How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Many people struggle with job interviews. Despite having all of the right skills, great work experience and doing well in the initial phone interview or screening process, many people still fall at the last hurdle. 

Often, this is purely a case of nerves, which is why it’s important to prepare well in advance so that you’re calm and confident on the day.

In this article,  we explore how you can prepare for a job interview, the different steps to take and how to make a great first impression.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Aside from helping you stay calm, proper job interview preparation vastly improves your chances of being successful.

If you go into a job interview with no research, no preparation around potential answers and having not properly gone through the job description, you’re more likely to fail.

The best way to avoid this is to have a clear plan of action with distinct steps that you can follow. Here are the key steps on how to prepare for a job interview:

– Get to know the job description

– Review your qualifications and skills

– Research the company

– Run through potential interview questions

– Consider specialist questions you might face

– List out questions you want to ask in the interview

– Review your travel arrangements

So you have a plan. Let’s go over these in more detail:

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1. Get to know the job description

The number one resource you have in any job interview is the job description. The likelihood is that the interviewer will have it with them during the process, so you want to know it back to front. Remember – all of the information that you need to know about what the employer is looking for is on that job description. While you should have already used it to inform your CV and cover letter, there’s no reason you can’t also use it to help steer the job interview.

You can use the job description to gain more insight into potential questions you might be asked, what you should focus on talking about and any specialist knowledge they might want to hear about. In a very topline sense, understanding the job description means you understand the role, which means it’s much easier to prepare.

2. Review your qualifications and skills

When you have a clear idea of what the employer is looking for it’s much easier to align this expectation with your qualifications and skills. Order your skill set in importance and prioritise talking about these within the interview. If you’re going for a role in engineering, for example, it’s better to talk about your specific certifications or specialist knowledge than it is your organisational or communication skills – despite all of this being useful for an employer to know.

Remember, during an interview, you may be asked to provide context for your previous experience or achievements and how that fits in with the current role so prepare for that.

3. Research the company

In most cases, a company is recruiting for a person who has a specific set of skills but also matches their wider ‘company culture’. This is a more common question in the current market and is a prime opportunity to demonstrate how well you might fit into the business. With this in mind, you must take the opportunity to learn more about the business before going in. 

Start by visiting the company website and social media channels. As long as they’re active, you’ll be able to build a sense of the business, what they stand for and how they operate. Some great places to look include:

– Company website, particularly the ‘about us’ section

– Company social media channels

– Industry news or local area news

– Professional networking platforms or company review sites such as Glassdoor

– Professional social media channels of existing employees

If you can find information about the company mission statement, future goals, new directions or the overall vision they have for the company, you’ll be in a better place to talk about how you can assist with this long-term vision.

4. Run through potential interview questions

Most interviewers will have two banks of questions: generic questions that explore your work ethic and personality alongside specialist questions that help them understand your skills and abilities. It’s strongly encouraged that you research potential ‘generic’ questions beforehand so that you can prepare a professional, direct answer – particularly to those that might throw you off.

For example, a common question is ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ This not only gives employers an insight into your motivations and dedication but also lets them know how you align with their future goals. This might stump you if you heard it for the first time in the interview but by preparing for it, you can give an honest answer that reflects well on you and also makes you a more viable candidate.

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5. Consider specialist questions you might face

After you’ve prepared your answers to the generic questions, it’s time to start thinking about the specialist questions you might face. These will be more technical and give the employer an idea of your aptitude in your field. In most cases, these are easier to prepare for than generic questions as you’ll have a deeper understanding of what you do on a day-to-day basis.

You may be asked about certain certifications, processes or qualifications that you have. Likewise, you may be given scenarios to consider where the employer will be looking for your solution and the thought process behind it.

6. List out questions you want to ask in the interview

One of the most overlooked parts of an interview is the opportunity where you get to ask some questions. This is your opportunity to show that you’re engaged, have good ideas and don’t mind taking the initiative. 

Think about questions that not only show your investment in the role but also offer more insights into what you can expect. You might consider questions such as: 

– What are common challenges that this role (or your business) faces?

– What’s a typical day for a person in this team?

– What approach do you take to training or additional resources that improve the effectiveness of the role?

– Do you have a wider strategy for the business that you want to achieve over the next X years?

7. Review your travel arrangements

Once you’re happy that you have everything in hand for the interview itself, you may want to review your travel arrangements. One thing that can throw off an entire interview is the stress of travelling. You don’t want to be too early or late and you want to give yourself plenty of time to get there. 

Consider finding a coffee shop or space nearby that you can wait in before the interview. This way, you can get there with plenty of time to spare, review your plans and then arrive at the interview in a sensible timeframe.

If you’re travelling by public transport, make sure to look up routes, timetables and any potential delays that might impact you.

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