Job interviews can be difficult; many people feel nervous and unsure about how to approach them. They want to impress the recruiters but they just aren’t sure how to.
Preparing properly for an interview can dramatically improve your chances of success and in this article we will explore 6 specific things you can do to wow the panel.
1. Check out the organization
Make sure that you are really familiar with the organisation you are applying for. It is important that you know what the organisation does, what their major challenges are likely to be, and who their main competitors are.
Read their website and look for articles about them in the press. Think about how the role you are applying for can help the organisation be successful in the future.
The more senior the role in the organisation, the more you should be able to talk with authority about why you want to join the organisation and how you can contribute to their future success.
The best candidates won’t wait to be asked about the organisation. They will talk about the organisation with enthusiasm, and weave relevant insights into their responses during the interview.
Pay particular attention to the vision, mission and values of the organisation, and look for ways of showing you are a good fit with the organisational values in your interview.
2. Get really familiar with the role you are applying for
Interviews should be tailored to the requirements of the role, and these should be set out in the Job Description and Person Specification. This is good news because it means you should have a rough idea of the areas the interview will focus on.
Broadly speaking interviews tend to be technical (showing that you know how to do the things you will need to do in the job) or competency based (showing that you have the behavioural skills required for the role, such as teamwork, influencing or strategic thinking).
Prepare by working through the Job Description, Person Specification and advert and highlighting any of the key knowledge, skills or attitudes required for the role.
Make sure you can explain how you meet each of these requirements. Identify where you feel you are likely to face challenges or any development areas and think about how you will position these if asked – it is particularly useful to have in mind any development activities that would be beneficial.
3. Map out your experiences
Sometimes candidates can just ‘go blank’ in interviews; they know that they have lots of good examples they could share, they just can’t bring any to mind when they are put on the spot, or they share examples that are not their best examples.
Avoid this by writing out a list of your main achievements and successes.
The best examples are ones where you were instrumental in making something happen, where you went above and beyond what was necessary, where the situation has finished and you know what the outcome was. Cross reference these to the requirements of the role set out in the job description.
For example, if the job requires you to have strong attention to detail, make sure that you have an example of a time when you have shown strong attention to detail that you can share.
Prepare your examples by using the STAR acronym.
This provides a useful framework for organising your thoughts and delivering a concise and easy to follow description of what you did. STAR stands for Situation (a broad overview of the context), Task (what specifically you had to do and why it was important), Actions (what you actually did), and Results (what happened in the end).
4. Practice difficult questions
Practising difficult questions has two benefits: firstly, it means that if you actually get asked these difficult questions you will actually be able to respond effectively, and secondly, you will be more confident knowing that you can answer difficult questions. What will be difficult will vary from person to person, and is likely to focus around the areas of the job where they feel that they have weaknesses or development areas.
Note down anything that you hope the interviewers will not ask you about and make sure you can respond if they do. Ideally, get a coach or trusted friend to ask you practice questions and provide feedback.
Common questions that are often seen as difficult are:
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time something went wrong
- What do you see as your development areas?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should we pick you for this job?
5. Look the part
First impressions matter. It is really important that the interviewer gets a good feeling about you and feels confident that you will fit in well and be able to do the job.
Make sure that you present yourself appropriately. What is appropriate will vary from job to job, but as a rule make sure you are smart, well-groomed and polite. Clothes should be clean and ironed, shoes polished and hair tidy.
Meet the interviewers with confidence; make eye contact and shake their hands. If you are not sure what you should wear then you can call the HR team and ask for their advice.
6. Sort out your admin
Think about the logistics of the interview in advance and make sure that you are well prepared.
For example, find out where the interview will take place and visit it in beforehand so that you don’t have to worry about getting lost or not finding the venue. Check how long it will take you to travel to the venue, do a practice run, and then add in contingency so that you are not late.
Make sure that you have all of the necessary documents and paperwork with you, for example, most employers will need to see a passport or visa proving your right to work in the country and you should bring that along. If you need to give a presentation, then ensure you have hard copies printed out as well as a soft copy on a pen-drive.
Set yourself up for success by thinking about the things that could go wrong logistically, and how you can overcome these. This will ensure that you will arrive at the interview on time, being well prepared, being calm and collected and ready to perform at your best.