How to Prepare for a Job Interview

man outside interview room

Now that you’ve impressed prospective employers and are receiving requests for job interviews, you’re just one step away from landing a job offer for your dream job. The job interview is without a doubt, the toughest phase of the hiring process. Although they are generally nerve racking and can cause you a fair bit of anxiety and stress, interviews actually present an excellent opportunity to back up all of the statements you’ve made in your cover letter and resume or CV.

What is an Interview?

An interview is nothing more than a conversation between a job applicant and one or more representatives of the prospective employer to determine if the candidate is qualified to do the job in question. It is also an opportunity for both you and the employer to decide whether or not you will fit in with the company culture.

An interview is a typically formal affair. Although it is important to be professional always, interviewers often want you to relax and be yourself so they can get a sense of your true personality.

Types of Interviews:

There are several types of job interviews. Interviews can be held in-person, conducted over the phone or via video or Skype. The specific interview process will depend on the company, the role they are looking to fill and the pool of job applicants. In some cases, selected candidates are offered the job after one interview. In other cases, the process may take longer and involve more interviews with HR, different managers and potential colleagues.

Here are the most common types of job interviews:

  • Telephone interview: This is typically an initial pre-screening call to determine whether or not they want to invite you in for an in-person interview. Many employers use this as a quick and cost-effective way to whittle down the candidate pool in the first round. This ensures that all of the candidates they see at least meet the minimum requirements of the position. Telephone interviews provide the opportunity to make an instant and memorable impression on your target audience, so it’s crucial to be prepared for them.
  • One-on-one Job Interview: This is a face-to-face meeting with a representative of the company, usually the hiring manager of the position you are applying for. The interviewer will usually have a pre-defined set of traits that he or she is looking for. In this case, it is important to research the background of the interviewer beforehand. The more research you conduct, the more you’ll understand what the interviewer is looking for and the better the interview you’ll have.
  • Panel Interview: A panel interview typically consists of two or more of the company’s representatives, generally people from HR and management. Many companies view this as an opportunity to see how you interact or engage with different individuals, and how you perform under stress. This type of interview is popular within academic institutions, large non-profit organizations and the public sector.-

Types of Interview Questions

Traditional Questions

Traditional interview questions tend to be straightforward questions that focus on your personality, preferred ways of interacting with others and how you would handle hypothetical situations. Typical questions include “What are your greatest strengths” or “What do you know about our organization?”

Behavioral Questions

Behavioral interview questions are based on discovering how you acted in specific employment-related situations. The rationale behind behavioral questions is that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation.

For example, if the interviewer wants to learn more about your problem solving abilities, you may be asked about a time when you used your skills to deal with a particular problem.

Behavioral questions indicate how well you may handle similar situations in a new role. An example of a behavioral question is, “Describe the toughest challenge you faced at your last job. How did you handle it?” Essentially, the interviewer wants to assess how you handle challenging problems in order to predict how you will act when faced with a similar situation.

You need to be well prepared, so make an effort to inquire what type of interview will be conducted so you can best prepare for it. Ask your HR contact for the names, titles and roles of everyone who will be interviewing you so you can research them. You should also ask for an overview of the hiring process to get a sense of how many interviews the employer will conduct prior to making offers.

Preparing for Your Job Interview

About Interview questions.

It is important to realize that there are only around 20 – 25 interview questions that you really need to worry about. Sure, there are hundreds of ways that an interviewer may choose to ask these questions and they may not match up to the exact way you are asked the questions in actual interviews, but every interview question is really just a variation of those key themes.

Once you are able to familiarize yourself with the main strategies behind each answer, you’ll be best placed to ace any interview in virtually any industry you choose to work in.

It would be a mistake to try to memorize the interview answers word for word. A lot of people do this, and end up sounding like a robot and then begin to panic at the interview when they forget specific wording. The best way to practice the answers is to first of all understand the answer, capture the key points and study them.

Once you understand the points being made, practice until you feel comfortable talking about them off the cuff. Use a digital recorder to rehearse until you are comfortable talking about them with others.

Many go in to interviews unprepared in various senses of the word. One of the most commonly made mistakes is the lack of practice. As adults, the idea of practicing may seem foreign, but the benefits are incredibly pertinent to interview success.

The importance of practice is not about your ability to memorize, but instead, your level of comfort. A useful way to approach practicing your interview responses is to have a friend or spouse act as an interviewer and ask you a few general interview questions, while you tape record your answers.

Using this method will allow you to play back your responses, and notice areas that could be tweaked, such as tone of voice, confidence, or length of responses (which should be no longer than 1-2 minutes per question).   Do this a few times, until the responses come with ease and feel natural.

When preparing for your interview, start by visualizing how would approach performing a diverse range of tasks that the job role typically requires. Prepare to demonstrate the competencies that you can apply to the role. Then make sure you can describe the process in lay terms to a friend or member of your family, so that they can get a general idea of what you are describing to them.

Be as detailed and as specific as possible, and be sure to draw on the most successful situations where you achieved great results, so that you can use them strategically in your answers.

Remember, as a potential employee, you need to prove that you can do the job and possess excellent drive and motivation. You must show genuine interest in the company, and be seen as someone who can be a key player in helping the company reach their goals. Aim to leave the impression of reliability, trustworthiness, and the capacity to achieve results.