10 things you must do to prepare for an interview

The Job Studio - Birmingham Careers Advice and Coaching
By Sarah Blunt
candidates preparing for an interview in waiting room

You’ve just been told you’ve got a job interview - well done! Whether you’ve got a day or two weeks to prepare for an interview there are lots of things you can do that will give you the best chance of success on the day. Here are 10 tips on how to prepare for an interview.

1. Embrace the nerves

With a job interview on the horizon it’s perfectly normal to feel apprehensive or nervous. The element of uncertainty about your interviewers, and the fact you getting the job relies on your performance means that many people feel the pressure. You need to acknowledge that it’s ok to feel like this, and try not to suppress these feelings – pretending they aren’t there won’t help them go away. Nerves are actually a good thing –they show you care and want the job so embrace them! Following all of the steps below on how toprepare for an interview will also help to reduce your nervousness and anxiety.

2. Do your research

The most important thing to do before any interview is to research the organisation you’ve applied to, the role and the sector. This will allow you to sell yourself more effectively and ask your interviewers intelligent questions based on what you’ve found out.

You’ve probably done some research on the organisation as part of completing your application, but when you get to the interview stage it’s time to step your game up. Look beyond the organisation’s website and use other industry websites, social media and press releases. You’ll want to find things out such as sector-specific trends, challenges and opportunities.

As for the role itself, depending on your experience in this area you might want to do wider reading into what the role entails. For example if you have an interview for a HR position then you’d want to think about what this might involve in that specific organisation.

It’s also a good idea to find out what you can about the people who will be interviewing you, which you can do by looking on the company website or sites like LinkedIn. Knowing a bit about your interviewers can take some of the uncertainty and nervousness out of the situation, and might also give you some ideas about the questions they might ask. It will also help you think of good questions to ask your interviewers (see no. 4 below).

Want more tips on how to research a company? Read How to research any industry in 5 easy steps.

3. Anticipate interview questions

Although you can’t anticipate every question in your interview, there are a few common interview questions that are almost certain to come up. Questions like ‘Why do you want this job?’, ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ and ‘Why should we give you the job?’ are so common you’d be foolish not to prepare for them.

Besides these generic questions, you’re likely to be asked others that are more related to the role and your suitability for it. This comes back to doing your research; look at the job description or person specification – what has the organisation said they’re looking for from the ideal candidate? Use these competencies and consider questions that would assess the criteria. For example, if the organisation is looking for someone with great teamwork skills, they may ask you a question like ‘Can you give us an example of time when you’ve worked well in a team to achieve a goal?’ or ‘What does a good team-player look like to you?’

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4. Think of questions to ask your interviewers

Although the majority of candidates want to know when they’re going to hear back from their interviewers about the final outcome, it’s important to ask questions that will reflect positively on you and the time at the end of your interview is an opportunity to do this effectively.

A good question will make you stand out from the competition and can demonstrate your level of knowledge of the company or show your genuine interest in the role or organisation. A bad question will leave your interviewers with doubts over your suitability for the position and/or company. Read my post 5 awesome questions to ask at the end of an interview for ideas on what to ask.

5. Review your application

With your interview in the bag you might think you can forget all about what you put in your application. However, many interviewers refer to candidates’ applications during an interview or ask specific questions about something they’ve written. It’s therefore a good idea to remind yourself of what exactly you wrote when you submitted your application. By reviewing what you included you can anticipate interview questions that might come up. If you have any gaps in your work history your interviewer(s) may ask about these, or they may ask more specific questions about your work experience or choices you’ve made. Remember, the interviewers liked your application enough to invite you to interview so it’s important you live up to (if not exceed) their expectations. Being clear on what you said in your application will make sure you’re consistent with the person they’re interested in.

6. Practice, practice, practice!

Whilst the saying practice makes perfect comes with no guarantee of success, practice will make you feel more confident and give you the best chance of performing to the best of your ability. It’s not a good idea to rehearse answers as this can sound forced and fake during the interview, but you should certainly be clear on the main points you want to cover.

When talking about certain experiences or in answer to certain questions there are some things that are bound to come up. Whilst some people find thinking through their answers is enough when they prepare for an interview, it’s a good idea to practice speaking aloud either to yourself or a friend. You can also use cue cards to write down the key points you would want to cover if you were asked certain questions. Want a chance to practice and get expert feedback on your technique? Check out my interview coaching service.

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7. Decide what to wear

When you greet your interviewers for the first time you want to look the part. First impressions are key – you want to come across as professional and capable. It’s important to remember your own comfort too, so make sure that what you wear allows you to feel relaxed and able to breathe!

Avoid rushing around on the day of your interview trying to find a suitable outfit and prepare for an interview ahead of time instead. Check any correspondence from the organisation you’re interviewing with. Have they specified a dress code? If they have then make sure you stick to it. If they haven’t then it always makes sense to dress to impress – but each employer is different so do look at what employees of the company wear to help you decide. Iron your outfit the night before and make sure you keep it simple – avoid too many bright colours or patterns which will detract from what you’re saying.

8. Plan your journey

Whether your interview is in an area you’re familiar with or somewhere completely new, it’s important to plan your journey in advance. No one wants to get lost trying to find the interview venue and being late for a job interview is a cardinal sin!

The first thing to check is where exactly the interview will take place. Do you know the building, the floor or even the room you will be in? If you can visit the interview location discreetly the day before this will at least make you feel more confident about where you’re going and allow you to familiarise yourself with the surrounding area.

The next thing you need to figure out is how you’re going to get there; will you walk, drive, get a taxi or take public transport? For public transport, plan your journey well ahead of time and make sure you have a back-up plan in case the bus doesn’t turn up or there’s bad traffic. If you have a disability that affects your mobility, ask the organisation in advance of your interview if there is disabled access to the building. If you’re unfamiliar with the area then print a map because phones have a bad habit of not working right when you need them to!

9. Get a good night’s sleep

It’s easy to forget how important it is to get a good night’s sleep when considering how best to prepare for an interview, especially if you’re busy researching the organisation or feeling so nervous you’re wide awake. Sleep is essential to ensuring your cognitive abilities, focus and mood are all functioning at their best, which could be especially important if you are asked a demanding question that really puts you on the spot. How many hours you’ll need depends on various factors like your age, lifestyle and health but most adults need between 7-9 hours. If you usually struggle to relax the night before something important such as an interview then make sure you find ways to relax and mentally prepare for the day ahead.

10. Fuel your performance

What you’re going to eat before the interview might be the last thing on your mind but getting the right food inside you will ensure you’re alert and focused. At the same time, you wouldn’t want a rumbling stomach to distract from your otherwise brilliant performance!

Everyone will have their own preferences in terms of what they feel like eating, but it’s always a good idea to stick to something you are familiar with. Aim to eat a small meal between one and two hours before your interview slot to give your food time to digest. If you feel like you need a caffeinated drink such as tea or coffee to help you feel alert then go for it, but again stick to what you’re used to.

So there you go, 10 tips on how to prepare for an interview. You might not be able to do all of these things before your next interview, but the more systematic your approach to your next interview the better your performance will be. Taking care of the details and making sure you are ready to go will allow you to relax and who knows, you might actually enjoy it!

Want feedback on your interview technique before the real thing? Arrange a Skype practice interview today.