Preparing for a job interview

Interview help

Anyone who says they don't get nervous before an interview is either very lucky or lying. Even people who've done dozens of interviews will still say it's the most stressful and demanding part of looking for a job.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to prepare. All interviews are unique and depend very much on the skills and demands of the interviewers. The format can vary, too: some interviews are one-to-one, some have more than one interviewer, and some include a group exercise (where interviewers observe the way candidates work together). You may also need to do a short test before your interview.

Don’t worry, though – most interviewers will let you know beforehand if they’d like you to take part in any tests or group discussions. And whatever the format of your interview, it is possible to prepare yourself for the process. What’s more, if you do the groundwork, you’ll feel more confident and perform better at interview than someone who relies on a “spur-of-the-moment” approach.

Before you start… know what employers are looking for

While no two interviews are exactly the same, every employer will want to find out whether:

  • you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job
  • your experience indicates that you can use these skills successfully
  • you have the right personality to do the job, and would fit into their organisation.

It’s important to keep these points in mind when you’re preparing for the interview, and during the interview itself. If all your answers to their questions focus on these three things, you’ll do just fine!

7 ways to prepare for an interview

  • Do your research. If you Google the company name, you’ll usually find information about them online. If you don’t have access to the internet, or your computer skills aren’t great, why not go to the library with a friend or family member who may be able to help? Or call the company directly to ask them for more information about who they are and what they do.
  • Make sure you’ve identified the key skills needed for the job. It’s always useful to read the job description, person specification and your own application a few times. This should help you to identify what skills and attributes the employer is looking for. If you know someone who works for the same company, or even someone who works in a similar role, you could ask them, too. Then think about how you meet those requirements, and how you’re going to express this at interview.
  • Plan your travel carefully. Look up the exact location of your interview and decide what route to take to make sure you arrive in plenty of time. It’s better to get there 10 minutes early, and have time to calm your nerves and prepare, than it is to rush in at the last minute feeling flustered. You could even do a practice run!
  • Prepare some answers to common interview questions, such as “Tell me about yourself and why you’re right for this role” and “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” That said, it’s not a good idea to prepare word-for-word responses, as it can sound unnatural. The interviewer may also word the question differently, which could unsettle you if you’ve over-prepared. It’s better to have an overall strategy for how you’ll approach certain kinds of question.
  • Practise your entrance. First impressions count, so your posture, greeting, smile and general demeanor can have a huge impact on your interviewers. If possible, ask a friend, your employment advisor or a member of your family to stage a “mock” interview and give you feedback on your performance.
  • Prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview.
  • Decide what you’re going to wear in advance. Choose something that looks smart, rather than casual, and make sure it’s clean and ironed.