Interview Success: Preparation is the Key

‘Practicality’, ‘mindset’, ‘research’ and ‘knowing yourself’ are the 4 pillars to a successful preparation process before interview. 

With rich experience in training and development, CIPD qualified Career Consultant, Fiona Jackson, builds upon the accessible and often overlooked aspects of interview preparation and suggests some helpful methods in compartmentalising your planning.

There’s nothing worse than arriving to an interview late

Don’t just find out the location of the interview; make sure to plan your journey, perhaps with a trial run, beforehand. Allowing for the possibility of traffic or train delays and strikes by giving yourself some extra time will help to alleviate any additional and unwanted nerves prior to the interview.

Usually, you will have been given the heads-up on the name of your interviewer/s, but if you haven’t, it’s perfectly acceptable to request this information. Looking up the names of your interviewer/s online – particularly on LinkedIn – can educate you on their employment history and career path to date, therefore instilling a sense of confidence that could help you engage with the interviewer – forming a connection with interviewers based on what you already know about their career history should establish a form of familiarity that will work in your favour.
Inquiring about the format of the interview will also help to ease your mind beforehand. Will it be an informal chat, competency based questions or are you required to give a presentation?

Visualise yourself answering questions confidently

Going into the interview with a positive mindset will come across in your manner and ability to respond to questions clearly and competently. Fiona suggests that if you visualise answering questions as the ‘perfect candidate’, you are more likely to convey the visible confidence a potential employer will be looking for in an employee.
Look at the interview – whatever the outcome – as a learning experience. If you are rejected from the role, be sure to acknowledge the positives that come with being considered for the job and how you can apply your feedback (which you should always ask for) to future opportunities.
Nerves get the better of most people, particularly when being interviewed so though it may sound obvious, remember to smile; it goes a long way.

Put aside a day to do your research

Getting to know the job specification is vital to any candidate, so make sure to study it closely; who knows what sort of questions the interviewer is likely to ask, but if you’re familiar with the job description, this will show in your answer.
“If you’re applying for a commercial company, you really need to do a lot of research”, says Fiona. You will be expected to understand the market and if you can demonstrate knowledge of their key competitors and the areas of innovation within the industry, you will have skilfully proven the extensive research carried out.
If the role you are applying for is within the Not-for-profit/Public sector, it is important to understand the scope of the organisation and its key areas of interest. For example, if it’s within an NHS trust, check out the website, read the news and identify what the key issues are in the sector e.g. the crisis in A&E departments.

Ask for clarification of a question if you don’t understand, don’t try bluffing it

If faced with a question you don’t fully understand, it’s not a bad thing to ask your interviewer to repeat it or explain in more detail; there’s no point in attempting to bluff your way through the answer because it will show.
Think about whether your own key skills could add value to the role. Rather than focusing on what you want from the job, think about what you can bring to the business; offer some examples and explain how you have accomplished these in previous roles.
In most cases, ‘What are your weaknesses?’ is an awkward and unwelcome question to be asked. How and why should you produce an answer that will highlight the negative aspects of your working approach? Just identify your weaknesses and turn them into a positive. It’s actually easily done plus showing willingness to improve and learn demonstrates an honesty that will be acknowledged by the interviewer.
What happens when you get thrown a fastball? Don’t panic; just take a deep breath, stay calm and answer as best you can.

Preparation goes a long way. You can go into an interview having completed as little planning as possible, rely on improvisation only and still be successful BUT that probably won’t be the case and all it would do is add to the nerves you’re already experiencing.
Enter the interview with a fresh, informed head – you’ll see the benefits of this come to light in no time.
For more advice on interview preparation, book a consultation with one of our experts –