It is not an exaggeration to say that a job interview can make or break your chances of getting hired. There is an art to preparing for a job interview and in this article we will give you insight on how to prepare for a job interview including what else you can do with your CV to help you. It will also give you some pointers on how to prepare for competency-based questions.
- 1 What is a job interview?
- 2 Research the company you’re applying for
- 3 Researching a company for a job interview
- 4 What you should do with your CV before a job interview?
- 5 What you should do with the job description before a job interview?
- 6 What do you need to bring with you to the job interview?
- 7 How to Dress for a Job Interview
- 8 Practice job interviews with a friend or family member
- 9 Prepare for competency-based job interview questions
- 10 What to do the day before a job interview
- 11 What to do on the day of the job interview
- 12 Conclusion
What is a job interview?
A job interview is a meeting with a potential employer. It’s often, but not always, the final step in the hiring process after you’ve sent in an application and sometimes had an earlier “screening interview”. A job interview is not only a chance to see whether or not you are right for the company but also if the company is right for you.
Job interviews are used for evaluating your qualifications, skills, personality, communication skills, and other qualities that are necessary for the job. The interviewers are looking for a candidate who they feel confident has the right attributed needed to do the job successfully.
Research the company you’re applying for
Whether you’re a freshman in college or a seasoned professional, your first impression of an employer can be the key to landing your dream job. The first step to nailing that interview is to do your homework about the company you’re applying for.
When you research a potential employer before an interview, it shows interest and dedication. You’ll be able to answer questions more confidently, which will help you make a great impression.
In our article 6 Job Interview Mistakes Stopping You From Getting Hired we talk about the importance of researching the company and the interview embarrassment you face by not knowing at least the basic information about the business and what it does.
“What do you know about our company?” is a question job hunters are all too familiar with. It is used by interviewers as a way of weeding out those who haven’t come fully prepared and identifying those who have gone the extra mile.
Researching a company for a job interview
When researching the company you have an upcoming interview with, consider the following areas.
What products and services do they offer?
Understand what is the core function of the business. What is it that makes them exist? What are their unique selling points?
As well as getting a brief understanding of what they offer, dig deeper to understand if they offer a range of products or services and learn to understand the key differences between these products.
Consider your own working history, has it involved working with similar products or products within a similar industry? Are there any interesting comparisons and experiences from your past you could draw upon at the job interview to demonstrate your knowledge of what the business offers and how your knowledge fits into that.
How big is the company and how many locations do they operate in?
Understanding the scale of the businesses operations is an important one and may give an indication of whether you’ve worked for similar-sized organisations in the past.
Does the business operate in just your country or does it have international offices? If they are based in just your country do they do export around the globe or offer their services worldwide?
Depending on the type of job role you are interviewing for will depend on the relevance of any past experiences, however, skills, like working with the importing and exporting goods or working with international clients, could be useful when working with larger organisations and are things you should look to work into your answers where relevant.
When were they founded?
Understanding the age of the business could give a glimpse into the type of organisation it is. Are they a very old established business with tons of industry recognition and a healthy market share within their industry? Or are they a new and upcoming upstart looking to grow and assert themselves on the market?
What is their culture like and what are their core values?
Understanding what the businesses culture is like can help to prepare you for the type of job interview you might be facing. Businesses with a relaxed and more “modern” approach to business could be more interested in areas such as creativity and you as a person. More corporate businesses could be more inclined to a much more formal interview.
These are generalisations of modern vs traditional businesses but from understanding their culture you can begin to put together more of an idea in your head pre-interview if this is a business you could see yourself working for.
A lot of organisations will publish their core values or mission statement on their website. Locate them and see if they reflect your own values and the type of business you would like to work for. An understanding of these values could give you the ammunition for a great answer when asked why you’re interested in working for them.
What is in the news?
Use sources such as Google News, LinkedIn and the company’s own website to find examples of positive news and projects that the company is involved with.
Finding news that relates specifically to the job role you’re interviewing for could be a great way to impress in the job interview. Alternatively, finding news about projects that you would be interested in getting involved with could also be well received.
Showing a more focussed knowledge of what is happening at an organisation gives off a good impression and shows that you have a genuine interest and passion in what that company has going on.
What you should do with your CV before a job interview?
Many people will turn up to a job interview empty-handed which can be to your detriment if you can not deliver good job interview answers about yourself on-demand.
Unless otherwise stated we would recommend that you take into the interview with you a copy of your CV and on that copy are many brief notes or prompts to answers you would like to give should questions be asked relating to certain points on your CV.
Lots of people will finely tune their CV/résumé to match the job description and when applying for many jobs in a short period of time when job hunting, it can be easy to forget what information you put on each variation submitted to companies.
Interviewers will often have made notes regarding points on your CV that they’d like to know more about. Having a copy of your CV in front of you on the desk with a few key phrases next to each point could help you in delivering fuller, more detailed answers which really impress the interviewer.
Going through the exercise of making additional notes next to the existing points on your CV/résumé is a good way to begin building the answers in your head of what you will say should you be questioned on a particular point.
Memorising these answers is great, but as a last-minute reminder, you can always read through your CV again in the waiting room before you go into the job interview or even sit in your car outside or on public transport getting there.
What you should do with the job description before a job interview?
Similar to our above advice with what to do with your CV, we advise printing off a copy of the job description provided and beginning to make notes on it that you can take with you into the job interview to support yourself in delivering killer answers.
Read through the job description and for each point of required criteria and job responsibilities/duties, make a note of examples you can give of past work, projects, skills and experiences to demonstrate your ability.
Like with our advice with making notes on your CV, this is a great exercise for building your answers ahead of time when asked about certain criteria relating to the job and the requirements of the successful candidate.
Go through your notes pre-interview along with the notes made on your CV. Having them in front of you on the table are useful prompts for the answers you want to give. Keeping your notes to keywords or phrases will allow you to recall an answer after a quick glance at the sheets.
What do you need to bring with you to the job interview?
- A valid form of identification
- Proof of qualifications/diplomas
- Any additional documents requested from the company
- An annotated copy of your CV
- An annotated copy of the job description
- A portfolio of your past work (if going for media, marketing or creative role)
- A pen!
The first three on the list are self-explanatory. You may be asked to prove who you are and to prove you have the education that you have detailed on your job application.
Bring with you a copy of your CV and the job description for the reasons detailed in the previous two sections. Having these documents at hand can be a great little job interview cheat sheet for giving you prompts in delivering incredible answers.
When interviewing for creative roles such as in different kinds of media or working within marketing, bringing with you a portfolio of past work can be a great way to demonstrate your past work.
Taking work/data from your existing employer to take into a job interview elsewhere is a contentious area, especially if you interviewing with a rival business. However, if you are in a job role where you can gather information such as the below, it could help to impress the job interviewers on the day.
- Publicly accessible marketing collateral
- Print outs and designs of existing website and mobile projects
- Copies of news articles from newspapers and trade magazines where your work has featured
- Copies of successful social media campaigns and associated data
Oh, and don’t forget a pen. You never know when you might be asked to write on something during the interview.
How to Dress for a Job Interview
Dressing appropriately for a job interview is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your job interview. Choose clothes that are professional and make you feel confident. Don’t wear anything too revealing or tight-fitting. This will help boost your confidence and make you feel more comfortable in what you’re wearing.
It is always better to be overdressed for a job interview rather than to be underdressed. Interview clothes do not need to be expensive, they just need to look appropriate and professional.
Dressing sloppily will see you come off as unprofessional and uncommitted. As always, make sure your clothes are clean and ironed. Be conscious of how well you are groomed – hair in place, clean nails etc.
While trying out different outfits before an interview, don’t forget about accessories like a tie, cufflinks and conservative jewellery.
Practice job interviews with a friend or family member
No matter how calm and collected you may feel before an interview, it’s common to get nervous before walking into a job interview. Getting prepared for the interview is the most important thing that you can do.
Practice for your upcoming job interview with a friend or family member. Many people find it helpful to have someone else ask them questions and provide feedback. It can be especially helpful if you’re nervous about interviewing, or if you haven’t interviewed in a while.
In addition to getting comfortable talking with someone, doing a mock interview can help you identify potential questions you might get asked and think about how to answer them.
Training yourself to listen carefully and ask follow-up questions shows that you’re truly interested in the conversation.
Here are some tips for practising:
1) Pick the person who will be interviewing you carefully. If you know that your cousin tends to cut people off, don’t choose him. If your friend is much more laid back than the manager who’s going to be interviewing you, it may not be realistic practice. An ideal person would be someone who works in a similar position or industry to the one you are interviewing for.
2) Have the person asking the questions take notes during the interview. You can use this time to identify areas where they think you need to improve your answers.
3) Take your time during practice and look to build answers that reflect your skillset and fit the role best.
4) Treat the practice seriously, try not to engage in idle chit-chat or laughter. Practice putting yourself in a professional situation where you are expected to behave differently than you would at the bar and deliver answers in a more formal manner.
Prepare for competency-based job interview questions
Competency-based questions are a popular interview format because they allow a hiring manager to assess how well you might perform on the job.
Questions in competency-based job interviews often revolve around problems that you might actually face on the job, rather than behavioural questions like “tell me about a time you had to go the extra mile” or “tell me about a time when you solved an interpersonal conflict.”
Some organisations will let you know ahead of time if this is the style of job interview they will be conducting, but this isn’t always guaranteed so it’s best to have answers ready. Many candidates go into such interviews completely unprepared and when faced with these style questions can feel pressured.
In theory, answering questions about things we have done in the past shouldn’t be hard, but for those who have worked longer, recalling a specific example instantly in an interview situation is challenging.
It’s worth preparing for competency-based behavioural questions by thinking about real-life scenarios where you have demonstrated certain skills or behaviours. It’s also important that you can describe these situations clearly, concisely and with examples.
Let’s take a look at an example question
“Can you give me an example of where you worked as part of a team?”
When answering this question, consider the following points:
- the role you played in the team
- the impact you had on the results that the team produced
- the results that were produced by the team
- the positive impact this had on the business and others
- What you enjoyed about working in this team
- What you learned from the experience
- The planning and preparation that went into it the work the team conducted
Not all of the above bullet points will apply to every question, but it’s worth considering what points you can make to elaborate on your answers to really sell yourself to the interviewer.
What to do the day before a job interview
Time and lifestyle permitting you will have done your job interview preparation prior to the day before your job interview, however, if you haven’t, today is the day you should get this done, during the daytime and not at night. Doing or reviewing your interview preparation the day before can really put you in a positive mindset and fill you with confidence for both that day and the next day.
With your preparation complete, take the time to go through your notes several times throughout the day to keep the information from your CV and the job description fresh in your mind. Also, work on building or finalising the list of questions that you would like to ask in the job interview.
If you were going to use friends or family members to help you with a practice job interview, the day before would be a useful time to do this, followed by instantly reflecting on your performance and answers.
The day before a job interview is also a good time to try on the clothes you will be wearing to your interview tomorrow and if things are a little tight or damaged, go to the store and replace them.
Another important task to complete if you haven’t already is planning your journey and working out the exact time you need to leave your home to arrive at the job interview early. If your job interview is in the morning, calculate what time you need to set your alarm to allow you to be up and out on time.
If you are driving to the job interview, it is advisable that you check that you have enough fuel in your car the day before. Discovering you are out of fuel just before you set off to your job interview can cause panic which can lead to stress if you get to the gas/petrol station and there are long queues.
If you are taking public transport to your job interview, make sure you are familiar with the schedules and that there are no replacement services or hindrances like staff strikes occurring.
Ideally, you will be able to get all of these done during the daytime, allowing you to relax in the evening, leading to a pleasant nights sleep and feeling fresh the next day, ready to show the best version of yourself.
What to do on the day of the job interview
What to do on the day of the job interview? Hopefully, you had a good nights sleep and you have woken up feeling refreshed and full of energy for the day ahead. With preparation done yesterday hopefully this has helped to make you feel positive, inspired and confident.
Begin the day with a healthy breakfast. This is important, especially if you’re nervous about the interview! Make sure you eat something nutritious, when we go hungry we begin to lose our focus which is something we definitely don’t want to happen to us in the job interview. If your job interview is later in the day make sure you have had sufficient food up until then.
Double-check that you are happy with your choice of clothing and everything looks as it should. There’s nothing worse than being late to an interview because of a wardrobe malfunction.
Before leaving home for the job interview, look over your notes, making sure you’re confident in the answers you will give if questioned about particular elements that feature either on your CV or on the job description.
Make sure you are prepared with a range of questions that you would like to ask the company.
Make sure that you leave for the job interview with plenty of time in hand to account for any unexpected delays to your journey.
If you are travelling by public transport, use this time to once again go over your notes. If you are driving you could use this time to visualise the questions that could be coming your way and prepare the answer you would want to give. Should you arrive at the business location with plenty of time to spare, consider taking a few moments sitting in your car to then go over your notes in full.
Smash the job interview.
Get yourself home safely and reflect on the job interview you have just undergone. In our article 7 Things to do Immediately After a Job Interview, we give advice on how to go about this.
In the end, the importance of preparing for a job interview can’t be overstated. Whether you’re looking for your first job or are simply seeking to advance your current role, the right interview will always set you apart from everyone else. So, take it seriously and make sure that you prepare like you mean it!