Photo: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Dan Kenyon.
You can rework your CV or your application over and over until you’re perfectly happy with it, but you only get one shot at an interview. Here’s how to get ready to give a performance to win over even the hardest-to-please interview panel.
1. Know your CV inside-out
Prepare thoroughly for questions about your skills and work history. Make sure you know exactly what you told your interviewers about yourself on your CV and application form. They’ll be using this as a reference and will almost certainly probe you for more details about what you have written there. Your application form is also useful because it will be structured to show them how you meet the requirements of the job – this will help you focus on what’s important to get across in the interview.
2. Prepare your answers
Most interviews include several questions which are entirely predictable, so make sure you look into these (we’ve listed a few common interview questions here) and get your answers down pat. If the panel does throw you a curveball, bear in mind that they really only want to know whether you can do the job, why you want the job and whether you will fit into their organisation. Every answer should speak to one or more of these concerns.
3. Do your homework
Do you understand their organisational mission and goals, culture and values, and the challenges they currently face? Think about how these match your own motivations and ambitions, and how your skills and personal qualities can help them meet those challenges. Be familiar with their website and other digital channels, media profile and any company literature you can get your hands on, such as their annual report.
4. Have questions of your own
Take the opportunity at the end of the interview to ask them some intelligent questions (e.g. about company culture, strategy, their approach to problem-solving, etc.). The harder you make them think about their answers, the better they’ll remember you.
5. Show you have nothing to hide
An extended spell out of work or a very short stint in a job will rarely escape an interviewer’s attention, so make sure you are ready to clarify anything on your CV they might want to probe more deeply. If you did happen to go through a difficult period in or out of work, it doesn’t have to be fatal to your chances. They will simply want reassurance from you that the problem was specific to the situation and not about you personally. If you can genuinely talk about lessons learned and how it has made you a better worker, even better!
6. Do a dry-run
Get a friend to pretend to be the interviewer, and get them to ask a mixture of obvious and more obscure questions. A rehearsal of this kind will soon show you which questions are causing you most problems, so you can apply yourself to developing and practising stronger answers to them.
7. Dress to impress
How you look at interview plays a big part in making a good first impression, so choose your clobber carefully. If you’re in any doubt at all about what is appropriate attire, err on the formal side – better to be a bit overdressed than to look as if you’re not taking the job seriously.
For more careers advice, see workSMART’s Job Interviews section.