Preparing for a Job Interview

Tips and advice to ensure that you make a good impression

Preparing for a job interview is essential to your success. This may seem an obvious thing to say, but when I have been on interview panels, I have often been amazed at how little interview preparation job applicants seem to do beforehand.

Preparation is the one key factor that can make an enormous difference to how you come across on the day. Skim over this at you peril! If I could only give you one job interview tip it would be prepare well.

So when preparing for a job interview, what must you do?

We can group the answer into three broad categories:

Look at yourself

interview preparationYou know that you are going to be the main focus of the questions, so when you are preparing for a job interview, turn the spotlight on to yourself first of all.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Go over your application form or your cv or resume to remind yourself of how you presented yourself at the first stage of the selection process.
  • Think about exactly what skills, knowledge and experience you have that are relevant to the job you are now aiming for.
  • For the key skill and knowledge areas, collect some specific examples that describe situations when you have put these skills or this knowledge to good use.
  • Go over the person specification and make an assessment of possible job interview questions that may be used to check your match with their requirements.
  • Plan some questions for you to ask them at the end of the interview. Avoid the obvious and look for examples that show your interest in developing your career with them.
  • Prepare your attitude. Get yourself into a positive frame of mind – you have been selected for interview, which means they already like you!

The job and company

Once you have got a clear picture of what you have to offer them, the next stage of preparing for a job interview is to make sure you know as much as possible about what the company can offer you. In these days of the internet, there is no excuse for not knowing background information about the organisation you are applying to.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Carefully review the job description and any other information that has been sent to you about the organisation.
  • Find the company on the internet and take a good look at the information they have posted. Get a copy of the most recent annual report to get more background information.
  • If appropriate, research the business press for stories about the company over the past few months.
  • Spread the net wider and find out what has been going on in the sector in which the company operates. What is the effect of the current economic situation on the sector? Which areas are growing and/or shrinking? Who are the main competitors?
  • Research the occupation in general. This is particularly important if you are a career changer. If there is a professional body for the occupation (eg Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) make sure you explore their website or read their professional journal. Are you aware of the typical career paths and of where this job fits in?
  • After you have done this research, think about the kinds of interview questions that may come up about the company and sector so that you can have key facts at your fingertips and plan your answers.

The practical details

When you are preparing for a job interview the practical details can easily be overlooked as you concentrate on the interview itself. Yet if you get the practicalities wrong, it can ruin the impression you make.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Check where the interview is to be held. You may assume it is at the local office, but it might be at the Head Office in another town or at a hotel or recruitment office. If you can, go and find the building so you won’t get lost on the day.
  • Plan your journey. If you are likely to have to travel through rush hour, allow ample time for your journey. If you have time, you may wish to do a dry run of the journey a few days before.
  • Think about what you will wear. If in doubt, it is always better to dress up than dress down but don’t be so formal that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Make sure that you have checked your outfit for missing buttons and loose hems.
  • Although it is important to prepare and rehearse what you are going to say at interview, don’t stay up all the night before. A good night’s sleep will make a big difference to how you come across on the day.
  • Make sure you have confirmed with the recruiter that you will be attending and have their number saved on your mobile so that if you are delayed on public transport, you will be able to let them know.

Many of these suggestions about preparing for a job interview may seem obvious, but by no means everyone bothers to devote much time and effort to them.

Make sure that you do all the preparation you need to give yourself the best chance of standing out above the other applicants.

And now read on to discover more successful interview strategies…

About the author

Amy Thomas

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