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6 Tips for Preparing for Your Next Interview

We’ve all felt that rush of adrenaline after you’ve received that email or call where you’re offered an interview for a new job. Few feelings in your professional life will come close to meeting that!

How do we go about making sure that the interview is a success? There’s a lot of advice out there on the internet, so we’ve condensed everything down into 6 points we think are crucial when it comes to interview preparation. In this blog, we'll exploring the best tips to help you 

Here are 6 tips for preparing for your next job interview.

1.  Thoroughly review the job description and how it applies to you

This sounds like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget it – particularly when the excitement of being invited to an interview washes over you. It's easy to forget things in the rush of that moment.

One of the best ways that you can prepare for a job interview is by analysing the job description of the role. Usually, employers won’t really give you an indication of anything they’ll be asking you in the interview itself (unless you’ve been told to prepare something specific ahead of time).

This means that, if you want to prepare for the interview ahead of time, you’ll need to use your detective skills to uncover the potential types of questions you’ll be being asked. That calls for analysis, research, and a pinch of intuition and common sense. You’ll also need to work out how your skills, experience and knowledge align with what’s called for in the job description. Here are a few tips for how to use the job description to help you prepare:

  • Go through the job description line by line and with each aptitude or quality think of an example from your own career, showing how you have that particular requirement.
  • For each requirement, think of possible questions that you could be asked (see point 3 about types of questions for some pointers).
  • Even if you don’t have specific skills or experience relating to that requirement, try and find examples of transferable skills or experience you might have instead.

2. Research the dress code ahead of time

For some employers what you wear to work – and by extension, an interview – isn’t a big deal. For some, it’s a very big deal: one that could work against you when it comes to your chances of getting that job.  That’s why finding out what the dress code is ahead of time can be a good idea.

At some point in their lives, most people will have felt that overwhelming sense of anxiety that comes with trying to find the right thing to wear to an event or social gathering only to find, upon arrival, that everyone else is dressed in exactly the opposite way to you– wearing an elegant dress to a big house party, for example, or a t-shirt, trainers and ripped jeans to what turns out to be a posh event.

Imagine what it would be like walking into an interview and finding you’re wearing the wrong clothes – nightmare! In an interview, you’re trying to convince your potential employer that you’re a good fit for their organisation – in other words, that you share similarities with them. So, if, for instance, you’re wearing something too casual to what turns out to be an interview fit for smart attire, you might wind up not only sending the wrong signal but losing confidence in the process.

That said, we recommend taking a look at the website and social media accounts for the organisation you’re interviewing for to get a feel for what kind of work environment you’re walking into, and in turn, what kind of outfit to wear on the day.

Alternatively, a brief email asking about the dress code for the interview ahead of time will help to prevent any potential mishaps from happening!

A man sat at a desk during a job interview, facing a woman

3. Prepare for the types of questions you’ll face…

When it comes to questions that you’ll likely be asked in interviews, they usually follow a number of formats. The three most common are:

a.   Situational

Example question: “Describe a time when you’ve made a mistake at work”

This is a question that’s designed to find out how you approach a specific scenario, as well as seeing how well you communicate and cope under the pressure of answering there and then.

Situational questions are notoriously difficult to prepare for and often require a degree of thinking on the spot and winging it. We’d be lying if we said they weren’t challenging but there are a few ways you can ace them. Here are a few tips:

  • Determine what skill, experience or piece of knowledge you’re being asked to demonstrate in your response to the question. For example, if you were asked a question about a mistake you have made in the past, the employer probably wants to test whether you can take responsibility for your actions, reflect on past actions and be honest.
  • Don’t panic. Take some time to think about your response and to find a situation that’s relevant to the question you’re asked. The interviewer isn’t expecting you to answer within 5 seconds. Don’t be afraid to take a quick 30 seconds to think of a useful situation that works for you.
  • Explain the situation, describe the issue, the approach you took to it, and the results you had. Reflect on the results.

b.   Behavioural

Example question: “Give me an example of a time when you used teamwork to achieve a goal.”

These types of questions focus on your character. They’re designed to give your employer an understanding of your behaviours and how you respond when you’re confronted with a challenging situation in a work context. In the question, you’ll be being assessed on your decision-making and ultimately, how you respond to stress in a situation.

  • Use the STAR approach to tackle this type of question (read more about this below!)
  • Do your research into similar behavioural questions you could be asked
  • Prepare a series of examples from your career that you can apply to these questions, creating a ‘bank’ of responses you can use.

c.   Competency

Example question: “How do you ensure that stakeholders are kept informed of the progress of your project?”

Competency questions are used to find out if you have the right skills, knowledge and experience to perform a role to the quality that the employer is looking for. They test your ability to perform a specific action, and they’re usually rooted in the everyday responsibilities of a role – rather than being focused on an abstract idea.

  • Competency questions test your practical skills
  • Use the job description to prepare possible competency-based questions in advance.
  • Structure your response based on the STAR framework

4. ...and come up with responses to them

It’s not enough to just be aware of the types of questions you could be asked. To really improve your chances of acing an interview, you’ll have to create some responses to potential questions ahead of time.

Whilst it is pretty labour intensive, this approach can be really useful when it comes to creating unique answers that respond in the way that the employer is expecting and that don’t leave anything out. Creating a rough set of responses to possible questions ahead of time also takes off some of the pressure from you.

The STAR framework

The easiest way to prepare responses to interview questions is to use the STAR framework.

STAR stands for Situation Task Action Result. It’s a useful way to break down a complex question into smaller parts and ensure that you answer it in the right way.

  • Situation: Describe the overall situation you were in.
  • Task: Describe the specific task that you needed to complete
  • Action: Describe the action you took to complete the task
  • Result: Describe the result and anything you learned during the process

By using the STAR framework, you’ll be able to construct an answer on the spot that covers all of the key information the employer is looking for without having to do a lot of prior research or tonnes of preparation. The beauty of STAR is that it’s quite a natural way to respond to a question (even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time). Linguistically, we usually structure our answers to similar questions in similar ways, starting with context and the situation, describing a task and action we took, and describing the result. That’s all you’re doing here too: just in front of an interview panel.

5. Emphasise your strengths…

Most of us are naturally quite modest when it comes to talking about our strengths and things that we’re good at. In the context of an interview, having pride in your skills and achievements can help you to demonstrate confidence and show that you have the skills the interviewers are looking for though. This means we need to strike the right balance between being humble but not meek, and being proud but not arrogant.

  • Concentrate on a few areas that you’re good at: don’t say you’re good at everything! It’s better to be really good at a handful of things rather than mediocre at everything.
  • Identify your strengths by thinking about positive feedback you’ve received from others, and things that you think you’ve performed successfully
  • Root your strengths in practical examples from your career history – this will keep you on track with aligning your responses to the requirements of the job description.

6. ...but acknowledge your weaknesses

At the same time, we also need to acknowledge the fact that we’re human and we’re not machines. We aren’t perfect and there are always elements of our professional skills, knowledge and experience that we need to build on.

Acknowledging your weakness in an area can seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to convince a hiring manager that you’re the candidate that has the qualities best suited to the job on offer. But it shows that you’re honest and that you’re willing to learn – important qualities in any candidate worth hiring. The important thing to do though when talking about your weakness, is to turn it into a strength somehow.

For example, say you’re in an interview for a position as an Accountant and you’re asked “Give me an example of a weakness you have in your skillset?” you could answer: “In the past, I’ve struggled with spelling and grammar. I identified what was holding me back when it came to this, hired a tutor, and enrolled on an English course to help me improve my skills. Now I feel that I have a good understanding of spelling and grammar and it doesn’t hold me back as much anymore. I feel confident enough in my abilities that I produce our monthly staff newsletter.

Here, you’ve identified a weakness that won’t stop you from doing the role (spelling and grammar isn’t as important as mathematics skills when it comes to accountancy). You’ve shown that you have created a plan for how to work on that weakness (by studying a qualification in this instance) and, at the end, you prove that the weakness doesn’t restrict you anymore (you now write the staff newsletter every month, calling for a decent grasp of spelling and grammar).

Adopt a similar approach and you’ll be able to turn most weaknesses into a strength. Think about areas where you feel you’re particularly weak in your skillset and identify ways that you’ve worked to improve them throughout your career or life in general.

There you have it! We hope these 6 tips have you feeling better prepared and ready for your next interview. Good luck!

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