Job Interviews - Preparation 101
Congratulations – you have now reached a really significant stage in the selection process.
This could be the final hurdle, followed by an offer that day. Or it may followed by further interviews and an assessment centre. Either way, you have shown the target employer that you are a potential hire and are in with a real chance. As a rule, most of your competition were out of the running at the application stage.
Job interviews are increasingly varied. Format could be face-to-face, telephone, Skype or video. The interviewer(s) may one person, a panel, an outside agency rather than the actual employer. Questions could be competency, strengths, chronological, case-study, technical or a combination.
For all job interviews your preparation should start with working through these steps.
- Check – the employer and the role. Due to speculative applications, using agencies or just failing to keep track of applications, I have known people go to interviews too embarrassed to clarify. It’s difficult (and stressful) if you are preparing in the dark.
- Confirm – your attendance, time, location (an employer may have several buildings in the same area), documentation you need to take, any task you can prepare for.
- Ask – who will be interviewing you and the style of interview. Most want you to be prepared so will tell you. If they don’t want to tell you too much they will still note your motivation and preparation.
- Plan – interview route and clothes. Make sure your outfit works for every part of the day. Try it sitting down, presenting, climbing stairs, whatever might happen.
- Try out the journey if you can, or at least rehearse it virtually.
Now the scene is set you are ready to get down to detailed preparation. I suggest you split preparation across preparing for questions and answers and preparing mentally.
- Go back to your application form or any conversations. Identify weak spots or gaps they might question, but also identify where you have impressed them. Your first job at interview is to live up to the positive picture they already have of you.
- Go back to information on the company, team or department, scheme, role. You may have had a detailed job and person specification when you applied, or you may have to do some more research at this stage.
- From the two steps above you should be able to know predict questions based around what the employer will be seeking. You should now what you can offer. You are clear how you and they are a good fit. You are aiming for the employer to feel confident in your ability to do the job, but also..
- Employers want to believe that you want to be there. So, think about why you want to do the job and/or why you want to work for that organisation.
- Look at my advice on specific interview questions most people find difficult.
Mental and Emotional Preparation
- Reflect on past experiences of interviews or similar situations. Think about how you felt, how you react to nerves and any feedback you received.
- When nervous what happens physically: to your voice, your body language, do you have any nervous habits? If you don’t know, get feedback.
- Preparation you have taken should help settle nerves a bit, but to have none would be unusual.
- If you find job interviews particularly nerve racking or have had a bad experience in the past you may feel worse at this point. If so, take a slow breath and read a couple more posts I have written to help - starting with this one on interview anxiety.
- Visualise your interview going well. Take time to get into a relaxed state before you do this. You are aiming to rehearse going through the process successfully, just as an athlete might, so that on the day it feels more familiar and so less scary.
- Don’t hide your head in the sand over difficult questions or problems you have with interviews. Get help as soon as you can with: nerves, stammering, discomfort with selling yourself, difficulties structuring answers… you will be amazed at improvements if you practice as well as reading advice.
Finally, do be aware of over anxious preparation. The most prepared, if it’s frantic cramming of every possible question under the sun, is not usually the person chosen for the job. Some of the keenest, best applicants are too rehearsed and too anxious.
See the interview as a chance to listen and learn as well as sell. It should feel like a professional conversation: formal but also relaxed, not too hard a sales pitch and not an interrogation. If that feels impossible read my blogs 'Job Interview Anxiety'. and 'Job Interviews and Mindfulness'.
You can also book comprehensive interview preparation where we can: predict, talk through and practice until you feel confident and can actually enjoy interviews!