Preparing for an interview

Doing some ground work before a job interview is essential to making a good impression on an employer. Researching the company/organisation and the role itself will help you answer the employer's questions, and show you're keen for the job.

The interview is your chance to present your skills, experience, personal qualities and other strengths as they relate to the position you are applying for. It is also an opportunity to get more information about the organisation or position. This will help you decide if it is the right job for you.

Research the organisation

  • What is the public profile of the company? Are you aware of its products and services?
  • Use the internet, business or industry magazines and brochures to find out information.
  • Think about your networks: do you know anyone who works/has worked there?

Visit the workplace

It is very useful to visit the place of work before the interview. It is best to do this openly. Call the person who arranged the interview and ask to make an appointment to visit. You might say something like:

"I have been asked to come in for a job interview at your company. My interview is next Friday. I'm going to be in the area today, and I wondered if I could come in for a few minutes to have a look around, and ask a few questions to help me prepare."

Even if a visit is refused, it shows you are keen and enthusiastic. Have some questions prepared, present yourself well, and do not outstay your welcome.

A visit gives you some useful information for the interview including:

  • the size of the organisation
  • what products/services are offered by the organisation
  • what the key markets are
  • the dress code
  • work place language/jargon
  • location for the interview.

Passion and motivation are definitely what I look for when I am recruiting. Applicants who bother to pop in with their CV and ask for me show that they are making an effort and care about the job. They are more likely to get an interview. It really helps if applicants have come in here and observed and thought about what the role entails. And being well-presented is very important.

Cheryl Lee, i-SITE Manager

Cheryl Lee

i-SITE Manager

Anticipate the employer's questions

  • Review your CV, cover letter and any application forms you have completed.
  • Working from a job description, think of questions the employer may ask.
  • Prepare answers to possible questions. Even if these questions are not asked, it makes you think carefully about what you are offering.

Have your questions and evidence ready

Make sure you have questions ready to ask. Your research into the organisation can help, and may give you further questions about the job.

You may like to take physical evidence of your achievements to interviews, such as examples of written work, qualifications or written references. Employers may also ask to see certain documents.

Get your interview clothes ready

First impressions count. You don't have to wear new or expensive clothes, but make sure you have something smart and simple that enables you to look neat and tidy. Employers will notice whether you've tried to look presentable, even if you're going for a labouring job.

Smartness shows you have taken time to look nice, and that may give you the edge over another candidate. Looking good will make you feel good and that will boost your confidence.

If it’s a video interview, dress as formally as you would for an interview at a workplace. This will help you focus, as well as looking presentable on-screen. Avoid black or white clothes or anything with a strong pattern which can be distracting online.

Know where the interview is

Work out how you will get to the interview site and how long your journey will take. Have a contingency plan if something goes wrong, for example, if your children get sick on the day of the interview.

Be mentally prepared for all eventualities

  • You may be asked to take a test before the interview. It might be an aptitude test, or a test relevant to the type of job you have applied for.
  • Before the interview itself, you may be required to give a presentation on a topic relevant to the organisation. Check that you will have access to any equipment you may need – for example, an overhead projector.
  • You may be presented with a particular situation and asked how you would deal with it.
  • You may have to take part in group activities with other candidates, to test your abilities in teamwork or leadership.
  • Interviews can vary tremendously. Some may be casual – a chat in a crowded shop. Others may be formal. You could face a panel of interviewers, which may be two or three people – or eight or nine! You could even go through a series of interviews with different people, all on the same day. Some people may be put off by being in a situation they had not anticipated. It's best to expect that anything could happen.
  • If it’s a video interview, be prepared for technical hitches. Remember if there’s a problem with equipment or the connection, staying calm will show the interviewer that you can cope with challenges. 

Preparation for video interviews

Video interviews can form part of a job application process. They may be live or recorded. The secret to successful video interviews is preparation and practice. This will send a strong signal that you’re organised and prepared – which will help your chances of getting hired. 

Before a video interview

  • Find out what sort of computer program or application will be used and download it if necessary. Make sure you have a professional-sounding online name. Test out the program and organise another place for the interview if you find your home internet connection isn’t strong enough.
  • If possible, use a cable to connect to the internet instead of wifi, especially if others are using the wifi. Make sure your battery is charged. Exchange phone numbers with your interviewer in case the video link fails during the interview and you need to switch to a phone. 
  • Make sure that your webcam is adjusted so that you show up clearly and in focus. Ideally it will be above you, for a more flattering shot. Move the equipment round to get the best lighting. If you have a headset and microphone use them for better sound.
  • Remember it’s still an interview, even if it’s in your bedroom. Position the webcam so that your background looks professional, or at least neutral. Remove photos, posters or mirrors that show up in the background.
  • Practice using the program, ideally with a friend.
  • Have your CV and your interview notes on your desk.

During a video interview 

  • Remove any distractions from around you. Close other computer programs, which could distract you or reduce your internet connection. Keep your door shut and ask people who live with you to keep their noise levels down, and not to enter your room while the interview is on.
  • Talk a little more slowly than usual. There may be a lag in the connection, so wait a little longer than usual when the interviewer stops speaking, to make sure that they have finished. Politely let your interviewer know if you can’t hear them clearly.
  • To give the impression that you are looking the interviewer in the eye, look at the webcam, not the person on the screen.

Updated 29 Jun 2016