No one likes interviews. Not before they go into the interview, anyway. You may find that you enjoyed an interview after you leave, or even during, but the chances are you do not like interviews while you are waiting at reception trying to go over the facts you have memorised about the company.

However, while they aren’t all that fun, they don’t have to be scary. In this article, we going to share some of our tips to make sure that your upcoming interview goes as well as it can do.

How do I prepare for an interview?

If you have been asked in for an interview, you have managed to convince the recruiter that you are right for the role on paper. Your interview is then your opportunity to confirm and build on this impression, demonstrating that you are an ideal candidate for this opportunity.

So, how do you do that?

You prepare.

Firstly, re-read the role description and requirements to ensure that you completely understand the job and skills required.  Be clear about what points you want to make in the interview and practice building them into different answers.

Start by writing down a few key bullet points and then practice speaking your answers in more detail. Articulating responses is more difficult than just thinking them in your head – saying them out loud will also help you sound more convincing on the day.

You need to be clear about your motivations to work at the company and in the role you are applying for. Be prepared to speak convincingly about why you have applied for this job.

Another area you might want to practice is your commercial awareness. Consider how global events, current affairs and the economy might affect the company. Think about the organisation’s place in the market and how it compares to its competitors. Be prepared to offer your informed opinion on all of these issues. Luckily, we have a whole article dedicated to commercial awareness including what it is and how to demonstrate it in interviews. You can read more about it here.

What sort of questions might I be asked in the interview?

The questions asked in an interview will vary from company to company. However, some typical interview questions might include;

  • What attracted you to this company?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • What can you bring to this role?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge
  • What would you do differently if faced with the same challenge today?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
  • What do you think are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • What has been your greatest achievement?

It is unlikely that you will be asked these exact questions word-for-word, so you should be able to adapt your answers to different versions of a question.

Finally, prepare some questions that you want to ask the recruiter at the end of the interview. Some of these may be answered throughout the course of the interview, so avoid asking a question that has already been covered. If your questions have already been answered, perhaps ask your interviewer something about their role or what they think is the best thing about working for the company.

What should I do on the day of my interview?

Make sure you plan your route to your interview. If you are getting on public transport, try to go earlier than necessary. If you are getting the train, for example, try and get the earlier train and keep checking the trains throughout the day to make sure there are no delays or cancellations.

Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early to the interview. It is always safest to dress formally for an interview, even if the workplace is casual. Make a confident first impression with a firm handshake and make eye-contact with your interviewer. Your interview begins the minute you enter the building and does not end until you leave the premises – be polite and courteous to everyone you meet.

Don’t forget to bring a copy of your CV and cover letter in case someone asks to see it.

What should I do during my interview?

Keep your nerves in check and take time to gather your thoughts before answering questions. You should also make sure you have the answer to the question asked – don’t reel off an answer you have already prepared if you get stuck!

If you have finished answering the question and the interviewer remains silent, resist the urge to keep speaking to fill this silence. It is likely that the interviewer is just making some notes or considering your answer. It is better to ask the interviewer if they require more information form you than to ramble off point.

When answering questions try to use a variety of experiences such as your studies, work experience, society involvement and any volunteer work. Remember the list you made earlier when compiling evidence for your CV? It’s time to refer to that again. Use the examples given on your application but go into more detail. Remember to use the STAR Method and you will be able to answer these questions clearly and efficiently.

However, you should avoid trying to learn answers off by heart. A good interview should be more like an active and engaging conversation rather than a back and forth question and answer. If you do not understand the question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Even if your interview is relaxed and fairly casual, keep your answers and behaviour professional, focussed and relevant. You need to communicate your personality and can do this by illustrating the positive experiences you’ve had and outcomes achieved. Be aware of your body language and try to maintain natural eye contact. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, make sure to switch your focus between all parties when answering, so that your audience remains engaged. Remember that most interviewers are looking for someone they can envisage working alongside every day – be friendly, positive and enthusiastic.

What should I do once the interview is over?

Once you leave the building (remember the interview isn’t over until then!), make some notes on what was discussed, areas you think went well and areas you think did not go so well. This list will be helpful for future opportunities – consider how you would answer the same question differently now that you have had this experience.

If there is a second interview stage, you will likely have to cover the same topics in more depth, so think about what it is that the recruiter wanted and responded positively to. You should then build on this.

You should send a follow up email to your recruitment contact that evening or the next day, thanking them for their time and reaffirming your interest in the position. Keep this email brief and to the point, there is no need to give a full recap of what was discussed during the interview.

Hopefully this has given you some idea of what you should be doing before, during and after your interview. As long as you are prepared, you will be fine. Good luck!

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