How to prepare for an interview

Graeme Jordan

Like most things in life, interview performance can be greatly improved by the right time and effort spent on preparation. But what should you do to ensure you are properly prepared for an interview? Here are the key factors.

Know yourself

You can only give a good account of yourself if you know what you specifically have to offer. Selfreflection and accurate assessment of what makes you special will give you clarity on what to emphasise. Learn your CV. Know the specifics of what you achieved in the different jobs you had and how you can demonstrate this. You may need to familiarise yourself with the less recent experience. Try to keep track of your successes as you go through your career.

Know the employer and what they want

It’s important to match your key skills with the things the employer is looking for. This of course is easy to find out from the advert and the person specification. They should only ask you questions related to the person specification. So familiarise yourself with this. Have examples for all of the things that they ask for. If you do this then you can be confident that you won’t get any surprises.

Understand the different type of questions

Some require one example, explained in detail. Others require several examples to display breadth and depth of experience in an area. Some are very open questions e.g. ‘Tell me about yourself.’ These require careful structure to remain on track. Some sound like closed questions e.g. ‘Do you have any experience of …’ but they really need more detail than you would first think. Basically, all of the questions have one thing in common. They are in different ways seeking information about why you are suitable for the job. So stay focussed on the criteria that they have set.

What not to do

Don’t over prepare. If you are reading from a learned script it will show. I once asked a candidate what he knew about my company. He proceeded to read out our website from memory, word for word. The thing is, this was in no way impressive because it did not come across as authentic and it did nothing to demonstrate actual understanding of the content. It was a waste of preparation time.

In summary

The two key factors in interview success? Picking the right examples out of all of the things you have done. Then structuring your answer logically and effectively.

Graeme Jordan – a CV writer and interview coach.