Interviews are a big deal. They are a potentially life-changing events, and you have most probably already passed several tests to get to this important stage of the process, including the CV sift and preliminary telephone call.
In the interview first impressions are everything, and every answer you give puts your future on the line. But they can be an important exercise in self-discovery and a chance to feel great and be the best version of yourself.
In the following article, we will take you, step by step, from being a nervous and underprepared interviewee to becoming an all-conquering candidate.
Do your research
Job number one is to do your research. Ask yourself: what does the business you want a job from actually do? Who do they serve – is it other businesses (if so which) or members of the public? Look and see if they have appeared in the news recently, and visit their website, where they will possibly have their own news section, which will bring you up to date.
If you know the name of the person who is interviewing you, maybe look at who they are and what they do. Appreciate what their job role is and their background. Don't be intrusive – a glance on LinkedIn and a Google of their job title will suffice.
All this research is excellent ammunition because not only will you be able to think about how you can help your interviewer and their business, but it will probably mean you will end up with a question or two at the end of the interview for them. And nothing impresses more than good research and illustrating how your experience and skills fit with your potential future employer.
Prepare for the questions
If you're new to job interviews, then here's something you need to know: nobody does interviews all the time unless they work for a recruiter or have a very niche HR role.
Why are we telling you this? Mainly because the interviewer might not have as much time as you to prepare. So many – not all – will prepare their interview questions in two ways. First, they might google top interview questions. Second, they will look at the job in question and consider the personality, skills and talents they want from a candidate.
So start with google. Look at lists of interview questions from across the web: search for the most popular questions, the most difficult questions and so on. Draw up a list, get a piece of paper, and answer them. Do this over and over until the process is second nature.
This step alone gives you a head start over some other candidates who will either hope to wing it or feel too intimidated to consider the interview before the big day.
Refer back to the job advert
RBDRailRecruiter keeps a record of your job applications and it’s a good idea to refresh your memory and read through the job advert as a key part of your preparation. You might also wish to review your CV and covering letter, as clearly there are things in here that your potential new employer liked.
Most adverts include a list of required experience, knowledge or skills, desirable skills might also be listed. If the advert is not set out in this way try to work out what you think the required skills and experience might be. Then, take some time to make sure you have examples of where you have exhibited these requirements. Saying you can do something or know something is not going to score as well as if you can provide practical examples of where you have actually done or achieved something.
Don’t just write off the desirable qualities. While these are not essential it’s clear that the recruiting business values these qualities so include them in your preparations. If things are close between several candidates having more desirable ticks will put you in a good position. And, if you don’t have an example, try to make sure you have something to say rather than an awkward silence. This might include drawing on a related example, or indicating you’d be willing to learn about this area and you have already undertaken some research.
Figure out your greatest hits
Much will emerge from answering questions, as in the section above, but listing your best attributes and successes is a good exercise in and of itself.
What you do is think back to school or college and try and recall your best achievements. Then keep doing that, moving forward in your mind, year by year. Make sure that, as you do this, you get a piece of paper and "thought bubble" it all out. What were your achievements? What moments in life made you dig deep for your finest qualities? What did you find challenging in work, homelife, spare time, or academia that you coped with? What sort of things do you find easy in life and why?
This isn't the simplest of exercises, as it can take a while to get the memories flooding back. If that turns out to be the case, start with anything in life that earned a certificate, then ask yourself why you earned it.
Clearly the more advanced your career is, and the more specialised your job is, the greater the importance there might be upon your most recent accomplishments and experience.
But it can be useful to dig through your old CVs too. Sometimes as you update your CV, you drop older successes which are still relevant.
One beneficial approach is to talk this research through with someone close to you. A friend or relative that sees the best in you can help you figure out your list of accomplishments.
Then, revisit those interview questions you found from following the previous section. Are there any gaps in your answers which you can now fill in thanks to your research?
Prepare to turn the interview around
What do we mean by "turning the interview around"?
Well, this opportunity comes at the end of your interview. Nearly every time in the process, your interviewers will ask if you have any questions. When and if that happens, you want to make the most of it.
Why? Because that's the moment when you can turn the interview right around and sound like you are part of the team. Of course, if they start thinking of you as part of the team, chances are you will become part of the team – or stand a much better chance of doing so than people who skipped this part of the interview by saying they had no questions. Many people will do this either because they have anything to ask or they want to leave the interview as soon as possible.
Don't run. Stay and ask questions. Before the interview, ask yourself: what do you want to know? Your research will throw up questions about the business and the job and, if you are really on form, so will the interview. But the job advert is an excellent place to start. What has it not said that you'd like to discover more about – especially when it comes to your potential duties and how they do business?
Use the questions part of the interview to show you have really done your homework, but also try to avoid making all the questions about you and what you get from the company. It’s also important to show what you can give and to illustrate your level of engagement and interest.
Check – where is the interview?
The most basic bit of preparation, but utterly crucial.
If you know "sort of" where the job interview is, that's not enough. The week before you have your interview, maybe earlier, dress rehearse. Use whatever means you will to get there on the day. That way, you will specify possible delays to trains or bus services and parking for cars.
Importantly, if you use public transport go on their website. Make sure operators are not diverting buses or cancelling trains on the big day.
Even if you get there on time without rehearsing, you don't need a spike in your stress levels on the day. You don't want to run in there, perspiration on brow, looking worried.
Think – what do you need to bring?
Let's start with portfolios: important for some, not for everyone. Are you being asked to bring evidence of your work in with you?
If so, take a look at what people in your profession do.
And, even if you are not using visuals, are you expected to bring anything else? Do they want to see specific ID? Other copies of your CV?
Double-check everything on your interview letter to ensure you bring what you need.
Pick out good clothes
Sounds basic, doesn't it? It is, but if you can make this into more of an occasion, you turn a potentially worrying situation into a feel-good moment.
Make sure your suit or outfit is clean and pressed, this is very important for dry clean only garments. And, if you haven’t worn it for a while make sure your chosen outfit still fits. Maybe buy a nice accessory, such as a tie. Make sure it is something to look forward to wearing and that you will feel comfortable and confident.
Finally, if you buy new shoes, take them for a test run a few days before, so you aren't in agony on the day.
That's about everything. Well, except for one thing: be yourself. That may sound a cliché, but what it means in this situation is letting your best self shine, understanding that if you don't let your authentic self through, you stand less chance of getting the job.
Rehearse the interview if needs be, do some confidence exercises, but most of all, remember you have nothing to lose, so you might as well give everything on the big day.