Whether you’ve got an interview coming up or are still in the process of applying, it’s always useful to know how to prepare for a job interview. We take a look at everything you need to know to ace yours.
Job interviews can be tricky. You’ve already gone through the process of perfecting your CV, filling out the application form, and waiting for a response. Yet the final hurdle(s) can sometimes seem daunting. Yet with a bit of know-how, you can prepare for a job interview in a way that’s going to maximise your chances.
As you might expect, there are a few different things to consider here. As well as exploring how job interviews look during current circumstances, we also give a detailed breakdown of everything you need to do to prepare for a job interview.
Job interviews during COVID-19
Before we get into the finer details of how to prepare for a job interview, let’s take a moment to think about how the process might differ during COVID-19. As with many areas of life, the pandemic has meant many organisations have had to adapt their hiring process. As such, you might experience a different interview process. Here are some things that might be different:
- Phone and video interviews. Many companies are using remote and virtual interviews at the moment. This can give a slightly different feel to proceedings, as you don’t get the immediate feedback like with in-person interviews.
- Cancelled or rearranged dates. Due to things like self-isolation for those with symptoms, it’s not uncommon for interview dates to be moved. Plan for the agreed date, but be aware that it might be subject to change.
- Social distancing. Of course, some interviews can’t be conducted remotely. We’re all fairly used to social distancing measures at the moment, but it can be odd in an interview setting. Things like handshakes and large panel interviews are off the table for now, and you’ll need to pay attention to the measure in place.
- Hand-outs. In normal times, we’d advise taking print outs of your CV and presentation material (if applicable). However, it’s not the ideal protocol at the moment. Instead, consider emailing these documents in advance of your interview.
- Follow-ups. Given the current circumstances, it’s not surprising that some organisations are slower at giving interview feedback. Although you should still follow-up after the event, you might want to give it longer than you usually would.
Despite all of these factors, much of the advice that we outline from here is applicable no matter what the circumstances are. These are just some extras to bear in mind as you go through the process.
How to prepare for a job interview
Now that we know about some of the extenuating circumstances you might encounter at the moment, let’s look at how to prepare for an interview. It’s worth noting that a lot of the points we’re covering can apply to just about any interview, whether it’s virtual, face-to-face, a panel interview, or other types.
The pre-interview work can be broken down into three main areas – research, preparation, and practice. As we’ll see, within each of these, there are several factors to consider.
First on your to-do list is some research. You’ll want to know as much as you can going into the interview, as it will help to reduce your nerves and improve your performance. There are three key areas you need to research:
Your ultimate goal with the interview is to demonstrate to the interviewers that you are the best candidate for the role. To do that, you’ll need to know the position inside out. You’ll have to show that you understand the responsibilities you’ll be taking on as well as the expectations of the company.
A good place to start here is with the job description. This should have most of the details you’ll need, including things like the skills, knowledge, experience, and professional qualities the employer is looking for. Spend a few minutes writing down these key points, as well as writing in your own words what the job is about.
You can also expand your research to other, similar roles in the industry. What’s unique about this one? Are there extra responsibilities? Or is the scope slightly more limited? Knowing these key points can help you better prepare for a job interview within your industry.
If you’re going for a job after university, our course on how to get a graduate job can help you find what employers are looking for and how you can get workplace-ready.
As well as researching the job, you’ll also want to take a look at the company that’s offering it. You’ll want to find out as much as you can about the business, its aims and ethos, and what the work culture is like. It seems like a lot of information, but much of it is readily available.
Once again, doing this research not only shows that you’ve taken an active interest in the role and company, but it also helps you work towards a better performance in the interview. It means you won’t be caught out by questions about the organisation and can have some of your own ready at hand.
Here are some of the ways you can research the company as you prepare for a job interview:
- The company’s website. Most organisations have an ‘about us’ section on their site. These often cover things like the history and development of the business, as well as things like their mission statement and ethos.
- Social media. Just about every company has a social media account these days. As well as sites like Twitter and Facebook, you can also check their LinkedIn presence. They may have some industry-specific articles that can give you inspiration.
- Review sites. You can get both an internal and external look at what people think about a company by using review sites. Use Glassdoor for employees reviews (and even interview questions) and Trustpilot for customer reviews.
You can also ask people you know who currently work there or have done so previously. As you do your research, make sure to note down any recurring themes, important qualities, or standout points.
When you’re writing your application, you’ll no doubt have already spent time perfecting your CV. So why revisit it now? Well, there are a few reasons to do so as you prepare for your interview.
First, it gives you a refresher on what you’ve already sent over to the company. The interviewer will likely have a copy of this to hand, so you don’t want to get caught out by any questions they have about it. Whether it’s employment gaps or specifics about previous roles, you’ll need to be able to explain them.
The second reason to revisit your CV is to compare it to the lists and notes you’ve already made. When it comes to the job description, you’ll want to pull out all the skills and experience in your CV that are relevant to it. Similarly, for the company aims, ethos, and culture, you can find related examples in your document.
It’s always a good idea to remind yourself of some of the essential skills for your career that you can talk about in the interview.
As the old adage goes, proper preparation prevents poor performance. Trite as it may be, it’s certainly true. If you want to ace your interview, you’re going to need to do some groundwork for the day itself – it’s a vital element as you prepare for a job interview. Again, the exact format of the interview may differ, but the basics will remain the same. Here are some of the things you’ll want to prepare:
Some solid answers
When it comes down to it, interviews are often a matter of how to sell yourself. You need to know what your key strengths and skills are and how they relate to the job in question. We’ve already covered how to link these two points, so you now need to think about how to bring them into the interview situation.
A good place to start is to think about some answers to common interview questions. Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what they’re going to ask you, but by having some stock answers, you can adapt them for the situation.
As well as some industry-specific answers about your achievements, experience, aims, and salary expectation, you should also think about some of the broader questions, including:
- Why do you want to work here? This is where your company research comes in handy, as you can speak in terms of specifics about what appeals to you. Think about the work environment, ethos, and potential of the business.
- What is it about this role that interests you? Again, having spent time researching the job at this company and across the industry, you should be able to talk about what makes this position unique. You can mention your own aims and interests, as well as bring in some of your key skills and experience.
- What are your biggest weaknesses? This question trips up many people, and vague, self-flattering answers won’t cut it. You need to show you’re self-aware and honest about your shortcomings, but also that you’re taking steps to improve and overcome them.
Some insightful questions
After you’ve successfully answered some grilling questions during the interview, the last thing you want to do is not have anything to fire back with. Having some insightful questions to ask the interviewer(s) can not only show that you’ve prepared but also demonstrate that you’ve thought about the role and the company.
Once again, you’ll find that your research phase has served you well here. By looking at the role, company, and what other people have to say about them, you should be able to come up with some thoughtful questions. Whether it’s about their adoption of current digital workplace trends or cultural diversity, make sure you have a few. Some useful ones include:
- What do you enjoy most about working here? This turns the focus onto the interviewer and can reveal a lot about the company and culture. It also shows you care about the other employees.
- What are the opportunities for development? With this question, you’re showing that you’re a self-starter who’s eager to learn and continue to develop.
- What does a typical day look like in this position? Here, you’re showing that you want to learn more about the inner workings of the role.
How to get to your interview
You’ve done your research, prepped some questions and answers, and are fired up for the main event. But you get lost on your way and end up being 20 minutes late without being able to call. Disaster. To avoid such an incident damaging your chances of getting the job, make sure to plan out how you’re going to get to your interview.
Spend some time looking at the route and how long it’s going to take. Give yourself plenty of extra time to account for traffic or other unforeseen delays. You can even practice the route itself if it’s nearby, as this can help reduce some of the anxiety on the day of the interview.
If your interview is taking place remotely, you don’t have to worry about route planning. However, you do need to make sure that you have your technology tested and working. If you need to, a quick brush up on your digital technology skills can help.
A quick run-through of things like your webcam, headset, internet connection, and presentation (if applicable) is an essential part of how to prepare for a job interview taking place online.
The final part of your interview prep should be practice for the day itself. Even if you have everything planned out in your mind or written down on paper, you’ll want to spend time perfecting how you’re going to say it. Here are some areas to focus on:
Your voice and body language
You want to make a good and lasting impression in your interview. Positive and confident body language, as well as a strong and clear voice, can go a long way to making you stand out. Whether it’s a face-to-face interview or not, make sure to sit up straight and smile. If it is an in-person interview, make sure to maintain eye contact. Don’t slouch, cross your arms, or fidget too much.
You can learn about what makes an effective presentation if you need to deliver one as part of your interview. We also have a course on presenting your work with impact, which can help you effectively get your message across.
A good idea is to record yourself as you practice some of your answers. When you listen back, you’re sure to spot areas you can improve on.
If you want to take things one step further, you can recruit a friend or relative to help you run through a mock interview. After you’ve brought them up to speed on the role and the company, you can either give them some pre-set questions or let them use their own creativity.
Approach this trial run as if it was the real thing, from greeting the ‘interviewer’ to entering the room, to the body of the interview itself. Not only does this give you the chance to practise your answers and questions, but it also means you can get feedback from someone else.
You can also check out our course on how to succeed at interviews. Here, you’ll learn some of the tools you’ll need to be successful, no matter what type of interview you face.
After the interview
Now that we know how to prepare for a job interview, it’s time to think about the next steps. Your hard work isn’t quite done the moment you walk out of the door. Instead, you’ll want to think about sending a follow-up note afterwards.
In this message, you’ll want to thank the interviewer and mention the job role you interviewed for. You can also make reference to any particular areas that seemed especially relevant to the interviewer. Connect this point to your own ambitions or skills. Finally, sign off by saying you’re happy to answer any additional questions, and that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
Courses to help
Throughout this article, we’ve tried to highlight some particularly useful courses related to interview preparation. To help you get ready, we’ve also picked out some others that you might find helpful as you prepare for a job interview:
- Employee Engagement and Motivation. A useful course if you’re applying for a management position.
- English for the Workplace. For those who have English as a second language, you can learn about some of the key vocab and grammar around the application process.
- Digital Skills for Work and Life. Learn about how technology is changing the workplace, and how you can keep up with these changes.
- Wellbeing and Resilience at Work. Find out how you can be resilient and adaptable in the rapidly changing workplace.