It doesn’t matter how old you are, how experienced you are, or how many times you’ve done this before — interviews are always a challenge. In this article we’ll walk you through four essential steps when preparing for a job interview. Follow these steps and you’ll feel confident and be informed for your next interview.
1. Know the job
Your first step is to make sure you know the job role inside out. Go back and re-read the job description carefully noting the essential selection criteria, key roles and responsibilities, as well as the job description. Now start making some notes:
- What’s got you excited and why do you want this job?
- What aspects of the job role have you done thousands of times and have tangible, proven results in?
- Is there anything you have never done before, or are there areas where you don’t feel confident?
- Is there anything you don’t understand or not sure of?
Doing this exercise gives you time to think about yourself in the job role and prepare a list of anticipated responses (and questions) for the interviewer. Even if you lack experience in certain areas, the fact that you are being interviewed means that something about your job application impressed them.
2. Research the company
Take the time to research the company and find out more about what they do, and why they do it. Of course check their website and social media channels but doing a general Google search can also uncover recent news reports and community mentions. We suggest checking:
- Business websites: look for their company description, history, CEO and management profiles, product range, prices, awards and achievements.
- Social media: get a feel of what they post and how they engage with customers and the general public.
- News sites: has there been any positive (or negative) news reports about the company?
Community mentions: how does the company interact with the local community and natural environment.
This information will inform your responses to interview questions, but resist the urge to drop random company facts into your answers unless they relate to the context of the question.
3. Anticipate questions about yourself
Interviewers are going to ask you questions about yourself, so practice answering some of the most common ones. You can reasonably expect to be asked:
- What are your strengths?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you want to leave your current job?
- Tell me about a time when you were in conflict with your manager/co-worker/customer?
- Why should we hire you?
- What’s your greatest achievement?
This is one of the most important parts of your interview preparations, especially when you have plenty of relevant experience but lack interview confidence. You can try taking a video of yourself answering the questions, or have a friend of family member ask you the questions live. You need to practice actually saying the words out loud.
3. Prepare genuine questions
Every job interview has a space at the end where the interviewer says something like “Do you have any questions about the role?” Make sure you have some genuine questions to ask that demonstrate a strong interest in the role. Here are a few examples:
- What important relationships or collaborations will I need to develop?
- What does a typical working day look like?
- What internal committees and work teams will I be part of?
- Why has this job opened up?
Questions not to ask:
- Anything too vague that makes you sound like you haven’t been paying attention to the interviewer. Eg, What will I be doing?
- Questions that repeat things already covered in the job advertisement. Eg, Who will I be reporting to? when the job ad has already stated ‘You’ll report to the office manager’.
- Anything that causes the interviewer to doubt your work focus. Eg, When will I be eligible for annual/maternity/sick leave?
- Anything that puts you across as mercenary or overly self-interested. Eg, How soon before you consider new employees for promotion?
A genuine question is something that flows naturally from the interview conversation and puts you forward as someone who is organised, astute, and aware.
4. Organise for interview day
Finally organise yourself for interview day. Being late for an interview is never OK, so make sure you know exactly what you are going to wear, the exact location of the interview, and how you will get there. Prepare in advance:
- Wardrobe - Have your interview outfit purchased, pressed and prepared before the interview day. This includes shoes and accessories. Imagine waking up on interview day to find the clothes you planned to wear are in the laundry, damaged, don’t fit, or have been borrowed by your housemate.
- Location - Know exactly where the interview will take place including the street address, building, level, and office.
- Transport - Many job interviews are carried out in time-blocks and if you are late you may never be allocated another slot — so plan your trip in advance. Will you take public transport or will you drive? If you’ve never been to that area before you could do a trial run to check traffic, bus stops and the distance from the train station to the office.
Plan to leave early on interview day so you won’t be affected by traffic congestion, roadworks, public transport delays or cancellations or terrible weather.
A final word
Like all learned skills, you get better at job interviews with practice so don’t be disheartened if you walk away feeling like you blew it. Take the time to reflect back on the interview and think of new (or clearer) responses to the questions you were asked.
There are so many factors that influence the decision of a hiring committee, so there is no need to beat yourself up if you weren’t appointed. Keep refining your application process and practice asking and answering interview questions. The right job will come along, just stay in the game.