A job interview can be one of the most important things you do. We’ve all been there – the nerves, the concerns about what you decide to wear, whether you prepared enough and if you are going to fall victim to the most common reasons for failure. Good preparation can help you overcome those fears and increase your chances in the interview.
Research the company
One of the most important first steps is to do thoroughly research the company. There’s a good chance that you have already conducted some research before applying for the job – after all, you want to be sure that the job is right for you.
Corporate culture is a good one to look at – what kind of stories have been written about them by staff and customers? Do they have an informal approach, or do they seem more traditional? You may even find information from current and former employees, although read through these with a little caution as you never know the full backstory.
Look for press releases, features and check out their website thoroughly. It will tell you a lot about the company, their brand and voice and this is likely to help you in the interview. You can tackle questions in a manner that suits their style while still being yourself.
Be ready for classic questions
There’s no way to know what questions you will be asked in an interview. There are typical interview questions, and there are more modern approaches that are being championed by companies like Google and Apple. Your research into the company might give you a clear idea of what to expect. Remember to jot down notes from phone interview questions that you may have already answered – some of these may crop up in another form during the main interview.
Even if you don’t get asked the classic interview questions, preparing for them can help guide you in terms of what you would like to say and or the points you would like to make.
Always consider the deeper meaning:
- Tell me about yourself – focus your reply on things that are relevant to the role as well as a little background information on yourself, so they can get to know you.
- Why do you want to work for the company – the research you did will help you here, allowing you to talk about aspects of the company that excite or interest you.
- Examples of specific skills – these are most likely to be skills that are required in the role, so make sure you have real-life examples to hand to show off your skillset.
- Strengths and weaknesses – avoid the pitfall of talking about your strengths and not touching on your weaknesses, but at the same time, always add a positive spin to the end of a negative.
- What’s your greatest achievement – again, use the job description to help guide your answers and talk about accomplishments that are relevant to the role.
Always make sure you have a question or two at the end of the interview, employers often ask if there is anything you would like to know. It will help you build rapport with the interviewer and it is an opportunity for you to find out more about the role and the company.
Make a value filled proposal
When considering how to prepare for an interview it is important to understand your value proposition and how to make a value filled proposal to the company. A value proposition is a clear statement of tangible results, and in this case, those results are the ones the company will receive by employing you for the role. Therefore, understanding your value proposition is an essential part of getting ready for a job interview.
Your value proposition comes from a combination of things. Most importantly will be the roles you are fulfilling for your current employer and the roles you have had in the past. It shows the skills and experience that you have and how this can be beneficial to your new employer – your CV can be the inspiration for this.
Also, highlight soft skills that you have that can add extra benefits for the company. Use examples of how these skills have been employed and how this benefited the company – problem-solving, teamwork, organisation abilities, and these can all add to your value.
Don’t be afraid to highlight awards, special recognition or other ways you have been rewarded for your work. Even performance-related bonuses can help show what you can offer and the tangible benefits of those skills.
Mastering your interview techniques takes practice, and that’s why it is good to run through various meeting scenarios with friends. Create a list of those common questions as well as some less common ones and sit with a friend. Ask them to throw in any random questions they can think of that you haven’t prepared for. Role play the situation to help you get comfortable with the idea.
Try to make the scenario as realistic as possible. If you know you will be before a panel of three people, get three friends to run the mock meeting for you. If you have a phone interview then face to face, get a friend to do both. These help you feel more comfortable in the situations and mentally prepare for what to expect.
Some interviews will give an idea of what the expected dress code is for the event. It might state business casual dress code or leave it blank, allowing you to interpret it for yourself. First impressions are crucial, so you do need to put plenty of consideration into what you wear.
For men attending a professional interview, a suit in a solid dark colour with a long-sleeved coordinating shirt is a safe bet. A matching tie, conservative leather shoes and little or no jewellery can be an excellent way to go. Make sure your hair is smart and neat and don’t overdo it with the aftershave.
Women’s interview tips for clothing can be more complicated because women have a larger wardrobe of potential clothes to choose from. A suit in a dark, solid colour would be a safe bet and a skirt length that is comfortable when you sit down. Matching blouse and smart shoes with understated jewellery can finish the outfit. Light makeup and perfume are usually seen as ideal.
Of course, there are lots of variations of what you can wear, and different companies will have different standards. There’s nothing wrong with asking the person scheduling the interview what the dress code is and if you aren’t sure what they mean by it, quiz a little further. You can’t have too much preparation.
Avoid the most popular failures
Preparation is an important part of a job interview, but still, things can go wrong. While some of these will be out of your control, by covering the most common failures, you can increase your chances.
The number one reason for making a bad first impression is being late to the interview. Do a trial run before the day of the interview to get to know the route and leave plenty of time for the journey. Remember the dress code and ensure you have adhered to it as another reason for a bad first impression is that you don’t look the part for the job.
Make sure you are polite and friendly to everyone you meet within the company from the receptionist to the people holding the interview. Greet everyone and introduce yourself then wait until you are invited to sit before doing so. Whatever you do, don’t have your mobile phone switched on as there’s nothing more annoying than beeping and ringing during an interview.
Keep your focus on the interviewers and don’t gaze out of the window or up at the ceiling. Listen to what they say, take a moment to consider and then give your answers. By showing you are interested in them, you are showing you are interested in the role.
Your preparation for the job is crucial because if you come across as not knowing what the job and or company is about, then you won’t make that all important good first impression which will decrease your chance of getting the job. If you can’t prepare for the interview, an employer may think that you will be equally unprepared for the role and therefore won’t make a good employee. So, your preparation pays off in multiple ways.
There’s no way to know what you will face during an interview. Every company and, even each person within a company, may deal with them differently. But by preparing for the basics, covering the most commonly asked questions and ensuring that you have the right dress code in place, you are creating a strong foundation. By understanding what the company is seeking and how you can fulfil those requirements, you also further increase your chances of being the one to land the job.