What to do before a job interview
Congratulations! Your carefully crafted cover letter has managed to impress, your CV has demonstrated that you have relevant skills and experience, and you've been invited to an interview with your prospective employer in two days' time.
While you've already thought about whether you might be a good fit when you applied for the role, now is the time to reassess the reasons why you want the role and take the time to thoroughly prepare your case.
Unfortunately life doesn't stop when you're preparing for an interview. In the midst of a hectic schedule, what are the three most important things you need to do when preparing for that crucial discussion, within only a short window of time?
- Learn what you can about the organisation and the role
The interview is a chance for the prospective employer to judge whether you would be a good fit for their team. You need to be able to show what you could add to their team and their organisation. To do this, you first need to understand what makes them tick.
Research the organisation’s business
Research what you can about the company's history, its products and services (especially those relevant to the role you have applied for), and where it’s going. You can find this in press releases on the company's website, in its annual report and possibly in media articles.
Check out the organisation’s culture
Check out their company pages on LinkedIn and Facebook to see what kind of culture the organisation has. Are they fun, irreverent and entrepreneurial? Are they quiet achievers? Do they embrace technology? Or a social cause? Start to paint a picture of whether you think you might fit in.
The old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t always apply here: good organisations will take their brand perception seriously and ensure they reflect their culture to attract prospective employees.
Be clear about the role
Read and re-read the job description and/or advertisement. Highlight the key words that are used to describe what they are looking for in the role, so you can use these same terms and phrases in the interview. Be prepared for answering how you would meet the requirements for that role in particular, not just any role with a similar job title being advertised in the market.
Research the people interviewing you
Find out about the people who will be interviewing you. Check out their LinkedIn profiles and Google their names to see where they pop up. What can you tell from their backgrounds that would help you to better tailor your answers? Do you have any common ground that you could use to build rapport?
While it’s not possible to find out everything, if you only have a small amount of time available before an interview, prioritise research on the organisation and the role over rehearsing answers to common questions. You can always think on your feet about your own experience if you have to, whereas the only way you can tailor your answers to the specific needs of your prospective employer is to have taken the time to learn about them first.
- Know who you are
Write down examples of your capabilities
Your skills and experience are on your CV; that’s what’s brought you this far already. While you’ll be questioned about your past, this is an opportunity for the employer to understand your broader capabilities: how you cope with challenges, how you adapt to change, how quickly you can learn.
Be clear about your own strengths, passions and areas for development. Write down some examples of how you have come up with creative solutions, overcome adversity or stayed calm under pressure.
Importantly, make the link between how these attributes could be beneficial in the new role. Is the organisation undergoing significant change? Is the employer looking for someone who is more creative, or more logical and process driven?
Check out the common interview questions that employers often ask.
Define your career goals.
‘Where will you be in five years?’ This is a tough question, given how quickly career paths can change these days! Career paths tend to be more like jungle gyms than ladders. You don’t necessarily have to know the exact job title and level you expect to reach in five years, but you should be clear about the skills you want to learn and the experience you want to gain.
You should also be clear about the kind of organisation that you want to work for. Are you driven by financial reward? Would you be better suited to a social enterprise or charity? Would you prefer an international corporation with global opportunities or a small business where you could work closer to home?
When you started searching for a new job, you might not have been certain about the answers to these questions, and you might have applied for multiple jobs to explore the opportunities. However, when it comes to an interview, being unclear about what you’re looking for could seed doubts into the prospective employer’s mind about your suitability for the role or organisation. Now’s the time to do that soul-searching about what you really want, and write it down to crystallise it.
- Look after yourself
Get enough sleep
You wouldn’t show up to an interview drunk, yet studies have shown that even moderate sleep deprivation can impair cognitive function in a similar way to being over the blood alcohol limit.
This is one of those occasions where you should try to prioritise an early night over other commitments if you can. You’ll think more clearly and be more focused on the day of the interview.
Take the time to make a good impression
It might seem frivolous, but appearances really do matter as a prospective employer makes a judgement on whether you have taken the time to prepare properly and dress appropriately for the role and for their company culture.
Even seasoned job seekers can become nervous when it comes to choosing what to wear to an interview. Here’s some advice.
For more on how to prepare for an interview, download our ebook 34 Ways to Master the Art of the Interview.