If you’re on your way to an interview, then your CV has already impressed your potential employer. The next step is to sell yourself in person. This will be a lot easier if you do some basic preparation before you step through the door.
If your invitation doesn’t include it, try to find out how long the interview will be, what format it will take (e.g. any ability tests or exercises) and whether you’re expected to bring or prepare anything. And make sure that you know where you’re going and who you will see. Refer to our interview checklist for more information.
Become an online detective
A little research will demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm, and help you find out a little about where you might be working. Good preparation will also help you to answer questions (like “why do you want to work for us?”), and will also help you devise your own questions for the interviewer. Don’t forget that an interview is also your opportunity to work out whether the job is right for you.
Your first stop is the company’s website. You need to understand what it does, its values, clients or audience and any technologies or platforms it uses. You'll be able to explain your competencies in their software or argue that they might consider switching later.
Many employer sites have archives of press articles about them or issued by them – and many also have their latest annual report: make sure you read these and can quote salient information from them.
You can also look at competitor sites to get a better idea of the market, and search online for what’s being said in the media, especially trade magazines and forums. Investor sites could also alert you to events affecting the company’s business.
To guide your research, ask yourself some questions as you go:
• What do I know about this organisation, and why would I want to work for them?
• Which of my past jobs are directly relevant to this role?
• What experience do I have of using the required functional or technical skills?
• Is there any training I would like or additional skills I’d like to gain?
Exploit your network
You might not think of yourself as a “networker”, but this just means using any contacts (friends, ex-colleagues, people you studied with) to your best advantage. Check if you know anyone who works at your target company...or if they know someone who does! Then you can ask what it’s like to work there and what types of skills are most valued. Social networking sites like Facebook or Linked In can help you exploit any connections you have.
Know your CV
Read over your CV or application, thinking specifically about the technical skills and qualities the employer is looking for. Find the best way to demonstrate these, including past roles. List the relevant skills you’ve developed in each job: this will help you prepare evidence and your answers to competency-based questions. You could also ask yourself questions like:
• What does the job involve and why do I want it?
• Am I am skilled with the software and/or hardware that the company uses?
• What qualities do I have that make me suitable?
• What are my key strengths and development needs?
• How would I like my career to develop?
Think about how you’d be convinced you’d found the right person for the job. Remember that your competitors may have very similar backgrounds to your own, so you need to make the most of your unique experiences and achievements. Whatever you do, though — don’t undersell yourself!
Get ready for questions
There are some questions that nearly always come up. Make sure you’re ready for the basics:
• Why are you interested in this field?
• Why are you interested in this company?
• Why are you interested in this position?
Apart from competency-based questions, you should also be prepared to discuss your CV, including any issues you might prefer to avoid, like:
• Your greatest weakness
• Any lack of related experienceor gaps in your CV
• A lack of leadership experience
If there’s something you’re not asked, and you feel it’s important to your ability to do the job, remember to ask at the end of the interview.
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