If you have got to the interview stage then you should already feel proud of yourself. The recruiter clearly likes the look of your skills and thinks that you could be right for the job; the interview is a chance to prove this to them. Now comes the tricky part….preparing for it.
Every job interview is different and they come in many forms including over the phone, one-to-one, with a panel or one with practical tests. Generally though, all interviews are a daunting experience, and it helps to be as organised and geared up as possible. Here are some pointers to help you navigate the process smoothly.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
If you don’t have it to hand, print out a copy of your CV and re-read it thoroughly. This is the information that the interviewer has used to select you and it is likely that they will refer to it at some point in the interview. There may be one particular aspect of your CV that has interested them, so be ready to elaborate on any point, especially with reference to the job description.
Once you are confident talking about your own background and history it is time to swot up on the organisation that you are applying to. Use the internet, library or any publications to find out about current projects, affiliates, staffing levels and policies – even if none of this comes up in the interview it will still be helpful for you to know all about your new potential workplace.
Although it’s impossible to predict exactly what you will be asked, it is safe to assume that certain subject matters and questions will crop up in your interview. Once you have done all your research, the best way to practise answering questions is in front of the mirror. You could also try recording yourself or getting a friend to film you. This may be painful to watch at first – but will give you a good idea of how you will appear to the interviewer, and which areas still need work.
Prepare answers to the standard questions that form the basis of most interviews. Think of lots of examples that will describe your competency and skills and practice dropping these into your answers so that they sound fluid and not forced.
Some common questions
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why did you leave/are you leaving your previous job?
- Give an example of a time when you…
- Why do you want to work for this organisation?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Don’t let the job interview be the first time that you formulate answers to these questions – practise and rehearse at home.
On the Day
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview and try to have something nutritious to eat.
Gather together all the material you will need to take to the interview including a copy of your CV and any examples of your work. Re-read the job description and remind yourself of the relevant names of the interviewer and any other relevant contacts at the company – it would be very embarrassing to forget this.
If you are not familiar with the place that you are going, then fully plan your route in advance and if take the directions with you. Leave plenty of time to get to your destination in case there are unforeseen transport issues or delays. If you are early then you can always find a café nearby and read through your notes over a drink.
What to Wear
This will vary according to the company that you are interviewing for, but it is always best to be smart, well presented and comfortable with what you are wearing. It is often said that when you look good that you also feel good, so put some thought into presenting yourself nicely. Plan your outfit in advance and make sure it is clean and accessible the night before your interview. Avoid anything that is suggestive, brash or too cluttered. Keep it simple and smart and you can’t go wrong.
They say actions speak louder than words and this is often the case in an interview situation. While you may be saying all the right things verbally, if your non-verbal communication does not mirror this then you are not likely to get a good response.
An interviewer’s perception of you will start as soon as you walk into the room so keep your posture straight, shoulders back and remember to smile. Shake hands firmly and purposely with the other person but not too powerfully, and make plenty of eye contact, without staring. It’s all about creating a natural balance.
It is important not to fidget during the interview as it is distracting and will also give the game away that you are nervous. Something more positive to do with your hands is to use them to add emphasis to speech – hand gestures can be a great form of communication as long as they are used in moderation. When not using gestures keep your hands in your lap or rest them on the arms of your chair, drawing them across your body will look too defensive. Another effective way of showing that you are keen and alert is to nod your head to support your speech.
Being nervous about a job interview is actually a positive thing, as it proves that it matters to you and will give you some adrenalin, so don’t completely discourage it. Try to keep your nerves from interfering with how you perform by following the positive body language suggestions above, taking deep breaths and remembering that the interviewer is only human and has fears and insecurities just like you.
The End of the Interview
As the interview draws to a close you will probably be feeling relieved, but try not to show it, as the ending is important. Ask the interviewer what happens next and whether any action is required from you. You could ask whether you are the type of person the company is looking for – this could give you an indication of how you fared. If you feel the interview went very badly don’t let it get you down, just make a note of what went wrong and use this to help you prepare for the next time.