Interview Preparation

In reality, it is not always the best candidate that gets the job but the individual that performs best on the day. The more prepared you are for the interview, the more confident you will feel and the smoother the interview will go.

When preparing for the interview, be sure to cover the key points listed below:

1. Research the company.

Read the company website, brochures and recent news; visit the company Wikipedia page and YouTube channel; explore social media accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter; and, if possible, speak to people who have worked there.

2. Research the role.

Read the job description and speak to your recruiter to make sure you fully understand the responsibilities, required skills, team structure and package on offer.

3. Research current affairs and trends in the sector.

The best candidates are generally those that can show an understanding of how the current market is likely to affect the business, proving their commercial awareness to the hiring manager.

4. Know your resume.

You should be able to talk concisely about your experience and achievements but bring a copy of your resume with you in case you are asked for it.

5. Match your skills, experience and qualifications to the hiring criteria in the job description.

You need to prepare examples of when you have demonstrated these qualities in the past.

6. Find out what form the interview will take.

Will it be a 1-on-1, panel or group interview? Will it be competency based? Will you need to prepare a presentation or will there just be a Q&A session?

7. Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask.

Structure your questions in a way that shows your desire to benefit the company e.g. “How can I best help the company achieve its goals?”
Try to steer clear of questions that you should already know the answers to or that may paint you in the wrong light i.e. responsibilities, salary, vacation, etc.
If you do not have any questions for the interviewer, you will come across as unprepared and uninterested.

8. Be prepared to answer standard interview questions.

Why do you want to work for this company?
Why do you want to work in this industry?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What motivates you?
What are your long term goals?
What did you enjoy about your studies?
Do you see yourself as a team leader?

9. Plan for the day of the interview.

Check the location, time and date of your interview.
Make sure you know exactly how to get where you are going and make allowances for potential delays, aiming to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
Decide what to wear and make sure your outfit is clean, pressed and polished.

10. Get a good night’s sleep!

Body language

About 80% of communication is non-verbal so be aware of any signals you may be giving off during the interview. The first 30 seconds are crucial in influencing the interviewer’s perception for the remainder of the discussion. Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake
  • Speak clearly
  • Look at the interviewer, but do not stare; eye contact is essential to build a connection
  • Face forwards, towards the interviewer
  • Do not fidget
  • Avoid crossing your arms
  • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Avoid nervous toe tapping, playing with a pen or other items in front of you

Be positive

A positive and enthusiastic attitude will help the interviewer to feel that you are suitable for the role and a good cultural fit for the organization. If you think positively, this will ultimately impact on the answers you give and the confidence you will demonstrate. Do not be aggressive, arrogant or conceited at any point throughout the interview and try to be positive about past colleagues, managers and employers; negative or disrespectful comments about people or employers will come across as unprofessional.

Be calm

Don’t be afraid to pause and think when you are asked a question. In general, people speak too quickly in interviews because they’re nervous. You don’t need to fire back an answer straight away and sometimes it’s good to acknowledge that you’ll need a few moments to gather your thoughts. A focused and relevant response is of far more value than a rushed, ambiguous response that may not even answer the question.

Be yourself

While certain etiquette is expected, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. If you get the job, you will suffer in the long run as people will have different expectations from you.

Know your strengths

It is vitally important that the employer is given a sense of your drive, ambition and determination to succeed. Discussing your past achievements is an excellent way of highlighting your strengths and selling yourself to the interviewer beyond simply outlining your skills and talents.

Know your weaknesses

The interviewer isn’t expecting you to be perfect; they want to see that you are self-aware and that you are constantly looking to develop. It is more important to see that a flaw is under control rather than just a weakness you are aware of but not acting upon.

The STAR technique

This technique for answering competency-based questions will help you give a focused answer, try and use this approach when possible:

S – SITUATION – the situation/problem you were faced with.

T – TASK – the task that needed to be achieved and what the success criteria were. If you were working as a group explain what the overall task of the group was but be clear about your own role and contribution.

A – ACTION –This is the most substantial part (around 50-70%) of any example and you need to include:

What you did;
Why you did it;
How you did it;
What skills you used.

R – RESULTS – the outcomes achieved and what you learnt from the situation. There is little point in explaining the situation, task and action if the interviewer is left wondering whether what you made any difference. So be prepared to explain:

What happened as a result of the actions you took;
What you would do differently or improve;
What impact the result had overall on the task.

Common mistakes to avoid:

Don’t over-generalize – Use a specific example and provide as much detail as possible.
Don’t say we – The interviewer is only interested in what you personally contributed to the task.
Don’t say you have no experience – Your example doesn’t necessarily need to be work-related, think back to everyday situations that could be applicable such as parenthood and educational settings.

This should allow you to structure your answer in a way that not only answers the question in a clear and concise way, but is clearly targeted and provides proof to the interviewer that you have the skills to be successful in this role.