Job Interview Preparation: the Essential Guide

August 31, 2017 - DOM BARNARD

When it comes to getting your dream job, we all know how difficult and tiresome the process can be. You will likely have spent weeks, or months, searching through job boards, speaking to recruitment consultants, and working through strenuous online tests. However, after all of this, the point that many fail to perform at and what lets them down in securing that prized role is, of course, the face-to-face interview.

Even after all the hard work you have put in up until this point, you can fall short in the interview for a number of reasons, be that a lack of company knowledge, poor communication skills or simply the way you highlight your accomplishments.

Much of the time, interviewees put this down to nerves or a lack of experience, but in truth, there is normally one culprit: poor interview preparation. So, to help you increase your chances of landing that dream job and taking a step up in your career, here is your essential guide to interview preparation.

Waiting for an interview and interview preparation tips

Before the interview

Even before you step through the doors and speak to anyone in the company, there is much work to be done to get you in the best shape possible for securing the job.

Researching the company

No matter what industry you are in, or what role you are going for, every company is unique in its own way. If a company has no unique backstory and has nothing that makes it stand out, then there’s a good chance it wouldn’t be able to compete and you wouldn’t have been drawn to the role in the first place.

So during your interview preparation, it’s your job to discover what makes the company so unique and also what it is about the company that makes you want to work there. You have to be honest with yourself here because a lack of passion will be easy to see by the interviewer early on in your meeting.

Properly identifying the company will also help you ascertain why it is that you are the right fit for them, and what you have to bring that will help advance their goals. Finally, properly research the industry and any competitors they have. By showing up-to-date knowledge on current industry trends, you demonstrate a real passion for that line of work and can engage in meaningful and interesting discussion.

Research the company before an interview

Make sure you carefully research the company website before the interview, particularly the About Us section.

Practising interview questions

There’s no better way to undertake interview preparation and to overcome nerves than by practising interview questions at home. If you are applying for some of the larger, more famous companies, then you will likely be able to search online and find sample questions that candidates are often asked. If not, find questions from similar companies in your industry and get friends or relatives to test you on them. There are also some great apps to help with your job search and interview practice.

The interviewer will want to see clarity in your answers, as well as a creative and passionate flair for finding unique solutions, so don’t stick to bog standard answers but, instead, offer insightful and detailed answers.

Common interview questions include:

  • Why are you interested in this industry?
  • What makes you think you are the right fit for us?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • What are your biggest weaknesses?
  • Why have you not yet found a role?
  • Why do you appear to be doing a lot of job hopping?
  • What are you learning in your spare time?
  • How do you deal with stress?
  • Tell me about a time when you dealt with ambiguity?
  • What salary are you seeking?
  • What makes you a good team player?

Try our virtual reality interview course to practice answering questions in a realistic environment.

Deciding what to wear

Women

  • Suit with skirt or pants (regardless of company dress code, take the conservative approach)
  • Knee-length skirts are typically appropriate
  • Stick to dark colour schemes, no loud colours
  • Understated makeup and nail polish
  • Limit jewellery and accessories
  • Neat, conservative hairstyle

Men

  • Wear a suit (even if typical company dress code is more casual)
  • Matching dress suit and trousers
  • Tie
  • Dress shirt
  • Dark socks and polished shoes
  • Neat and tidy hairstyle

Your aim is to come across as professional, so make sure all clothes are clean and ironed beforehand. Also, take a shower and be sure not to wear too much heavy aftershave or perfume.

During the interview

Coping with nerves

It is completely natural that you will get nervous during an interview for a role that you are particularly passionate about. This is to be expected, and hiring managers will understand minor nerves, but it is always best to try and compose yourself as much as possible and come across as strong and confident when meeting with them.

Read our 8 Elements of Confident Body Language.

Coping with nerves during a job interview

To help you hide those nerves and display the best possible image, here are some interview tips to help you:

  • Choose to stand, instead of sitting, while you wait in the interview room, this means you are prepared and look more in control when the interviewer comes to meet you.
  • Take deep breaths before entering the room as a means to calm yourself and control your breathing.
  • Just before the interview, open your mouth, stick your tongue out as far as possible, and speak your favourite nursery rhyme. This technique helps open up your throat and allows you to speak more clearly and more confidently.
  • To overcome any shaking, squeeze your buttocks tight together while sitting.
  • Sit slightly forward in your chair, this makes you come across as more confident and helps stop your throat from closing up.
  • Showing your hands at all times is seen by our subconscious as a sign of honesty, and it also helps stop you from fidgeting.
  • Listen clearly before answering any questions so as to help avoid any awkward silences and responses.
  • Finally, speak slowly and clearly to the interviewer and show that you are in control of yourself.

Tips for answering interview questions

When it all comes down to it, the purpose of your interview is to know your stuff and you can be guaranteed there will be tough questions in place for you. However, there are some steps you can take to help remain calm and answer the questions in the best way possible.

  • Research the company. This point was mentioned earlier and will pay dividends when you need quick answers at hand.
  • Know your CV. It’s often surprising how many people don’t know the details of where they worked and when off the top of their head, as well as what skills they developed; make this a key part of your interview preparation.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Nothing will better prepare you for interview questions than actually practising them with people beforehand.
  • Use examples. One major pet peeve of any hiring manager is hearing blanket responses like “I’m highly driven”. You need to be able to back these statements up with examples of where you have shown drive in a previous role or activity.
  • Bring it back to the role. When answering questions about your accomplishments, try and link examples back to specific skills you will need for the role you are applying for.
  • Be honest. One of the easiest ways to get your thoughts in a knot is to start telling lies about your accomplishments. Experienced interviewers can spot lies a mile off and will punish you for it.
  • No rambling. Don’t bore them with long-winded answers, instead be direct and to the point and don’t stray off topic.
  • Ask questions. When possible, asking questions shows you are genuinely interested and creates more of a dialogue, and when at the end they ask if you have any questions, have some prepared that you haven't already raised.
Practice answering interview questions in virtual reality

You can use virtual reality to practice answering interview questions in a realistic environment using the VirtualSpeech app.

After the interview

Following up with email

Good interview etiquette means waiting between 24 to 48 hours before sending post-interview correspondence. A common way of doing this is via email, or alternatively any other form of communication they gave you. Ideally, you want to contact every person who interviewed you and briefly thank them for their time and reiterate exactly why you are perfect for the role.

Keeping the message to the point is crucial so don't waffle about why you love the company and how much you enjoyed meeting them. Instead, clearly identify what it is that you possess that will benefit the company and why you are different to everyone else they have interviewed. This brief yet concise email will help keep you fresh in their minds when they make their decision and also give them points by which to discuss your case for working for them.

How long will you have to wait?

This will vary greatly depending on the role you are applying for, what stage of the interview process you are at, and how many people they need to interview for the position. Hopefully, the interviewer will give you some indication of how long you will have to wait and, if you feel you have built up enough rapport in your meeting, you can even ask at the end whether they require anything else from you and when you can expect to hear from them.

Really, it all comes down to patience and knowing you did everything you could on the day of the interview.