Looking for tips on how to prepare for an interview? Then your application must’ve made a great first impression. Exciting! However, as you already know, actually landing a position takes a lot more than writing the perfect cover letter. And, even though it definitely helps to Google for common job interview questions, the process doesn’t end there.
Like yourself, most job seekers understand the importance of preparing for a job interview but are not sure how to prepare for an interview. So, to help you, we’ve collected the best-of-all-time interview preparation tips. From the most successful answering strategies to communication do’s and don’ts, from outfit ‘yays’, to absolute ‘nays’, and from the best question to ask in an interview, to responses to avoid. Guns and spears down, the job hunt is over, so get ready to find out how to prepare for an interview and ace the application.
How to prepare for an interview: the basics
You probably have an idea of what to do when it comes to how to prepare for an interview. Make a professional impression appearance-wise (which is nothing like ‘dress to impress for a first date’), know what the company you’re applying to stands for, and, of course, convince the interviewer that you’re the perfect fit for the role. Got all that covered? Then the job should be in the pocket, right?
However, there’s no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of answer in this case. How to prepare for an interview heavily depends on the type of situation you’ll find yourself in. So, before you go through the interview preparation tips, it’s important to know what kind of job interview you’ll be dealing with.
The different types of job interviews to prepare for
Is the conversation going to happen face-to-face, over the phone, or will you have to apply online? Are you looking for a full-time job that requires a specific profile, or is it an entry-level position? And, is this your first time travelling to the location or will it take place in a familiar area?
These are all topics you’ll come across when discovering how to prepare for an interview. Let’s start with the basics: the different kinds of interviews (or just skip ahead to the most important job interview tips).
The first job interview: tell me about yourself
The first interview is basically an introduction between you and a representative of the company you’re applying to. This representative is usually someone from the HR department who has prior experience with the hiring process. However, it’s not uncommon for a manager or owner of the company to pop in to meet you, especially at relatively small organisations.
The interviewer will try to get a picture of who you are, what you can bring to the table and whether you are the right fit for the organisation during this initial job interview. “Tell me about yourself” is one of the first questions you can expect. Oddly enough, practising the answer is often overlooked when thinking about how to prepare for an interview, yet really important. On the other hand, the introduction allows you to discover whether the position is what you expected. So make sure to write down some of your questions for the interviewer.
How to prepare for a second job interview
Did you get an invite to come back after the introduction? Then you could use some tips on how to prepare for a second job interview. You are now left with a significantly smaller group of candidates, so that job is getting closer and closer. While it’s certainly possible for the owner or a department manager to attend the first interview, it’s more likely during the second job interview.
The conversation will be more in-depth than the first one, and you’ll discuss the position, role and responsibilities, as well as the team and company culture. As such, you likely talk to the manager or a direct colleague during the interview. Similar to the first interview, you’ll get the opportunity to ask questions. If you’re looking for the first step on how to prepare for a second job interview: think about questions to ask well in advance. Remember that this is the time to discuss salary and secondary employment conditions.
Should you prepare for job interview number three?
Are you invited to come in after the second interview? Then it’s wise to go through the tips on how to prepare for an interview. Preparing for job interview number three is not something everyone has to consider right away. Why? Because a third (or even fourth or fifth) job interview is not a standard part of every application procedure. However, it does occasionally occur when the employer wants to know just a little more about you. Also, it’s not unusual for higher (management) positions.
Whichever the case: remember that you’re likely one of few equally strong candidates for the employer to choose from. As such, the third job interview could very well be a disguised employment conditions interview. During this interview, you have the opportunity to negotiate the salary and secondary employment conditions. It’s still quite the challenge to use this to your advantage, so make sure to read these salary negotiation tips as part of your preparation for the job interview for a successful result.
Assignment or basic numeracy test for a job interview
Do you have to complete an assignment with your application? Or have you been asked to take part in a basic numeracy test for the job interview? Either is increasingly common and usually takes place before or during the second interview. These goals are to test whether you have the proper knowledge, skills, and characteristics for the position.
Some assignments or tests are pretty extensive and consist of various tests, questionnaires, interviews and role-plays and could easily take a whole day. The employer can also choose to take only one or a few assignments or tests, although this does not officially involve an assessment. The results will be discussed with you during the second interview or afterwards (by telephone).
Did you not hear about an assignment or basic numeracy test for the job interview? Asking if you can prepare something for the interview is a great way to show proactiveness (and simultaneously one of the golden tips to ‘how to reply to a job interview email’).
11 Clear job interview tips to help you land that job
In the words of Benjamin Franklin: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This certainly applies to your job interview, and preparation tips are a great way to tackle any potential hurdles. It helps you feel more confident, eliminates potential (big) surprises and makes you appear interested, as well as professional. So, how do you successfully prepare for an interview?
To help you, we gathered all the info out there and put together a list of 11 easy-to-follow interview preparation tips. Check them out:
- Refresh your memory to prepare for the job interview;
- Conduct research as preparation before a job interview;
- Interview questions to prepare for;
- Line up good questions to ask at a job interview;
- Prepare for your job interview by thinking of an introduction;
- Get ready for inappropriate (or even illegal) topics;
- Plan the route;
- Get your outfit ready;
- Review your online presence;
- Pack and check;
- Practise, practise, practise!
Let’s dive into the individual interview tips step by step:
#1: Refresh your memory to prepare for the job interview
When you prepare for a job interview, one of the first things you should do is take a trip down memory lane. No matter how little time has passed, it’s wise to go through the vacancy you applied for once again. Why? Because it is a list of qualifications, qualities and experience for the ideal candidate.
Use the posted job description as a guide and try to match yourself to many of the requirements listed. Don’t forget to reread the application you sent when you prepare for the job interview. That way, you’re sure your cover letter and CV match the requirements.
#2: Conduct research as preparation before a job interview
Can you imagine (or do you remember) what it was like to prepare for a job interview before the internet?! Nowadays, a lot of information about the company and the interviewer can be found online, so use that to your advantage.
Start by going through the website and learn about their mission, vision, background and projects. Then, explore their products and services, and try to find information on their company culture. After that, make sure to look up their social media presence, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, for any (recent) updates. With this information, you can already put together an answer to one question that will be asked no matter what: ‘Why do you want this job at our company?’.
#3: Interview questions to prepare for
Of course, you know that you will get questions during the job interview; you just don’t know exactly which ones. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for this. For example, practice with a few common job interview questions. Our article containing a complete list of interview questions to prepare for is helpful for that.
#4: Line up good questions to ask at a job interview
Asking questions yourself is an integral part of the conversation. Employers and recruiters ask this question to allow you to learn more about the position or organisation and see whether you have prepared yourself appropriately. Therefore, never immediately answer with ‘no’, but make sure you have made a list of questions to ask at the end of an interview. Find out here which questions you can ask during your application.
#5: Think of an introduction
At the start of the job interview, you’ll probably be asked to introduce yourself briefly. It is about who you are, so the story behind your CV. It may seem easy, but in reality, it can be tricky and disappointing because of the nerves.
What do you want to say about yourself? What interests would you like to mention? And what can you say about yourself that specifically suits the company or role? Prepare a short introduction at home so that the conversation will start smoothly. Fun fact: this tip tricks your brain into thinking the situation is predictable, making you feel less nervous.
#6: Get ready for inappropriate (or even illegal) topics
Even though questions about specific topics, such as your race or religion, are unlawful, they could still be asked by the hiring manager. Regardless of whether these are raised intentionally or unintentionally, these are classified as illegal. The reason is that you could very well be treated less favourably on account of these characteristics.
If you do get one -or more- of these questions, you have a couple of options. First of all, you can simply answer the question with a question (“Could you explain how that is relevant to my application?”). Another option is to get to the point (“If you’re asking this because you’re wondering if I’ll leave for an extended period of time, I can assure you that I am fully committed to my career at this moment”). Do you want to learn more about inappropriate interview questions? Check out our article on employment discrimination.
#7: Plan the route
When preparing for a job interview, you’ll also have to think about practical matters, such as the route to the destination. For example, how will you get there? Is it usually busy on the road? And how does that affect the journey?
This is by far one of the easiest-to-follow job interview tips and something that’s therefore occasionally overlooked when discussing how to prepare for an interview. By preparing well and leaving (too) early, you don’t have to rush or stress because you are on time for the interview. Also, let’s be honest: a red puffy face and a sweat-stained blouse isn’t your best look.
#8: Get your outfit ready
Another practicality: the job application clothes. Think at least a day in advance about what you want to wear and try on the outfit. This way, you don’t find out at the last minute that there is a stain on your jacket or that those pants you wore last year no longer fit. Curious about what to wear after reading these interview preparation tips? Read more about the appropriate attire for a job interview here.
#9: Review your online presence
Did your friends tag you in a hilarious yet embarrassing picture of yourself on Instagram? Or, thought you knew it all when you were younger and did you post something that’d make you cringe now that you know better? Don’t worry: we’ve all been there. However, if it’s something that would potentially harm your first impression at an interview, then it’s not for your future employer to see. Double-checking your social media is, therefore, an intelligent move. You can delete everything or simply make sure it’s set to private.
#10: Pack and check
Pack your bag well in advance and check your appearance. Side note (but an important one): your appearance is not all about your outfit. Make sure your nails are clean, you’ve got no boogers, nothing in between your teeth, and make sure you smell nice (don’t overdo it with your favourite perfume, though). Worried you’ll still forget something? Write a little checklist and tick the boxes before you leave the house. Besides the usual things, such as keys, wallet, phone, don’t forget to throw a small mirror in your bag for a final check.
#11: Practise, practise, practise!
Much like preparing for a test in school, the best way to prepare for a job interview is to practice. The key is to stand in front of the mirror (or a relative/friend) and to practise your talking points until you feel confident about asking and answering any question.
If you want to impress the interviewer, you could bring examples of work from previous jobs and ideas for the new position. The interview should be as conversational as possible. How do you do that? By showing genuine interest in the job, the organisation and your interviewer. Fun fact: using someone’s name in a conversation increases likeability, so learn to say their name.
Preparing for phone interviews: to-do list
Did you know that the number of job interviews that take place online or over the phone have increased significantly since the Corona pandemic? With that, preparing for a job interview has changed, and job seekers are wondering what preparing for a phone interview entails. Usually, the goal of the conversation is to see if your background and first impressions are eligible for the next round of the application process.
Nearly all the info on how to prepare for an interview in this article is still relevant. However, preparing for a phone interview requires a slightly different approach than for a face-to-face interview (whether in real life or online). So here’s what to do:
- Wear your comfiest outfit
Whether that means you’re in your unwashed pj’s, a school uniform, or your fanciest outfit; the interviewer can’t see you, so wear whatever makes you feel confident.
- Eliminate background noise
There’s nothing worse than a phone call where the other party can’t focus on you, so switch off that nostalgic playlist, feed your kids/pets/roommates, and close your door.
- Organise your setup
Make sure everything you may need is within arm’s length of your seat; a pen and paper to take notes, your laptop with the employer’s website, a list of questions and a glass of water.
- Speak before the call
Especially if your interview is right after you wake up; you don’t want to greet your (potential) new employer with a crusty morning voice, so talk to your neighbour, sing at the top of your lungs, or recreate the phone call beforehand to warm up your voice.
- Check your phone reception
And move to another location if your signal is anything less than perfect; it’s not going to be smooth sailing if it sounds like you planned to take the phone call from an underground bunker, or a tunnel on the highway.
Remember these 3 things when preparing for a job interview
Do you feel confident about preparing for a job interview? Or, are you still nervous and slightly overwhelmed? No worries. because either way is completely normal. Truth is, not all applicants care as much about getting it right as you do. How do we know? Because, unlike others, you’re here, searching for the best way to prepare for an interview. So one thing is for sure: you’re on the right track.
Use this article as a guide when you’re preparing for a job interview, and remember the three most important things:
- Job interviewers have usually done this before, so simply copying ‘perfect’ answers to job interview questions won’t cut it. Think of a personal story or example that connects you to the brand.
- Weaknesses aren’t weak, especially when you state that (or how) you want to improve them. Be as honest as you can be while staying professional.
- If you don’t get the job, don’t worry. Each job interview counts as preparation and will help you ace the next one.
Ready to ace your (online) interview and get that job? Or do you still have a question about how to prepare for an interview? We answer the most frequently asked (interview) questions, so make sure you have a peek at those.