Job interview preparation: The most important step to landing a job is being prepared for your interviews. By doing some preparation you’ll feel more in control, and will appear cool, calm and collected as a result to your prospective employers – qualities always looked for in the perfect candidate. Here are some preparation tips to help you make a big impact…
Review your application
It can be hard to keep track when you’re applying for various jobs, so make sure you print off a copy of the selection criteria and your application. It’s a rookie mistake to go into an interview unsure of what the actual job is or what you presented to the employer which got you the interview in the first place! Re-read everything to make sure you’re confident in what is expected of you. This is also a great place to start formulating any questions you might have regarding the role. Keep a copy of your resume in a nice folder and take it along on the day, it will make you look organised and prepared.
Research the company
At the very least, have a look at the company’s website to familiarise yourself with their history and what they do. There will often be a mission statement which can help you get a sense of the company culture and the core values they may expect too. A quick google of the company’s name is also handy, as you can find out about recent press coverage or noteworthy achievements. Showing that you’ve taken the time to learn about the business is always a good way to impress your interviewers. Look into developments in the industry as well, as this will show that you are engaged and clued-in. Give yourself enough time to really do this properly as you might find there’s more to a company than you expected, and it helps to have at least a day to actually let all that information sink in.
Plan your journey
Sounds simple, but being late is one of the worst interview sins. Make sure you know where you’re going, how to get there and then leave plenty of time to make the trip. Aim to get there at least five minutes early so you have time to gather your thoughts. It doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan in case anything goes wrong, like unexpected breakdowns or station closures. Keep your phone fully charged so you can look up the directions on the go, or print off a map to be on the safe side.
Practice your interview questions
Preparing for all types of questions is the best way to prevent being caught off-guard on the day. The last thing you want is to start panicking while trying to come up with answers that present your skills in the best light. Confidence is key with this one, so try practicing either by yourself (in the mirror is a good idea as you’ll get a sense of your body language) or get a friend to quiz you. See our interview questions and answers for some ideas, and be prepared for unusual requests designed to put you on the spot.
Dress to impress
While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, most interviewers will judge you by your appearance. If you’re wearing a wrinkled shirt and scuffed shoes, while sporting an impressive case of bed hair, you can forget about being hired. It’s important to look professional and feel confident. Wear something you’re comfortable in as well, if you’re distracted by shoes that pinch or a jacket that’s a little too tight, you won’t be able to focus on what’s truly important – your answers. Most importantly, don’t leave your preparation to the last minute. If you’re still trying to figure out directions to an office as you’re supposed to be leaving, you’ll be a nervous wreck by the time you get there and won’t be able to give a clear, focused interview. You want to present the best version of yourself and by taking these simple steps, you’ll be able to do just that.
Difficult interview questions
Lots of people go into interviews thinking that they can just ‘wing it’; after all, there are so many potential questions that an interviewer can ask it’s almost impossible to predict, right? Wrong! Sure, some questions are always going to be a surprise but most questions, including difficult questions, can be prepared for. We tackle some toughies for you, here…
So, tell us about yourself
Often an interview opener – this is a question and trips most people up. It’s mainly used as an ice breaker to get the conversation flowing but don’t make the mistake of rambling. Instead, take your CV with you and pick out some career highlights. If this is your first job then explain how life experiences have made you suitable for the position. Do NOT spend more than 5 minutes talking!
Why do you want this job?
Hmm, a tricky one. You need to be honest but not TOO honest if the reason is your boss is a nightmare and you hate your colleagues. Instead, talk about the positives of the job ad – what made it jump out at you and think ‘yeah, I’d be good at that!’ This is your chance to explain!
What did you dislike about your last job?
Again, avoid negativity. Moan about past employers and you’ll quickly be shown the door. Instead, talk about the frustrations of your last role that THIS job could fix and always ALWAYS start with a positive. E.g. ‘I have really enjoyed my current job and I’ve learnt a lot and grown as a person. However, I disliked that there was no opportunity for promotion and I know that I’m ready to take the next step with my career.’
How do you respond to criticism?
Don’t say: ‘I do NOT like people criticising me!’ DO say: ‘I welcome constructive criticism as it helps me to learn and get better at my job. Nobody is perfect but I always make sure that if I make a mistake, it’s the first and last time’.
What are you most proud of in your working life?
This can be a puzzler! Go to the interview prepared with a few examples of your successes and, if possible, use examples to back it up. E.g. ‘I worked really hard to set up a new filing system and won a prize for innovation at our Employee Awards. The new system had saved the admin team 10 hours a week in wasted resource.’
What are your weaknesses?
Yup, this one almost ALWAYS comes up! Don’t ever give a negative – stroppy, always late, violent are all no-nos! Also try to avoid the obvious ‘I’m a perfectionist’ as it’s a common answer. Stand out from the crowd and expand on your answer, turning a negative into a positive e.g. ‘I sometimes take mistakes too much to heart. However, I make sure I learn from them and never make the mistake again’.
How do you respond to stress and pressure?
An employer wants to know what you will actually be like in a busy place and how reliable and calm you will be when things go wrong. Give examples of times when you have met difficult deadlines or handled tricky people.
This is often a closing question and gives you the chance to stand out… Talk about your experience and skills but also about you as a person – your attitude and interests and why you’re uniquely suited to the job. Sell, sell, sell!
Interview questions to ask
The end of the interview… You have answered all of the difficult interview questions, chatted happily to the interviewer and you’re feeling on top of the world. Then they ask ‘do you have any questions for me?’ Saying no to this could be a sour note at the end of a great interview and make you look uninterested… Prepare a few questions in advance and avoid this awkward moment!
Don’t ask what you Really want to know
That’s salary, holidays and perks. These are all things you can talk about after a job offer has been made and you’re able to negotiate. Instead, the best candidates pull out a pad with a few questions listed and then ask three or four…
I’m very interested in this job and think I’d be successful here. Do you think I’m a good fit for the role?
Good question! This shows you’re confident enough to ask because you believe you are good enough for the job. It also makes the interviewer consider it straight away and if they say yes, that’s an impression that will stick in their mind!
If I was offered the job, what preparation could I do?
You’re motivated and if you got the job you’d be happy to spend time making sure you’re good at it. Eagerness is great and the interviewer should be impressed by your willingness to prepare before you even start.
What do you particularly enjoy about working for this company?
This puts you in control and gives the interviewer the chance to sell the company to you. This shows you’re a good candidate and that YOU need to choose them as much as they need to choose you!
If I’m successful, can you tell me what is likely to happen in my first week?
Although you shouldn’t ask questions about things like salary or perks, you can ask about the job itself as it shows an interest. If they mention things that you have experience of then reaffirm that when they have finished, saying ‘Excellent, I have experience of XXXXX and XXXXX so that sounds ideal’.
Is support available for people who want to gain extra skills?
Lots of companies offer training if you want it and this question shows you’re a go-getter who wants to do well in role – not just sit back and clock in and out every day.
I’m really impressed with your company and I’m confident I could do a great job. When can I expect to hear back from you?
This shows off that you’re confident you’d be good for the job and is a MUST ASK question if you want to follow up on the interview afterwards. Otherwise, you’ll be left wondering when you should contact them.
Last Word: The Interview Tips That Lead to Job Offers
Take some advice to help you perform to the best of your potential at an interview. These interview tips will help even the most inexperienced interviewees to shine:
Consider the most likely questions that you are going to be asked before you even get to the interview. This way you are ready and won’t get stuck for something to say. The most frequent interview questions can all be prepared for.
Knowing a thing or two about your potential employer will assist you in the interview. It will help you to tailor your responses and to show you are keen. Spend some time reading the corporate website at least.
In most businesses looking smart is a given so you should think about what to wear carefully. True, some places take a more relaxed attitude to attire, but you cannot go wrong with conventional office wear to create a professional first impression.
On the day of an interview, allow plenty of time to get there without rushing or being stressed by delays. Take everything you might need such as notebooks, pens and a copy of your CV. Remember to look your interviewer directly in the eye, focusing on what they are saying.
A smile can be a powerful tool at a first meeting. Even if you feel nervy, make sure you smile because it will make you come across as friendly and relaxed.
Never say you have nothing to ask at the interview. It makes you seem disinterested so always have a few questions to ask your interviewer planned in advance.
Even if you are taking everything in, making a note creates the impression that you are paying full attention. This is one of the best interview techniques for people who want to come across as conscientious.
When the interview is approaching an end try to conclude on a positive note. This could be as simple as saying something like, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Even if you get put off mid-way through an interview by a difficult question, try to regain your composure and move on. All is not lost if something goes wrong. Remember that it may have tripped up other interviewees too.
– Total Jobs / Monster