Top 9 tips to help you prepare for an interview

Whether you’re being interviewed for a course in university, a part-time job, internship or a graduate role, it is vital to be prepared. Here are some tips to help you with your interview preparation (some based on experience).

1. Research the university/company you’re being interviewed by

It is probably the most obvious but also the most important point. It is absolutely vital that you research the organisation you’re being interviewed by. Companies/universities want you to know about them and be able to talk about their organisation. One of the most common questions asked is ‘Why us?’ or ‘Why do you want to work/study with us?’. When they ask these questions, they want candidates to be able to give an original answer but one that shows they know about the organisation. There is nothing worse than not knowing anything and not being able to answer why you want to work/study at that particular place.

Also avoid clichéd answers such as ‘because you are the top university’ or ‘because you are a really big organisation’. These kind of answers add no value if they’re not backed up by something else hence does not reflect favourably on you.

2. Research the organisation chart

Similar to the point above, it is important to know key figures of an organisation.

A true story: a CEO once went ‘undercover’ during an interview session, he hung out in the coffee area of his company and talked to the interviewees that came. He said, not a single person knew who he was or his role in the company. Only one person asked what his role was, to which the CEO lied and the candidate believed him. Even though this candidate didn’t know who the CEO was, at least he took the opportunity to ask questions and get to know him unlike the other candidates who said nothing. Needless to say, it did not reflect positively on the candidates, it showed how little they knew the organisation chart, how little they knew the company and that they weren’t willing to network with current employees.

3. Research the role/course you’re applying for

This is another obvious point, but you would not believe how many people go into interviews without knowing everything about the role they’re applying for. It is crucial you are able to give an enthusiastic and honest answer when faced with questions such as ‘Why do you want this role?’ or ‘why do you want to study this course?’ It is blatantly obvious when candidates don’t know much about what they’ve applied for and needless to say it doesn’t get them far.

4. Research competitors

More often than not, interviewers will ask ‘Why us and not our competitors?’ or ‘What makes us different compared to our competitors?’ or ‘Who are our competitors?’ If you are able to answer these questions, it shows you have taken the time to thoroughly research the industry and are keen to work for the company or study at that university. It’s so impressive if a candidate is well-read about the industry and can answer such questions.

5. Prepare items you need

Depending on the type of interview you are going to, you may be required to sit tests. For this reason take pens, pencils, calculator, water, snacks and even an eraser. I know it sounds like a lot but it’s better to be over-prepared than under. Your interviewer is likely to have all of the things listed above, but it helps to be prepared!

6. Prepare questions for the interviewer

It’s very important to have questions ready for your interviewer. It shows you’re eager to learn more about the role and the company/university. Asking questions not only gives you insight into the organisation but interviewers expect it. They don’t look favourably on those that don’t have any questions at the end of the interview. This is because, most people believe if you really wanted the job/place on the course you would want to know as much as possible and have lots of questions to ask.

I’ve been in a situation where I’ve not had a clue what to ask. When the interviewer asked ‘Do you have any questions?’ I went blank and it was really embarrassing. In order to avoid this situation I prepared a bunch of questions I could ask including: general questions I could ask at any interview and others that were specific to the role.

Examples of good questions to ask:

  • What kind of people thrive in this course/role?
  • What kind of careers have people gone into after this course?
  • What is your favourite thing about the company/university?
  • What does your typical day consist of?
  • What are the growth opportunities in this role?
  • What’s the pass rate in this course?
  • How shall I prepare for this role/course?

7. Prepare examples

Most interviews will ask questions such as ‘Give an example of when you had to deal with an unpleasant person’. These questions are looking for your ability to deal with conflict, your communication skills, your leadership and your team working ability, and many more!

In order to prepare for these questions, think about your experiences in school, everyday life, sports or work and take examples from them. Think about when you communicated well with your team that led to success, or when you worked well in a team. Sports are a great example of team work. I talk about my netball team or my Duke of Edinburgh experience when it comes to teamwork or communication skills, leadership and even conflict resolution.

If you don’t have any experience, don’t worry. Instead, you can talk about what you would do in that particular situation.

8. Dress appropriately

It takes seven seconds for someone to judge us after meeting for the first time. That’s right SEVEN short seconds. In this seven seconds you want to make the best possible impression of yourself. One way to do this is by the way you present yourself. You are not going to leave a good impression if you show up to an interview wearing ripped jeans and a dirty shirt. Dress appropriately.

A true case of a bad first impression: a guy came into an interview wearing a nice suit, smart shirt and smart shoes. He had everything right, but one thing he got very wrong was the way he wore his tie. He hadn’t tied it properly, it looked like he had started to take off the tie but stopped because he remembered he had an interview so left it on. He even had the top button of his shirt unbuttoned. It looked so untidy and gave the impression that he didn’t care about the job or care for being in the interview. He didn’t get the job. (His clothing was not the sole deciding factor but it played a huge part because it showed the interviewer how he could show up at client meetings).

The safest way to dress is to wear conservative clothing such as smart trousers/skirt, a shirt/blouse and smart shoes. Ladies don’t wear stilettos you can barely walk in and gents, you may not need a tie but take one just in case.

Here are things to NOT wear:

  • Jeans (black jeans included)
  • T-shirts
  • Flip-flops or Trainers
  • Shorts
  • Ripped clothing of any kind
  • Sheer clothing with your undergarments on show
  • Clothes that are too revealing (cleavage, butt, midriff)
  • Heavy make-up
  • Too much jewellery- stick to basics!

9. Be yourself

Don’t lose yourself by pretending to be someone you’re not. The best part about yourself is you, firms and universities are looking for someone who is authentic and original. You will lose these attributes if you’re not truly yourselves during the interview. Be confident in yourself and bring your best foot forward!

Hope these tips prove helpful when preparing for your interviews.

Good luck.

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