Preparing for your interview
Most of us find job interviews stressful. Unfortunately, under stress our bodies divert the blood that feeds our brain to our legs so we can run. This is not a particularly effective interview strategy. The key to reducing stress and performing confidently in interviews is thorough preparation.
As a non-native speaker, preparation and practice will provide you with the right language to confidently present yourself and your skills.
11 Preparation Tips for your Interview
Find out who will be interviewing you and their position in the company. Make sure you know their names and how to pronounce them correctly.
Human resource (HR) professionals interview candidates regularly, are generally well prepared and try to ask all candidates for a position the same kinds of questions. Unfortunately, HR interviewers are often just the next step in the hiring process. They can eliminate you, but they can’t hire you.
For busy managers, interviewing is additional to their regular responsibilities and therefore they may have little time for it. Don’t be surprised if they don’t have a copy of your CV, are reading it for the first time in the interview or seem distracted. They appreciate concise answers and will want to be assured that you:
- are capable of doing the work
- have the motivation and desire
- can learn quickly
- will fit comfortably into the existing team
- will be easy to work with
Use the realities of modern business to your advantage. Being well prepared and asking smart questions that show your interest in the company can shorten the interview and convince the busy manager that hiring you is the easiest and best decision. Many managers rely on their instincts and decide quickly so they can get back to their pressing problems.
Reread the information you gathered on the company, position and the industry. Check the company’s website and Google for current reports and media coverage. Try to understand their business structure and strategy, their market(s), market position and their culture.
Look at the ad or job description again. Make sure you understand what is required and which of your skills most apply.
Reread your application or CV and make a list of questions the interviewer is likely to ask you. Think about what an employer might be concerned about – lack of experience, low grades, etc. and plan how you will talk about them. DON’T bring them up yourself. Just be prepared.
Think of five ‘achievements’ from your studies, internships, volunteer positions, outside interests, personal life – anywhere. For each, ask yourself these questions:
- What was the situation?
- What action did you take?
- What was the outcome?
- What did you learn from the experience?
You’ll find that these same five situations can be modified to answer many different interview questions. ‘Tell me about a time you . . .’, ‘What was your most . . .?’, ‘How would you handle . . .?’, etc.
Identify the situations and work through the questions ahead of time. Already having a situation in mind will enable you to provide a compelling example in the interview.
Practice answering common interview questions, especially the ones you find difficult. If you figure out an answer in advance, they will worry you less.
Think of five more questions they might ask you about this particular position.
Say your answers in front of a mirror. Keep your answers concise and to the point. Repeat until you can answer them without great hesitation or lots of ‘um’s and ‘er’s.
Find someone to ask you the questions and give you feedback on your responses. Videoing the mock interview is the very best way for you to see where you need to improve. (It is also the most painful. Don’t do it the night before the interview or you won’t sleep.)
It makes a terrible impression and you will be more nervous trying to remember the exact wording. Instead try and have some phrases ready that you can easily modify.
Be prepared to ask questions that demonstrate your interest in what the company is doing. Write several down in the notebook you’ll take with you.
The best questions come from listening to what you're asked during the interview and asking for additional information. Be sure that what you are asking can’t be easily found on their website.
Questions are a chance for you to find out more about the employer. Questions prepared in advance sound polished and professional. Not asking questions gives the impression that you are lazy or not interested. Questions can ‘rescue’ an inexperienced interviewee. Take more questions than you think you will need. When you are asking the questions, you are in charge of the interview!
If you are unfamiliar with the area, ask their receptionist about the best way to get there and the time it will take. Finding the building a day or two before the interview is a good stress reducer. Be aware that Google directions are not always accurate or current.
Plan to arrive at the company 15 minutes before the scheduled interview. Allow extra time for unexpected problems.
Even if the company is casual, dressing in conservative business attire shows respect. The first 20 seconds of your meeting has the greatest impact on the interviewer.
It’s fine to have short bullet points in your notebook to remind you of points you want to make. Bring a second copy of your CV in case the interviewer doesn’t have one on hand. Pens always seem to run out at the most inconvenient of times. Be prepared and bring a spare or in a position to offer one to your interviewer in case they don’t have one.
If people have agreed to be references (BrE – referees) for your job search, now is a good time to let them know that you have made it to the interview stage and they may be contacted. Thank them again for their help and provide a description of the job and a summary of the skills and strengths you want to highlight.