Preparing for a job interview is one of the phases of hunting for a job, which puts applicants and candidates on edge. While some might claim to have mastered the art of scaling job interviews, a larger percentage of job seekers, especially fresh graduates, get jittery when invited for interviews. The reason? They do not know how to prepare for a job interview.
Your interview preparation strategy can be the difference between impressing your interviewer and getting your CV tossed into the trash right after the interview. A job interview is a conversation between a prospective employee and employer that helps the latter make a decision on hiring the interviewee or not.
Over the years, technology has enabled organisations to conduct less of face-to-face interviews. However, regardless of what type of interview you are attending, the rules are largely similar. Your ultimate goal should be to impress and convince the employer that you are the right person for the job. Here is a list of things you need to do to ace your next interview.
How to Prepare for a Job Interview
Interviews are largely used as a tool of assessment in the hands of the employer. However, candidates also use interviews to assess organisations when trying to decide whether to work for the establishment or not. A study of job interviews has affirmed the essence of job interviews in the hiring process of employers.
By definition, a job interview is a strategic conversation between a job seeker and either an HR professional or a representative(s) of the recruiting company. It is used to assess a candidate for a particular job opening within the organisation. Job interviews remain one of the most popular tools used in recruitment exercises by employers.
With the advent of the internet and technological advancement, interviews are no longer restricted to face-to-face conversations. They have morphed into more advanced forms. Some of which include telephone interviews, online chats and video calls between employers and potential employees.
Since we’re looking at how to prepare you for a job interview, we think it’s only crucial to take a quick look at all possible interviews you might encounter as a job seeker.
Below are the 10 types of interviews you could possibly encounter as an applicant:
10 Types of Interviews
- Traditional interviews
- Telephone interviews
- Lunch interviews
- Firing squad interviews
- Skype interviews
- Puzzle interviews
- Career fair interviews
- Case Interviews
- Apprentice interviews
- Group interviews
1. Traditional Interviews
These are face-to-face interviews where you field questions from a representative of the employer to assess your suitability for the role for which the company is recruiting
2. Telephone Interviews
For telephone interviews, the employer schedules an interview appointment with the candidate over the phone at a clearly specified time.
In most cases, it is usually a precursor to the traditional interview and you are advised to take it as important as a face-to-face interview. Failure to impress the interviewer naturally brings the recruitment exercise to an abrupt end.
During telephone interviews, try not to be awkward.
3. Lunch Interviews
There are situations where your potential employer wants to have a direct feel of your personality outside the office. This occurs more for roles where you are expected to represent the organisation in an official capacity.
Like all interviews, you should strive to deliver intelligent answers to questions from the representative of the organisation. During lunch interviews, you want to pay attention to a few things around your mannerisms and etiquette, which include:
- How to order your meal
- Allow the interviewer order his/her meal first
- Order a meal that will enable you to talk comfortably while eating
- Be courteous when addressing waiters and restaurant staff
- Don’t eat or drink too much
- Say “Thank you” after the meal
- Avoid pasta, lobsters, crabs and meals with a lot of pepper
- Don’t order an expensive meal
- Avoid alcohol
- Maintain a professional aura and tone all through
4. Firing Squad Interviews
These are interviews where you get interviewed by a team of representatives who would fire questions at you in the manner that the name suggests.
Interviews of this nature are usually born out of job roles where you would be expected to report to or work with a team of individuals who would form your reporting lines.
In this situations, expectations are high from the employers but it also helps you because rather than have separate interviews with each unit head, you would have an interview with all of them simultaneously.
5. Skype Interviews
Skype interviews are becoming a regular form of interview for organisations that prefer to take full advantage of technological offerings.
You should, however, bear in mind that while a Skype interview might save you the stress of going to the physical office of the recruiting company, it is one that should be navigated with caution.
For instance, to have a successful Skype Interview, you must ensure that your laptop or whichever device you intend to use has enough battery power to last the duration of the interview.
You wouldn’t want your laptop shutting down in the middle of an interview, would you? Also, you must ensure your internet connection is strong enough to guarantee connection for the duration of the interview. You should also be properly dressed and keep your mannerisms professional all through the course of the interview.
6. Puzzle Interviews
Puzzle interviews easily stand out as one of the most dreaded forms of interviews for candidates and the reason is simple; the nature of questions you are asked at puzzle interviews can throw a spanner into all the effort you have put into preparation.
A classic example is getting to venue of an interview and upon sitting in front of your interviewer, you are asked the question below:
“You are standing in front of two doors. One of the doors leads to Heaven while the second leads to Hell. In front of each door stand two angels. One of the angels always speaks the truth while the other always lies but you have no idea which of them is the liar and which is the honest angel. To get to Heaven, you can ask only one question to one of the angels. What question would you ask?”
How would you answer this? The solution is not a definite answer. Rather, the interviewer is more interested in your reasoning capacity and your approach to finding answers to situations and challenges.
The secret of excelling at puzzle interviews is to remain calm, identify what the problem is and then channel your effort into breaking down the question/puzzle into bits and pieces.
There are two things you must avoid during puzzle interviews – First, you must resist the temptation of panicking. Secondly, do not fall into the error of throwing series of questions at the interviewer. Ask very limited questions and focus more on showing your prospective employer how your mind works when faced with situations and challenges.
7. Career Fair Interviews
Career fairs are prime opportunities to impress your potential employer. Interviews held at career fairs offer you a maximum of 10-15 minutes to sell yourself to your interviewer.
As you might have guessed, this simply means you have to put your best foot forward in order to get invited to a more elaborate interview.
Below is a list of tips to help you excel at a career fair interview:
- Keep your dressing smart and formal
- Go along with a hard and soft copy of your CV and other credentials
- Take advantage of the opportunity to network
- Maintain a strong and confident body language
- Keep your breath fresh
- Prepare a verbal business card (about 45 seconds long)
8. Case Interviews
In ‘case interviews,’ potential employees are given a real-life case study to work upon.
As an example, a recruiting company could be hiring for the position of a content marketer and present a case study, which shows that the marketing team sends out one email newsletter weekly to its database of subscribers but isn’t generating enough leads for the Sales Departments and ask you what you would recommend.
You are then expected to suggest strategies that could help yield more leads as a solution.
As a feedback, you could suggest that the company looks in the direction of paid Ads with a well targeted audience and budget. You could also suggest that the organisation increase the volume of email newsletter depending on the number of products and services in focus.
9. Apprentice Interviews
For apprentice interviews, your potential employer is not the kind who can be impressed with listening to what you can do or your past accomplishments.
Rather, your interviewer, in this case, wants to see what you can do. For instance, if the role is for Recruitment Consultant, your interviewee could sit with you in a real-life interview with a graduate intern and see how good you are at assessing candidates.
Apprentice interviews offer you an opportunity to shine. So, make the best use of the opportunity.
10. Group Interviews
These are interviews where the hiring company interviews candidates in groups. In this type of interviews, a candidate would find himself/herself being interviewed along with four other candidates or more depending on the preference of the company.
This form of interview is more prevalent for roles around sales jobs and internships.
It could prove a bit tricky for candidates who are on the shy side but with a little preparation, you can ace it.
One peculiar trait of group interviews is that is has a reputation of coming as a surprise to candidates especially those who are not prepared for it. In some group interviews, you will be interviewed within a group and might even be interviewed by a team of interviewers.
The trick is to remain confident and answer the questions as they are thrown at you.
Group interviews are also known to present you with case studies where your interviewer(s) will assess you on how you interact with others, your level of inclination towards problem-solving reasoning, confidence and how you react to situations that call for application of your skill-set and experience.
To shine in a group interview, you must strive not to appear surprised when you walk into the interview and discover that you are not having a one-on-one interview. Regardless of how surprised you might be, do not let this reaction find its way to your face. Stay confident.
At group interviews, it’s important to make friends. If you arrive for the interview in good time, chances are that the opportunity to interact with other candidates before the interview will present itself. When it does, sink your teeth into it; ask for their names, start conversations with them. Some interviewers notice this and it is bound to leave a positive impression.
At group interviews, the fact that you already had a conversation with other candidates will push your confidence and familiarity with their names a couple of notches higher.
Finally, during group interviews, you want to remain yourself, listen to what others have to say and get all participants involved. Remember not to come across as too overbearing in your attempt to lead the conversations. This has a strong potential to backfire.
When it comes to interview types, it is best to be prepared for all types of interview. The alternative line of action would be to research into the company’s recruitment culture. Does the company favour puzzle interviews over traditional interviews or is it one know for Skype interviews.
This brings us to the subject of research. A study by Timesjobs.com has revealed that 50% of applicants perform woefully at job interview. The study also added that failure of candidates to carry out a thorough background research about the recruiting company constituted the biggest pitfall for candidates who did not perform well at their interviews.
As seen in the study above, 71% of candidates at interviews undermined the importance of researching the hiring companies. This report underscores the importance of preparing for interviews, which is why we will carry out a detailed breakdown of how you should prepare for an interview if you truly intend to land that next job.
The moment you have been invited for a job interview, it’s important you swing into the task of doing some research about your potential employer. When we say ‘research,’ we do not mean shooting the name of the company into Google and expecting miracles.
That will not suffice; neither will the latest news item on the company give you what you need.
Rather, what you need to do is to mop up as much factual information as you can gather about the organisation and make the best use of it in your interview.
A good starting point would be the company’s website. There, you are bound to find a rich serving of information; not just about what the company does but also about its products and services, new projects, key personnel and much more.
Done with the website? Your next point of call should be LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, you should go through your connections to see if you know anyone who has worked with the company. If you do find, feel free to have a chat with them as you are bound to learn a few helpful things from your conversation with them.
At this point, we must throw in a very strong warning when it comes to researching a company. As beautiful as it is to research a company, it could become counterproductive. Are you wondering how that could happen? Let’s break it down. When you research a company, you are exposed to a wealth of information. The question at that point becomes: What should you do with all that information? The answer? You should use it but use it wisely.
Organisations have had cases of candidates who come into interviews loaded with information about the company and began to ask the interviewer questions like:
- Why did you sign Ali Baba as a brand ambassador?
- Why did you agree to a merger with Atlantic group in 2009?
Rather, you should ask questions like:
- Can you shed more light on the day-to-day tasks I would be responsible for?
- Kindly tell me what your specific expectations are for the role
- Which brand would you consider your biggest competitor and what are the reasons for your choice?
Please note that you should avoid asking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions as much as you can. Keep them open-ended.
The lesson here is that you should not walk into an interview and make a mess of the opportunity by bombarding the organisation with questions; just because you have done your research on the company.
There is a case of a young lady who was invited for an interview at a company she had always dreamt of working with. Midway into the interview, she raised the issue of a post she stumbled on online where staffs of the company complained bitterly about low remuneration. She then asked the interviewer how the company plans to handle the situation. As you might have guessed, that cost her the job.
Should you research the interviewer?
The answer to this question is no and that is because the moment you begin researching your interviewer, you risk drawing up different shades of assumptions and find yourself trying to create connections that only exist in your imagination. If it happens that you and your interviewer have worked in the same organisation in the past, you don’t need to dig it up. They will see it on your CV and will most likely bring it up.
How to use research
If you must make reference to research you have done on a company during an interview, do it in a smart way. For instance, you could tell your interviewer that you saw the company’s new design for its bottled drink and be quick to add that you love it.
You could throw in a nice remark about something creative you noticed about its email newsletters, billboard campaigns or even its recent red carpet event. However, try not to cook up stories.
When the research of the company has been covered, your next line of action in preparing for the interview is to practice how to provide answers to questions you are likely to be asked at interview.
Prepare Your Story
Storytelling is an amazing technique for engaging better with your interviewers. Your story should have a beginning, middle and an end, which show the interviewer your results. Storytelling helps you provide better context. You should try as much as possible to be emotive and show context. The guiding principle here is to ensure relevance to the role, be genuine and keep it as simple as possible.
Practice Before Showtime
It is okay to be confident in yourself but like the popular saying goes “practice makes for perfection”. Ensure you make out time before your interview session. You also need to be sure that the information you gathered about the role and the organisation is put in a format that is easier for you to digest and aligns with your story.
Practice how you can sell yourself. Think about every awkward and positive scenario question that might come up and ensure you have a story for it. Also, take a look at your profile again to be always clear about dates and other information stated. Never stop practising.
Things Employers Watch Out For in Your Response to Questions
As a candidate, you can never be sure what the questions from the interviewer will be but you have to be prepared for all eventualities.
We have compiled a number of things employers look out for in your responses.
- Flexible thought process
- Ability to work efficiently within a group
- Eloquence and confidence
- Ability to construct and deliver logical responses
- Relevant wealth of experience
- Good use of grammar
- Bigger picture thinking
- Relating responses to business value
- Mature and well thought-through responses
- Body language and unspoken cues
Things You Should Not Do
When preparing for an interview and on the fixed date of the interview, there are things that you must avoid like a plague. We have compiled 8 of them for you.
Stay Away From Gum
What kind of candidate chews gums at a job interview? The answer? The unserious kind who will not get the job. No matter how much you love chewing gum, it’s a big turn off for interviewers not to mention the fact that it distracts the interviewer from really listening to what you have to say.
In this part of the world, most people have lost respect for time and this has found its way into virtually every facet of their lives. You even find people who arrive late at their own weddings; yes! It’s that bad. For a job interview, strive as much as you can not to arrive late. Always remember that you are not the sole candidate applying for the opening. Lateness has a way of communicating sloppiness and irresponsibility so, it’s something you want to avoid.
What to Wear
When preparing for an interview, you want to make sure that you look your best but remember to keep it formal. You shouldn’t dress to an interview as if you are going for a dinner date or appear overly casual. Opt for dressing up instead of dressing down.
In situations where the company wants you to settle for a casual wear, this would be communicated to you. Otherwise, be corporately dressed.
Do your Homework
We cannot overemphasise this point. You have to research the company that has invited you to an interview. You can’t expect a company to hire you when you know next to nothing about its products or services.
You must understand the role you are being interviewed for and how your skill-set and experience would help you do your job better if hired.
Show That You Want the Job
There are cases where candidates fail to convince the interviewer that they really want the job. For instance, in an interview where the candidate spends more time talking about a managerial position he aspires to be hired for one day instead of the actual role he is being interviewed for, his chances of flunking the interview are quite high.
Watch what you say about your previous employer
Did you have a great relationship with your previous employer? If the answer is yes, then feel free to share some of the details with your interviewer especially if there was a connection between this relationship and how it positively impacted your performance.
If however, your relationship with your previous employer sits on the sour side, we suggest you keep the details to yourself. Speaking negatively about your previous employer will negatively impact your chances of getting hired.
In truth, you might have had some horrid experiences with your previous employer but trust me, a job interview is not the best place to share such experiences.
Save such tales for your friends and during social engagements. For instance, if you had a boss who insisted that you work really late for seven days of the week until you got robbed twice and still got a query for reporting at the police station after the incident instead of the office, you would be wise to be careful with such details as they might be easily misinterpreted by your potential employer.
However, there is a flip side. In some situations, the interviewer would ask if you have had any unpleasant work experience. In this kind of situation, you can share the experience like the one above but pick your words carefully without condemning your previous employer.
Rather, share the experience precisely as it happened from an objective point of view as well as how you overcame the experience as well as moves you made to reach out to your previous employer towards resolution. Be tactful, honest and approach this from an objective viewpoint.
Lies have a distasteful way of coming back to haunt you. Let us look at a scenario where an interviewer takes a look at your CV and during the interview, finds out that you stated in your CV that you were still with an organisation after 5 months of not working with them anymore, your interviewer will not consider this a slip or a typo.
Rather, your prospective employer would conclude that you are being economical with the truth. This is clearly not the kind of impression you want to create in the mind of an interviewer.
How Do You Use Your Social Media Accounts
Social media is fast becoming a prominent item in the recruitment process of companies. Companies have been known to reject candidates who performed impressively well in their interviews but owned social media accounts that had content that potential employers considered inappropriate.
Some of the reasons a company would reject a candidate based on his/her social media accounts would include:
- Lies and misinformation about qualifications
- Inappropriate content including photos and videos
- Sloppy or unintelligent content/posts
- Hateful content against a group, institution or religion
- Racist content
- Penchant for content indulging drug abuse
To prepare for an interview, you must always put your best foot forward and be prepared for a variety of unexpected scenarios. The preparation for a job interview actually begins before the date of the interview but note that it is not enough to prepare, you also have to be able to leave a very strong impression on your interviewer.
As we have pointed out repeatedly with different examples, when preparing for an interview and during the actual interview, you should never take things for granted.