Interview Prep 101: How To Set Yourself Up For Success
Preparing for a big job interview? Learn how to showcase your skills, impress your interviewers, and present the best version of yourself.
Job interviews can be a stressful experience - there’s no two ways about it.
However, you can make the process easier.
Thorough interview preparation can help you to anticipate questions, build confidence, and set yourself up for success. Although the interview itself might dictate whether you receive a job offer, the days and weeks leading up to it can be equally influential on the outcome.
When you prepare diligently for an interview, you may even find that you’re feeling excited to showcase your skills rather than anxious about discussing your CV.
Let’s take a look at a few preparation techniques that will allow you to enter an interview with confidence.
1. Do your research
If you want to secure a new job with a company, you’ll need to know as much as possible about the business you’re joining.
Not only will this help you to answer questions more effectively, but research will also prove to the interviewers that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the role.
Start with the company website. What are the origins of the business? What kind of workplace culture are they trying to create? What are some major milestones they’ve achieved?
When you understand more about the way a business works, it will become much easier to prove how (and where) you can add value.
2. Scope out your interviewers
If you know the names of the employees that will be conducting your interview, you have a great opportunity to gain some valuable intel about them.
You don’t need to go overboard here - a simple LinkedIn or Google search will suffice.
However, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.
You might be able to think of insightful questions related to their specific role or required skill set, or discover a common interest that can spark conversation. Once again, proactive research proves that you’re committed to the job and keen to make a good impression.
3. Practise, practise, practise
Feel like your interview technique is a little rusty?
Practising interview scenarios for different interview types with a friend or family member can be extremely helpful.
There’s no need to cover any complex topics, but just get comfortable responding confidently to basic questions. If a certain question trips you up, you can make adjustments so that you’re ready for the real thing.
Practice makes perfect - but try to avoid sounding too rehearsed. Use practice to build your confidence rather than learn scripted answers.
4. Don’t be afraid to sell your skills
Many people are afraid of sounding arrogant or boastful during an interview, but the truth is that you need to sell yourself.
Interviewers want to know how you can contribute to the success of a business, so don’t be afraid to discuss your skills and relevant experience.
This is particularly true for contracting or short-term work. Clients are looking to understand the immediate value you can offer to a project, so you need to make your specialist expertise abundantly clear during the interview.
You don’t need to give a long-winded explanation of your personal achievements, but be confident when you’re talking about the value you can bring to a job.
5. Analyse the job description
A job description is often filled with nuggets of insight that many candidates overlook.
Examine the job specification closely and read between the lines. What criteria, experience, or skills are they searching for in the ideal candidate?
If you can shape your interview answers around the job description, you’ll be able to make a strong case for your candidacy. Generic responses are easily forgotten, but specific responses will make you stand out.
6. Anticipate common questions
It’s impossible to know exactly which questions your interviewers will ask - but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself effectively. There are several common questions that are frequently asked in job interviews, and if you can prepare your responses in advance, you’ll be ready to fire off thoughtful and persuasive answers.
For example, many interviewers will ask about your interests in the company, your strengths and weaknesses, and the reasons you’re a good fit for the role.
Even if you’re asked a slight variation on these questions, if you’ve done your homework, you won’t be caught off guard by any curveballs.
7. Get ready for a technical assessment
Many interviews will involve a technical assessment or evaluation, so make sure you’re properly prepared in this department.
For example, if you're applying for a software developer role, it's becoming more and more commonplace to showcase your coding skills. You might be asked to answer specific questions about projects you've completed, explain problems you've overcome, or even present solutions based on a scenario given to you in advance.
Every assessment will be different, but as long as you’re ready to showcase your technical expertise, you won’t be caught off guard!
8. Present yourself as a winning candidate
The way you carry yourself in a job interview can be just as important as the answers you give. You’re not just responding to questions - you’re presenting yourself as a potential hire.
Positive body language is key here, as around 55% of the cues we receive during a conversation come from body language rather than verbal responses. Keep a good posture, try to avoid fidgeting, and maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
All of this conveys a sense of confidence, which is vital for success.
There’s no need to go over the top with your outfit, but always dress appropriately for the occasion. While some businesses may allow more casual clothing, smart attire is usually the safer bet.
9. Prepare your own questions
An interview is a two-way street. While you’re there to make your case for a job, you should also use the conversation to discover more about the opportunity.
Preparing a few well-researched questions for your interviewers offers a couple of key benefits.
For one thing, you can learn more about your potential employer, the workplace culture, and the role itself. Use this opportunity to understand how the client works, including the types of projects they run, their internal processes, and how they usually engage with workers.
If you ask specific questions, you’ll usually receive specific answers, so think carefully about what you’d like to know.
(Remember, there’s no point in landing a new job that isn’t going to work for you! That’s why it’s important to probe the interviewer and ensure that you’re happy with the role, and business, that you may be entering.)
Secondly, asking insightful questions makes a strong impression on interviewers. You’ll show initiative, and prove that you’re actively seeking out information rather than just waiting on questions.
10. Quiz your recruiter
Speaking to your recruiter (whether in-house or agency) is also a brilliant way to uncover some valuable insights ahead of your interview.
Check in with your recruiter to understand more about the hiring staff you’ll be meeting, the primary skills you should emphasise, and any additional context that could help you to nail the interview.
It’s in your recruiter’s best interests to prepare you properly for your interview, so make the most of any insider information they can share.
Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience, and it’s totally normal to feel anxious about the big day.
However, rigorous pre-interview preparation can be a game-changer.
If you’re thoroughly prepared and ready for anything, you’ll be able to enter your interview with confidence, which won’t go unnoticed by a potential employer. Stay relaxed, focus on the questions being asked, and never underestimate the value you can offer a company.
For more advice and useful resources on navigating the recruitment process click here.
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