It can be a source of great frustration for interview panels that many candidates fail to do even the most basic advance preparation for an interview. Give yourself an advantage by doing your homework and your research: the better prepared you are, the more in control you will feel and the less likely you are to succumb to your nerves. We caught up with Caroline Kennedy, Careers Officer at National College of Ireland (above), to find out how to prep for an interview like a pro.
1) Dissect the job spec and anticipate likely questions: Take the job and person specification apart - know how your qualifications, skills and experience can benefit the employer, and match them to the job description.
Caroline says: “Use online resources like Glassdoor and gradireland’s Inside buzz - they give interviewees a great insight into the likely questions and style of questions from others who have been through the process.”
2) Use LinkedIn to help you with your research: Find out who is going to be interviewing you and research them on LinkedIn; you can view their professional history, their education, background and skills. You can also use LinkedIn to discover who else is working in this role and area: this will give you an insight into the career trajectories within the organisation, and highlight any missing qualifications or skills gaps you may have, so you are prepared to address these at interview.
Caroline's top tip? “Use the LinkedIn alumni tool to see if there are other graduates from NCI working there. They could be very happy to assist with any a questions you might have.”
3) Know your product (that’s you!): Know why they should pick you. Analyse your strengths, weaknesses, academic performance, career interests, career plans, work experiences, skills and competencies. Own your story and be confident about why you should be picked over and above the other candidates interviewing.
4) Research the Company: You'd be amazed at how many people fall at this hurdle. Don’t just give a standard answer about how they are a big company with a good reputation and a strong training and development package… Use your networks - family, friends, lecturers, careers staff - together with their company website, news articles and social media channels to prepare strong, genuine and engaging reasons for why you want to work for them:
a. What is unique about the employer, what is their positioning in market in relation to key competitors
b. Company growth/success
c. Awards won
d. Particular products or services you admire
e. Particular company initiatives you admire - marketing campaign, community involvement, training programs
f. Reputation of key leaders in the business
g. Is there something about their values that attracts you?
h. Something specific about the training and development or career prospects
i. Attend careers fairs or presentations on campus, speak to the representatives and get an insight into the company, culture, quality of work, progression opportunities and use this information in the interview.
Caroline’s advice? “Follow them on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and see what they have been posting about recently; this gives you an insight into what the company views as current or important.”
5) Have some small talk prepared for the walk to the interview: first impressions are so important and having been collected at reception the trip to the interview room can last for 3 or 4 minutes. Be ready to engage in small talk during this time – it is very awkward to be in a lift or walking somewhere with your interviewer with absolutely no idea what to say, and it is very hard to recreate this first impression once the official interview starts.
Caroline stresses: “Everything you say should make you look friendly, intelligent and employable – and that goes for the small talk, too! Prepare a few comments about the building, the weather, a sporting event or the news of the day.”