July 28

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Interview preparation: 3 crucial tips

Job interview coming up? Concentrate your interview preparation on these 3 things, and you’ll make a great impression on the day...

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Whoever we are, and whatever job we are applying for, it is rare to find a person that actually enjoys the interview process.

Words from well-meaning friends and family such as “it’s just a job” or “you’ll be fine” simply glide over us when our minds are in pre-interview panic.

The good news is that there are things you can do to minimise the stress and take control of the process so you can feel ready, calm and confident on the day.

Why you should prepare for your interview

Many people view the landing of an interview as the end of their job search process.

That the hard work is done.

They pat themselves on the back, thank their lucky stars and just wait for the date to come around.

This is a big mistake.

You know the saying about falling at the last hurdle?

Well here is a good example of it.

You have to put so much effort in to securing an interview, it would be foolish not to put that last bit more in to make sure you make the most of it.

However, there are a few things things that typically stop people from any kind of interview preparation.

What's stopping you prepare?

Fear?

For those who struggle with interview nerves, it can feel best to not think about till the day it happens.

You know it is coming and you will just ‘do your best’ because you know you can’t change your personality type.

Complacency?

This is the opposite of the first. You feel so confident about your chances that you simply don’t need to do anything.

It’s in the bag.

Don’t know where to start?

And finally, there are those that feel it would be a good idea but lack any clear idea about how to actually do it.

Preparation is for everyone

If you are feeling fearful, the following preparation tips will give you comfort and confidence on the day.

If you are feeling complacent, these will ensure that nothing unexpected happens on the day to throw you off track.

And, if you don’t know where to start, you have come to the right place.

There are 3 main activities that are crucial to create the perfect interview preparation plan.

  • Conducting Research
  • Preparing for interview questions
  • Taking care of practical aspects

1 - Conducting research 

Grab a notebook, a tablet, or jump on your computer, because you will need to take notes. 

Step 1. 

The company

It is crucial to do some background research on the company because one of the inevitable questions you will be asked is “so, why do you want to work for us?” 

This is a basic question and a very fair one too because companies want to hire people who actively want to work for them. 

When they hire people that ‘just want a job’ they know that they will leave as soon as a position comes up in their ideal company.

If you can convince your interviewers that their company is your ideal place of work, you put yourself ahead of others straight away.

You can only be convincing though if you have some facts about the company.

You need to be able to tell them that you heard about the last contract they won and you were really impressed, or it’s because of their impressive safety record that you read about in a certain article or report, or maybe their newly launched HR initiative for training across the company.

It doesn’t really matter too much what it is.

What matters is that you have a concrete example of why you want to work there.

When you find your answer, write it in your interview preparation notes to review later.

There are many sources of information to find your reasons

  • Their Company Website
  • LinkedIn connections and Company pages
  • Personal contacts
  • Trade sites and publications
  • Putting the Company name in Google and seeing what it brings up

In addition, you can also set up a Google alert to keep you in touch with up to minute news about the company.

This way you can learn about interesting information without having to search for it, which is particularly useful if you are working or busy preparing for multiple interviews at once.

Step 2. 

The interviewers

You will by now have the name of the person or people who are going to conduct your interview.

Your mission is to find out as much as you can about them for the following reasons:

  • Personal information can be very useful regarding their careers, hobbies and interests.If you have something in common you can slip it in at an appropriate time and score some personal empathy with them.
  • You can find out where they worked before so then you can work out if you know anybody that knows them to get inside information on who they are as a person.
  • Their LinkedIn profile will also tell you other information such as achievements.If they were part of a big project you can flatter them by saying you heard that was a great project and it is one of the reasons you want to join the company.
  • Further, by reading their profiles you will see what they think is important to portray about themselves. Then, mirror this by telling them in interview similar things about yourself because you know that is what they like.
  • Look at key phrases they say and, where appropriate, use them at interview.

When you have built up a stack of information, enter this in your notes for later.

Step 3.

The Position

Use Google and social media to research other people who are, or who have, performed this role for this company either now or in the past.

Just put in the Job Title and the company name.

Check out these job holder’s backgrounds. See what qualifications they have and where they worked before. It will give you an insight into who they have hired for this same job in the past.

Find out who they report to. Then research that person to get an idea of who they are because you could end up reporting to them. HR and recruiters take personalities into account when recruiting. If they feel you would clash with a Supervisor, they may not hire you.

When you have gained useful information, enter this into your notes.

Step 4. 

Your resume 

Yes, this may sound strange, but it is vital.

You need to thoroughly learn the wording on your resume, especially if you have used a professional writer.

Interviewers totally lose faith in a candidate if they ask them about information on their resume and they stumble and falter because they don’t recognise it.

Think of it like this.

When you go into an exam, you don’t get to see the test paper until you sit at the desk so you have no idea what the questions will be based on.

At an interview you already know what they are going to ask you about because you already have the test paper – your resume.

Further, this is also great preparation for the common interview question “walk me through your resume.”

And it's great to bolster your confidence too because it will remind you of all the skills and qualities you have to offer.

2 - Preparing for interview questions

Anticipating interview questions that may come up is an essential element of successful interview preparation.

This should be done before every interview because every job and company will have important differences.

But don’t worry. When you have been through this once, it will be easy to adapt your prep for each further role.

Step 1.

Common interview questions 

Whether you are being interviewed face to face, over Skype or Zoom, on the phone, via video, informally or formally, the chance of these questions, or a variation of them, coming up is extremely high.

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why are you looking for a new opportunity?
  • What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  • Describe your current or most recent role.
  • Why are you the best candidate for the job?

Preparing a bank of great responses to these questions will provide a strong foundation for your interview preparation.

Use this post and work through each and don’t forget to include them in your notes.

Common interview questions: ace them with this guide

Step 2.  

Behavioural interview questions

Behaviour-based interviewing is an approach that looks at past behaviour as the best predictor of future behaviour.

They typically start with something like this:

Tell me about a time when …

Give me an example when …

When have you had to …

Describe a situation in which...

At first, these may seem too random to prepare for but if you use the guide below, you can easily prepare some great responses, so you don’t get caught out on the day.

Behavioural Interview Questions: How to answer them plus examples

Step 3.

Questions you should ask at an interview 

It is so important to use some of your interview prep time to compile a list of questions to ask at your interview for when they say "do you have any questions for us?"

Typically, this is asked as a closer so it is really important to get this right as it will form the last impression they have of you.

If you say nothing, it could all go a bit flat and an awkward silence set in. If you say something negative, you could blow the whole thing and ruin what was otherwise a great interview.

Here's a guide to help you prepare.

Best Questions to Ask at a Job Interview

3 - Taking care of practical aspects 

Now you have conducted your research and prepared some great responses plus questions to ask, it’s time to get practical.

Here’s a quick checklist to ensure everything goes smoothly and there are no dramas on the day.

Step 1. 

Journey planning

It is amazing how many people don’t plan their journey before their interview day.

Assuming you roughly know where it is and then being wrong will not be acceptable as a reason to be late for the interview.

It is best to turn up no earlier than 15 mins though unless otherwise requested.

If you turn up too early that can put pressure on the interviewer if they are conducting multiple interviews.

Go to Google maps now and type in the address to see how long it will take you to get there.

Then add on half an hour to that time – just in case.

Step 2. 

Check your tech

If there is no journey time because it is over the phone, Skype, Zoom or video, you still need to prepare.

If you are going to take this call at home, make sure the family knows in advance that they need to be out of the way on that date at that time.

You don’t want to be distracted by your baby crying or your dog barking.

We have all seen those hilarious videos of this happening but it won’t be so funny if it messes up your interview.

If you have a phone interview, check that you have paid your bill.

Sometimes we are so busy with life that we miss a payment.

If your services were temporarily suspended on that day it would be a disaster.

Make sure that you know how to use Skype or Zoom or whatever platform they will be using and that it all works OK.

Get a member of your family or a friend to have a conversation with you to ensure you are sitting in a visible and comfortable position and that sound quality is not a problem.

If all this is new to you, it is a good idea to do this a few times, so you are comfortable talking on interview day.

Here’s a guide that will specifically help you with your video interview preparation.

Video interview coming up? Learn how to ace it with these tips and tricks

Step 3.  

Dress for success

Plan your interview outfit.

We are not talking about making a fashion statement here.

We are talking about wearing clothing that suits the occasion and does not distract your interviewers from their job of interviewing you.

Ensure your clothes are clean and smell good.

If there is a slight stain that hasn’t quite come out the interviewers probably won’t notice but you know it is there and it will lower your confidence.

And don’t have a cigarette just before going in because you will smell, and they will judge.

Even if the interviewers smoke themselves, a candidate reeking of tobacco smoke is less desirable than one who smells good.

Every little bit counts.

The actual clothes themselves will depend on the job, the company, and the climate.

Do you have a contact or friend who works at the company you're interviewing with? If yes, see they can give you some guidance about the dress code.

If not, check out their photos on social media or go to a coffee shop across the street a few days before to get a glimpse at what people are wearing.

Whatever you discover, dress smarter than you normally would – this gives you a psychological boost because it makes you feel more important.

And leave those joke ties at home. You may think it will show some personality, break the ice and you’ll all have a good laugh. They may well laugh – but at you, not with you.

Socks. Same message as above.

Funny t-shirts. Same again.

Revealing clothes. Don’t do it. You want them to concentrate on your skills and not your body.

Tattoos and piercings – we are in a love or hate category here. Minimise their potential impact on the interviewer by removing or hiding.

If you have time, indulge in a little pampering. Whether it is a facial, a massage, a haircut or a new outfit, this is a great time to treat yourself to boost your confidence.

Step 4.  

Organise what to bring 

Having the right attitude, the right skills and the right clothing is ruined if you walk in with a plastic carrier bag from your local supermarket.

Make sure your bag or briefcase is clear from junk and big enough to hold the following:

  • A notepad and pens. This will enable you to jot down extra information you learn in the interview plus let them know you are serious. And yes, pens not just one pen – just in case.
  • A printed list of carefully prepared questions. These are the ones you created during your interview preparation to ask at the end of the interview. They will jog your memory plus, again, show the interviewer you are motivated and organised.
  • Hard copies of your resume. The interviewers will probably have a copy of your resume in front of them, but you should bring more in case someone there hasn’t seen it or needs to refer back to it. You'll also use it as a guide for the "walk me though your resume" question.
  • Depending on your industry or profession, you’ll also need to bring other items such as work samples, your portfolio, certificates, tickets, or any additional information that will enhance their view of you being a perfect fit for the role.

Final thoughts 

By completing each step of this interview preparation, you will know that you have done everything you can which will really help with the last crucial thing to do before your interview – get a great night’s sleep.

You will have confidence in the fact that you are fully prepared for any questions they may throw at you, you’ll be able to impress them with your knowledge about their company and the position, and then you will wrap it all up with some thoughtful professional questions.


Good luck with your interview and, if you have any additional questions, just drop a comment in the box below.

Found this useful? Please share.



Amanda Datchens

About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub.

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