- Before you apply for a job
- The application process
- After the Interview
- After Your First Job
How to prepare for an interview
- Research the company & your interviewer
- Understand the industry & be up to date with any news or trends
- Go over potential questions you might be asked
- Have a question or two prepared to ask the interviewer
- Bring a notebook and a copy of your CV
- Be early!
If you're going to get the job, you're going to have to go to an interview at some point! No matter the industry, company size or your skill level, you will eventually find yourself sat in front of a potential employer explaining why you are the best person for the job. Interviews can be daunting, especially if you don't know what to expect, and preparation is essential. You can never really be over-prepared for an interview - the more preparation the better! Before you attend the interview, make sure you’re clear on how it will be structured and who will be interviewing you. If an employer hasn’t provided you with this information, feel free to ask. Here are TalentPool's top tips for interview success.
Do your research
You must thoroughly research first the company and secondly your interviewer(s). This should be your absolute starting point and it will be very obvious if you haven't put in the effort to do some extra reading.
- Who are their competitors?
- Make sure you know a few basic statistics (headcount, revenue, etc.) and any recent company news, which can most likely be found on their website.
- For larger companies, find a publicly available annual report (a quick Google search will bring it up), which will cover a range of topics that can't be found on the homepage.
- If you're interviewing with a startup, check out their Crunchbase profile for some essential figures.
- Look up your interviewer(s) on LinkedIn to find out some key bits of information about them and their career path.
The more information you know going into the inteview, the less nervous you'll be as you'll know you're well prepared!
Understand the industry
It's no good just saying that you're interested in a particular industry - you need to go beyond knowing one or two vague trends and actually understand the reasons behind them.
- What are customers doing differently and why? What new regulations exist? How could they affect the industry and this organisation in particular? What are the key issues faced by the sector?
- Make an effort to read industry journals and news - if you're interviewing for a job in banking or finance then The FT and The Economist are must reads! Don't just cram in some reading right before the interview as this will show.
Here are some useful links to news article sites in different sectors to help you get started
- Marketing & Advertising: Marketing Week, Advertising Age, Campaign Live
- Consulting: Consultancy.uk, Consultant-News
- Tech & Media: WIRED, TechCrunch, Gizmodo, Engadget, Mashable
- Analytics: InformationWeek, Analytics Magazine
Signing up to email briefings is also a fantastic way to help you keep on top of news in your sector ahead of your interviews. In particular, we recommend:
- Finimize: for help with commercial awareness preparation, we recommend signing up to Finimize’s daily business news email. It breaks down key stories into a 3 minute jargon-free read.
- Campaign: has a series of email bulletins - great for those of you looking for a job in Marketing or Social Media!
- The FT: offers a comprehensive daily tech newsletter on all things related to tech, digital media and telecoms.
Go back over your application
Always remind yourself of what you wrote in your application form, or what experience you highlighted in your CV and cover letter, as the interviewer is likely to pick up on this.
- Be prepared to expand on the examples or information you gave in your application and provide further examples to back up your claims.
- Go over the job description, remind yourself what the requirements were and how you fulfill these.
Practice question answers
A quick Google search for 'interview questions' will bring up more than enough material for sufficient practice. Don't formulate answers to every single one, instead focus on learning to think quickly and structuring your answers well. Even if the interviewer forgets exactly what you said, they'll remember how you said it. Figure out which situations (leadership roles, internships, extra-curricular) you would like to discuss at interview and practice applying them to different questions.
Weakness questions: these are likely to come up and you should give an answer. Do be honest but don't make anything seem like a cause for concern. Think carefully about how you're wording your answer - remember to describe how you're working on improving your particular weakness.
Have a question prepared to ask
It is inevitable that at the end of the interview your interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Having a good question prepared shows that you are interested in the company. If you're stuck for ideas it's always worth asking about the office culture or the interviewer's background. Don't be afraid to be yourself even if the interviewer is very senior - it's good to make a bit of small talk and humanise yourself.
Dress the part
The way you dress will have an impact on the interviewer's perception of you, working towards determining whether or not you are a good fit for the company. Check out our Interview Dress Guide to determine what outfit is appropriate to wear to your next interview.
- Firm handshake: this will contribute a lot to the all-important good first impression. A firm handshake speaks volumes about your personality and shows that you are confident.
- Smile: but also remain serious! It's important to convey your enthusiasm for the role, but you also need to show the interviewer that you mean business.
- Eye contact: maintain eye contact with your interviewer throughout the interview - otherwise it might look like you're getting distracted or bring attention to the fact that you're nervous.
- Good posture: sit up straight in your chair, don't slouch - you don't want to appear too relaxed or unbothered. Also, make sure you don't move about too much - shaking your leg or tapping your fingers often indicates impatience or boredom. Keep both feet on the floor and your hands on your lap unless you're using hand gestures to emphasise a point.
Arrive 15 minutes early - seriously! If you have no commitments that day, go even earlier and sit in a cafe beforehand to go over your interview preparation notes and compose yourself. You really don't want to be in a rush and if you're late then it's pretty much game over. Make sure you've planned your route and allow for transport delays, cancellations, traffic jams and bad weather! If it's a phone or Skype interview be ready and sitting at your desk with time to spare. Remember that the interview starts as soon as you walk into the building. Be as engaging and friendly to the receptionist as you will be to your interviewer.
Cancelling or re-scheduling
If you can't make the interview for whatever reason, you must email and call the interviewer as soon as you can to apologise and re-schedule. The interviewer won't mind as long as you took action and the cause was unavoidable. Just not picking up the phone, however, may well cause you issues with other employers - remember that companies know each other!
After the interview
Make sure you bring a notebook with you so that you can jot down any important points that came up in the interview straight after, for reference. Make sure you also follow up with a quick email a few hours later to thank the interviewer for their time and say that you're looking forward to hearing from them.