The call has come: they’ve offered you an interview. Elation, celebration! This is fantastic news you’re thinking. But wait. Not more than thirty seconds have passed before it starts to creep in. What will I say? What if they see through me? Is there anything to see through at all? Do I even want this? Am I good enough? Etc. etc. until before you know it, the hours have passed and– BAM - the interview is here.
So, having sat on the other side of the table, perhaps I can answer some of your unsaid questions. How can I prepare for an interview you ask? Read on.
No. 1 Prep
Depending on the situation, you may have been asked to prep something specific. This is probably the easiest case, because at least you have a basic idea of what needs to be done. Perhaps more difficult, is the ambiguity that comes with: ‘just bring yourself’. If the latter is the case, don’t panic, but don’t be too lassaiz faire either. Be smart; really look again at what it is you’re going for and do more extensive research too – not only on the company itself, but the role too, other people’s experience of it and so on. Find out what you might be doing day to day, the difficulties you might face, areas for re-thought or growth. Bottom line – don’t go in blind: make sure you understand what it is you’re going in for – and this doesn’t stop at the moment you walk in. Likelihood is the more you learn the more questions you’ll have, so use your interview for your own benefit too and ask those questions to which answers that have come up blank in your research. You have the right to ask questions – a job is as much a commitment for you as it is for a company. (More on question later)
No. 2 What do they want to hear? How should I behave?
First thing’s first – if you think what they want to hear isn’t something you genuinely believe to be the case for you, this probably isn’t the opportunity for you. Let’s face it, chances are you’re not a tightrope walker, so if you accepted an interview for a position as one (first mistake) and proceeded to attend and tell them you could absolutely do it because you thought that was what they wanted to hear – you’re either in for an accident or you’ll be found out soon enough. If the interview you’re attending feels as though an impending interrogation for which you’ll be found guilty – there’s a problem.
On a more serious note; we honestly don’t sit across from you waiting for you to slip-up. The purpose of any interview is to see if there is a mutually beneficial arrangement to be made: are you right for us, and are we right for you. When we ask for your interest in the role, don’t provide stock answers unless there’s truth behind them. A good interviewer will probe so it’s not enough for instance to say that you like to challenge yourself if there’s not a single experience from which you can justify this point. If you’re money motivated or want to progress in your career – why is that the case? We want to know who you really are, why you’re here what truly drives you and who you’d like to become. At the graduate stage, we don’t expect you to know everything, what we do want is to know that you have potential to grow; that you’re aware of the fact there’s a lot to learn and more than willing and eager to learn more. To add to the firs point in ‘prep’ about knowing what you’re going in for – also know why you’re going in for it. We really want to get to know you – so if there’s an experience or example that you think is really relevant to showing us your best character and it’s relevant to the role, try to bring it up if possible.
No.3 What if I don’t know the answer?
If you don’t know the answer to a question don’t panic. Take a moment (you absolutely can take a moment) to think about it. It’s okay not to know the answer, this really isn’t an exam. Best advice if you really have no idea, is that it’s okay to admit that you don’t know, but also absolutely recommended that you have a go at answering anyway. It’s a real show of character to have a go at something you don’t know much about, and a character trait most employers will look for. So think about the company, think about what you know about their approach and vocalise your thought process whilst you try to work something out. Think of it like those bonus ‘show your working out’ points on a GCSE maths paper – trust me, you’ll get points for trying.
No.4 Any Questions?
When we ask this we mean it. Remember any interview process is a mutual one: are we suitable for you and, are you suitable for us. This is your opportunity to find out what you want to know – you should at least have one to two questions prepared, and preferably those that require more than a one word answer. Why did you get into this role? Who/what was the most recent /the most successful person you hired for this role like? What would you say the most difficult part of this job is? Where do you see the company in five years’ time? How do you think x will impact y? There are a ton of questions you could ask – so don’t waste the opportunity.