Ultimate guide to interview preparation

Ever walked out of a job interview thinking that it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped or planned? Chances are, that’s because you didn’t get your interview preparation right.

Job interview preparation isn’t about forcing yourself to spend hours reading a company’s website, planning an outfit, or practising your handshake. Rather, it’s about using your time in the most effective way so you feel confident about presenting your “best self” on the big day.

As with so many things, it’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter. To help you out, we’ve put together this ultimate guide on how to prepare for an interview.

How to prepare for an interview: General best practices

Whether your upcoming interview is in person, on the phone, or online, be sure to follow these interview preparation best practices:

Scrutinise the job specification

Your interview preparation should start with the job specification. Your goal here is to dig into exactly what sort of candidate the hiring manager is looking for, which will help you tailor your answers accordingly. Specifically, look out for:

  • What qualifications are required
  • What skills and experience levels are necessary
  • Which, if any, of those qualifications and skills are most important

Research the company and industry

The hiring manager doesn’t just want to know that you’ve got the necessary skills and experience to fulfil the job specification. They also want to know that you want to work for their company and are passionate about the industry. That way, you’re more likely to stick around if you get the job.

Prepare answers to common interview questions

While you can’t second guess everything your interviewer will ask, there are some interview questions that crop up time and again, such as:

Plan answers to questions like these, always remembering to link your response back to the job specification.

Plan your route

Interviews can be stressful enough, so if yours is taking place in person, don’t leave yourself rushing around or struggling to find the office on the day.

Confirm in advance where the interview is taking place and if there are any quirks about how to access the building. If you’ve got time, travel the route ahead of the big day so you can be absolutely certain you know where you’re going. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Want to secure more interviews with exciting companies across the UK? Check out all the exciting live roles on the Michael Page website today. 

How to prepare for an online interview

Thanks in part to the pandemic, employers also conduct various types of online interviews. These include:

While you (probably) won’t have to worry about travelling to the company’s office, there are a few other elements that can go wrong with online interviews, so make sure you consider these interview preparation tips:

Dress for an in-person interview

You should definitely still dress as if you’re attending an in-person interview. For one thing, the interviewer can almost certainly see you, and first impressions count. And for another, dressing smartly can help you feel more confident and professional.

Test your tech

When it comes to the hardware we’re using, a lot of things can go wrong in an online interview. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you access the video calling platform?
  • Do you need to download any software?
  • Will your laptop’s battery cope with an hour-long video presentation? If not, do you have access to a plug socket?
  • Do you need a microphone? And if so, does it work?
  • Can you share your screen if needs be?

Find a quiet spot with a neutral background

Try to position yourself in a place with decent acoustics and minimal background noise. It’ll help you stay focused, while also ensuring there are no distractions at your end for the interviewer.

In a similar vein, choose a neutral background, like a light-coloured wall. You definitely don’t want your interviewer to be put off by your intense wallpaper or collection of dog-based artworks.

How to prepare for a telephone interview

On the face of things, telephone interviews seem like a safe option. You don’t have to worry about how you’re dressed or where the office is.

But without the benefits of body language, it’s a lot harder to sell yourself or glean what the interviewer thinks about your answers. Give yourself the best chance of avoiding common telephone interview mistakes with the following job interview preparation advice:

Make yourself comfortable (but not too comfortable)

You can afford to be a little more relaxed than in an online or in-person interview, because the hiring manager can’t see you. So don’t worry about getting your tuxedo dry-cleaned in advance.

At the same time, don’t wear your 10-year-old tracksuit and take the call while slumped on the sofa. You need to feel ready to speak professionally. Also, consider how your voice sounds. You might come across as more expressive and energetic if you’re standing up or walking around while on the phone.

Check your phone signal

Find somewhere quiet to take the call and make sure your signal is good. If it’s not a place where you usually make phone calls, have a trial run before the big day. The last thing you want is to sound like you’re constantly disappearing into a tunnel.

Spread out your notes

With a telephone interview, it’s comparatively easy to refer to your notes, or the job specification, or your CV. So make sure you’re sat (or stood up) in a place where your paperwork can be easily spread out.

What's next?

Found this advice useful? For a more comprehensive guide to landing your next job download our Job Applicant Toolkit today for our expert advice on the entire hiring process from interviewing, updating your CV, negotiating salary and more. 

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