Well done! You have a job interview! You are probably experiencing a tumultuous cocktail of feelings: happiness, anxiety, pride, concern and so on. There is no need to let this overwhelm you. There are ways in which you can prepare yourself for this interview, so it need not plague your mind.
- Research! Research! Research!
Research the business and the position for which you applied. No, this does not mean you have to slave over your computer for hours, ultimately emerging as an encyclopaedia of information about your potential employer. Rather this means that a certain amount of research is essential. An interviewer will expect you to have some knowledge of their business. In their eyes, it is a question of: why would you want to work here if you know nothing about us? The best place to look is obviously their website. Explore the site, learn of their services and scan through their blogs. An ‘About Us’ or ‘Meet the Team’ page might provide you with information about who will be interviewing you. The business may have subsidiaries or sister companies, try and memorise their names and what they do. This well-rounded foundation of knowledge will please them. There is no need for me to specify how long your homework should take; it is best to research until you feel comfortable and prepared. This may be 15 minutes or 2 hours. The aim is to work until you feel confident enough to maintain a light conversation about their business.
- Look at industry news.
An extension of the first point, reading industry news will give you an advantage over the other candidates. You may be asked questions about your thoughts on current happenings in the sector. Showcasing your awareness about the industry will highlight that you are passionate about this career path and will therefore work hard, if offered the position. You will appear a well-read and enthusiastic individual who clearly wants the role.
- Plan your journey, giving time for train delays/traffic.
Hopefully, your common sense has already told you to do this. Nothing looks worse to an employer than an interviewee who is late without cause. Plan your journey and allow time for minor travel disruptions. If there are major train delays, or there is an unforeseeable traffic situation, then phone ahead and let them know. Or, if you are within a reasonable distance from their offices, book a taxi from your nearest stop.
- Select your outfit in advance
You may be indifferent to fashion, or you may fancy yourself a reincarnated Coco Chanel. Whatever the case, plan what you will wear to the interview before the day arrives. Business dress-codes vary to such an extent that you can never be too sure what to wear to an interview. This depends on the role you’re applying for, the industry it is in, and the company’s own aesthetic. A safe bet is always smart, office wear. There is no need to shove your high fashion style in their faces, equally do not show up looking sloppy or unkempt. It is fine if you want to share a little personality by wearing a flash of colour, as long as you look professional. Interviewers expect candidates to look smart; suit-trousers will not make you look overdressed in comparison with the actual employees. Unless you decide to wear a floor length gown, smart clothing will work in your favour.
- Write down why you are suitable for the position
A great exercise that will ground your thoughts and help prepare you for the interview is to write down why you are suitable for the position. Think about your studies and experience and how they have prepared you for this role. Why do you want this job? What skills do you possess that will help you to fill the position effectively? Try and think experiences and examples that make you different from other candidates. You may be asked questions, so it is always beneficial to have an idea of your possible responses. If you wrote something similar in your covering letter when applying for the job, refer back to this. But, it is best to avoid recycling it word for word at the interview, as this will be obvious and make you seem insincere.
- Print off a copy of your CV to take to the interview.
Your interviewer is likely to have a copy of your CV at the interview to which they will refer. If they make reference to the document but are without a copy of their own, it reflects well on you to pull out a spare. You will be more prepared than them and this can hardly look bad. If you do take a spare copy of your CV, then conceal it in a bag until it is needed. There is no need to boast about how prepared you are. Nonetheless, drawing out a copy at the appropriate moment will indicate your professionalism for having pre-empted this possibility.
- Write down any possible questions and make notes of potential responses.
Some of the previous tips have already pointed you towards this method of preparation. Whilst it is unrealistic to think you can fully predict a conversation, you should be able to make some assumptions regarding the kinds of questions you will be asked and the ones you should be asking! Some of questions you will be asked may include: what is your biggest flaw? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your biggest pet peeve? Why do you want to work for our company? Why does this industry appeal to you? How are you suitable for the role? What do you do in your free-time? As you can see, questions range from specifying about the job, to inquiring about you as a person. Some may seem completely random; it is up to the interviewer. Do not memorise stock answers. This will cause you to come across as stilted and give the impression that you are unable to think on your feet. The aim of this exercise is to give you a feel for the likely direction of the exchange and provide you with a rough idea of what will occur. When answering these questions, be honest but professional. Try and point your answers towards how you are suitable for the role. The same goes for any questions you may have! They want you to ask questions and will probably ask if you have any! Again, write down a list of possible questions for you to ask that would highlight your interest in the industry and the role. Having an idea of how you will approach the conversation will minimise the possibility of any ‘dead-air’ during the interview.
- Talk to your recruitment consultant.
Your recruitment consultant is there to help you! If they referred you for this position, then they are just as involved as you! They want to send suitable and professional candidates to an interview, as you reflect on them. They want to help you prepare! Phone them for a quick chat or book a meeting. If they did not arrange for you to attend this interview, still phone them! They want you to find a job and they will do what they can to assist you. For those who are particularly nervous, it would be a good idea to suggest conducting a practice interview with your recruitment agent. A run-through will reveal what you are doing right, the mistakes you may make and will appease your nerves, by desensitising you to the interview process.
- Do not obsess and overindulge your anxiety.
A little anxiety can be a good thing, for it can motivate you to work harder. It is normal to be nervous for a job interview; you are not alone! Millions of people have been in this position. Certainly, the point of preparation is to give you a better chance at the interview, but it also works to dissipate that knot in your stomach. Say the interview goes horribly, what’s the worst that happens? They offer the job to someone else and you never have to see those people again. Obviously this is not what you want to occur, but if it does, so what? It won’t haunt you forever! Finding a job can be hard, especially when money is an issue, but this is why you return to your recruitment agent and let them help you. Alternatively, you may be nervous because you may be unsure if you actually want the role. Do not beat yourself up about this! I am not suggesting you waste your interviewer’s time. I am asking you to remember that interviews help candidates find out if a particular business is suitable for them, as well as allowing businesses to fill a vacancy. You do not have to accept the position.
Preparing for an interview means that you are putting in the effort and are trying your best. That is all anyone can ask from you. An interviewer will appreciate that you have prepared, because it shows them that this interview is worth their time. They do not want you to fail. In fact, they want you to be a good candidate because it makes the interviewing process easier for them. Finally, once you have researched, planned and prepared, feel comfortable in the notion that you are allowed to relax and think about something else! Good luck!