You’re through the first hurdle. You’ve secured an interview – now what? Stay calm, follow these simple steps and you’ll be sailing straight into a job offer before you know it.

Things to do before an interview

Things to do before an interview

Before you head off for your interview, there’s plenty of work to be done in advance. Knowledge is power, and you can never underestimate the confidence you will get from learning more about the company, its values, the specific roles, etc.

If you visit the website of most large employers, you’ll be able to gather a treasure trove of information to help you. For example, a quick look at Sainsbury’s and you can find their values, their vision, what they are looking for, and even some tips from them on how to increase your chances of success. All of this is in addition to the information provided on a basic job spec about the role you’re applying for.

Whether or not Sainsbury’s is the right employer for you, most companies make this information freely available on their website and therefore expect you to have done some homework.

You should expect to be asked ‘why do you want the job?’ or ‘why do you want to work for us?’, so it’s helpful to use the information available on a company’s website to boost your confidence and help you prepare some strong responses.

Things to do during an interview

1. Be positive

The big day has arrived and you’re on the way to the interview. One of the most important things you can do is be positive – it’s infectious. Positive people radiate energy and others want to be around them. They also want to work with them.

Think of positive outcomes, think about how you’re going to charm the person on the other side of the table. Some people find listening to their favourite music on the way to the interview can help put them in a positive frame of mind, others prefer to sit quietly and conserve their energy for the interview.

One important advantage you have being slightly older, is that you know yourself. Use this to your advantage and do what you know you need to in order to put you in the best frame of mind walking into that room as possible.

2. Tell them why you want the job - specifically this job at this company

Tell them why you want the job

Everyone likes a compliment and there’s no better one than being told you’re clever and have made a smart decision. The person on the other side of that table has clearly chosen to work for the company you have applied for. Whether they’ve been there for one week or 15 years, they’ve made the decision to commit a large amount of their time and energy to the company. They believe in it.

So they want to work with people who feel the same way and it’s nice for them to have their decision validated by others. They don’t want to know that you’re applying because there is nothing else available. They certainly don’t want to know that you can’t find another job. They want to believe that you can get any job you want, but that you want THIS job, working with them.

The important thing to remember is that it’s got to be credible and personal to you. Which is why it’s often helpful to do research on the company and role in advance to understand more about the company and why the role appeals to you as an individual.

3. Listen

Listen

Whatever the role, from being a Marketing Director, to working on a construction site, it’s always about how well you communicate. It’s one of the defining features in the success of our species – the ability to communicate with one another, work together, and make things happen that we couldn’t do as individuals.

Nowhere is communication more important than when you’re working as part of a team in the workplace. A single breakdown in communication can be hugely costly, damaging customer reputation and preventing hundreds of other people from doing their jobs, so it’s not surprising that companies focus on this aspect so much.

But the hidden ingredient is not ‘what you say’ or ‘how you say it’ – it’s all about what you don’t say. It’s about listening. People will forgive you for using the wrong words or going off point (a little) – what they won’t forgive is not being listened to or being talked at for 15 minutes solidly.

If you don’t listen to them in an interview, then why would you listen to them on the job? Too often I’ve seen bright, experienced candidates talk themselves out of a job by simply talking too much and not letting the interviewer speak or ask the questions they need to.

Interviewers typically have a number of things that they’re looking for in a job interview. They’re also used to leading you in a way that gives you the opportunity to say what they need to hear. So if you follow their lead and stop to listen or ask questions regularly, they’ll most likely walk you towards the answers that they want to hear.

4. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and have some great examples prepared

Know your strengths and weaknesses

Many employers these days will ask you competency based questions – these can be along the lines of ‘tell me about a time you did this’ or ‘give me an example of when you went above and beyond for a customer’.

The reason they do this is that they believe an evidence based approach of what you’ve already done is better than asking what you would hypothetically do in the future. Many of us will be able to give a better example of what we would do, rather than what we’ve actually done – which is exactly why they ask the more difficult question.

But how can you prepare examples for every possible question? The short answer is that you can’t – however, you can create the conditions for success. My own trick here is to flip it round and rather than prepare answers to an unlimited set of questions – I think about some really good examples of my work and outside projects that I am proud of and remind myself of the details.

If you’re particularly proud of something, whether it was in the workplace or not, it’s likely that you demonstrated a number of positive working behaviours to achieve it. It’s also likely that this same example can be used to demonstrate a whole range of positive behaviours, from taking the initiative or influencing other people, to going above and beyond to meet a deadline.

By switching it around to focus on your achievements, rather than worrying about what questions you could be asked, it puts you back in control. This allows you to prepare in a meaningful way, but importantly, it also boosts your confidence by remembering the great things you have done.

5. If you've been told that you'll have to sit a short numeracy and literacy test then be sure to prepare

Nowadays it’s common for employers to ask candidates to sit a short literacy and numeracy tests as part of a job interview. If this is the case, then the company interviewing you will usually inform you about the tests when they give you an interview date and time.

These tests are usually quite basic, and are designed to test your logical reasoning and written communication skills. If your employer informs you that you will have to take a literacy and/or numeracy test, then it’s always a good idea to ask which test publisher they are using. That way, you can visit their website, where you’ll be able to find out more about the format of the tests, and might even be able to find example questions. The questions on the test will usually differ depending on what line of work you’re going into.

Each test will usually be timed, but make sure that you don’t rush, and that you read all questions carefully. If you find yourself with extra time at the end, then it’s always a good idea to go over your test, and check that you’ve answered each question to the best of your ability.

Thoroughly checking can help you to pick up on any small mistakes that you might have made. If you’re ever in doubt about an answer, then it’s always best to take a guess, rather than leaving it blank – as a guess could be right, but a blank answer definitely won’t score you any extra marks.

Tests can often feel scarier than they actually are, because they take us back to our school days. But it’s important to remind yourself of how much life experience you’ve acquired since then. Take a few deep breaths, and remember that you’ve got this!

6. Be your ‘best you’

Be your 'best you'

We all have good days and bad days. Days where we think we really ‘nailed it’, and days where we know we didn’t quite hit the mark. We can’t eliminate the bad days, but you can use your knowledge of yourself to create the best possible conditions for success.

Arrive early so you’re not hot or flustered when you get there. Take a book, some interview notes, or even some headphones to get you in the right frame of mind for the interview – only you’ll know what works for you. Finally, be well prepared – not only does this help you answer specific questions, but it’ll give you a strong sense of confidence going into the interview.

While you obviously want to be your ‘best you’, it’s important to be just that – yourself. You need to be authentic so people feel they can trust you. The robots may be coming someday, but today we still have people, and people like people, quirks and all. Sometimes, it’s those little bits of character that creep out around the edges of a well-delivered interview, that make people remember us over other candidates.

Final thoughts...

We hope that these tips have been helpful and that you feel confident for your upcoming interview – or any interview you might be invited to in the future.

You may feel like you’re particularly good at interviews, or you may believe that they aren’t your strong suit. Nevertheless, like anything, being a great interviewee is something that can be learned, practised, and honed.

Just remember to research the company beforehand, be positive, tell them why you want to work there specifically, listen, know your strengths and weaknesses, and, most of all, be yourself.

If you’d like some more help with acing your interview, then why not take a look at the interview tips section of our website? Alternatively, if you’d like to browse the wider career advice we have available, then why not visit our career advice page?

Have you got an interview coming up? Or have you recently had one? We’d like to hear your experiences, good or bad. Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum or leave a comment below.

Working with a career or life coach can help to give you a fresh perspective and impetus when thinking about making a change in your life. A coach can help to work through what you want from life and support you in plotting a path forward to setting and achieving your goals.

We’ve partnered with a select number of coaches, covering a range of disciplines, and for all budgets. Take a look to see if you can find the perfect coach for you…

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