Preparing for an interview

Being invited to an interview means that your application must have made a good impression. An interview is a discussion between you and an employer to find out if you can do the job. You need to prepare yourself for the interview to make sure that you are successful.

Before your interview

Research the company

If you are invited to an interview you should do some research so that you can answer any questions on the company.

You could contact the company to ask for an information pack or have a look at their website.

You should find out the following information about the employer:

  • what they do, make or sell?
  • who are their customers?
  • what sort of organisation are they?
  • what is the job likely to involve?
  • how can you best fit your skills to match the job?

Plan for the interview

Find out what the interview will involve to make sure you're prepared.

If you have a disability, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for you to have an interview. If you need the employer to make particular arrangements (for example, to help you get into the building), contact them before your interview to make sure they can make these arrangements.

If you can find out the length of the interview it will give you an idea of how detailed it is likely to be. You also need to find out if you will have to take a test or make a presentation.

Think about who will be interviewing you. If it's the person who would be your manager if you got the job, the interview may be more detailed. If it's the personnel manager, the interview may be less detailed but could still be as testing.

Find out how many people will be interviewing you and their positions in the company. This will help you prepare for the kinds of questions they may ask.

Plan your journey

Consider travelling to the company the day before the interview to check how long the journey will take. If necessary, ask the employer for directions, bus routes or details of where you can park your car.

You should plan another way of getting there in case something unexpected happens, such as an accident or if your train is cancelled.

Create the right image

Deciding what to wear for the interview will depend on what sort of work you will be doing. Smart dress is generally appropriate. Aim for a neat, clean and tidy appearance, if you look good it will help you feel good.

Gather the information you'll need at the interview

Your invitation to interview should tell you everything you need to bring with you, such as references, exam certificates, and driving licence.

Remember to take a copy of your CV and application form to refer to. Prepare notes or cue cards to help you if you think you might need a prompt during the interview.

Reread the job advert to refresh your memory and to make sure you haven't missed anything.

Useful interview tips

  • be punctual
  • don’t sit down until invited or at least until the interviewer sits down
  • don’t touch or lean on the interviewer’s desk or table
  • don’t slouch in your chair, but do not sit nervously on the edge of it
  • show that you can listen, show positive interest by nodding
  • look at the interviewer – not round the room or at your feet
  • speak clearly
  • don’t swear or use jargon
  • don’t argue with, interview or interrupt the interviewer
  • think before you answer questions, do not answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Try to give as much detail as you can – but don’t waffle
  • be prepared to talk about yourself - your education, hobbies, interests, special achievements. This gives the employer an opportunity to find out more about you
  • be prepared to cope with questions on weak or sensitive areas
  • some interviewers may appear aggressive or challenge your interest in the job - this will be to test your reaction and your degree of interest, remain calm and polite
  • do not draw attention to any weaknesses but be ready with answers which show up your strong points which are relevant to the job
  • do not criticise present or past employers

Towards the end of the interview you should be given the chance to ask questions. It is reasonable to ask about training, prospects, hours, wages or further education if they have not been dealt with already.

On the day

You should aim to arrive about 10 minutes before the interview time. If you are delayed, contact the employer as soon as possible to explain, apologise and arrange another appointment.

Try to relax and keep calm, chat to the receptionist or whoever greets you before going into the interview; this will help calm you. Accept that it is natural to be nervous and that you may have a fast heartbeat, clammy hands, and 'butterflies' in your stomach.

Remember that the interviewer can be just as nervous as you.

It's important to make a good first impression and this will happen in the first few minutes. 

If you're nervous your voice may sound shaky and squeaky. Practise deep, slow breathing before you get to the interview. This will slow down your heart rate and help you avoid taking quick shallow breaths.

After your interview

It is not the end of the world if you are unsuccessful. It does not mean you are a failure – employers have a wide range of suitable people to choose from. Look on it as good practice as the more interviews you go to, the better your performance will become.

Feedback

If you do not get the job you were interviewed for, you are entitled to ask for feedback from the employer.

It may be hard to listen to, but getting some feedback on why an interview didn't go your way can actually be a very positive experience and can help you to make improvements for the next job application/ interview.

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