Tips for interview preparation

Having successfully made a great first impression from your well-crafted CV and presenting yourself professionally in your publicly available information and online activity (see Andy’s recent post, Taking control of first impressions), you’ve made it to the next step: the interview.

Good preparation is the first step to ensure you present yourself as positively as possible. Plenty of highly capable professionals with all the right technical skills miss out on jobs because they appear unsure about their skills / work experience, don’t research the company, or fail to emphasise relevant information. With this in mind, there are a couple of things to brush up on before the day you meet:

  • Know the company. Start with the company’s website to get a good understanding of what the company does and where it’s going, including their services, products and/or projects. If available, take a look at their mission statement, key staff and office locations (do they have more than one?). A bit of Googling will often reveal a fair bit about their market reach and competition, media presence, and public perception. The knowledge you gain here will help you to ask and answer questions relevant to the company, while demonstrating your interest and commitment.
  • Know your CV. If necessary, re-familiarise yourself with all the details in your CV, especially employers, dates, responsibilities, key achievements and technologies used for each job. Work out your key strengths / skills relative to the prospective employer, and be prepared to give practical examples to back these up. Being able to clearly explain when, how and to what effect you’ve used relevant skills in your previous experience helps to convey confidence and solidify the perception of your suitability.

Approaching the interview, many people are naturally a bit nervous, but it’s important to understand that the employer is also hoping for a good result – they are there to employ someone after all! Being one of the fraction of applicants selected for interview suggests the employer believes you have the required skills and experience to do the job. The interview serves to confirm these skills, assess your ability to deal with others warmly and professionally, and ensure you have the commitment to stick at the job.

Having clarified relevant strengths / skills and prepared for technical questions, the next thing is to present yourself as the right person for the company. While this process likely started the moment the interviewer received your CV, meeting in person will often be the deciding factor. The following tips will help you to continue making a good impression by showing you interact confidently and are committed to the job:

  • Dress appropriately. Ideally your clothing should fit in with the company’s dress-code but if it’s not obvious, always dress up rather than down. Generally in IT you can’t go too wrong with a simple suit, though ties are increasingly optional. If you’re unsure about what to wear, ask your recruiter. Aside from clothing, ensure you’re well-groomed, and don’t underestimate the importance of smelling good!
  • Arrive early. Know exactly where you have to be and plan to arrive about 10 minutes early. Not only does it show you’re good with time management, but it also gives you some handy time to settle. Showing up too early can be awkward though; you don’t want to be sitting in reception for half an hour.
  • Greet warmly and be friendly. Beyond the obvious smiles, tact and courtesy, to come across confidently and professionally it’s important to maintain eye contact, good posture, clear speech, and give a firm handshake where appropriate. Start with the receptionist, not just the interviewer. Make sure you know the name and correct pronunciation of whoever you’re meeting.

With each of these points, be cautious that they can all be overdone. Just like running in the door ten minutes late in shorts and a sweaty t-shirt, arriving half an hour early in a three-piece suit, drenched in cologne, with a huge grin and a crushing handshake will probably scare off even the most desperate employers. It’s all about finding the positive middle ground and starting on the right foot. We’re glad to offer coaching through the process for all our candidates, and on landing an interview with an employer, we’ll provide a comprehensive interview guide including what to ask, what kinds of questions to expect and how to tackle them once the interview gets underway. With good preparation, enthusiasm, and understanding what the employer wants, the experience needn’t be a stressful one.