tricky questions, pause and give yourself a moment to think.
- Go to the bathroom before the interview.
- Bring in notes and write down cues to help you highlight certain skills and experiences you wish to discuss.
- Don’t speak too quickly and control your breathing.
- Bring a positive mindset into the interview and remember that you’re in control.
- Not getting the job is the worst case scenario and you get to learn from the experience in any case.
While we understand why people are so nervous when it comes to interviews, please note that the interviewer wants you to succeed. Since the company is actively looking for the right person, it is hoping to be impressed and if you prepare correctly, you could be the perfect individual for their organisation.
Once you do your best, you can relax in the knowledge that is nothing more you can do. Go through the above tips and you should be as well prepared for the interview as anyone that walks into the room. [external_footer]