Do you have a job interview coming up? This next step in your application process is an opportunity to demonstrate your qualifications for a role, your interest in the company and your personality. Being prepared for an interview can help you feel calm and confident on the day and ensure you can answer the questions you’ll likely be asked.

There are many steps you can take to prepare for an interview. In this guide, we’ll look at the ways in which you can set yourself up for success in your next interview.

Types of interviews

There are different types of job interview. In some cases, you’ll only need to succeed at one of these to land the role. In others, particularly at large employers, you may face several interview formats throughout the application process.

Face-to-face – The traditional and still, the most common form of interview. You’ll attend the employer’s office and be questioned on your suitability for the job by an individual or panel. Face-to-face interviews usually last between 45 minutes and two hours, and may be preceded or followed by tests and exercises. Questions may be strength-based or competency-based.

Telephone – Often used by employers early in the application process to filter large numbers of applicants. If you’re successful you’ll typically be invited to a face-to-face interview. Expect a telephone interview to last around half an hour.

Video – These are becoming increasingly popular among large employers and can be live or pre-recorded. They tend to last around half an hour.

Assessment centres – These enable employers to compare the performance of lots of candidates at the same time. You’ll attend an assessment centre with other applicants and take part in tasks such as presentations, team exercises, and psychometric tests. Assessment centres usually last a full working day and have more recently been adapted to be held online.

Interview research

Your performance in an interview depends, to a significant extent, on how well you prepare. Don’t leave this until the last minute. In the days leading up to the interview, focus your research on the following:

Employer – Think about how you can show that you understand the business beyond the basics. What sector does it operate in? What challenges does it face? Who are its competitors? What major projects has it recently completed? What are its culture and values? This kind of knowledge demonstrates a genuine interest.

Role – Read the job description again and think about how your skills and qualifications match the job. It’s vital that you can explain why you want the job, that you understand the role, and, even more importantly, why the employer should choose you over other candidates.

Interview panel – Find out who will be interviewing you, your recruitment consultant will be happy to give you this information and you’ll probably find it on the email inviting you to the interview. Use LinkedIn and the ‘About us’ section of the company website to find out more about their professional interests and experience. This may help you to connect with your interviewers and create a positive impression during the interview.

Questions – Consider how you’ll answer common interview questions, as well as preparing some questions you’d like to ask the interviewer.

There are also some practical things to plan. Exactly when and where is the interview taking place? Have you planned your journey and checked the timetables for any public transport you need to take? Does all your equipment work for video and telephone interviews? Take the time to make sure you have everything you need for the day of your interview.

Practice interviews

It’s a good idea to practice your potential answers before you have your actual interview. You can do this with someone you trust to offer feedback on your answers and technique. This is particularly important if you’ve been given a task to perform during your interview, like a presentation for instance.

What to take

You shouldn’t need to carry too much with you on the day but having the following should mean you’re fully prepared.

  • Pen and notebook
  • Your CV and interview invitation
  • Any certificates/work examples if requested
  • Photo ID
  • Breath mints
  • A bottle of water

In addition, for online interviews, you may also need:

  • Laptop/computer
  • Headset/earphones
  • Microphone
  • The login details for the software you need to use

What to wear to an interview

While many employers expect candidates to dress smartly, a growing number encourage casual wear at work, making it trickier than ever to choose an interview outfit.

What you’ll be expected to wear depends on factors such as the size of the company, the industry it operates in, and the culture it promotes. For example, a manufacturing company may have different standards to an accountancy firm.

If you’re unsure of the dress code, ask your consultant before attending the interview. The key point to remember is that it’s better to be too smart than too casual. Only opt for a more casual outfit if you’re certain that’s acceptable – if there’s any doubt, go for smart business attire. Whatever you choose, make sure that your clothes are ironed and your shoes are clean.

For telephone and online interviews make sure you dress as though the interview is in person.

After the interview

As your job interview comes to an end, make sure you find out when you’ll be informed of the outcome – and thank the interviewer for giving you the chance to attend. It’s a good idea to make some notes about the questions that were asked and how you answered them while the interview is still fresh in your memory. This will help you prepare even better for future interviews.

There are three potential outcomes:

Success – If you’re offered the job, make sure it’s right for you by discussing it with friends and family, and double-check the details
before deciding whether to accept.

Rejection – If you’re unsuccessful, don’t be too downhearted. Talk to your consultant to get feedback from your interview so that you can
improve next time.

Further steps – You may be invited to return for a second or third, interview, typically these will involve a task or presentation.

Making a good impression

As you’re preparing for the interview, think about ways you can show yourself in a positive light:

Punctuality – Arriving late will increase your stress levels and give the employer a bad first impression, so do your best to arrive in good time.

Positivity and enthusiasm – Be polite and professional with any staff you meet before or after the interview. Respond to questions with positive statements and be enthusiastic about the job.

Body language – Throughout the interview, remember to smile frequently, maintain eye contact and be personable.

Clarity – Answer questions clearly and concisely, evidencing your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements.