Job Interview Preparation Checklist

So you’ve been invited for an interview. It would be a great job to get and you’re confident you’ve got all the skills, experience and personal qualities the employer is looking for. But, no matter how perfectly suited the job appears to be, you can’t afford to sit back and relax. There will be several other candidates thinking exactly the same thing, so you need to do everything you can to make sure you shine.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Preparation really is everything in the interview process. If you want to perform well on the day then the biggest effort needs to take place before you walk into the interview room – even the most basic preparations can make a big difference. So here’s our 10 point checklist for ensuring your interview will go well:

1. Do your research

Find out everything you can about the company. Study their website, brochures, email newsletters, annual reports and strategic plans to get a really good grounding in the business. If there is anyone within your professional network that works, or has worked, there, find out what you can from them – you will certainly get a valuable insight into the culture from an employee angle. And make sure you know what is going on generally in the sector, are their developments that may impact on what the company is doing?

2. Plan your journey

Yes, it’s an obvious point to make but essential all the same. Depending on distance, you could do a trial run and make sure you leave plenty of time as contingency. The last thing you need is to arrive with no time to spare and go into your interview stressed and flustered from the journey.

3. Look smart

Plan what you’re going to wear and make sure your outfit is smart and shoes are polished. Do you need a haircut? Remember, first impressions really do count – from the moment you enter the interview room you are being assessed. So look professional, dressing well will also help you feel more confident too. Carrying a briefcase also helps create a professional image – make sure you pack a notepad too, it’s always useful to have one with you and shows that you are well prepared.

4. Find out about the interview format

There is nothing more intimidating than walking into an interview to discover a panel of six people on the other side of the table. This would be intimidating anyway, but if you’re prepared for it you’ll be able to deal with it more calmly. So find out beforehand if it’s a one-to-one interview or a panel; if it is the latter, try and find out who is on the panel. Equally, if you have been asked to attend a session at an assessment centre, try and find out what tests will be used. You can then source online resources to familiarise yourself with techniques such as psychometric tests.

5. Know your CV

Analyse the job and person specification and identify how it relates to your career history. Think about experiences that will demonstrate key skills or expertise that the interviewer will be looking for.

6. Talk to yourself!

It can really help to make notes and write down your thoughts and then speak them aloud – recording yourself is even better. Listen to how you come across. It’s okay to pause to think but lots of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ won’t come across well.

7. Prepare for common interview questions

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll be asked to ‘tell me about yourself’, so there’s no reason to not be ready with a two-minute summary about your career experience to date and a statement about what you have to offer. Other typical questions might include ‘why have you applied for this job?’, ‘describe your most successful sales experience’, ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ or ‘are you a good team player?’ Take a look at our candidate resources for more articles on how to answer these typical interview questions.

8. Now think about the more difficult ones

Most interviewers like to throw in a few challenges. Whether they ask you to explain a gap in your CV or how you would explain their business to a child, expect to be asked several questions that could potentially make you feel uncomfortable. Take a look at our articles on bizarre and difficult interview questions.

9. Have your own questions ready

First interviews are not the place to discuss salary and perks! Think of questions that will impress the interviewer – a logical approach is to use all that background research you’ve done, show that you understand the business and what more you’d like to know. If you can show that you are genuinely interested in the company you will win brownie points. It’s also perfectly legitimate to ask about the clients you may be involved with, training that’s available and so on.

10. Practise that smile!

Your interviewers will also be observing your body language during the interview. Remember to smile without forcing it, maintain eye contact when you’re talking and be aware of what your body is saying. Arms and legs crossed will translate as ‘closed’ or ‘guarded’; body language can set alarm bells ringing if you are perceived to be feeling defensive. Get a friend of family member to conduct a mock interview to get their opinion on how you come across.

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