How to Prepare for an Interview
It’s natural to be anxious for a job interview; it’s an unfamiliar situation which your future job hinges on. But if you prepare correctly, you have a much higher chance of wowing your future employer and securing that job you’ve worked hard for.
Whether the job you’re applying for has a specific dress code or not, it’s always a good idea to wear business attire when meeting your potential employer for the first time. This communicates that you’re professional and take the position seriously.
Do some research on the company you’ve applied for. You don’t have to learn facts enough to recite them word for word, but you should be aware of the company’s mission and where they sit in their industry. Employers are looking for passionate individuals who can contribute positively to their business; drawing blanks when an interviewer asks you questions about their company shows that you don’t care about the company itself.
Look up common interview questions and prepare answers for them. A good place to start is Total Jobs’ 20 Most Common Interview Questions, https://www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/most-common-interview-questions/, which lists some of the questions you may have to answer. Remember that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and many interviewers will throw a few curveballs at you to see how you respond to difficult or unusual questions under pressure.
Prepare your sales pitch! You’re selling yourself to your interviewer, why do you stand out from the other candidates? What professional achievements or qualifications do you have? It’s best to focus on your positive attributes here, it’s likely your potential employer will ask about your weaknesses later.
Almost all job interviews will end with the dreaded ‘Do you have any questions for us?’. It’s so important that you ask your interviewer thoughtful questions about your role or the company that haven’t already been covered. Even if you prepare just two or three, it’s a good idea to show your potential employer that you care enough about the position to want to know more. Candidates who don’t ask questions seem passive or in a rush to end the interview, neither of which communicate an exemplary employee.
If you’re struggling with what to ask, consider what you don’t already know about the company or your role. Did the initial job posting tell you what your average day would look like? Alternatively, you can ask the interviewer (or interviewers) why they decided to work for their company, or what they enjoy most about their job. Not only does this make you look passionate about the role, but it also gives you more information about what you can expect if you’re successful. Note that there are some questions you should avoid at this stage; it’s best not to ask about employee perks or any detailed questions about salary.
Practice your interview techniques in front of a mirror. It may make you feel silly, but it’s helpful to note your body language and pitch to check if there’s anything you are communicating without necessarily meaning to. For example, folding your arms may feel comforting, especially if you’re nervous, but to your interviewer it may appear defensive and rude. Instead, try gesturing more with your hands, this looks more confident and research suggests that this helps you communicate more effectively (https://www.scienceofpeople.com/hand-gestures/).
When you reach the date of your interview, take a few moments beforehand to get into a headspace that will allow you to perform your best. Do some deep breathing exercises and think positive thoughts! Walk into your interview with your head held high and looking confident. Even if you’re very anxious, pretending to be confident will actually help you feel more confident, and gives a better first impression to your interviewer.
Whilst thankfully very rare, some employers still ask illegal or offensive questions during job interviews. It’s best to learn how to answer these effectively; in the pressure of an interview situation it is easy to become overwhelmed. Questions concerning your race, religion, gender, sexuality are not acceptable, for example, some women find themselves being asked if they plan to have children. This is not appropriate to be asked in an interview, and you shouldn’t feel your job prospects will be affected by your personal decisions. If you feel you’re being asked an inappropriate question, you can simply reply with ‘I’m not sure how that is relevant to my application’, or you can quiz the employer on why they are asking that question.
Finally, even if you dress professionally, prepare question for your interview and rehearse, you may still miss out on the job opportunity. If this happens, it’s important to not become disheartened! There may have been a candidate with more experience or qualifications than you have in a particular area. In this situation, you can ask the interviewer for feedback on your interview. Whilst they may not always respond, it’s good to ask so you know what to improve upon next time.
Alternatively, you may be offered the job but changed your mind after finding out more information at the interview stage. The interview is more about you than it is about the employer, so if you feel uncomfortable with anything you’ve been asked or decide that the job is not for you anymore, you can say no.
If you’re unsure of how to decline a job offer, you can simply thank the employer but state that either your circumstances have changed or that you are no longer pursuing employment with that specific company. You don’t have to be too honest or give too much detail, but make sure you’re firm and clear in your response.