How to Prepare for an Interview

Written by Calvin Bowers

Job interviews can be a very stressful time for applicants because they know that their immediate economic future hinges on whether or not they are able to secure the post that they have applied for. This can mean that they focus too much on the stress that they feel and don’t do enough preparation work that could actually give them a better chance of acing the interview on the day. 

There are unfortunately always going to be some job interviews where the employers already had their preferred candidate and were only going through the motions, but most job interviews will see you stand a fair chance of securing the job, if you can acquit yourself well enough on the day. So, how can you tip the odds in your favour? 

Preparation is Key

What do we mean by preparation? Predominantly research, both into the job role that you are applying for and into the company you are applying to. With the wonders of the internet at our fingertips we can pull together an incredible amount of information very quickly about most employers. 

This information includes their annual turnover and accounts and company size (available from the Companies House website), what customers think of them, (Trustpilot and Google Reviews) and the names and roles of their senior staff who may be going to interview you (LinkedIn). You may be able to find out whether they have happy staff and whether they offer flexible working.

If you are unsure what exactly the job role entails, you can also research this and use the information to tailor what you are going to say in the job interview itself. 

Job Interview Questions

We’ll let you into a secret here, not all job interview questions are unique to the interview they are used in. Most interviews contain a variation of the same combinations of questions and the answers they expect for them are fairly standard as well. 

That means if you can craft an answer to a question in a way that catches their interest, you will probably get them out of quite a boring interview rut and give yourself a better chance of being the person who gets the job.

Brush up on the STAR method which was mentioned in a previous article, (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and be sure that you understand how to use it when answering some of the more open-ended questions. 

Common Job Interview Questions

Tell us about yourself?

This is a natural ice-breaker which is meant to put you at your ease. It is also intended to help them to get to know the person behind the CV. Talk about your work experiences and the things you have learned from them, tell them the story of how you accumulated the skills that you bring to the table today. Make it interesting, capture their attention. Interviewers like nothing less than an interview that feels like they are pulling teeth and if you can avoid that, you are one step closer to the job. 

Why are you interested in working for this company?

This is where you can show off your knowledge of the company and its achievements. Just be careful not to completely overdo it, as nobody likes a brown-noser. Stress your interest in the field given your previously mentioned accomplishments and explain how their company aligns with your interests. 

Describe your worst boss? 

This is a bit of a tricky question as it is always seen as a bad move to be overly negative about a former boss. Try to be truthful but not to go overboard with the criticism. “They were good most of the time but they sometimes had unrealistic expectations” would be a good phrase if your boss was overly demanding. Try to turn the negative into a positive by adding that your ability to juggle multiple tasks and allocate time for them improved as a result of this. 

What is your major weakness?

This question aims to find out whether you will be honest with them or try to give them a fake answer. The textbook best answer is to give them a weakness that has little relevance to the job and then explain how you are working to resolve it. Being bad for jumping around from one task to another is one example you could give. Explain that you became much more focused when you used the Pomodoro method to intensely focus on one task at a time for short bursts. 

Where do you see yourself in three/five/ten years?

Reframe that question in your head as “How do you see your career developing, and what will you learn over the time period?” and it becomes a lot easier to answer. Talk a little about your transferable skills and add: “I aim to learn x and improve y in my current job role. I would then look to learn leadership skills and provide mentorship and assistance to some of the younger staff who will be coming through by then.”

This answer avoids saying that you intend to leave the company at some point, mentions upskilling and gives an impressive hint at your career progression and development possibilities. 

Interview Role Play

Enlist the help of a friend to play the part of the interviewer and get them to ask you the questions that you explored earlier. Keep trying them until you can answer most of the questions without serious effort. Being able to make it look comfortable and unhurried on the day denotes a level of confidence and ability that will increase your chances of doing well. 

It is entirely possible they will throw you a question that wasn’t on the list that you practised but it is unlikely that you will have too many like that. Most employers don’t use completely bespoke interview questions as it is too much work to compile them, so they should normally be slight variations on the same small number of questions that are traditionally used. 

Be Confident

You have taken every step that you need to in order to increase your odds of landing the job, and you should be well-placed to be able to answer all of the questions that they have for you. Now all you have to do is to dress for success and look your best for the interview. This will help you to feel better in yourself, and even if it doesn’t. The phrase “fake it till you make it” is here for a reason and self-doubt can take a seat in the corner until after the interview. 

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