Taking the time to adequately prepare for a job interview is essential. Just as you should tailor each CV and cover letter for the role you’re applying for, your approach to each job interview should be adapted depending on the type of company, role and format of the meeting.
Follow this guide to ensure you impress at your next interview.
How to ace an interview
Be sure to conduct some research on the company you are interviewing at. Their website should contain all the key information you need to gain an understanding of the type of business they conduct, their vision and mission, and corporate culture. You may also want to explore the wider industry to determine their biggest competitors and where they sit in the market. If the company has any social media accounts - and most will - then these profiles will help you gain a clearer perspective of their overall brand personality.
Further to this, it’s important to check out how financially secure your potential employer is. Annual reports should be available via their website and can provide an insight into their current financial situation. Are they a growing company making a healthy profit or have they downsized recently and experiencing a decline in revenue? The company you work for has a lot of power in determining your future, particularly if you are looking for a long-term career following your grad scheme or internship. You want to be sure that they are in a position to employ you for the long run.
In addition to some Googling on the company, gathering a bit of information via LinkedIn about your interviewer can also come in handy, even if it is just so you know who you are meeting with.
As part of any interview, no matter how casual or relaxed, you are going to be asked questions about your experience, skills, qualifications and goals. Be sure to practice frequently asked interview questions so you have an answer prepared and can respond with more comprehensive answers to those seemingly random, unrelated questions. Often these questions have been thrown at you specifically to assess the way you handle the situation, so it is difficult to prepare for those odd questions. The way you handle and compose yourself to provide an answer is often more important than the actual answer itself. It’s okay to take some time to reflect on a question before answering. Don’t be afraid to say to an interviewer “That’s a great question, let me just think about the best way to answer it.” This is a much better approach than just blurting out the first thing that pops into your head. The more you practice the better your answers will be and the more confident you will feel during the meeting.
10 common questions to practice your answers for
What can you tell us about yourself that isn’t on your CV?
Why do you want to join our team?
Can you describe a time when you’ve had to take the lead in a situation?
What do you consider to be your greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses?
Looking ahead five years, where do you see yourself in your career?
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Why should we hire you?
Do you work well within a team?
What are your salary expectations?
Is there anything you would like to know more about?
Five challenging questions for extra prep
How do you handle criticism?
What keeps you motivated?
Have you applied for any other positions or been to other interviews?
Do you know much about the company and what we do here?
What can you bring to the role that our next interviewee cannot?
What to wear
What you wear to a job interview will depend on the job and organisation you are interviewing for. Generally, casual wear is not appropriate in any situation unless otherwise specified. For most positions, smart casual attire is suited. Women should opt for a smart shirt or blouse paired with a skirt or trousers and either heels or flats – if you can’t walk in heels then don’t wear them. If you don’t feel comfortable with your outfit it will show. When choosing your makeup look for the day, steer clear of layered eyelashes, bright glittery eyelids or overly dark, smoky eyes; instead, choose a neat and simple look for your meeting. For men, a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and enclosed shoes are a must – and if the company has an old-school corporate culture, consider smartening up further with a matching suit jacket and tie.
For an interview at a trendier company or a company in the fashion industry, a less formal/traditional interview outfit, accessories and makeup look may be appropriate but should always be tidy and well put together.
What to take
You want to look professional, so to compliment your carefully selected attire, your accessories should match. If you have a handbag that’s fine, but make sure you’re not lugging around an oversized shoulder bag with your sports gear or a suitcase. Travel lightly if you can.
Be sure to bring along a copy of your CV, cover letter, references, grades and any awards in a portfolio to offer the interviewer. It’s best not to assume they will already have copies. You may also want to bring a small notepad and pen to write notes, even if you don’t need them it’s better to be prepared.
Mobile phones, other than helping you find your way via Google Maps or Citymapper, should not be used when you enter an interview. Ensure you keep it on silent, in your bag or pocket and aren’t caught checking your Instagram feed in the office. Similarly, don’t sit in the waiting area with earphones in as you risk missing your name being called and you may come across as disinterested.
Beat the nerves
You know the company, you know why you want the role and what makes you the best-suited candidate for the position. You’ve practised typical interview questions and have examples to back up your responses. The more you prepare, the better and remember that if you have made it this far, you have what it takes to get the job!
Gather your things the night before, lay out your outfit, have your bag packed and be sure you know where you need to be, how to get there, the time of your interview and who you are meeting.
To avoid the rush, check the address provided, Google the location, double check the best public transport route then plan your journey to ensure you won’t be caught on the wrong side of the City with five minutes to spare before your scheduled meeting time.
Have everything you need together so you aren’t scrambling around trying to print out your CV at the last minute as this will only stress you out.
Preparing for an interview…
Research the company and interviewer
Practice typical interview questions and prepare appropriate responses
Learn your CV’s content
Dress smart or appropriate to the company’s personality
Assume the interviewer will have your CV
Wait until the last minute to gather your things
Take your sports bag or shopping with you
Figure out your journey the morning of the job interview
You’re ready! Take a deep breath and have a good night’s sleep. You’ve done the necessary prep leading up to the big day and you’re definitely on track to make a great impression but do you know what to expect during the interview itself? Be sure you’re in the loop with our top tips and advice in ‘The interview