Many of the women that I work with haven’t attended a job interview in years. Either because they have been on a career break or they are well-established in their careers with regular promotion and moves at their current employer.
If you haven’t attended a job interview for a long time, preparing for that interview can seem pretty daunting. I’m going to share the top tips that I share with my clients but you might also like my podcast interview with career expert, Sarah Archer.
Prepare your mindset
Prepare your mindset so that you approach the interview as a sales meeting. It’s a conversation between equals. You want to find out about the employer; the recruiter wants to find out about you. Think of it as a two-way conversation.
I encourage you to tell yourself “I am going to have a focussed conversation about my skills and my experience, and why I’m right for the role”.
Think positively because your CV and/or your LinkedIn profile has got you an interview, you will get a job. Maybe not this job however it is a positive sign that your CV IS working for you.
Finally think about it from the recruiter’s perspective. The recruiter wants to fill the role and she wants you to do well (quite frankly that makes her life easier). A reputable employer is not looking to trip you up in the interview. They are looking for a good fit with relevant skillset and experience.
How to prepare before the job interview
Before you go to the interview, there are some practical things that you can do to be well-prepared. Being well-prepared gives you confidence.
- Check the interview format. Is it a panel interview? Will you be expected to make a presentation? Is it competency-based? If it’s a video interview, treat it the same as a face-to-face interview.
- Do your research. Research the company. Look at their website and their social media presence. What they do, their values, their culture, their clients and their image. Are they in the news? Check industry specific publications too. Find out who the interviewers are and check them out on LinkedIn.
- Analyse the job description. Analyse the job description to get clear on what they are looking for and where there’s a match with your skills and experience.
- What’s the dress code. Check the company website to get a feel for dress code. Who else do you know who works at the organisation and ask about dress code. When in doubt, dress up rather than down.
- Prepare answers. That doesn’t mean prepare and rehearse your answers so much it sounds ‘off’ but do take time to think about the questions you’ll likely be asked. Be ready to answer general questions such as “Tell me about yourself”. Think about your relevant skills, experience and qualifications. What qualifies you for the role. What makes you a good fit. Get clear on these in advance so you don’t end up waffling. Practice out loud too. Ask a friend to help. If you get asked the inevitable “What are your weaknesses” question, the recruiter is looking to see that you have self-awareness. If you have taken a career break, concentrate on your decision to return to work.
- Prepare questions. Have a few questions to ask the employer to show that you are interested in the business, in the role and in your own personal development.
During the interview
- Put yourself in the moment. When you get to the interview and take a seat, take a moment or two to ‘arrive’ in the room. Think about where you are. Try to calm your breathing. Feel the seat beneath you. Get comfortable.
- Listen to the interviewer. Once the interview starts, listen to the interviewer and pay attention to what is happening in the room.
- Ask for clarification. If you mishear or don’t understand a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Much better to get clear on the question than to blunder down a path of uncertainty, answering a completely different question which will just cause confusion.
- Pause. If you have been asked a question, and it’s a length reply, take time to pause. Most of us tend to speak very quickly when we’re nervous so do take time to consciously slow down. Pausing will give the interviewer time to interject if appropriate.
- Be positive. Show yourself to be a positive and enthusiastic person. Now is not the time to slate the previous employer or manager. You never know who knows who.
- Smile. The simple act of smiling will lift your energy. And this is just as important if it is a telephone interview.
- Answer the questions. You may not get the questions you have prepared for. Do your best to answer the question. If you have prepared well, you’ll be able to adapt your answers. If you are asked a closed question e.g. “Can you use Excel?”, don’t just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Yes or no answers can seem somewhat abrupt.
- Watch your language. For example if you are asked to present your ideas on how to boost engagement or how to improve project management, try to avoid using terms such as “perhaps you could’ or ‘maybe it would work if’. This language is often perceived as lacking in confidence. Instead use confident positive “I would love to introduce …”. “I have used this method very effectively ….” “What works really well is ….”.
After the job interview
- Thank you. Remember to thank the interviewer for the opportunity.
- Feedback. Ask for feedback.
- Look after yourself. If you are unsuccessful, do look after yourself. Remember you know your CV is working in order to get the interview in the first place.
- Negotiate the offer. If you are successful, now is the time to negotiate your offer. Do your research first. You might like to listen to my Confident Conversations podcast episode 040 with Michelle Gyimah who shares top tips for negotiating a pay rise. Advice that is equally applicable to negotiating a starting salary.
And also episode 039 with Anna Meller in which we talk discuss to negotiate a flexible working schedule.
What about you? What top tip would you like to share with others who are preparing for a job interview? If you have an interview coming up, you’ll love these top tips from career expert Sarah Archer on how handle the interview itself.
p.s. if you have a job interview coming up and you’d like some help in getting ready, let’s talk.