After working in recruitment for ten years, I’ve seen lots of great candidates crash and burn at interviews, even though they might have been suitable for the job and even a great fit for the company.
If there’s one thing you can never underestimate, it’s the importance of preparation, from getting clear on the basics to finding out the inside scoop before you’re in the hot seat.
Here are the top things you can do to stand out and be remembered for all the right reasons in your next job interview!
Research the Company!
It might sound obvious that you should research the company, but I’ve lost count of the number of interviews where candidates have missed this point. They’ve been vague on what the company does, unclear on what makes the company great, and weren’t clear why they would even want to work there.
Make sure you’ve got your facts straight and avoid any embarrassment by spending a little time digging online.
Check out their website and read press releases to discover what they get up to, innovations, plans for growth, and awards. These can be great discussion points in the interview and show you have a genuine interest in them.
You should also find their mission and value statements on their website. These will show you whether you’re values are aligned with theirs and will help you speak their language. People like people like them, and companies are no different.
You may also find details of investor relations and financial reports on their company website.
Make sure to check out their Linked In page. You’ll get a glimpse of what might be going on inside based on the types of things they post, whether it’s events, recruitment initiatives, or product launches.
Check out any other social media channels that they have, and remember, they will be checking yours out as well!
For more company research, check out sites like Glass Door to find out what employees say about what it’s like to work there. Don’t forget to speak to anyone in your network who may have worked there previously.
Research Key People in the Organization
Find out what the CEO has to say. Listening to interviews with the CEO or other key people within the business will give you a flavor of what the leadership is like and what their priorities are. You’re also likely to get some idea of where things are headed and what the direction of the company is in the longer term.
Research the Industry and Key Competitors
As well as knowing the company, it’s crucial to have a clear picture of the industry. Who are the key players? What makes this company stand out? What threats are the industry facing, or what changes or innovations are taking place more broadly?
Having this information will give you a chance to speak confidently and to offer your thoughts, insights, or opinions about critical things that may be taking place, showing that you are genuinely interested in the industry and what is going on and demonstrating that you are capable of global thinking.
Know Your Interviewer (s)
Interviews are about building rapport, and one thing that will help you on this front is knowing a little about your interviewer (s).
Check out their linked-in profiles and google them! We’re not trying to get all creepy here, but if they have ever done a speech, won any awards, or been featured in the press, these are things that they’ll be proud of, and they’ll be pleased to know that you’ve been bothered to find out, especially if you’ve found them inspiring, interesting or helpful. If you come across anything not so positive, this might be best avoided!
Know the Job You’re Interviewing for
You’re in the interview, and the interviewer starts going into detail about the expectations of the role. Still, it doesn’t sound like what you applied for, and this job doesn’t sound like it’s for you.
Worse still, the interviewer opens by asking you to explain what you’re understanding of the role is and why it interests you, and you immediately mention something that is not involved. Not a good start.
Before you go to any interview, make sure you are crystal clear on what the role involves.
The first place to start is reading the job description — if there is one.
If there isn’t yet a detailed description of the role for one reason or another, ask questions. Write a list of things you want to know and discuss these with your recruiter or HR. As long as you’re polite about the whole thing, it’s normal to want to know more before committing to something that isn’t right for you.
Consider the team’s structure, how this role interacts with other functions, and the likely career pathways and progression opportunities.
Understand the Role More Deeply
Beyond reading the job description, it’s worth reaching out to professionals in similar roles on LinkedIn or other networks to get a firsthand account of what the day-to-day responsibilities entail.
While this is something I recommend to anyone looking to change career paths, It’s also incredibly valuable during a job search. Especially if you’re moving into a similar role but in a different industry or looking to step into a more senior role.
Review Your CV Thoroughly
Suppose you’ve had more than a few roles or worked in more than a few different companies as your experience builds. In that case, you’ll no doubt be asked for the reasoning behind some of the career decisions you’ve made.
You may have done multiple roles in one company or had a sideways step, which isn’t an obvious choice on the surface, or you might have gaps.
These are all part of you and your story, but before you sit in front of any interviewer, you need to be well-versed and clear on what your reasons were for making the career choices you made.
Trying to explain random gaps and jobs that don’t align with the role you’ve applied for can be challenging to do on the spot. As a result, you may come across as though you are hiding something or be perceived as someone who makes decisions without thought, both of which do not reflect well.
Make sure you’ve reviewed your CV thoroughly and, of course, that you’ve submitted the most up-to-the-minute version!
Take the time to write down examples of what you have achieved in each role, the difference you’ve made, and the value it added to the organization. This may be on your CV, but be ready to discuss it in detail with specifics.
Often, it’s the small things that can make the most significant difference. If it’s a choice between two close candidates, then you can be sure that the person who is most prepared and able to build great rapport will win! Who would you pick?
Read our resume tips to start sorting out your CV:
- 13 Things You Need To Remove From Your Resume Right Now
- 15 Resume Mistakes That Will Stop You Getting An Interview
Utilise Mock Interviews and Practice
Talking about interview practice, it’s well worth having a mock interview with a friend or, better yet, a professional, such as a Career Coach or Job Search Coach.
By doing this, you will put yourself as close to the scenario as possible. A professional will know the types of questions you’re likely to get asked, and they will be able to give you honest and constructive feedback and tips for improving.
And why not take things a step further and record your mock interview? Although this may sound daunting or even mortifying, it’s well worth it. By doing this, you can spot and improve things like body language, posture, facial expressions, and so on.
These all form an overall impression of you, and by improving these finer points, you’ll be putting yourself above the rest of the pack!
Don’t Forget Scenario-Based Preparation
These days, no interview is complete without scenario-based questions.
These behavioral interview questions help potential employers to gain an understanding of how you will behave in a given situation.
To answer these questions, you probably already know that you need to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to articulate your experiences effectively.
But what you won’t know is that many candidates struggle with these questions, not because they forget the STAR method, but because they didn’t come prepared with all their example scenarios at the top of mind.
My advice is to think about the main competencies within the role you are applying to and then take the time to write down the specific examples when you have demonstrated these.
Doing this ahead of the interview will help you to be clear and concise in the discussion while still giving the interviewer exactly what they’re looking for.
The best part is that once you do this exercise, you have a document that will serve you for many interviews to come.
Make sure you keep the document updated and only use the most relevant examples for each interview.
[Check out this guide to The Most Common Interview Questions [Guide].]
Take a Peek at the Company’s Culture
Before joining any company, you will want to look into the company’s culture by reviewing their social media profiles, reading employee testimonials and reviews, and looking at the work environment through pictures or, preferably, videos, if available.
If you’re feeling brave and anyone you know, or someone in your network, has worked at the company before, it’s well worth trying to get an insider’s perspective on the company culture and expectations.
While this won’t always give you the complete picture, it can save you a lot of pain in the long run.
And as I mentioned before, Glassdoor is a great place to start, but don’t stop there.
Prepare Questions for the Interviewers
Don’t forget that an interview is as much for you as it is for the hiring manager. It’s a chance to learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision when that offer comes through.
Make sure you’re ready by preparing smart questions to ask when it’s your turn.
Technical Skills and Portfolio Refresh
If the role you have applied for requires specific technical skills, refresh your knowledge and be prepared to discuss your skills confidently. For creatives, this could include updating your portfolio.
Logistics and Presentation
Something that gets forgotten in the talk of interview preparation is logistics. But we all know how stressful arriving late for any important appointment is, let alone an interview.
Check the journey, plan your route, and pick your outfit accordingly based on the company culture.
Be Ready to Manage Your Stress Levels
Interview nerves and anxiety, Aargh!
This happens to most of us, especially when it’s a job you really want! Prepare yourself by practicing techniques that will help to calm your nerves, such as deep breathing techniques, positive visualization, or even short meditation sessions, which you can do just before the interview.
The interview’s over; now what?
Don’t forget to follow up!
Send a personalized thank-you email after the interview, reiterating your interest in the position and reflecting on the interview conversation.
While this step happens after the interview, it could still be considered part of the interview process, as whether or not you send a thank you note can impact what the interviewers think about you.
[Here’s an example thank you letter you can send after the interview.]