What to do before a job interview

Congratulations! Your carefully crafted CV has demonstrated that you have the 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?

  1. 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 keywords 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?

Make a good impression by memorising the names of the people you will be meeting so you can greet them confidently. 

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.

  1. 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?

Show, not tell. It’s more powerful and credible for you to provide examples of your positive qualities, rather than simply stating them. For example, briefly telling the story of a problem you faced and how you overcame it will be more effective than just saying ‘I’m a good problem solver.’

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?

  1. 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.

Do your shoes need shining or are they scuffed beyond recovery? Should you get a haircut? Do you need to sew that missing button onto your jacket? Check the details now in case you need to get anything from the shops. You’ll avoid last-minute stress and be calm and ready on the day.

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