Make sure you know what format the interview will take
If the interview has been set up by a recruiter on your behalf, make sure you ask them what to expect. Will it be a competency based interview in which you will be asked to give specific examples of your achievements? Or will it be more informal? Will there be additional tests, such as verbal or numerical reasoning, typing tests, or personality profiling, and if so are there examples or practice tests you can do beforehand? Are you meeting more than one person and what are their roles?
If you know what to expect, it will help you prepare more effectively and also reduce your nerves. If the interview has been set up with the employer direct, don’t be afraid to call or email them and ask. It will show initiative and that you are interested in the job and in impressing them.
Do your own research into the organisation you are applying for a job with
Demonstrating you have a real interest in what they do, beyond just the role you are applying for, will show you in a positive light and will appeal to the hiring manager’s sense of pride in where they work. Showing you know more than just the information provided in the job advert or given to you by the recruiter will also illustrate how much you want the job and that you are prepared to go the extra mile. Showing knowledge of the sector in which the organisation operates will also be well received.
Make sure you are familiar with all aspects of the job you have applied for, its responsibilities and the skills and experience it requires
This will allow you to prepare in advance what you want to tell them about your experience and how it fits what they are looking for. Remember, experience you have gained from outside of the working environment can be useful too. For example if you are a volunteer for a charity, or are a member of a sports club and get involved in organising activities, this all shows you are prepared to take on responsibility and have gained useful skills in a different environment.
Taking time to think about examples of your achievements before the interview is also time well spent. Having a number of examples ready prepared to illustrate different experience or skills can help to calm nerves and avoid awkward silences while you try to come up with something relevant on the spot. Examples might include when you have been able to deliver to tight deadlines, when you have shown initiative to good effect, when you have received positive feedback from a customer, a situation that showed your ability to communicate effectively, or when you have gone the extra mile to support a colleague.
Think about the questions you might be asked in advance and how you would answer them
A number of these are likely to focus in your experience as covered above, but there may also be more general questions; why did you leave your last job? Why are you interested in this job / our company? What are your strengths? (and weaknesses!) Where do you see yourself in 3 years time? Again knowing you are prepared for such questions will help you deal with any nerves and remain calm.
Plan what you will wear in advance and make sure it is clean and ready to wear on the day
If possible try to find out about the organisation’s dress code to ensure you ‘look the part’ and like you will fit into their culture. If they have a formal dress code then it is best to opt for smart, conservative attire. If they have a more relaxed dress code you may feel over dressed in a 3 piece suit! Getting your outfit right will help you feel more relaxed and able to focus on what really matters, your experience and ability to do the job. The right outfit is unlikely to get you the job on its own, but the wrong outfit may lose it for you!
Make sure you know where you are going
Getting lost or being late is guaranteed to increase stress levels and make you more nervous. Arriving hot and flustered will not create the best impression, nor will arriving late. Plan your journey in advance and if possible do a ‘trial run’ to the location, this will mean you have one less thing to worry about. Checking bus / train timetables, or if driving where to park will also make sure you arrive calm and (relatively) relaxed.
Take a pen and paper
If you are nervous it can help to write down a word to remind you of the question you have just been asked and help you get back on track if you find yourself going off the point.
Take a copy of your application form or CV with you
You may not need these, but they will help you feel prepared and look prepared and can be useful to refer to if you find your mind goes blank. Also a piece of paper with some ‘key words’ written on it to remind you of your pre prepared examples can be useful. However be aware that reading whole answers from a piece of paper is unlikely to impress an interviewer, but a few ‘trigger words’ to prompt or remind you can be highly effective.
Get a good night’s sleep!
You will not be at your best if you are tired and yawning in an interview never goes down well!