Even for the most confident and fearless individuals, job interviews can be terrifying. In order to have the best chance of success, many candidates prepare answers to long lists of questions they perceive as being challenging to answer. One issue with this approach is that it can be difficult to predict exactly what line of questioning a recruiter will take and the process may leave you feeling more anxious with long lists of questions and answers that you’ve tried hard to memorise. Worse still, you could end up sounding false and/or over prepared in the interview.
A great way to prepare for an interview is to think about the following three key areas and then try to relate each question back to them:
What are the skills and experience required to excel in the role? By thinking about this question and relating your own expertise back to it, you can answer many questions fired at you. Identify all the technical or specialist skills, qualifications and experience you need as well as the ‘soft’ or generic skills required – areas such as communication, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, and initiative. Once you have prepared for this question you can more succinctly answer many standard questions without going off on a tangent. Questions such as tell me about yourself, why should we hire you, what can you offer us that other candidates can’t, and what challenges might you face in the role, all relate back to the skills and expertise you possess to ensure success in the role.
What is the company, industry and market going through? Finding out as much as you can about the company and its industry in general will help you demonstrate enthusiasm and interest. Having an understanding of the company’s market position, strategy, where it’s headed, current industry and economic influences etc. will help you to answer the obvious questions like what do you know about the company and why do you want to work here, but will also help with more difficult questions such as how your ambitions fit with the company’s, where you see the company heading/succeeding, what challenges you think the company or industry is facing, and why you think the role is a good fit for you.
What is the company culture? Whether or not you are a good cultural fit is a key area of focus for recruiters because many candidates are a perfect fit in terms of qualifications, background and experience, however their personality and/or work style will preclude them from succeeding. Every company has their own unique way of working – establishing this cultural fit with candidates is an important part of the overall recruitment process. As a candidate, it can be difficult to determine the detail behind a company’s culture, but it helps to talk to other employees (past and present) if you can. If you’re applying for a job through a recruitment company, talk to the recruiter before interviewing with the client – they should be able to help. If all else fails, you can research online. A specific site that might help is a site called Glassdoor where employees provide reviews of what it’s like to work for certain companies – of course the data is only as good as the people contributing and it is largely opinion based, so take it in the context it’s provided and don’t assume 100% accuracy. Once you have an understanding of the company’s culture you’ll be able to answer questions that focus on your work style, how you’d describe yourself, how your colleagues or superiors would describe you, and what makes you an ideal candidate for the role.
Of course, interviews are two-way and while the interviewer needs to determine if you are right for the company, you should also assess whether the company is right for you. Prepare questions focused on the same key areas – ask about training and development opportunities and how you could improve your skills and expertise, discuss recent company news or events, the department’s direction and how that fits with the company strategy, and ask why the incumbent is leaving the role OR for a newly created role, where has the work come from? Feeling confident and in control is all about preparation, so do as much as you can.
Do you struggle with nerves or knowing how to answer questions in interviews? If you would like assistance with preparing for a job interview, see our Interview Skills Training and Coaching Service.