Congratulations! You’ve just heard back about the role you applied for and have been offered a first interview. This is your chance to demonstrate that you are the best candidate, and to impress your potential employer.
Preparation is the key to a successful interview, so we’ve assembled some tips to make sure you’re ready for the big day.
Research the company
One of the most common interview questions is a simple “Why do you want to work for us?” Proper research is the key to providing a clear, specific answer that will make you stand out.
Try to look beyond what the company does to who it is. Being able to highlight a company’s values and relate them back to yourself is a great way to show you’re a good fit.
Don’t just look at the company website either; search for the company in the news and see what others are writing about it, and make sure you know what the recent trends in the industry could mean for its endeavours specifically.
Go over your application
It’s important to remember what the interviewer already knows about you. They will ask you about the things you’ve mentioned in your CV and cover letter, and you don’t accidentally want to contradict yourself.
Consider the traits and accomplishments you highlighted in the original application and think of ways to continue putting those desirable qualities forward.
Prepare your answers
Try to anticipate the questions you’ll be asked, and practise your answers. There are many common interview questions that you can easily anticipate.
To get an idea of more specific questions, look over the job description and think of examples from your experience that demonstrate the skills they will be looking for. Even if the question isn’t asked in quite the way you expected, you’ll still have a starting point.
You should also try to structure your answers using the STAR technique, especially for competency-based interviews, which stands for situation, task, action and result. Begin with the situation you faced and/or the task you needed to accomplish. Then explain the actions you took, why you did so and the result you achieved. This is a great technique for demonstrating your problem-solving capabilities and showing off various skills.
Prepare your questions
Remember: the interview is as much for you to learn about the company as it is for your potential employers to learn about you.
Prepare at least three questions to ask at the end of the interview. This ensures that even if one or two are answered during the course of your meeting, you still have something left to ask and show your interest when you are offered the opportunity.
Good general questions you can ask would be things like “What would a typical day in the role be like?” or “Is there anything in particular you like or don’t like about working here?”
You can also use your questions to highlight skills that may not have come across elsewhere, or demonstrate the breadth of your research. For instance, “I read an article about your planned expansion into European markets. I am fluent in French and Spanish, and was wondering if there would be opportunities to work in these markets?”
Since your questions are usually left until the end, this can be a great way to leave a good final impression.
Many interviews will begin with the recruiters asking you to tell them about yourself. This is a great opportunity to do just that – and not just touch on your career highlights. Tell the story of who you are, and how you decided to enter your chosen profession.
This article on Forbes provides an excellent example of a powerful story statement, and how it shows that you’re more than just your career.
Make notes – and bring them with you
As you prepare for the interview, start making notes about the things you want to talk about. These should include short prompts for the answers you’ve practised, the questions you want to ask, and information you’ve researched about the company.
Use a notebook rather than your phone and bring these notes with you to the interview. Having them in front of you will not only make it easier to remember what you wanted to say, but will also demonstrate how seriously you’re taking the application process.
You should also continue taking notes during the interview. If the interviewer says something interesting, write it down. You should also write down their responses to your questions, to show that you care about the answers.