I’ve got a job interview coming up that I’m quite nervous about. What can I do in advance to improve my chances?
The way you prepare for an interview is just as important as the way you perform when you’re actually there, and if you just turn up having only vaguely thought about what things you want to say, you won’t succeed. In the first instance, you need to find out everything you can about the company you’re interviewing for, and that means a lot more than simply looking at the company website. Use your network to find people you have mutual connections the company and speak to them about it. Find out when the company has been in the news recently, and what its major initiatives and strategies are.
Even go along to its offices in advance, so that you won’t be flummoxed by having to find it on the day, and you’ll know what environment to expect – it’s one less thing to worry about on the day, and peek performance in an interview is about taking out the “noise” of what distracts you.
Now you need to think about what you’re going to say. If you’re properly prepared, you can focus on your delivery during the interview, rather than content. That doesn’t mean simply blurting out lines that you’ve memorised in advance – it means you’ll be able to be more aware of how you’re being perceived, what things strike a chord with your audience and what things don’t, so that you can adapt accordingly. You don’t want to be desperately searching your brain for relevant examples and answers once the interviewer puts you on the spot.
You need to know inside out what I call your “elevated pitch” – why you’ve applied for the job, where this sits in terms of your career goals and where you’re trying to get to. It’s why this job is essential to your master plan, rather than it being the next thing that came along.
You also need to think very hard about the job description and how you can relate your experience specifically to what they’re looking for. You’ll be asked questions about particular business problems and how you’ve dealt with them, and you can use the STAR model to structure your thoughts: that stands for the Situation you faced, the Task you had to carry out, the Action you took and the Results you achieved. A clever candidate will also add onto that what they learned from the experience. Look at your CV and think about how you can apply this structure to key things that you’ve done, and don’t forget to think about the results as much as the process of how you achieved them.
The other big area to prepare for is to think about where the gaps and tricky issues are around your CV – for instance, were you out of work for a period, were you made redundant? You need to have a compelling story for why these things happen. It’s about coming up with the best spin on the situation. Lastly, visualise success. Go into the interview thinking you’re the best candidate, because that reinforces the successes you’ve had and the way you talk about them.