Many people have this misconception that one cannot prepare for an interview and they should be themselves. However, in fact, you can prepare for an interview, and you should be prepared for it in advance. There is a fine line between being yourself and being prepared. It can be scary and stressful when going for interviews but the more you prepare, the better you will perform and the calmer you will feel.
If you are invited for an interview, congratulations! The company is considering your application, and it is your chance to convince your prospective employer that you are the best candidate for that role. Now is the time to get serious about your preparation and research.
There is no shortcut to interview preparation. You need to invest time in reflecting on what you offer and researching the employer in more depth. The more you prepare, the easier it gets because often some interview questions can be repeatedly asked in different interviews.
So, what does effective preparation look like?
You can start with the job advertisement. Read the recruitment information carefully and highlight what the company is looking for. From the job description, you can also find out what the company does and what benefits they can offer for this role. You can write them down.
You can then start researching the company website, especially the careers section if they have one. Companies invest time and money and create careers pages to attract candidates as well as to tell them more about the company and the role. You can find a lot of useful information, such as company values, strategy, unique selling points, case studies, employee stories and recruitment process, from a company’s website. You should summarise your findings and write them down so you can refer to them later on.
While you might not know exactly what questions you will be asked, there are common themes that come up in most interviews, such as:
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses/what are your areas for development?
- What is your biggest achievement?
- Why do you want to do this specific role?
When preparing answers to these questions, you can refer to the points you have written down earlier. For example, on the job description, if the company said they were looking for someone with excellent analytical skills, then when you are asked about your biggest strength, you may want to talk about your analytical skills and give some examples. When answering the question “why do you want to work for us”, you may mention the company’s values and strategies and link them to your personal experiences to demonstrate what motivates you to work for them.
You can then start preparing for competency or strength-based questions, which may often look like this:
- Tell me about a time when …?
- Give me an example of a time when …?
- How would you deal with a situation in which …?
The wording may vary slightly between interviewers, but often the question covers the same ground. When preparing for these types of questions, it is recommended to provide an example from your past work or study to demonstrate the skills they are looking for. Again, at this point, you may refer to the notes you have taken earlier to understand what skills they might be looking for. You can start preparing examples for the competencies and strengths accordingly.
During the interview, your job is to listen carefully, interpret what they are asking and why and provide clear answers. Different recruiters may choose from a range of question styles, such as motivational, competency and strength-based, in one interview. You can attend our interview preparation webinar to understand more about interview question types and how you should prepare for them.
Now it is time to talk about being yourself. When answering interview questions, you should demonstrate your true self and be authentic in your responses and examples. It is important to remember that the interview is not about being perfect. It’s about doing yourself justice by being able to talk about your experiences and skills/attributes so that an employer has an authentic sense of you as an individual. Experienced interviewers have a strong sense of when they are “being gamed,” and it seldom works. They may also ask you more follow-up questions if they feel you are making up stories or using someone else’s answers.
With technological advancement, for the first-round interviews, more and more companies are using digital platforms to conduct pre-recorded interviews. These types of interviews are often one way, and if you have not done one before, you may easily fail the first time. However, this does not have to be the case. There are platforms like Learn and Pass, where you can practice for digital/pre-recorded interviews as many times as you want and get feedback on your performance. It is a good way of making improvements.
Here are our final tips:
- Research the company and the role
- List potential questions you might be asked
- Prepare your answers
- Be authentic