Job interview preparation tips

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This guide provides comprehensive job interview tips and advice to help you fully prepare for an all-important interview.

Preparing for a job interview takes time, careful planning and thinking, so it is important to schedule in some preparation time, at least one week before the interview itself.

This will enable you to ensure you have all of the information to hand, as you start to consider how you best convey to the interviewer your skills and attributes, necessary for the job you are applying for.

Company information

Gather as much relevant information on the company as you can. Most companies have their own web site which will provide you with information on the products they sell; how the company is structured, its people and their values.

Demonstrating in the interview that you have done some research into the company, shows to your prospective employer that you are genuinely interested in working for them. It also enables you to ask some relevant questions at the interview.

Job requirements

At this point you should have some idea of the job requirements, either from the company’s advertisement or what the recruitment agency has told you, dependent upon how you heard about the job. However, most companies will have a written job description, which they will readily give to you.

Review the job description and any other documentation you have been provided with. What does it tell you about the knowledge, skills, desired behaviours and personal attributes for this job? Consider how you match up to these requirements.

What are your key strengths/talents that you need to highlight well in the interview? What are the knowledge, skills or behaviours that need developing? How could you develop these?

For example, if the job requires the skills to use Excel and you are not familiar with the use of that package, you could find someone you know to teach you. Showing a prospective employer you have considered your own development needs demonstrates personal drive and commitment.

Evidence of past achievements

At the job interview you will need to demonstrate to your prospective employer your most relevant achievements to date, so consider what documentation you could take with you to the interview that could provide evidence of those achievements. These documents could include:

  • Certificates of qualifications
  • Internal company league results tables (subject to confidentiality issues)
  • Emails or letters with customer or colleague feedback
  • Appraisal documentation
  • Presentation slides
  • Awards
  • References

Past examples

Many companies now use interview techniques such as competency based interviewing, that ask you to share a specific example of how you have demonstrated a particular skill or behaviour.

So consider in advance the best examples that demonstrate the skills and behaviours needed in the job. For example, most jobs require a degree of personal planning and organisation.

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Think about how you plan and organise yourself each day.

  • What tools do you use to help you, such as a diary, electronic calendar, to do lists etc.?
  • How do you use these to help you achieve your goals and objectives?
  • How do you prioritise the tasks that you need to achieve during the day?
  • What happens when things don’t go to plan?
  • What have you learnt about planning and organising your day?

Think about a project or a big task that you have had to plan and organise in the past.

  • What did you personally do to ensure that the project or task was achieved within the agreed timescales?
  • What worked really well?
  • What could have been planned or organised better and why?
  • What did you learn from the experience?
  • How have you applied that learning to later projects or tasks?

Career plan

Most employers will want to know about your career path to date, the choices you have made and your rationale, as well as the career ambitions you may have for the future.

Therefore, we suggest you take some time before the job interview to plan how best to convey this to your prospective employer.

Consider what potential concerns or interests your potential employer may have with the choices you have made in your career to date.

  • How can you counteract their concerns?
  • How can you promote your best career moves?
  • What have been the benefits of each career move?
  • How has each career move helped you to be where you are today and where you want to be in the future?

If you are a graduate, consider the various experiences, both inside and outside work that have helped you acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes you have today and how you can promote the most relevant experiences to the job application and your planned career.

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Difficult questions

During a job interview there may be a question you find difficult to answer, either because you genuinely do not know the answer, or you haven’t previously given any thought to the issue. If you do not know the answer, do not bluff your way through.

A good interviewer will pick this up very quickly, and as many employers have integrity as part of their core values, you will not help yourself. However, it may be helpful to identify any potentially difficult questions you think you may be asked, and consider your likely response.

Need help?

If you need more help preparing for interview or writing a covering letter, we would recommend you visit Invest In Your Career.
Run by a highly experienced HR professional Stephen Isherwood, IIYC offers professional career advice, CV writing and covering letter preparation services in the UK.

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