You’ve done it – you’ve submitted your CV and covering letter, and now you’ve landed a job interview.
Congratulations! But you’re only part of the way there. To boost your chances of success and make it to the next round, you need to ace your interview. That is why we’ve compiled these tried and tested tips. Here’s how to prepare for an interview.
Guide updated in July 2021
Types of Job Interview
There are a few common interview types that you might encounter during your job hunt. Consider asking which of the following interview styles you are being invited to – this information can help you prepare. To learn even more about acing a job interview, or to coach others to do so, consider enrolling in HR courses. HR can teach you the ins and outs of employment psychology.
- Behavioural Interviews – Behavioural interviews ask you to recount different scenarios you encountered in previous employment. In this type of interview, you’ll often be asked to provide specific examples.
- Stress Interviews – Stress interviews gauge how well you respond under pressure. Be prepared for some uncomfortable questions and try to stay calm.
- Case Interviews – In a case interview, you will be asked to consider specific situations and respond with how you’d react. This is a common type of interview for management consulting positions.
- Group Interviews – In a group interview, you will be interviewing alongside several other candidates. It is your job to stand out from the competition.
How to Prepare for an Interview
Preparing for an interview is a lot like rehearsing for a play, but you only have one side of the script! It can be helpful to practise answering common questions with a friend or even out loud in the mirror. Recording yourself is another good way to prepare for your interview – you can review the recordings and gain insight into your delivery.
What to Bring to a Job Interview
There are a few things that you should always bring with you to a job interview:
- A copy of your CV
- A notepad and pen
- A list of your references
- A professional bag, portfolio, or briefcase to hold all your items
Researching the Organisation
It’s a job interview, so they’re only going to want to know about you, right? Wrong! They also want to see what you know about them. Researching your potential employer shows them that you are thorough, curious, and prepared. Start by Googling the company or organisation and look at their LinkedIn pages, social media presence, and any news stories available.
This information will help you craft educated questions that show you are engaged and ready to contribute to future success.
Can You Take Notes to an Interview?
Yes, you can always bring a written or typed list of notes and questions to your interview. Be sure that you only refer to the notes briefly – don’t read from them verbatim.
Making a Good First Impression at an Interview
Studies show that making a good first impression is far more than a common expression. Your potential employer is sizing you up from the moment you arrive. When you make a good first impression, you can then move on and focus on showing off your skills and suitability for the role.
However, if you make a terrible first impression, you end up spending valuable time trying to overcome the damage done. So, give yourself the best chances possible by following these tips.
- Arrive a bit early (but not too early). The worst thing you can do in a job interview is to arrive late. Instead, give yourself plenty of time to arrive – maybe find a nearby coffee shop or park to hang around. By arriving in the general area early, you can relax and focus on preparing instead of getting stuck in traffic or getting lost. Arrive at the interview around 5 minutes early. If you arrive too early, you could be inconveniencing the administration team. Even worse, you signal that you are not good at following instructions.
- Be polite and friendly to all staff. How you treat ‘the little guy’ says a lot about you. From the moment you enter the premises, think of every individual as your potential new boss. From the security guard in the lobby to the custodian in the hall, it’s essential to be friendly and polite to every person. If you get snappy with the receptionist or are cold to the person bringing you a cup of tea, this information is sure to get back to the hiring team. For all you know, this person could be a senior partner!
- Dress to Impress. In almost all circumstances, you should dress in suitable business attire. Even if you know that employees typically wear casual clothing (such as at a start-up) or a uniform, you should present as clean, polished, and formal for your interview. Unless you have expressly been told that you should dress casually for your interview, you should be in a suit or business dress. Remember – even if you have been advised to dress casually, your clothing should be the most elevated version of ‘casual.’ Every item should be clean and pressed, and your shoes should be shined and free from scuffs.
Most Common Job Interview Questions (and how to answer them)
You cannot predict exactly what questions the interviewer will ask you, but you can take an educated guess based on your industry. When in doubt, search online for sample interview questions specific to your field.
Some of the most common questions include variations on:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you know about our company/organisation?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What challenges are you looking for?
- Why is there a gap in your work/education history?
- Tell me about an achievement you are proud of.
- Why did you leave your last job?
While each of these questions is very different, they attempt to get to the bottom of one issue: why are you the best for the job? Therefore, treat each one as an opportunity to highlight your strengths. The following tips apply to almost all job interview questions.
Use specific examples in your answers – With any response, think of one or two particular instances that you can use to illustrate your answers. If they ask you if you are accustomed to creative thinking, don’t just respond with, “oh, I am extremely creative, I always love to come up with new ideas, especially on websites.” Instead, elaborate upon a specific instance in the past where you implemented a creative solution that made your organisation run smoother and earn more money. For example, “I had had client feedback about our website being drab, and from personal experience, I found that it was not particularly user friendly. So I took it upon myself to research and create a new online commerce solution for my company that ended up doubling sales.”
Be ready to speak on your weaknesses – You also need to be prepared for the dreaded questions about your weaknesses. For instance, the interviewer might ask you to describe your most inferior quality. Don’t jump to the tired old responses of, “I’m too detail-oriented” or “I’m too committed to good work” – interviewers have heard these tricks before and are sure to roll their eyes.
Instead, be honest, but find a way to end the answer on a positive note. For example, “I tend to hyper-focus on new projects that catch my interest, and if I’m not careful, my regular duties can suffer. However, I learned a long time ago to implement daily checklists that ensure I stay on top of my practical tasks while giving me plenty of time to work on new and exciting projects.”
Never badmouth your past employers (ever) – If you left a previous position on bad terms, it can be extremely tempting to spill the beans in your job interview. No matter how much you want to, resist this urge! When you start to badmouth your previous boss, the interviewer sitting before you will start to think some pretty shady things about you. “Is this person going to badmouth me like this? Are they too hard to please? Are they going to bring lots of drama to work?” Even if things didn’t turn out well at your past job, find something positive to say. “My last position taught me a lot about setting reasonable expectations, and we parted ways amicably. I’m excited to find new opportunities that are better suited to my skill-set and ways of working.” Again, if they have follow-up questions, resist the urge to be negative, and inside always spin things as a positive.
What to Ask the Interviewer
It’s always a good idea to ask a few thoughtful questions about the business and the role during your interview. So here are some smart questions to ask the interviewer:
- Where do you see this business in 5 years?
- What are your organisational goals?
- Does this position have room for growth?
By asking specific questions about the future and the role, you’re demonstrating your ambition and conscientiousness.
Preparing for an Interview Increases Your Odds of Success
By preparing for your interview in advance, you’ll improve your chances and show the interviewer you are skilled and ready for the role. Good luck!