The ultimate guide to preparing for a job interview

Phone job interview

Many job seekers feel that the interview stage is already one foot in the door, and answering questions on the spot will be easy. Unfortunately this is very far from the truth, and an unprepared candidate who aims to improvise during the interview will stand out – and for the wrong reasons!

Preparing for a job interview will help you to provide better answers, and to understand the company in more detail. Those that prepare well for job interviews are far more likely to succeed in being hired. You only get one chance to make a positive impression, and it won’t just be your answers that are under the microscope – your passion and knowledge for the industry will be assessed too.

Here is the ultimate guide to preparing for a job interview.

Scrutinise the job advert

Within the job advert you should find a lot of useful and even essential information. The job description is one of the most important aspects you need to study before entering the interview, and this is usually on the advert. However, sometimes the company decides to leave off the specifics, so you can always consider contacting the manager before the interview and ask for a breakdown of some of the tasks. This will help you focus on the right things and will also show your interest in the role.

The job advert will reveal what type of candidate they are looking for – dynamic, great communication skills, fast typing skills, sales background, marketing experience, and so on. All of these things need to be taken into consideration when preparing for the interview. This will allow you to focus your answers on the most relevant aspects of the role, and show the company that you are aligned with your thinking, skills, knowledge and experience.

Match yourself to the role

Before you enter the interview you need to have the belief that you are the right person for the job. Give yourself a confidence boost by looking at what you have to offer the role, and match your skills, experience and qualifications. Make comparison with your career history and cross reference yours skills so that you can get a better understanding of why you’re applying.

You need to be sure that you are applying for the right job. If you have any doubts before you enter the interview you are likely to give off an unsure vibe to the employer. You need to have full confidence and belief in your ability and that you are able to offer the company what they want. You can only do this if you check back over what you can do and what you’ve achieved, and cross reference that with what the employer needs.

Research the role and company

Before you step one foot in the door of the interview room you should have a good understanding of the business. Not only that, but of the company’s culture, their performance, their marketing strategy, their advertising campaigns, their customers, the product, and so on. Without this knowledge you are going to fail in answering some of the most basic questions.

Fundamentally the employer wants to see that you are keen to work for them and have done your homework. Someone who is knowledgeable about the industry is clearly someone who is interested and passionate about their career. It shows initiative and a willingness to immerse oneself in what matters to the company.

You may be directly asked by the manager about what they do, and if you have very little understanding you will be facing an instant rejection. It won’t happen during the interview, but knowing that you haven’t bothered to find out and have applied based on the salary, you won’t get a call back.

Practice answering common interview questions

Have you ever practiced with a mock interview? Most people reading this would probably say no, but it will provide you with a huge advantage. It will help you to provide confident answers and ensure you are not left with egg on your face. Awkward silences in job interviews are the worst, and you don’t want to be that guy!

But in order to practice you need two things – someone to act as the interviewer, and popular interview questions. Here are the top ten most common interview questions to make things easier for you:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should we hire you for the job?
  • Why did you apply?
  • What are your goals for the future?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • Why do you think you’re the right person for the job?
  • What would your previous boss say about you?
  • What is your greatest attribute at work?
  • Describe a problem at work and how you solved it?
  • How do you handle stress and when under pressure?

At some point during the interview you will be asked a few of these questions in some form or another. So prepare your answers and practice them with a friend. Don’t create a script that you can read from or remember word for word as this won’t sound natural in the interview. You may also be asked a slightly different question which means you have to think on the spot and tweak your initial answer during practice.

Practicing the job interview over and over to ensure your nerves have subsided and your confidence has risen. You will not get the chance to have many real interviews in your career, so make the most of the practice sessions and develop a skill for speaking fluently and with a confident tone.

Prepare your own questions

There are two reasons why you should ask your own questions during the interview. Firstly, you should have some questions relating to the role and the company. It could be the working hours, the specific tasks, who you will be working with, and so on. Secondly, this will demonstrate that you are interested in the job. You wouldn’t be asking questions if you weren’t!

Jot down those questions before you enter the interview on a notepad, and take that in with you so you don’t forget to ask. The interviewer won’t mind that you have a pen and paper as they will see how prepared you are. You can then make a quick note of the answers given if you need to. You can also ask any other questions throughout if you feel it would contribute to the interviewer.

Get your clothes ready

Decide what to wear and ensure your clothes are cleaned and pressed. See our guide on what to wear for a job interview.

Check the location and travel arrangements

If you’re late for the interview you can kiss good buy to a new job. Being late is one of the main reasons for rejection and is also one of the most frustrating aspects for the employer. So to ensure this doesn’t happen you need to check the location of the company and how to get there.

The time of the day is very important as this could mean heavy traffic if the interview is in rush hour. Does it start at 9am on Monday morning? Don’t underestimate how horrendous the traffic can be at this time. Live in a busy city? You may need to think about catching the bus or even cycling to the interview. Be careful not to turn up too hot and sweaty though!

Conduct a mock journey so you can see how long it takes. Ideally you want to practice the journey at the same day and time as the interview. However, even just visiting the business before the interview will help you when you have to travel for real.

Aim to get there at least 15 minutes before the interview. Technically showing up one minute before the interview is still on time, but may be frowned upon by the employer. 15 minutes before is the accepted amount of time as it isn’t too early and isn’t leaving it until the last minute. Showing up 30-60 minutes before is way too early, and could make things a little awkward. The employer might feel like they have to entertain you with drinks and snacks!

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