Interview preparation is the key to a successful interview.
Interview preparation has always been one of the most overlooked areas in the recruitment process.
Candidates who prepare for an interview with meticulous detail stand out from the rest as they are more confident, give better answers to the interview questions and they always ask the most pertinent questions. Read more about how to get in front of the interviewers by writing a great CV here.
Interviewers like to know that candidates have done their interview preparation as it demonstrates a passion and enthusiasm towards the prospective employer as well as the role itself.
Having spent time on interview panels in both the Public and Private sectors, I can say from first hand experience that it is very easy for interviewers to pick out the candidates who have done their homework.
There are some very important areas in particular to focus your preparation:
The first thing to do is to make sure you know as much as possible about the company (the prospective employer). The best place to do this, is of course, the company’s website.
Their website should tell you a lot of information about what they do as a business, how they started out, who is in charge, where they are located and how many staff they have etc.
I would recommend taking some notes here as it will make it much easier to condense all of the information into more manageable chunks. It will also give you the opportunity to re-read the key points in the days leading up to your interview.
Most interviewers will ask you what you know about the company. Understanding your prospective employer is the best way to demonstrate that you have bought into the idea of working for their business. It is also the easiest way to impress the interviewers by letting them know you have done your interview preparation early in the interview.
Aside from the company’s website, you can also see what you can find by ‘Googling’ the company. Another great source of information is LinkedIn. You can do some reading into the company here as well as the types of roles they have, where they are located and what type of employees they have.
Also, remember to double check where your interview is taking place and ensure you leave yourself more than enough time to get there!
The next thing to prepare is your knowledge of the role you are interviewing for. Try and get your hands on the job description for the role. If you do not have the full job description, a copy of the advert your responded to should suffice.
If you do have a copy of the job description, check that it is up to date and accurate (the last thing you need is to prepare for the interview based on incorrect information).
Just like you did with the company website, take some notes from the job description and make sure you list all of the essential skills as well as all of the desirable skills they mention. This will provide the backbone to preparing the answers to some of the more general interview questions you are likely to face.
As well as the essential and desirable skills, make sure you pay special attention to the behavioural competencies if they are mentioned anywhere.
This will take the shape of behavioural / competency based interview questions so do not overlook these. I will cover this in depth in a separate post as it is a completely separate subject in its own right!
Now you should know exactly what the role entails and what the interviewers are looking for in their ideal candidate. You have done the hard work! The next step is the single most critical part in the whole preparation process – The Synergy!
I am always amazed by how many candidates fall down in this area. It is absolutely imperative that you draw some synergy between what the interviewers are looking for in their ideal candidate and your own experience. This is where you really sell yourself against the essential and desirable skills in the job description.
Have a read over the notes you made around the role and the job description and for each point prepare an example of how you meet the criteria.
Do this for the behavioural competencies as well and by the end of this exercise you will have put some serious thought into answers to some of the questions you are likely to face at interview.
You will always ensure that you are actively selling your skills and experience against the criteria the prospective employer has laid out in the job description.
At the end of most interviews, the interviewers will often ask the candidate if they have any questions. This is a fantastic way to leave a lasting memorable impression on the interviewers and cement your place at the front and centre of their minds.
It is also extremely important because when you leave the interview room, you want to be fully informed about the role and what it would be like to work for the company.
Remember that the purpose of the interview is also about you finding out if the company and the role are right for you, as it is for the company to find out if you are the right person for them!
As part of the interview preparation, I would recommend preparing four or five questions around the role and the company, as well as one question that is completely unique that you think no-one else will ask.
This will require some thought, however, if you get this right you will have created a talking point amongst the interviewers and this will make you all the more memorable.
So, just to recap here is how to break down the interview preparation:
- Know as much as possible about the prospective company
- Know as much as possible about the prospective role
- Draw synergy between what they are looking for and your own skills & experience
- Go into the interview armed with 4 or 5 really good questions
This will ensure you have nailed the interview preparation so that you are as prepared as possible in the build up and should also mean that you are much more confident when the day of the interview finally arrives!