An interview can be a nerve wracking ordeal or it can be an enjoyable opportunity for you to showcase your skills. The choice is yours. The secret is thorough preparation. Karalyn Brown of job search consultancy Interview IQ, shares some inside knowledge to help make the process less daunting.
How to prepare for interviews
Interviews can be intimidating, particularly if you've received a few rejections, or have been out of the workforce for a while. If you are currently working you may be experiencing difficulties and this can knock your confidence around, and make the thought of selling yourself to a prospective employer, somewhat daunting. Even if you are confident in your abilities, you want to be relaxed and able to promote yourself as the best candidate for a position.
Whatever your situation here are some suggestions to help you approach your interview as an opportunity to showcase your talents rather than an ordeal to be endured.
The best interview preparation involves research. And the best research involves understanding the company, the role and their recruitment process.
Researching the company
The web makes researching companies very easy so there's really no excuse not to be well informed. Organizations' websites usually have their annual reports listed. Online directories have company information and Google indexes the latest media news and references from other sources.
Annual reports, business media releases and press articles often contain information about the current objectives and future direction of a company. If you do your research on an organization, you can be specific about what you can offer that is of value to them.
While understanding the financials will allow you to express how you can help the company achieve their objectives, the question of why you want to work for them is more personal.
Again much relevant information is on the company website. Look at their mission and values statements, their careers section and what they offer for employee development. Shareholder pages often highlight information about a company's community and social responsibility programs, which are a great indicator of their values.
With all this information you can find a number of things that directly appeal to you about the organization, which means you can convincingly express why you want to work them.
Research the role and the recruitment process
To be fully prepared for an interview you'll need more of an insight into the role than the advertisement usually offers. You might need to clarify the experience and skills the employer require and establish which of these are priorities. Also useful to know are the key accountabilities for the role and the background of the ideal candidate.
Even if the advertisement doesn't invite it, contact the recruiter. If there are no contact details, be scrupulously polite, it usually means the employers are expecting a deluge of applications.
Ask them questions about the recruitment process, what the steps are, how long each step takes, and whether they've had many applicants.
You can only prepare when you know what to expect. Another benefit of doing this is that you are making yourself memorable to the recruiter - for the right reasons.
Practice yet don't rehearse
Identify the key skills from your research and the advertisement and write some questions around those. List your weaknesses and ask yourself the tough questions. Practice expressing your strengths as this will give you confidence. Hire a professional coach or ask a friend to give you help.
Most organizations now use behavioural questions - which means they will be expecting you to provide specific examples of where you have demonstrated the skill they are seeking. Try to think of your experience in these terms.
So why not rehearse? You can't predict all the recruiter will ask. Memorising answers will make you stressed in the interview if you can't recall what you want to say. You may even be not be answering the questions the interviewer asks.
The insight on interviewers
No two interview processes are the same. Depending on the organization and the role, you could be interviewed by the recruitment consultant, the HR department, the line manager, all three or a combination.
Each person in the process will have a slightly different approach based on their role. The recruitment consultant is the first screener. Their role is to match you to the employer's requirements and sell you as an applicant. The consultant establishes their credibility with each candidate they put forward to the employer. So when speaking to the consultant make their role easier by focussing on your strengths and achievements.
The HR consultant is usually the procedural expert and is there to ensure the organization meets its legal requirements. The line manager will be the person who is most concerned about filling the role as by this stage they will have some key performance objectives to meet by finding the right applicant.
In the interview it will be the line manager who has the greatest sense of urgency about filling the role. Focus on your workplace achievements when fielding their questions.
Give yourself time
Leave plenty of time to get to the interview. Rushing breeds panic. No matter what excuse you have, lateness is noted. It creates a negative impression and it puts you behind immediately. Allowing waiting time for an interview gives you time to compose yourself, your thoughts and be mentally prepared.
One of the best ways to relax is to assume the interviewer is on your side. In fact, most of them are, or are at the very least they will be approaching the interview in a professional manner. It may even help to think of the interviewer as someone who wants you to do your best
Interviewers are not interested in tripping you up. They are just establishing whether you are the right fit for the organization and capable of doing the role. In essence that's exactly what you are doing when you are answering the questions.
If you are feeling nervous, acknowledge it. The interviewer expects it as it's a sign you realise the importance of the occasion. They are usually empathetic.
Take the pressure off yourself
Realise that while you think this may be the perfect job for you, there is just a possibility that it is not. There are other roles out there that could meet your requirements just as well. Thinking this removes the pressure that this is your only chance to perform.
If you think the interview is going badly, relax and use it as practice for the next one. You may even be able to recover somewhat if you take this approach.
An insider's tip
Although the interview is the formal means of assessing your suitability as a candidate, you are not just assessed there. Each interaction is critical. The impression recruiters have of you, is the sum of all contacts. Use this knowledge and be polite and friendly with whomever you meet in the process from the very first phone call to greeting the receptionist at interview.