How to prepare for an interview

The interview is perhaps the most crucial stage of a job application and for some reason or another, strikes fear into the hearts of many. To help you get prepare for an Interview, we’ve compiled our best pre-interview tips. The good news is, interviewing is a skill, and like any skill, can be improved through preparation, experience and a lot of practice.

Interviews can come in many shapes and forms, but medium to larger organisations tend to run structured interviews which allows an interview panel to assess your skills, experience, motivation and cultural fit, using questions that relate to specific selection criteria. After conducting hundreds of structured interviews, I’d like to share the following tips to help you feel confident and prepared for your next interview.

Do some research and then some more

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not understanding the organisation or the position you are interviewing for. To avoid this, study the job advertisement and position description in detail; visit the company website and get tot know the mission statement, history, products and services, as well as information about management, the company culture and values. Most companies also have key documents available for download such as annual reports and strategy documents.

Your research enables you to make your answers more compelling by tailoring your responses based on key facts you have found. It will also allow you to comprehensively answer a couple of common interview question – What do you know about the company? Why would you like to work for the company? – so you don’t end up instead sounding like this.

Practice your answers and tell your story

The most common interview questions are behavioural questions, where you will be asked to draw on previous work experiences to describe how you meet certain skills and competencies required of a job. The main premise behind these types of questions is that past behaviour is evidence of your achievements and will also dictate future behaviour and success.

Behavioural questions usually start with phrases like: Tell me about a time where…? Describe a situation where…? For these types of questions, I’d recommend using the CAR method as it provides a clear structure for you to answer a question; and can help you move forward a clear and compelling narrative that holds the interest of the interview panel:

  • Context: Explain the context for which you were required to act upon.
  • Action: Describe your actions to fix the problem or to create new opportunities.
  • Result: Explain the outcome of your actions and the benefit to the team or organisation.

To prepare for behavioural questions, develop several examples of achievements that you can clearly articulate against the skills required of the job. For example, an important project you completed could be used to answer a question relating to several selection criteria such as organisational skills, project management skills, negotiation skills etc. This process ensures that you answer the questions asked and you don’t sound too rehearsed or robotic. I’d also suggest keeping your answers concise and relevant, highlighting what you did to achieve a specific result. Here’s a great video by recruitment firm, Hudson, that really helps distill these concepts to answer behavioural questions well:

Source: Hudson Global. Published on 15 Jan 2018

Prepare good questions

Essentially, an interview is a two-way conversation, which also gives you opportunity to learn about a job and the company you are applying for. At interview you’ll be given the opportunity to ask questions through the process or at the end. This is something that I recommend as it can help you build rapport and demonstrates motivation, cultural fit and active listening. Some examples of questions that I personally like are:

  • Cultural fit: Can you tell me more about the team and its members?
  • Rapport building: What do you like best about working here?
  • Active listening: You mentioned that the company was looking to grow by 50 per cent. Has a workforce planning strategy been put I place yet?
  • Motivation: Is there anything else I can provide to help you decide?
Be authentic, be yourself

There is strength in authenticity, which it comes across at interview and should be an extension of your cover letter and resume. Really get to know yourself and what your personal brand is (i.e. what you want to be known for or what you stand for), learn how to articulate these at interview and describe how these could be of benefit to your prospective employer. If you try and be anyone else but you, you can create a disconnect between you and the interviewers and you won’t appear authentic. In the long term, it also becomes exhausting trying to be or live up to something that you are not. Life’s too short for that peeps.

If you are offered a position after an interview and reference check, congratulations! But if not, know that you have put your best foot forward and being unsuccessful isn’t the end of the world – it should be a learning experience that helps you get you better for your next one.  If you don’t land a position after interview, do yourself a favour and ask for feedback, so you can use those insights to improve for future interviews.

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