Preparing for an Interview

Practically everyone hates interviews, but there’s no getting away from them. For almost every step in our careers, we need to go through the gruelling process of the job interview. Yet, there are ways you can make the process slightly less difficult.

By being adequately prepared, you can improve your confidence and performance, improve your chances of getting the job, and even have a reasonably pleasant time during the interview itself.

Preparation is everything. Just as you wouldn’t expect to do well in a race unless you’d put in some work beforehand, you can’t expect to be a clear winner in the contest for a job without preparation.

No matter how skilled or experienced you are, if you are up against someone with equal qualifications, the person who has put in the groundwork before the interview is more likely to gain the position.

So, what is meant by preparation?

It doesn’t mean becoming anxious by focusing on possible pitfalls that lie ahead. Instead, it means going through very specific steps to improve your chances. You can even go so far as to create a strategy to help you prepare.

Your strategy can include self-evaluation, improving your CV / resume before making an application, researching the employer, considering possible questions and working on your self-presentation once you have the interview secured.

Here, we are going to look at the steps you can take to prepare for the interview itself.

1. Research the Employer

You should spend as much time as you can spare doing some research, both into the organization that’s going to be interviewing you, and the vacancy itself. These days, the first place to look is usually the Internet.

You can view the organization’s own website. Take in as much background and structural information as you can. Look beyond the organization’s own site, to see what turns up about it on other sites. You might find valuable details in newspaper and magazine archives – and not always what the organization might wish you to read.

Also visit competitor sites and gain a feel for the sector the organization operates within. See what the differences are between the recruiting organization and its competitors.

Go to the library. The bigger the library, the better. The librarian can probably help you to access online publications which aren’t available to the general public, but to which the library subscribes. Academic libraries are particularly good for such subscriptions and back issues of specialist journals.

2. Research the Questions

Answering job interview questions properly takes skill and practice. Make sure you thoroughly prepare and rehearse your answers to the questions that you are likely to be asked.

Don’t think that you can just make up an answer on the spot – very few people can do this convincingly. If you don’t prepare thoroughly beforehand, you won’t deliver a good performance, which means that an employer is unlikely to offer you the job.

Look at the job advert (always keep a copy of each job advert) and think about the likely questions that the employer will ask you. No two jobs are ever exactly the same, so even if you’ve already been to an interview for a similar job, don’t become complacent – still research the employer and the job thoroughly.

Sometimes the interviews that you think will be easy, turn out to be really hard. Proper preparation beforehand will get you through an interview whether it’s a really hard interview or an easy interview which you breeze through and get a job offer straight away.

3. Prepare for a Different Kind of Interview

There are a variety of different selection processes, which each have to be handled in a slightly different way. For example a face-to-face panel interview is quite different from a telephone interview.

This topic was covered in detail in our article Different Types of Interview, please take a look if you haven’t already – you will learn about what to expect, making you less likely to be caught out.

4. Self Presentation

The clothing you wear to an interview is very important. Generally speaking, you should always dress smartly, in a way that’s appropriate to the job sector that you’re applying to.

You also need to take care of every aspect of your personal care and cleanliness, so that you look tidy and well turned-out.

5. Review your Application

Read through your own CV/resume and application letter or form again. Make sure you know every point and that you can back everything up with examples if necessary.

All too often, we never look at our CV / resume once it’s been written. Being caught out by a simple question relating to something you’ve written on your CV could cost you dearly.

6. Check the Location

It sounds obvious, but if you’re not sure where you’re going, you should research and plan the route beforehand. Always allow extra travelling time in case of unavoidable delays.

Make sure you have the interviewer’s telephone number with you, in case there’s a major hold-up. Plan to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes before your interview time.

7. Prepare a Little More

You can’t really over-prepare for an interview. There’s always a bit more research you could do on the employer or you can always spent more time on preparing your answers to the likely interview questions.

If you have any comments or questions about this article, or you’d like to share your views with other readers, please leave a comment below.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Bradley CVs Ltd.

9 responses to “Preparing for an Interview”

  1. I wrote 165 CVs in the years 2008-2010, but I didn’t succeed in getting to the first short list. What should I do?

  2. Hi Mohamed,

    Well done for persevering – a lot of people would give up after making this number of applications.

    Either your CV doesn’t make you stand out or you are applying for jobs that you don’t have the right experience, skills or qualifications for:

    1. If you are lacking experience/skills, then try and expand your existing job to encompass this experience or skills.
    2. If you lack the qualifications required, then you need to get the relevant qualifications.
    3. If it is your CV that is letting you down, then you might want to consider getting a professional CV writing service to write your CV for you.

    A professional CV service can really help you make the most of your experience and qualifications and produce a CV that does justice to your unique skills and talents.

    One word of caution though, you must have the experience and qualifications required, because CV writers can’t work miracles! If you have a poor CV, we can improve it, but we can’t sit the exams for you or give you the experience or skills that you lack.

    Good luck with your job search – keep persevering, it can often be tough, but it will be worth it once you’ve got the job you want.

    Kindest regards, Paul Bradley

    P.S. As a professional CV service ourselves, we have a range of services that might be of interest to you:

    Professional CV Service: Significantly improve your CV and get more job interviews.

    12 Outstanding ‘Real’ CV Examples – Instant Download!

    QuickFix CV: Eliminate 67 critical CV writing mistakes from your own CV.

  3. Thanks for the advice, I will follow each step. I am going for an interview in a few days time … I am doing well with my CV, because I always get shortlisted for almost every job I apply for, but, the problem is interviews – I don’t succeed! I have gone to 5 interviews so far, I always follow what I read on the site but I don’t know what’s wrong.

  4. Hi Joseph,

    Congratulations on getting interviews – a lot of people have trouble with this aspect of finding a job, so you are doing really well.

    There are quite a number of reasons why you may be getting the interview, but not getting the job offer – I’ve listed a few of the main reasons below:

    – The person who got the job offer had more relevant experience or better qualifications than you.
    – You were over qualified for the job.
    – Your interview performance wasn’t as good as the person who succeeded.
    – You didn’t ‘fit’ into the team / department / organisation.

    You need to ask for feedback from the organisation who interviewed you to find out why you didn’t get the job offer.

    If you got the interview through an agency, they should be able to tell you why you were not selected. If you went direct, then the organisation may not want to give you feedback – but if you don’t ask for feedback, then you will always be left wondering why you didn’t get the job.

    Good luck with your next interview and I hope you soon get the job offer you want.

    Kindest regards,

    Paul Bradley.

    Bradley CVs Ltd.

  5. I think they are invaluable successful interview instructions. I’ll stick to them as much as possible.
    Thanks Sir.

  6. Dear Sir,

    I’m working as a civil site engineer. I have only 2.5 years of experience. I started in my present company as a project supervisor, and after 8 months I got a promotion to site engineer. Can I write this in my CV as an achievement?

  7. Hi Shinaz,

    Yes, you can definitely put this as an achievement in your CV.

    Getting promoted within just 8 months of joining a company is a really good achievement, it shows that you are making a real contribution.

    Kindest regards,

    Paul Bradley.
    Bradley CVs Ltd.