If you're applying for a new role and have been invited in by your prospective employer, it’s crucial you know how to prepare for the interview. According to research by Lever, in 2019 the average number of interviews per role is 2.5 – around three hours in total. That means you have a very limited time to make a great impression.
While interviews vary, your approach to interview preparation is essential. Do it right, and you can understand the company, tailor your responses and overcome anxiety and stress to wow the employer – securing the role you want.
To improve your chances of success, view our five-minute guide of interview preparation tips below then read on to learn how to make a lasting impression.
1. Study the job description
Start your interview preparation by reading through the job description, matching your skills and experience to the listed criteria. You’ll get to know the role inside out so during the interview you’ll be able to clearly link your knowledge and experience to what the company is searching for.
With this first interview tip, carefully read through the role requirements. Match your relevant skills and achievements to each point, writing down a strong ‘answer’.
If you don’t have anything for a certain skill, don’t panic – employers don’t necessarily need a candidate that ticks every box.
“most candidates will have mastered some skills but lack others. So, be honest and prepare a response which shows how you can improve these attributes and reference any skills you do have which will speed up the learning process.”
With a list of relevant examples prepared for your interview, recite each one out loud. You’ll become more comfortable with the language of the role and company, alongside articulating your strengths with great answers.
2. Research the company
Conducting research into the prospective employer is an essential tip for interview preparation. With a keen understanding, you’ll know the company’s:
- Product or service offering
- Industry and niche
- Organisational structure
- Competitive advantages and disadvantages
- Recent projects and notable successes
- Values and culture
Understanding the above is crucial for answering questions and linking your experiences to what’s asked. Having knowledge to hand also shows you are interested in the company and have initiative.
A good interview preparation tip is to visit the company's website and browse its social channels. You'll be able to view company activities, recent news, annual reports, marketing activity, ‘About Us’ information and much more.
3. Understand your interviewers
Typically, you’ll be told who will be interviewing you – often the manager of the team, head of department, or company director. A good job interview tip is to research these individuals beforehand to find out their:
- Career experience
- Professional interests
Knowing the above, you can more easily and fluidly strike up meaningful conversation with the panel, relate to them and show your interest.
If you haven’t been told who is interviewing you, don’t be afraid to ask. Then visit the company’s ‘About’ webpage and LinkedIn page to locate the individuals. From there, explore their LinkedIn and Twitter profiles as part of your interview preparation.
4. Find out the interview format
“it’s also important to enquire about the interview format as this will have a huge impact on how you decide to prepare.”
There are a few different formats that the company might decide upon, and it’s key you ask which so you can tailor your interview preparation:
- Face-to-face: The most common type of interview, a face-to-face meeting is in person, typically at the employer’s office. In terms of interview tips, it can be beneficial to practice answering questions with a partner and work on your presentation skills.
- Video and phone interviews: Video and phone interviews are common when applying for remote roles, and more popular than ever due to their effectiveness during the pandemic. View our video interview tips to learn more.
- Panel interviews: If you’re attending a panel interview with multiple interviewers, it's a good idea to prepare answers for each one, based on their roles and seniority. Panels are less common – LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018 survey found only 48% of respondents used them.
- Group interviews: Conducted alongside other applicants, group interviews will often involve an assessment of your leadership potential and teamwork skills.
- Structured or unstructured: Knowing whether the interview questions are based off a set script with scoring (structured), or a more casual, freeform conversation (unstructured) can also help inform how to prepare for an interview.
5. Practice answering interview questions
While interviews can be hard to predict, there are common questions used. So, it's essential to spend interview preparation time on how to respond – without sounding too rehearsed.
Whether you're asked about your weaknesses or how well you work in a team, most interview questions generally fall into four categories: competency, behavioural, hypothetical and stress.
How to answer competency-based interview questions
Competency-based interview questions aim to expose your general competencies (soft skills), and specific competencies (job-specific skills). Here, the STAR technique – situation, task, action, result – is a good approach to forming answers during interview preparation – learn more in our guide.
How to manage challenging behavioural interview questions
These questions aim to get you talking about how you demonstrated a particular skill or handled a certain situation.
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends survey, behavioural questions were the most common way for businesses to assess soft skills, with 75% of talent professionals using them.
They will usually focus on teamwork, leadership or handling pressure, so try to prepare a suitable success story for each – view examples for your interview preparation using our guide.
How to answer hypothetical interview questions
Also known as situational questions, here the interviewer will try to test your problem-solving capabilities in a hypothetical situation. They were the third most common means of assessing soft skills, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 survey, after behavioural questions and reading body language.
When answering hypotheticals, remember this interview tip: reference previous experiences, explaining how they have prepared you for the situation.
How to deal with stress questions
These questions try and test how you think on your feet and respond under pressure.
They can also take the form of brain teasers or puzzles – like 'how many tyres are produced in the UK each year?' – which randomly test your logic or numeracy skills.
Here, remain calm, don’t be offended and remember you don't always need the factually correct answer.
“a common tactic is to adopt an aggressive attitude and ask you directly about why you left a role or why you don't possess a particular skill.”
For all questions, a good interview preparation tip is to rehearse answers out loud and bear in mind your non-verbal cues and body language.
6. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
Towards the end of the interview, most interviewers will give you the opportunity to ask questions.
This is a great chance to show off your existing knowledge, enthusiasm for the role and learn more about the company.
Try to think of four or five meaningful questions to ask. Avoid asking about pay or benefits, instead preparing role-specific questions or those that focus on the company's strategic direction or working culture.
7. Ask for feedback
If you feel comfortable, don't be afraid to ask how you did at the end of the interview. It shows that you're serious about the role, and that you want to improve your professional skills.
In the event you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback from the interviewer too – this can help hone your technique and ensure success later down the line.