How to prepare for an interview

All job interviews have the same goal – to find out if the candidate is the best fit for the company. But how can you possibly prepare answers to prove that’s you, when you don’t know what the questions are?

With that in mind, there are some steps you can take to set yourself up for the highest chance of success, simply by doing a bit of prep beforehand.

Research, research, research

Did we say research? As you agonise over how to show your best, most professional and least nervous side, take the time (and a deep breath) to thoroughly research the company you’re hoping to work for. Backing yourself during the interview with facts about company achievements or highlights shows you’ve put time and initiative into preparing. How?

  • Look at their website. All of it.

  • Find key employees on online professional platforms and you may learn about what’s been happening for them within the company recently.

  • If you know who will be interviewing you, research them as well.

  • Search for news articles and newsletters that mention the company and its key people.

  • Take note of some of the company’s main achievements, growth, expansion and if you can find them, future goals.

Virtual interview

According to our research, technology is continuing to change the hiring process and video interviewing will become more common. Why? Instead of bringing all potential candidates in for a face-to-face interview, it is far more efficient and cost-effective for everyone to first chat online. You can prepare for this by:

  • Dress as you would if you were attending the interview in person.

  • Holding your video interview in a space that looks at least semi-professional. If you’re doing it from home, find a neutral background away from your laundry pile or other clutter.

  • Prepare your answers, and do your research, just as you would for an in-person interview. After all, getting through the company door is what you’re trying to achieve.

Tell us about yourself

It’s the question most interviewees dread. In whatever form the question comes, inevitably you’re there to tell the interviewer, or panel, about yourself and why you’re sitting in front of them.

To prevent a complete verbal block, take time to prepare some potential answers. Include:

  • Some key accomplishments and achievements.

  • A brief summary of relevant past experience that demonstrates key skills and abilities, but isn’t just a reading of your CV.

  • Key anecdotes reflecting the professional development and attributes that make you so perfectly suitable to this role.

  • Including some facts about the company (see above), and reiterate what drew you to apply for the job with them.

The curly questions

A common question in a job interview is how you faced and overcame a challenging situation in a professional context. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you can deal with failure and, importantly, how you turned it into a positive learning experience.

  • Pick an example from your professional past or, if this is your first job, your education or a volunteer position.

  • Explain how it occurred without giving excuses, being defensive or blaming others.

  • When talking about your role in the failure and your response to it, demonstrate self-awareness and problem-solving.

Competency questions

Competency questions are common in interviews and call for specific examples of situations you dealt with and how you applied your skills. This is not necessarily a negative situation, but could be an example of how you led a team, dealt with a conflict, managed a workplace change, or achieved success.

  • Choose a situation and prepare to link that to your CV and examples of your soft skills.

  • Re-read the job description to remind yourself of what competencies the employer will be looking for (leadership, team player, creative thinker etc.)

  • Use the STAR technique to structure your responses:

    • Situation – start out by briefly outlining the situation

    • Task – describe what your responsibility was within that situation

    • Action – what actions you took

    • Result – what the outcome of your actions was

Long term plans

Where do you want to be in five years? Groan... it’s such a common question, but not one that everyone has an answer for. If you’re asked this in an interview, remember that an employer is trying to gauge whether you will disappear in six months on a one-way ticket to Thailand, or if you’re going to be there for the long haul. They will also be ensuring you are the best fit for the direction of the company.

  • Answer with a realistic career goal which makes it clear that path would also benefit the company.

  • If you really don’t know where you see yourself in five to ten years then admit that, but add that the experience you’ll gain from this position will help you to progress towards finding that answer.

  • Add that progression may well be within the company.

  • Don’t be afraid to show you are driven towards reaching a certain point in your career. After all, motivation is a good thing.

Ask away

Interviews are a two-way street – it’s as much about you figuring out if the company is right for you as it is selling yourself to them. It is likely your interviewer(s) will allow you time to ask questions, or at the end you can ask if that’s ok. This is an ideal time to turn the tables and put them through their paces.

  • Write down your questions so you have them ready to ask.

  • Make them professional and well thought out.

  • Make them open-ended so the interviewer(s) is forced to give you a longer answer, not just a ‘yes’ or ‘no.

Some examples of questions you could ask include:

  1. How would you describe your staff culture?

  2. What is the company’s approach to flexible working hours and/or working from home?

  3. What company benefits are staff entitled to here?

  4. What are the future prospects of this role?

  5. What do you like best about working for this company?