Preparing for an interview can help you appear like a confident and competent candidate. Presenting yourself in this way helps you create a positive first impression that increases your chance of securing the job. Taking a methodical approach will help you prepare for your next interview. In this article, we discuss the steps you should take to prepare for job interviews and why they matter.
Why preparing for an interview matters
Interview preparation is an important part of the job search process. This process puts you in the right mindset for an interview. When you know you've prepared for your interview, feeling confident and presenting yourself well becomes easier.
Preparation also helps you know what to expect during your interview. Role-playing the interview in your mind or with a friend beforehand will help you maintain your composure and answer challenging questions with poise and structure. Planning your answers will ensure you communicate everything you want to say in order to sell your skills and experience to the recruiter.
How to prepare for an interview
Preparing for an interview involves taking time to consider how you will present yourself. The clothes you wear and what you say should work together to create a positive impression on the interviewer.
Many companies request several interviews before they make you an offer, therefore practice always comes in handy. Follow these steps to be prepared to excel during each stage of the interview process:
1. Carefully read the job description
Reading through the job description will help you familiarise yourself with what the hiring company is looking for in their ideal candidate. As most people apply for several jobs at once, this step reminds you of the reasons why you are a great fit for the specified role. Note the qualifications, qualities, skills and experience the employer wants and which criteria you fulfil. During the interview, use examples to emphasise how you meet their requirements. Jot down any questions you have about the job to show your interest in the role.
2. Consider why you want the job
Think about the reasons why you want the job and why you think you could do it well. The interviewer will probably ask both these questions, so preparing your answer will help you respond confidently. You may expand on your answers after further research, but noting your initial gut-reaction will help you craft the most genuine response.
Perhaps you feel your skills and background are a good match, so you think you would succeed in the role. You might respect the company or feel you could learn a lot from the role. If your values align to its charitable initiatives or eco-friendly mission, that is also worth mentioning.
3. Research the company and job
Researching the company and job can help you prepare thoughtful answers and questions. Here are a few things to investigate during your research:
- Learn about the company's products or services.
- Become familiar with its corporate culture.
- Find out what makes the company unique in its industry.
Understand how the vacant role can help the business achieve its goals.
Visit the company's website and social media profiles to get this information. Search for news about the company to learn more about recent developments.
4. Formulate answers to common interview questions
Preparing answers to common interview questions will help you present the most relevant and compelling information in your interview. While you can't predict all the questions you'll get, knowing you have rehearsed answers for many questions will help you stay calm.
List questions you think your interviewer may ask and write appropriate answers for each. Develop answers which demonstrate your skills and abilities. Think of anecdotes that can prove your claims about your work and education history. Use the STAR (situation, task, action and result) format to present these anecdotes clearly and logically. Writing your answers down will cement your ideas in your mind. You can then read your answers back to yourself to prepare for the interview.
Read more: Top 16 Interview Questions and Answers
5. Prepare several thoughtful questions for your interviewer
A successful interview helps you and your interviewer decide whether the position is right for you. Most interviewers ask candidates whether they have questions at the end of the interview. This is your opportunity to learn more about the position and whether you think it's the right fit for you. Asking thoughtful questions also shows you've done thorough research and you're interested in learning more.
Read more: 9 Best Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
6. Practice your interview technique
Practice your questions and answers to get accustomed to speaking and presenting them confidently. Start by rehearsing your sample responses aloud in front of a mirror. Pay attention to your voice and body language. Make sure to speak in a clear, audible voice, without filler phrases such as 'like' and 'you know'. Your body language should be friendly and open. Maintain eye contact with your reflection and stay relaxed, without fidgeting.
Once you feel confident in front of a mirror, ask a family member or friend to interview you. Give them a copy of the job description so that they can ask you spontaneous questions. Practise as much as you can before your interview so that you feel calm and confident on the day.
7. Print hard copies of your resume and portfolio
Printing copies of your resume and portfolio makes sure your interviewer can view these important documents during the interview. Print out four copies of your resume, one for yourself and three for an interview panel. A single portfolio is appropriate, as interviews can pass these high-quality documents around when required.
Printing your resume helps you familiarise yourself with its information. Consider how an interviewer may view it and any questions it might spark. Think about how you will answer these questions. For example, you might consider your reasons for a large employment gap or staying with a company for a relatively short period. Make sure your answers are honest, but tactful and framed in a positive way.
8. Plan your travel
Arriving at a face-to-face interview on time makes you seem professional, so find out the best way to reach the interview location the day before your interview. Consider whether you will drive or catch public transport. If you're driving yourself, research your route, how long the drive will take and your parking options. If you're taking public transport, determine how you'll get to the station, stop or port and how long the journey will take.
Double-check your interview time and aim to arrive 15 minutes early. This buffer provides time to find the interview office and collect your thoughts. Leaving your home earlier can also help you factor in unexpected delays such as roadblocks or traffic congestion.
9. Prepare your outfit
The way you dress forms an impression about you. Preparing your outfit at least a day before your interview can help the day of your interview run more smoothly.
Try a few outfits on and decide which one is the most flattering, professional and suitable for your industry. Ask a trusted family member or friend if you're not sure what to wear. When in doubt between two choices, select the more formal option. Note that while outfits don't matter so much for phone interviews, wearing something that makes you feel good can help you seem more confident.
Once you've settled on your outfit, make sure it's clean and ironed. Resist wearing the outfit until your interview day to avoid stains or damage.
10. Follow a healthy routine before your interview
Feeling nervous or excited before your interview is common, but manage your emotions to make sure you get a good night's sleep. Go to bed early enough to get at least eight hours of rest. If you have difficulty falling asleep, consider spending some time relaxing before bed. Reading a book, taking a bath or drinking herbal tea can all help prepare you for bed.
On the day of your interview, try sticking to your regular routine as closely as possible to stay calm. Take time for nutritious meals that provide energy and help your brain function at its best. If your interview is around lunchtime, enjoy a later breakfast than usual to prevent hunger pangs.
For face-to-face interviews, double-check your transport periodically until the interview. If there is a sudden transport strike, urgent trackwork or a traffic accident, you may want to choose a different transport option or change your route.