How to prepare for a job interview
The job interview is probably the most important step you will take in your job search journey - it’s your best chance to show the a hiring manager or recruitment company that you’re the best person for their job.
Knowing how to prepare for a job interview begins with the following:
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Read and review the job description
You’ve received a call for that dream job, so how do you prepare for the interview? The first step in the preparation process should be to go back and review the job description. Most job descriptions follow a similar pattern and are usually categorised by the following points:
- Job title/Department
- Duties and tasks
- Skills required
The job title and department will give you an understanding of the major purpose of the position and where the role fits into the organisation, allowing you to discover who your potential line manager could be.
Read and review the job description very thoroughly and be sure to align your competencies with the skills required for the job. You will consequently ready yourself for questions around your previous experiences, performing similar duties in other organisations.
Research the company
Organisations look to hire people with similar values to those of the company culture. Researching the company before an interview will give you an insight into the organisation's future goals and plans and being able to discuss these points will make you seem like a long-term investment to your future employer. The following interview preparation tips will give you a guide as to which aspect of the company should be researched:
Plan your journey to the job interview
When preparing for a job interview one of the most important things to consider is how you are going to get there. A failure to plan is a plan to fail. If you are planning on driving to the interview, make sure you fill your car with fuel the night before. You don’t want to be filling up on the way dressed in your suit.
Make sure you arrive on time, or better yet, at least 15 minutes early. Ensure this by knowing the address and if you can, have a trial run a couple of days before. The morning of the interview, check the traffic reports and have a backup route planned just in case. If you are travelling by train or bus, make sure you check the weather report the night before and keep an eye on the public transport websites for any delays. Look out for track works or traffic conditions that can potentially delay your train or bus trip.
Go to bed early the night before and wake up early to give yourself plenty of time.
If you're wondering how to dress for an interview, you're not alone. Wearing the right clothes to the interview won’t get you the job, but wearing the wrong clothes will sink any chances of impressing the interviewer.
There is one rule that stands above all: Dress professionally. Wear business attire appropriate for the role, while still making sure you feel comfortable.
In today’s digital world some hiring managers choose to conduct preliminary interviews by phone. Phone interviews can be challenging as you're not physically in the room with your interviewer and in some cases, you have to work even harder to stand out.
Take phone interviews seriously. Dressing as you would for any other interview will put you in the right mindset. Also, sit at a desk or table. It is important to create a setting similar to as you would be sitting in front of the hiring manager.
As with phone calls, video interviews can be tricky - the good news is, at least during a video interview, the hiring manager can see you.
Video interviews are a great way to connect and can save both parties the hassle of travel. Before your video interview make sure your technology is up to date and working. Take the time to also check that your surroundings are clean and tidy. It may seem obvious, but in the midst of delivering an answer, it can be easy to forget that you're sitting in front of a camera.
How to act in an interview
Once you've completed your interview preparation, the next step is to ace the job interview itself. Whether you get offered the job depends largely on how you perform during the interview, so its imperative to make a great first impression on your hiring manager.
It's not just what you do, it's also what you say, and how you say it. Read our job interview tips on questions to ask in an interview below.
The most important part of preparing for an interview is practicing how to answer interview questions you might be asked on the day.
Knowing the most common types of job interview questions is an advantage - that way, you can craft your answers well in advance, and feel confident in your responses when the pressure is on.
Our common interview questions and answers guide will help you prepare for your next job interview.
Have you ever wondered what questions to ask at a job interview? In seeking a job, it’s important to remember that an interview isn’t just an opportunity for the employer to find out if you're a suitable candidate - the interview works both ways.
Read our guide on the best questions to ask during an interview to ensure the job is the right fit for you too.
Job interview tips: dos and don'ts
- Dress to impress. Make sure your clothes are clean, ironed and presentable.
- Make eye contact, and begin with a strong handshake. This will signal your confidence when you meet your interviewer for the first time.
- Sit still, with your feet firmly on the ground. This will help you maintain your posture and avoid fidgeting.
- Remember your CV details. In particular the experience most relevant to the role you're interviewing for.
- Make a note of your questions. Bring a note-pad if you feel you might forget important points.
- Remember. It's just as important for the interviewer to sell the benefits of working at their business, as it is for you to impress your next potential employer.
- Turn up late to the interview. If for some reason on the day it's unavoidable, call ahead to let your interviewer know your expected time of arrival.
- Dress sloppily or inappropriately. Not sure what to wear? Read our guidelines.
- Smoke before your interview. Whilst a quick cigarette might seem like a good idea to calm your nerves, the smell will be noticeable and unpleasant for your interviewer.
- Volunteer your weaknesses. Whilst honesty is always the best policy, there is no need to volunteer your shortfalls unless asked directly.
- Criticise your current or previous employer. Doing so could give your interviewer the impression you're difficult to work with.
What you say in an interview is only a part of the message you send to a potential employer.
Positive body language plays a vital part in the first impression that hiring managers have of you.
Read our guide on how to put forward your best self in an interview.
After your first interview, it can be tempting to sit back and wait for the job offer to roll in. Don't undermine all the good job interview preparation you did by faltering at this stage - keep the lines of communication with your potential employer open by sending an interview thank you email.
Read our article outlining why you should send an interview follow up, the format and content that should be included, as well as an example of an interview thank you email you can use as a template.
Once you have made it through the first interview round, it's vital that you keep up the positive momentum for your second interview and beyond.
Being invited back for a second interview is a good indication that you're being seriously considered for the position.
Read our guide on what to anticipate during your second interview, and the types of second round interview questions you will be asked (and should ask).
How to follow up an interview
Congratulations! You made it through the initial interview process, hopefully picking up some great job interview tips we provided in the preceding sections.
Don't stop there. The next part of the process is just as important, if not more so. In today's competitive job market it's imperative you follow up your initial job interview with a thank-you email to reiterate your interest in the role, and brush up on your second interview skills.