3. Prepare well for your job interview

Few things are more embarrassing than sitting in a job interview and knowing that you have not the faintest idea what the interviewer is talking about. Good job interview preparation, and making sure prepare more thoroughly than any interviewer could ever reasonably expect, is the only way to make sure you perform head-and-shoulders above the rest.

Know yourself

All the employer has to go on before the job interview is your application form or CV, and your covering letter. It is likely that those documents got you the interview, and you can expect that the questions about your capability, achievements and attitude will be based around what you’ve said on them.

This means you need to know your own CV or application form and covering letter in intimate detail. If you’ve followed our guidance on preparing your CV or application form, then you’ll have included some obvious hooks to attract particular interview questions. Make sure you have really thought about the answers!

Know the job

Make sure you:

Have studied the advert or job description well – all of what’s required; all of what you have to offer. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. What problem is this job here to solve?

  • Have read any material that’s been supplied to you
  • Have researched a bit about the company, things like:
    – its history (in broad terms)
    – its mission and vision or main aims
    – its main divisions or product sets
    – its main audiences or customers.

Make absolutely sure that your information on the employer is up to date. Even if you are interviewing with a well-known name, check out what the leading part of their business is today, not just what you think it is, based on your last experience of them. I used to work for BT, and people who referred to BT as a telephony company at job interview tended not to do very well.

Try also to find out:

  • Is the company regulated in any way that affects how it can do business (eg by Ofcom, Ofwat, licencing regulations etc)?
  • What makes this organisation different to others in its field?
  • Is it setting a standard/blazing a trail?
  • What did its last published results say about it?
  • What is the press saying about it?

For corporate jobs, your interview may test you on ‘competencies’. These are aptitudes and behaviours that the company has decided are desirable. Check with the recruitment consultant or call the hiring manager or contact and ask which competencies will be tested – there should be no more than two or three, and they will guide your preparation.

Work out from your CV or application form the things that the interviewer will probably ask you about. Expect one question per main section, with some of them being question sets based around you being asked for an example, for instance:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to…
  • So what did you do?
  • How did you choose that option?
  • What other options were available to you?
  • What was the outcome?
  • What did you learn from this?
  • What would you do differently next time?

Decide what three or four points you want the interviewer to specifically take away from meeting you. This is your mission: to leave those key points about yourself with the interviewers.

If you’ve read the CV section of this site, you will see that a good CV incorporates ‘hooks’ which are there to encourage the interviewer to ask about specific things during the job interview. Make sure the examples behind the ‘hooks’ are good and solid. You can expect questions about anything that looks weak or confusing, so have someone check your CV for possible weak points.

Have real examples to back up your interests section. For instance, if you put ‘reading’, be prepared to say what you’ve read recently and what you thought of it. If it’s music, what was the last concert you went to? If you say you can speak a language, be prepared to demonstrate.

If the job interview is academic, or fairly high-level, read the front page of a decent newspaper for a few days before the interview, to be up to speed with the affairs of the day.

If this is the job you really, really want, try to take a half-day off to prepare, or devote a chunk of the weekend to the task.