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Preparation, preparation, preparation

Journey 2

“Ooooh. I’ve got an interview tomorrow!” How many times have we heard that – often spoken (or yelled) with a mix of joy and outright fear? And, mostly, the latter comes from people who are worried because a) they think it’ll be a ‘grilling’ (wrong) and b) because they haven’t prepared, or simply have no idea how to prepare. But preparation is vital if you’re going to succeed. Just turning up is unlikely to prove effective, and so employing a preparation schedule or routine will help to dispel nerves and give you the ability to attend the interview with confidence.

You’ll have heard the expression: “Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.” And with so many examples, from presentations to planning your holiday – preparation is vital. Football managers will spend days preparing for that vital match, checking out the opposition’s strengths, weaknesses, their likely tactics. But what if he and his team turned up on the day, and simply “hoped for the best”? Unthinkable, you’d say. And you’d be right.

To many people, the whole idea of going to an interview - or even an assessment - is in the same league as a visit to the dentist. So, it makes absolute sense to prepare as best as you can for the various ‘pitfalls’ you might expect to encounter. However, with an interview, there are several obvious ones that you can prepare for quite easily:

Visit their website. Explore the site fully and find out all there is to know; it may give details on your team, their work and achievements. Visit the News page: what have they been doing recently that may be relevant to you? Or is there simply something to talk about and show your interest in them? If you have contacts who work there then, used discreetly, these can be a useful source of up to date information.

Make sure you know where the interview is to be held, particularly if it’s unfamiliar. If you can, visit it the day before. You may be wrong: what you thought was Buchanan Street is Buchanan Road and your interview is in another part of town completely! If possible, do a ‘dry run’. You’ll then be aware of issues such as unavoidable roadworks. Go into the building. If there is one, meet the receptionist and say you’re checking it out prior to an interview tomorrow. This will afford you a degree of familiarity with the place and when you arrive the next day, the chances are that the first face you’ll see will be a friendly one.

Have a contact name and number in case of last-minute emergency. It’s best to have a direct contact number for the interviewer or HR. Establish, as far as you can, the key aspects of the role and ensure you can meet their needs.

As well as these more practical aspects, you want to be confident, about not only what you’re going to say, but the way you’re going to say it. Conducting a mock interview beforehand – either with a professional or even a trusted friend – can be hugely beneficial. However, it’s important that the ‘interviewer’ has taken the trouble to investigate the employer and the role, prepared a list of relevant questions and be able to offer constructive feedback, both good and bad, on your performance.

They often say that, for you, the single focus during the first interview…is to get to the second. If you can establish what, exactly, the interviewer is looking for (and so many people don’t), and prepare as if your life depended on it, then you’re well on the way to success.

The very thought of an imminent interview can often fill people with dread. They will imagine all sorts of horrors, based loosely around the interviewer being the reincarnation of Dracula, asking questions that are simply impossible to answer. Of course, both of those fears are totally unfounded and the reality is – generally speaking – much friendlier than that.

However, in order to capitalise, full preparation for the event will afford the interviewee a much greater chance of success, particularly if they know a) why they are there and b) what the interviewer would like to hear.

Key Points

  • Accept that preparation for an interview is vital
  • Prepare for the practicalities – website research; venue; contact
  • If possible, have a mock interview. (More than one if necessary)
  • Know what the interviewer really wants to see and hear