Although interviews can appear daunting, preparing in advance will allow you to approach the interview with confidence.
Interview preparation can be split into two parts. Firstly, gaining an understanding of the company you are being interviewed by. This should also be supplemented by some current industry/sector knowledge and secondly, familiarisation with answers to commonly asked questions.
Know your prospective employer
Acquiring pre-interview knowledge of the company who may become your next employer is essential but relatively easy. The best and first place to start is the company website. Most of what you need to know will be on display, so take time to study and understand what the company is all about.
Checking the company out on the internet via the usual search engines is also advisable. In addition, many companies now have a company page on LinkedIn and Facebook which can also be a valuable source of information. You may also wish to take the opportunity to check out the profiles of company employees on LinkedIn. You may even be able to view the personal profile of the person conducting the interview which could prove useful.
All of the above are effective ways to acquire information which could help you create a good impression at the interview. Useful background information regarding the company's industry/sector and current developments therein can also be obtained by the same means.
Commonly asked questions
The second aspect of interview preparation relates to the answering of commonly asked questions. This is a little trickier in terms of advance preparation because interviewers tend to have their own individual approach and not all job interviews will necessarily follow the same format. Having said that there are a number of questions which tend to crop up and having pre-prepared answers to these stock questions should make the interview progress more smoothly.
Most interviewers will begin the meeting by asking you "Tell me about yourself". This gives you the opportunity to highlight your main attributes. You should describe your qualifications, job history to date and your skills in a way that emphasises the value you can bring to a new organisation.
This could well be followed by "What have been your main achievements to date?" Again, you should structure your answer so that it is relevant to the organisation and the position on offer.
You could also be asked about "Difficult situations at work and how you coped with them". Interviewers are interested in your definition of difficult and whether you have a logical approach to solving problems. In answering this question you should select a difficult situation caused by somebody else, how you defined it, what the possible solutions were, why you chose the solution you did and what the outcome was.
One of the most common interview questions is "What are your strengths and weaknesses". Select three strengths that are relevant to the job on offer and describe how you would put these to use. Nobody likes to admit to weaknesses so the best way to handle this is to show that you have taken positive steps to address a problem. An example could be undergoing out-of-hours training to improve your IT skills.
Another common question is "Why do you want to leave your current position?" You should never say anything negative about your current employer; rather explain that you want more responsibility, experience or a new challenge. It is also best not to mention a higher salary as your main motivation for change.
Interviewers often put you on the spot and ask "What can you offer us that other candidates can't?" or "Why should we hire you?" You should already know what the employer wants from the job description and this is your chance to match your qualifications and skills to those requirements.
"Why do you want to work for us?" Is another frequently asked question and is one that gives you an excellent opportunity to prove you have conducted some research into the company. Respond by telling the interviewer how your goals match their company philosophy and describe the characteristics of the company that most interest you.
Another question that puts you on the spot is "What salary are you looking for?" If you have conducted research into the current market conditions, you will have a reasonable idea of the sort of package likely to be on offer. However, it is a good idea not to jeopardise your chances at this stage. It's better to say you do not want to discuss the subject until the company makes you an offer. However, if a guideline salary was provided in the job description, you could say that it's around the figure you are looking for.
Gaining an edge
If you follow the guidelines above, you will be well prepared and this should allow you to approach the interview process with confidence. Creating a favourable impression based around knowledge and slickness of delivery will go a long way towards securing the position you are seeking, so make sure you take time to prepare effectively. Gaining an edge in this way could prove decisive.