15 Jun 2015
Like buying a house, getting married, or going through a divorce, an interview is one of those stressful situations that make candidates break out in a sweat. Having helped thousands through the interview stage we know that the best way to overcome interview stress is to be well prepared. That’s why we’ve put together this essential interview checklist to help you put your best foot forward.
Make sure you know the format of the interview and what’s expected of you
Before your interview check out what the format will be. Is it going to be a panel interview or a one to one interview? Will it involve any tests or will you be required to give a presentation? Often this information will be provided for you by the recruiter or employer but if there is limited information don’t be too shy to ask.
Look up who’ll be interviewing you
On many occasions you’ll find out from the HR department or recruiter who’ll be interviewing you in advance. If you don’t, you can check with your contact or recruiter to find out. This will give you the advantage of being able to do a little background research. Having a little information about what makes your interviewer tick and what their specialities are could help you to connect with them and give you the edge on other candidates. If you have a strong social media presence, that will leave a good impression and you could even connect with them on social media.
Research the company
Researching the company is one of the most important steps in your preparation. As well as finding out information about the company in general, it’s also useful to find out what projects they are involved in, if they have taken on any new clients, or if they’ve made any new appointments recently.
If they have a blog or news section on their website, this is a great place to start. You should also google their company for any mentions on industry sites or external blogs, as well as seeing what updates are on LinkedIn or Twitter about the company. This gives you the opportunity to discuss things that you’ve learned about their company in an interview showcasing your research skills and proactivity. If you’re lucky you may even be able to relate your skills and experience to a challenge or project that they’re facing at the moment.
Think of examples that prove you have the skills and experience they’re looking for
To show to an employer why you are the candidate for the job you’ll need to provide examples that showcase your skills and experience. To help you structure your answers you can use the well-known STAR model. Firstly set the scene by describing the situation of your example. The next step is to explain the task or activity that required your input. Follow this up by describing the action that you took, and finally round up your example by summarising the result of your actions.
Write a list of questions you’d like to ask them
An interview should be a two way street. As well as allowing an employer to find out whether you are the right candidate, it is your opportunity to assess whether the company and role is right for you. When deciding what to ask steer clear of questions about company benefits, annual leave and pay increments and instead focus on elements important to your role and department. You could ask what may be expected of you in your first month or year, or ask about challenges they are facing in your department at the moment.
Make sure you know where the company is
Woe betides the interviewee that gets lost on the day and turns up late. If you need to, do a dry-run to ensure your journey goes as smoothly as possible.
On the day
Dress to impress
First impressions are important. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, formal is always best. It’s a rare occasion that you can offend by over dressing but under dressing can be seriously off-putting to a potential employer.
Have your paper work in order
Have copies of your CV, a copy of the job ad, and a notepad containing your background research & questions for the company to hand. Not only will this give you the opportunity to have a quick glance whilst you’re waiting to go in, it will also help to show to an employer that you’re organised. They may even ask to see your CV on the day and having one to hand is always a plus.
Prepare a portfolio with examples of your work or certificates of your qualifications
For certain roles it can be beneficial to have examples of your work or certificates with you on the day. Evidence is king and it can often be the determining factor in successfully getting the job.
Take anything you’ve been asked to prepare with you
If you’ve been asked to prepare anything for your interview, make sure you have it on the day. It’s also worth having it in different formats in case there are any technology issues on the day, as well as the bonus of being able to give out physical copies to the interviewers which they can keep after your interview.
Have a bottle of water
Whilst it’s likely that your interviewer will offer you a drink, just in case they don’t, it’s a good idea to have your own. Nerves have a tendency to dry your throat and sipping water can also provide extra thinking time if there’s a question you want to consider.
A strong smile, a firm handshake and positive body language
When you’re introduced to the interviewer make sure that you smile and extend a healthy handshake. When you’re in the interview lean in slightly towards the interviewer to show interest and avoid confrontational or defensive positions such as crossing your arms. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer to show confidence (even if you’re panicking on the inside) and listen carefully to ensure that you’re providing the right information.
With the right preparation behind you you’ll be ready to ace the interview and get this job. Good luck on the big day!
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