Posted on 28/06/2017 by Gary Fay
Applying for a new role can be daunting - particularly for those who’ve not been through the process for a while. Even if you’ve seen your dream role advertised, you may be put off applying if you feel you lack the skills the employer wants or needs.
In truth, a large part of any employer’s decision will come down to the interview, rather than the CV. They’ll be looking at how an individual could fit into the organisation, their willingness and ability to learn and adapt – and they’ll be making decisions quickly. Research from Totaljobs shows that 19% of employers decide whether to progress further along the recruitment process after one minute of interviewing, while 44% decide within 15 minutes.
The key to a successful job interview is preparation. A prepared interviewee is a more confident interviewee - and therefore more likely to succeed.
With that in mind, here are our top ten tips for interview preparation.
1. Understand the business
Discovering what the company is all about has multiple benefits. It identifies areas where you have further questions to ask at interview; you’ll come across as more prepared and knowledgeable, and it will help when answering the interviewer’s questions. Check the company’s website and social media feeds, and trawl Google for news or press releases about the business: the more you know, the better.
2. Understand the role
Re-read the job description before your interview, and make sure you understand it intimately. Sure, the role might have a similar, or even the same, job title, but different companies will have a different view on exactly what that role means. It can be worth taking a printed copy into the interview with you, highlighting areas you’d like to discuss or have questions about.
Also, note your successes that match the company’s requirements. If there are any criteria you don’t meet, don’t panic: the company will be aware of gaps in your CV but have still decided to interview you. Instead of worrying about what you can’t do, instead think about how you’d meet your perceived shortcomings, and be prepared to discuss this in the interview.
3. Research the interview format
Your recruitment agency should be able to give you information about the format your interview will take. Businesses operate so differently now that you might find yourself in a standard question-and-answer scenario, a competency-based interview or even technical tests. Find out beforehand.
4. Prepare for expected questions
There are certain questions that crop up time and time again at interviews: “Why do you want to work at [company]?”, “Why do you want to leave your current employer?”, and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
You’ll also find many employers will ask questions about your experience in your current or previous roles: situational questions such as “What was the most challenging project you worked on?”, “Tell me about a time when you’ve experienced conflict with a colleague”, or “Give an example of a project you’re most proud of”. So prepare properly, but beware not to write a script. Having a pre-prepared answer can come across as stilted and unnatural. Instead, keep answers succinct - one to two minutes for each question - but with enough detail to sell yourself to your potential employers.
Finally, be prepared for tougher questions: one Microsoft candidate was asked, “How would you explain cloud computing to a seven-year-old?”, while a Palantir Technologies interview included, “Describe your biggest weakness. Then describe another.” Curveballs are becoming more commonplace, and while you can’t expect the unexpected, you can find a few of these random questions online and ask friends to fire them at you.
5. Prepare questions for you to ask
The word “interview” is misleading: the questions and answers should go both ways. Asking questions shows you’re interested in the company and the role, that you’re up to date with the latest developments, and that you have the desire to do the best job possible.
Questions could include things like, “I know that you use [x technology], why did you choose this over [competitor]?”, “How do you organise software testing?”, “What sort of career development opportunities does [company] offer?”, and “Where do you see this company headed in the next five years?”
But check the employer’s website first to see whether your questions can be answered online. If so, cross them off your list.
6. Review your CV (and cover letter)
Your interviewers will have done their research. As well as scrutinising your CV and cover letter, they’ll have checked out your LinkedIn profile to get a good picture of your career history, achievements, education and more. In fact, 57% of employers state that they are less likely to interview an applicant that they can’t find online.
This will form the basis for the majority of your interview, so you need to be prepared. Re-read your CV, along with the cover letter you sent with your application (if this applies) and look at it through an interviewer’s eyes. Are there any obvious areas that they may question, such as gaps in your employment, frequent role changes or experience missing from their list of requirements?
Social media profiles may also be scrutinised, so ensure you’re projecting an image you’d be happy for your prospective employer to see.
7. Examples, examples, examples
Think about the required skills listed in the job description, and how you can demonstrate your skillset matches the employer’s requirements. Head into the interview armed with examples of projects you’ve worked on, initiatives you’ve launched and elements of your previous roles that fit with what’s on the job spec - and if you have any (non-confidential) examples you can bring with you to demonstrate, all the better.
8. Lay out your interview outfit
Preparation doesn’t just boil down to the contents of the interview itself. Think about how you present yourself to your potential new employer too. Choose, wash and iron (if needed) your outfit the day before, ensuring that you hit the right mark when it comes to the degree of formality required. Trim your nails, polish your shoes, and dress to impress: the way you look will have an impact on how you’re seen by your interviewers - and is proven to help with confidence, too.
9. Check travel arrangements
Plan your journey before you leave. If walking to your interview, work out how long it will take. If taking public transport, check the route and factor in extra time for potential delays. The same goes for those who are driving - and you’ll also want to check out nearby parking too. Failing to prepare for any eventuality can mean arriving late, flustered, sweaty and red-faced - and that’s not the first impression you want to make.
10. Pack your bag
And pack it well in advance, too. Print out the directions to your interview location and contact details in case of any phone battery fails, and take a notepad and pen so that you can jot down answers to the questions you ask. Pack any samples of your work that you feel will help during the interview, and if you’re taking a phone or tablet with you, be sure to set them to silent before you walk in.
The difference between a good interview and a bad one is in the preparation. Nerves are to be expected, but ensuring that there are no nasty surprises means that you’ll not only feel more confident: you’ll come across as more confident too.
“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there”, Theodore Roosevelt once said. It worked for the President of the United States of America, and it works for us too.
With your newly-found interview confidence in place, it’s time to find your ideal job. Find out how we can help.