How to… prepare for an interview

An online survey conducted by jobsite Fish4Jobs found 52 per cent of
candidates spend less than two hours researching the company and rehearsing for
the interview.

The high cost of a poor recruitment decision means you are unlikely to be
employed on a hunch, so don’t expect to glide through it.

Advanced preparation will boost your confidence, and demonstrate you are a
highly-employable, self-disciplined and enthusiastic individual with a mature

Where do I start?

Thorough research is key to a successful outcome. Make full use of available
resources and your network to learn all you can about the company’s goals,
activities, main products and services.

Find out the format of the selection process and who will be attending.
Think carefully about why you want to join the company.

Match up your skills and experience with the job description. Come up with
specific examples of how you have applied them in your existing and/or previous

Be ready for anything

Second-guess the questions and practice your answers. There are any number
of books and career sites that offer sample questions, but they are likely to
be variations of ‘why do you want the job?’

What are your strengths/ weaknesses?

What makes you suitable for this job? Be set to talk about your current
employer in a business context, such as what the HR budget is as a percentage
of the overall budget, and where the company sits in the market in relation to
its competitors.

The panel may also want to know how you respond to specific work situations
and might ask behavioural- based questions for clues about your competencies. A
typical example is: describe an awkward situation at work that you would manage
differently if given another chance.

Role-playing with a friend can be constructive on tougher questions.

If a question phases you, or it is unclear, don’t feel pressured to respond
immediately. Ask them to restate the question, or make plain the information
they are after.

Should I always ask questions at interview?

Use the interview to determine whether you really want to work there. Will
its culture suit your style of working? You should also be looking for answers

– How performance targets are set and measured

– The culture and values of the department and the company

– The main challenges for the role.

Stress your awareness of business in a wider context by asking big-picture
questions, such as what is the organisation’s strategy for growth, and how HR
is aligned with those goals.

Keep up appearances

Alun Jones, an associate consultant at DBM, recommends always wearing a
business suit to interviews. Men should wear a shirt and tie, he says, and
women should wear a stylish blouse or top.

Where can I get more info?


– Preparing for the Behaviour-based Interview. How to Get the Job You Want
by Terry L Fitzwater, Crisp Publications, £10.95, ISBN 1560526432


– Boasts virtual interview section. Questions posed progress from ‘puffball’
to ‘killer’, and all responses are graded with feedback.

– Home page of Caseridus, a US developer of interview skills applications
that features an interactive quiz module. Answers are graded and feedback is
also given.

If you only do five things…

1 Allow ample time to prepare

2 Thoroughly research the company beforehand.

3 Provide specific examples of your abilities

4 Practice your responses

5 Dress appropriately

Expert’s view: Alun Jones on interview technique

Alun Jones is an associate consultant
at career transition specialist DBM. He has worked in HR and consultancy for 12
years and specialises in performance enhancement and employee risk management.

Where would you start when
preparing for an interview?

‘What’s the job?’ and ‘what am I trying to achieve?’ are two
questions I always ask myself beforehand. What type of interview will it be and
who are you meeting? Focus your mind on where it is you are trying to get to,
and plan accordingly.

What key advice would you offer
someone preparing for interview?

Stay calm and focused. A calm, methodical approach to
interviews will help immensely. Remember that you are good at what you do or
they probably wouldn’t have asked to interview you in the first place. Practise
your answers to difficult questions and don’t beat yourself up if you fluff one.

Should you take along ideas and

There is never any harm in preparing ideas for new ways of
working. This can show initiative and commitment at an early stage. However,
delivery is important, so try not to sound over-confident and condescending
when communicating your ideas.

Is there a good way of preparing
for difficult or ‘killer’ questions?

The key word here, again, is practice. Practise your answers so
that they flow and use familiar language, not just buzz words. Start by writing
your answers out in full, then extract bullet points or key words you can
expand upon in the interview. Think about the aim of the question and take time
to reflect before answering.

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