There’s no doubt about it: Interviews are the most challenging part of landing a job. You have to spend a fair bit of time preparing: reading up on the company, anticipating the kinds of questions you’ll be asked, figuring out what kind of questions you’ll need to ask and more.
That’s only the beginning.
You still have the actual interview: anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour of answering questions left and right. Then you have to show your skills and interest by posing thoughtful questions of your own to help suss out the company culture. The company wants to know about you, but you also need to find out if the company will be a good fit for you.
Walk into your next interview full of confidence by boosting your skills with our helpful advice. We have plenty of ways to help you make sure you leave the right impression and land that dream job.
Plan your outfit.
Appearance isn’t everything, but it certainly can leave an impression. You should look your best when showing up to an interview, so planning ahead is imperative.
You’ll need to figure out what the company dress code is like: Is it business? Business casual? No dress code? Do some sleuthing online by checking the company’s LinkedIn page and social media channels. If the company leans towards business casual or no dress code, you don’t want to show up in a suit! That could give the impression that you didn’t do your homework or that you wouldn’t fit in with the company culture.
Even if there’s no dress code, you’ll still want to wear something that’s a little nice. A pair of dark trousers and a nice shirt are always a good choice.
Make copies of your CV and reference list.
The company will already have a copy of your CV from your job application, but there’s no guarantee that the interviewers will all bring a copy with them. Be prepared by printing out at least five copies of your CV to pass around.
It’s also a good idea to have a reference list with you. Have the name, title, contact information and association of each of your references listed. If the interviewer happens to ask about references, you’ll be at the ready with your list.
Research the company.
This is the most important and time-intensive prep work you’ll need to undertake. It can seem like a lot to do when you’re in the thick of job hunting, but this knowledge can either make or break your interview success.
Get to know the company: its purpose, products, values, etc. The more you know, the better. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the company’s website. There’s often an “about us” section that explicitly discusses the company’s vision and their product and/or purpose. Check how that matches up with what you find on their social media channels. Does the tone and content of their posts sound similar to their website? Or does it vary wildly? You can get a pretty good first impression by the way they present themselves on social media.
Glassdoor.co.uk is also a great option to hear reviews from employees that work or used to work at the company. Be careful to take any negative reviews with a grain of salt though — disgruntled ex-employees sometimes exaggerate the negative aspects of their time at the company.
There are certain questions that are bound to pop up, no matter what role you’re interviewing for. That’s good news for you! During your pre-interview planning stage, look over the following, most common interview questions and think of applicable answers. You can even jot down some notes to take with you to the interview. Remember to keep your notes short and to the point — you don’t want to sound like you rehearsed your answers.
“Tell me a little bit about yourself.”
Most interviews start out with this question. Don’t talk about your entire life history! Bring up one or two of your best accomplishments and explain how your prior experience makes you a good fit for the role.
“What do you know about the company?”
Here’s where your pre-interview research pays off: Talk about the company’s goals and values and explain how your work and outlook compliments them.
“What are your strengths?”
This is a great chance to show your best side. Don’t try to tailor your answer to what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Be honest and discuss a couple of attributes and specific times you’ve demonstrated them.
“What are your biggest weaknesses?”
It’s a tough question to answer — you don’t want to admit potential faults when selling yourself as the one and only candidate to get the job, but you don’t want to dodge the question either. As with your strengths, be honest and cite a weakness that you’ve been working to improve.
“Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced and how you handled it.”
It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be asked this, but you’ll be prepared with a great answer! Pick a conflict that you handled professionally and reached closure on.
“Why are you leaving your current position?”
You’re bound to be asked this. So again, be honest, but don’t go negative. Any problems or things you take issue with at your current or old job should be kept off the table. Talk about how you’re looking for new opportunities, what this new position will offer you and what you will offer in return.
“What is your working style like?”
Do you prefer working alone? Do you collaborate well? How do you keep track of multiple projects? These are all things you can address. Make sure to highlight the positive aspects of your working style and how they’ll help you handle the role.
You’ll typically have time to ask your own questions toward the end of the interview. Just as with answering questions, asking your own questions is a chance to prove that you’ve done your research. It can also help you decide if the role — and the company — are a good fit for you.
- What are some of the biggest challenges I’ll face in this role?
- Will I have training opportunities to further my skills?
- Is there room for professional development?
- What kind of performance expectations will there be? How will I be evaluated?
- Who will I be primarily working with?
- Who will be my direct manager?
- What is the company culture like?
- Do people spend time together outside of the office?
- What’s your favourite thing about the company?
- What are the next steps that I should expect moving forward?
If you take the time to do your research and plan on what you’ll talk about, you’ll be as prepared as you possibly can be. We hope these ideas will help you handle your next interview like a pro.
n.d. 51 interview questions you should be asking. Retrieved 6 December 2016 from https://www.themuse.com/advice/51-interview-questions-you-should-be-asking?ref=long-reads-1
n.d. How to answer the 31 most common interview questions. Retrieved 6 December 2016 from https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-answer-the-31-most-common-interview-questions?ref=long-reads-0
n.d. The ultimate interview guide: 30 prep tips for job interview success. Retrieved 6 December 2016 from https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-ultimate-interview-guide-30-prep-tips-for-job-interview-success
Fennell, Andrew. 14 January 2016. How to impress in a tough job interview. Retrieved 6 December 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jan/14/how-to-impress-in-a-tough-job-interview