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How best to prepare for a job interview

It’s hard to imagine that anyone really revels in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a job interview. With so much riding on your performance, which is often over in a flash, job interviews can challenge even the most confident and qualified of candidates. As such, preparation is key. By doing your homework, and going into the interview with some semblance of a game plan, you can feel far safer in the knowledge that you’re prepared for whatever the interviewers may throw at you. But what is involved in good job interview preparation?

Research the organisation

Your first task is to get to know those you’ll be talking to. The fact that you’ve sent an application to this employer will hopefully mean that you already have some working knowledge about who they are and what they do. Build on that knowledge by researching the organisation, finding out as much as you can about their history, company culture and current operations. Find an aspect of the organisation that you like or respect, and keep it in mind when you are in the interview.

Investigate what your potential role will involve, and work out how you can relate its duties and responsibilities back to previous life experiences, be they work or personal.

Prepare your first impression

No matter what anyone says, in job interviews, first impressions count for a lot. Before the interviewers hear you they’ll see you, so appropriate dress is very important. Prepare what you’re going to wear ahead of time, considering not just your clothing, but your shoes and bag too. You need to look polished and professional, but also feel comfortable and confident. If you’re not sure what to wear, a good rule of thumb is to dress in the most formal attire that you would probably wear in the position you’re going for. Try to go with neutral colours and simple styles, and let your mouth do the talking, not your clothes.

Your demeanor will say a lot about your employability, so no matter what sort of day you’re having, ensure you take a positive, enthusiastic and open attitude into the interview. A smile and a confident handshake can say as much to an interviewer as any combination of words could. You’d also be wise to prepare how you are going to get to the interview. Check how long it will take, and make sure you allow plenty of time to counteract any possible traffic problems.

Prepare your pitch

The interview is centred around you, and the interviewers only have one main source of info – your CV. Make sure you know it back to front, and can relate portions of it to the position you’ve applied for.

Then consider your own key selling points. Go through the job ad and look at the key selection criteria for the role. Consider each of them and how your skills and experience match up to them. Write down some examples of your experience in relation to the skills – using real world stories is one of the best ways to demonstrate your suitability to the job. Make your examples specific and focussed on what you did and how you did it. Explain your thought processes and show your problem solving abilities. It’s likely the employer will ask about all or some of the selection criteria, so having some pre-prepared examples will make it far easier for you under pressure.

Prepare for common questions

There are some job interview questions that have almost turned into clichés. But they’re used for a reason; because they work. The good news is that these common questions can be prepared for, which can take a lot of the pressure off of you when you’re sitting in your interview. Rather than babbling nervously, you can give clear, concise answers that are sure to impress. Some examples of common questions include:

  • Tell us about yourself
  • What attracted you to this company?
  • Tell us about a time where you were confronted with a difficult problem. How did you overcome it?
  • Tell us about a time you dealt with a difficult person. How did you manage the situation?
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Which brings us to …

Prepare a few of your own questions

While the interview may well be centred around you, it is an opportunity for a discussion on whether the organisation would be a good fit for you, not just whether you’d be a good fit for the organisation. You should do your best to ascertain whether this collaboration is right for both parties by taking the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewers. Is the position as flexible as you might require? Are there opportunities for promotion in the future? This also serves as an opportunity to impress the interviewers by showing off your knowledge of the organisation.

Take relevant material to the interview

Finally, while you may have dressed to impress and have answers to all of the interviewers’ questions, it can all fall apart if they ask for a copy of your resume, a certification, or your referees, and you have forgotten to bring the appropriate documentation. Ensure that you have spare copies of all relevant material with you.

Those that prepare thoroughly have the greatest chance of job interview success; it’s as simple as that. While it’s certainly not healthy to overthink these things, ensuring that you are adequately practiced and organised can give you that vital edge over many of the other candidates.

If you don’t succeed, however, it’s important not to get disheartened – remember that you may have been one of hundreds of applicants. Take the opportunity to ask for feedback as to why you didn’t get the position, and use the information to be a stronger interviewee next time.

Getting a great job can be difficult when you’re just starting out. Check out these tips from Deakin expert Professor Dineli Mather, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Graduate Employment) on how to land a great graduate role.

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