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How to prepare for your interview: The ultimate guide
3 min read

How to prepare for your interview: The ultimate guide

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Job interview coming up?

As daunting as it might be, there are steps you can take to settle your nerves, feel better prepared and walk into the interview with more confidence.

Follow this step-by-step guide to help you plan, prepare and ace your next interview.

1.Examine the position description

“Having an in-depth understanding of the position will improve the likelihood of having a successful interview outcome,” says career and interview coach, Leah Lambart.

If you don’t already have one, make sure you request a copy of the position description so you can research the role before the interview.

“I recommend getting out a highlighter to mark up the key responsibilities, result areas, stakeholders and the core competencies required,” Lambart says. “By having a good understanding of the role and competencies, you can anticipate the types of challenges you may encounter in the position and therefore the areas the panel might focus on during the interview.”

2.Understand what skills you bring to the role

Before your interview, prepare specific examples of when you have demonstrated these competencies and the skills you used. For example, have you shown strong leadership skills by managing cross-functional groups? Or have you demonstrated your attention to detail by coordinating the staff roster?

“How well you match the key competencies or selection criteria in the position description is usually a good indicator as to how closely you will meet the job requirements,” Lambart says.

3.Research the company

“As well as a thorough understanding of the role, it’s an advantage to have a good knowledge of the organisation as a whole,” Lambart says.

Look at the organisation’s website for information, then check out their social media pages. “Recent press releases and blog posts will provide you with up-to-date news, and I would also recommend signing up to any newsletters they have to get a sense of the culture and how the organisation communicates with their customers,” Lambart says.

If you have access to past or present employees, informal conversations with them will also give you insights that you can’t get through online research.

4.Practice your answers

While you can’t predict every question that you’ll be asked, there are plenty of ways to can prepare and practice what you’ll talk about.

SEEK’s Practice Interview Builder has over a range of interview questions that you can choose from to create your own custom checklist. Once you’ve drafted some responses, the next step is to start practising.

“Draft your responses and then read them aloud over and over,” Lambart says. “The hardest part about interviews is that we don’t generally talk about ourselves and the things that we do at work in the kind of depth required for an interview. But the more you practice talking through your examples, the more natural it will feel on the day.”

Once you’ve got your answers down pat, ask a friend or a family member to run through practice questions and answers with you, so you get used to thinking on your feet. The more you face your nerves now, the easier it can be to keep them at bay on the day, Lambart says.

5.Write down the questions you want to ask

One of the best ways to show your interest in a role is by asking three or four great questions at the end of an interview. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of the role you’re applying for, as well as show the employer that you’re enthusiastic and have done your research. “It’s also acceptable to ask at the end of the interview when you could expect to hear back regarding next steps,” Lambart says. “If you have a timeframe, this allows you to follow up in an appropriate manner without appearing too pushy.”

6.Plan your travel beforehand

If there’s one thing that could really hold you back  from making a great impression, it’s being late. Make sure you know where you are going, anticipate anything that could make you late such as traffic, and aim to arrive early. “I recommend arriving at least half an hour early,” Lambart says. “It’s better to sit in a coffee shop or your car and read over your notes rather than cutting it fine.”

7.Decide on what to wear

While you’ve been chosen for an interview based on your skills, characteristics and experience, presenting yourself well is also important. “Do some research about the dress code prior to an interview, either by asking someone who works at the organisation or clarifying with the recruiter,” Lambart says. “If you are still unsure, then err on the conservative side rather than under-dressing.”

8.Manage interview nerves

It’s normal to feel anxious or jittery on the big day, and there are ways to manage your nerves. “My best tip is to remember to breathe,” Lambart says. “When nerves get the better of people, we often breathe only from the top part of our lungs. We take shallow breaths and limit the oxygen going to the brain.”

When our brain gets less oxygen, we can go blank. “To eliminate the risk of going blank, aim to have good posture, sit up straight, breathe through your nose at an even rate,” Lambart advises. “Then breathe out slowly and evenly through the mouth.”

It can also be helpful to reframe your thoughts. “Instead of thinking about the interview as an interrogation, instead think of it as a conversation with other adults who are interested in what you have to say,” she says. “It can help to think of the interview as an opportunity for you to assess them – not the other way around. This helps you regain a feeling of control.”

9.Following up

Once your interview is over, it can be worth sending a brief note to follow up. “I always suggest sending a polite email a few hours after the interview thanking the interviewers for their time and reinforcing your interest in the role,” Lambart says.

There’s no doubt that interviews can be nerve-racking. But the right planning and preparation can help you boost your confidence, and make the most of your opportunity to take the next step in your working life.

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