How to apply yourself : Tips on Preparing for interview
If you have been selected for an interview then you have already had a measure of success. Remember this when you are preparing; the employer has been sufficiently impressed by your application so far to want to meet you in person so be confident about what you have to offer.
The type of interview that you might encounter will vary, from the informal, unstructured "chat" to the highly structured scenario in which each candidate is asked the same set of pre-determined questions. Although these different types of interview will necessarily feel very different, there are still some basic rules to help you to navigate even the rockiest interview experiences.
Firstly, preparation: they say time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted and this is certainly true of interview preparation. Take time to research the organisation thoroughly: find out as much as you can about the way in which the organisation is structured, key priorities and challenges that it might face in the future, and how your role will fit into this wider whole. Focus your preparation on three central issues: why you want to do the job, what you have to offer, and how you will contribute to the organisation. Any employer will want to find out whether you are enthusiastic about the job and the organisation, and whether you have the right skills to be able to do the job effectively.
Secondly, performance: most people get nervous before interviews, so remind yourself that this is normal and that most other candidates will feel the same. If you know in advance what is likely to shake your composure – such as being asked an unexpected question or having to defend a viewpoint – then try running through how you might deal with this situation if it arises. Practise answering interview style questions so you're familiar with the process of thinking about and structuring a quick response.
Above all, an interview should be seen as a dialogue rather than a test: a dialogue between you and the interviewers. Most interviewers are not deliberately trying to catch you out or humiliate you – they are genuinely interested in recruiting the right person. Questions might be challenging, and reactions not always congenial, but most of the time interviewers are simply trying to ascertain if you would be suitable for the role. So take your cue from them; be confident and genuine, prepared to enter into discussion or give your opinion, and above all enthusiastic about the job that you have applied for.
By careers specialist Anne-Marie Martin - independent.co.uk