You’ve done it. You submitted the CV, they’ve called you back. They want an interview. The initial exhilaration is now replaced with minor panic; you now have to face judge, jury and executioner. This is not a drill. How exactly does one prepare for an interview? It will always depend on the company you’re interviewing with and the personalities you’ll meet across the boardroom table (or if you’re as unfortunate as I have been, the kitchen table, because they forgot you were coming). I’ve put together some advice for those of you heading into the interview stage, as it’s often an incredibly daunting part of the hiring process.
Do your research
You should have done the bare minimum in order to tailor your CV, but now is the time to do some real digging. Know the company well. Scour their webpage for links to their social media accounts, their current events, their projects, reviews, publications, and their aims and objectives. As you go, keep a list of queries, questions and points of interest. Bring some of these up in the interview to show that you have done your homework and demonstrate that you are not only interested, you are informed.
Know the company
When you’re thinking about possible questions they could ask, consider how the company operates. How would you fit in with the work they do and the projects they’re involved in? What role do you want and how could you contribute? What do they want from candidates? Why do you want to work there? Review the job spec if you’re stuck for ideas.
When addressing questions, frame your answers using SOAR: – Situation – Obstacles – Actions – Results. The interviewers may give you hypothetical situations, or ask you to provide real life situations from your previous employment (never, ever, badmouth your previous employer in an interview. It will come off as petty and unprofessional). You may be asked something along the lines of “Describe a time when a co-worker and yourself weren't getting along”. Here, you are expected to outline the S and O, as well as the A and R. The R should be positive.
On the day, make sure to bring two clean copies of your CV and a pen. Chances are they will have a copy of your CV ready and waiting, but be one step ahead. Interviewers will go through your CV with you and ask questions relating to the relevant parts of your CV. Take the initiative and show that you are prepared and organised.
Get there about 15 minutes early; you don’t want to loiter with an ever growing mass of nerves. You will be nervous. Remember to breathe and speak slowly and clearly (when your mind is racing, it’s easy to jibber jabber). Dress appropriately for the interview. Email HR beforehand and they will be happy to tell you the dress code. If you need to confirm an address or ask about travel details, do so in advance. Give a strong handshake, remember to smile, sit up straight and maintain eye contact. Even if you’re nervous, you want to exude confidence.
This is generally how an interview progresses. The interviewers will introduce themselves and exchange handshakes and pleasantries. They’ll start off by outlining the demands of the position and perhaps give you a bit of background about the company and themselves (but you will know all of this because of your extensive research). Your interviewers will then ask you to tell them a little bit about yourself; be honest and be conversational. It’s not a Garda vet. Having broken the ice, the interviewers will move on to the business side of things. This is where they will go through your CV and ask the difficult questions. You should do most of the talking; they are trying to get to know you as a candidate. They will then ask if you have any questions (hint: yes you do). Prepare four, ask one or two. Something along the lines of “What do you enjoy about working here?” Finally, as you conclude the interview and say your goodbyes, don’t forget to say thank you. Regardless of the outcome, it ends the interview on a positive note for both the interviewers and interviewee.
If in the event that the interview does not go well, write down what you think you did wrong, and how you would handle it next time (I did not anticipate a question about progression to a different department within an industry; it cost me the job). Learn from it. Then forgive yourself and move on from it. It’s important to maintain belief in yourself, even after disappointment.
If the interview does go well, make a note of what you think you did right, it’s important to reflect on the positives. Interviewing is not easy, and it’s likely that you’ll have to go through the process numerous times before you nail it. Congratulate yourself when you do. You deserve a pat on the back, a large cappuccino and a salad. You’re a yuppie now.