Practical tips to help you ace your upcoming job interview
An interview is usually one of the early stages of the job application process. They can be quite nerve-racking, especially if you haven’t attended one before. This guide will help you better prepare for your interview and boost your confidence.
Preparing for a job interview is a crucial step in the job search process. The way you present yourself during an interview can have a significant impact on your chances of getting hired. In this guide, you’ll learn how to prepare for a job interview and we’ll provide practical tips and advice to help you succeed.
First things first, congratulations! You’ve got yourself an interview. What do you need help with?
What’s covered in this interview guide
Here are the key topics covered in this guide:
Need help with your interview technique?
Improving your interview skills will help boost your confidence and help you make a positive impression with a potential employer.
We host various mock interview workshops and one-to-one mentoring to help young people improve their chances of finding a job.
Interview basics: How to prepare for a job interview
What’s the purpose of an interview?
A job interview gives you and the employer the opportunity to get to know each other better and understand if you’re a good fit for the job.
While attending an interview can be nerve-racking, it’s important to remember that an interview gives both of you the chance to determine if the job is the right for you.
An interview gives you the opportunity to expand on the skills and achievements you outlined in your CV and demonstrate your personality. The interview also allows you and the interviewer to ask questions to see whether you have the right skills and knowledge for the job, whether you fit in with the company culture, and whether you would be a good team player.
Spending time preparing for an interview will help you feel more confident, stand out from the competition and increase your chances of getting hired.
How to prepare for an interview?
Preparing for any type of interview can be scary. However, preparation can make you feel more comfortable and confident. Here are some simple steps to help you prepare for your next job interview:
- Research the company: Research the company, its products or services, its mission, and its culture. This will help you understand what’s most important to the company and how you can align your skills and experiences with its needs.
- Review the job description: Re-read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills and qualifications that are required for the position. You should also prepare stories from previous experiences to help demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
- Prepare answers to common questions: Review common interview questions and prepare your answers. This can help you feel more confident and prepared during the interview. Some common questions include:
- “Tell us a bit about yourself”: This allows the interviewer to get to know you better and asses your communication skills. To prepare, practice talking a bit about your experiences, hobbies and interests. Keep it short and sweet, and try and avoid go into too much detail or being too personal.
- “What are your strengths/weaknesses?”: This question allows the interviewer to assess your self-awareness, your skills and how they align with the requirements of the position, and your ability to identify areas for improvement. Try and include examples to support your answer.
- “Can you give an example of a time when you overcame a challenge?” This allows the interviewer to assess your problem-solving skills, ability to work under pressure, and how you handle difficult situations. Remember to stay positive, outline what went well and what you learned for the future.
- Practice: Practicing interview techniques with friends, family or a job coach can significantly improve your confidence levels. Asking multiple people will help you prepare for different questions and help you feel more comfortable talking to different people.
- Sport 4 Life host various mock interview sessions around the West Midlands. This is an ideal way to improve your interview skills in a friendly, supportive environment. We invite real businesses to practice interviewing candidates to ensure an authentic experience and to provide practical feedback. Learn more.
- Be on time: Plan your route and aim to arrive early to the interview. Prepare for unexpected delays. Being on time shows that you are reliable and respectful of the interviewer’s time. If you are going to be late, phone the company at least 10 minutes before your appointment to let them know when to expect you.
Remember, that an interview gives both of you and the employer the chance to determine if the job is the right fit for you. Preparing for the interview will ease any stress, make you feel more confident and allow you to focus on what’s important about the job. If it’s a job you really want, preparation will help make you stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being hired.
Interview essentials: What to do in an interview
Many young people get hyper-focused on the preparation and focus on their questions or prepared answers that they forget how to act in an interview. Here are some interview essentials to remember before, during and after an interview.
- Maintain professional communication: You may be contacted by the interviewer before you officially interview. Remember, this is part of the interview process. You should always respond politely, in a timely manager and demonstrate that you know how to communicate across various platforms (in-person, on the phone and via email/text).
- Be polite: It’s vital that you are always polite and professional throughout the interview process. This means greeting everyone in and around the company with a smile, maintaining good eye contact, and speaking clearly and confidently. Remember to say “please” and “thank you” as appropriate, and show respect for the interviewer’s time.
- For example, at the end of the interview, you can say, “Thank you for taking the time to interview me today. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the position and your company.”
- Dress appropriately: Make sure you dress appropriately for the job you are interviewing for. The interviewer may tell you what to wear in communication before the interview, so make sure you follow their advice. Dressing appropriately shows that you take the opportunity seriously and you are respectful of the interviewer and their company. It’s always best to dress in smart, professional clothes, such as a suit or blouse. While some companies have a relaxed dress code, it’s always best to assume that they don’t.
- Listen carefully: Interviews can be nerve-wracking, and it can be hard to stay focused on what you’re being asked over what you’re prepared/practised to say. Make sure you listen to the interviewer’s questions carefully and answer them thoughtfully. It’s OK to take a pause to consider your response before answering. It’s also OK to ask the interviewer to repeat their questions or rephrase a question if you don’t understand.
- Prepare your own questions: Always prepare a few questions for the interviewer. This shows that you are engaged and interested in the opportunity. If all of your questions have been covered during the interview, it’s important to have some backup questions to ask at the end. Here are some generic questions that you could ask:
- What qualities do you think are essential for success in this role?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department/team right now?
- Can you tell me more about the company culture and what it’s like to work here?
- What opportunities for professional development and career advancement are available to employees?
- What are the next steps in the interview process, and when can I expect to hear back from you?
- Show enthusiasm: Show enthusiasm, excitement and interest in the position you’re applying for. Demonstrating your motivation and passion for the role will help you stand out from others applying for the job.
Struggling to know how to answer tough interview questions?
Interviewers can ask lots of tough questions. With so much advice online, it’s sometimes easier to speak to someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Join one of our mock-interview sessions and get one-to-one mentoring help. Practice your interview technique and find your ideal job.
How to prepare for different types of job interview
Today, there are various ways companies can interview you, including in-person, video call or via telephone; or even all three. In this section, we will give you advice on how to prepare for in-person, online, and phone job interviews.
How to prepare for a telephone interview
Telephone interviews are often the first job interview stage. These types of interviews can be a quick, accessible first introduction to the company. Telephone interviews are your first opportunity to make a good impression to a potential employer. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a telephone interview:
- Prepare your phone: Make sure your phone is fully charged and you’ve stopped other notifications form distracting you. Simple advice, but often forgotten.
- Chose your location carefully: Select a quiet and private location where you will not be interrupted during the interview. Hang a note outside the door if necessary. Also, check your location has good phone signal.
- Prepare your notes: Have your CV, cover letter, job application, prepared questions and any company research nearby. As the interviewer can’t see you, there’s no reason you can’t have something to help you during the call. This isn’t ‘cheating’, you’re not supposed to remember everything off the top of your head. This it’s resourceful and can give you confidence in answering questions.
- Practice your communication skills: Practice how you want to sound on the phone, including your tone of voice and how fast you talk. It is important to sound confident and engaged throughout the call. It can help to smile while talking, this is a simple technique to help make you sound more friendly.
- Listen carefully: Make sure to pay careful attention to the interviewer. If you didn’t hear what they said, it’s OK to ask for clarification if you are not sure about a question or comment. This shows that you are paying attention and interested in the conversation.
- Take notes: Taking notes while on the call will help you ask relevant questions towards the end of the call. These notes can also help you prepare for your next interview.
- Be polite: Always remember to say “please” and “thank you” as appropriate. End the call politely by thanking the interviewer for their time and expressing your interest in the role. You could also consider sending a follow-up email or message to thank them for their time and show your enthusiasm for the job in writing.
Remember, a telephone interview is your chance to make a great first impression. It’s your chance to demonstrate your communication skills and interest in the company. Preparation is key and can increase your chances of getting through to the next interview round. Good luck!
For general interview advice, read our interview preparation tips above.
How to prepare for a Zoom or online interview
Preparing for a video interview, such as a Zoom, Google or Teams, is similar to preparing for an in-person job interview. However, there are some additional things to keep in mind to ensure you make a good impression. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Prepare your technology: Before your interview, make sure that you have a good internet connection and that your device is updated and working properly. You should test your microphone, camera, and speakers to make sure that you can see and hear the everyone clearly. You should also consider using headphones to improve the sound quality and help limit distractions.
- Choose a quiet and private location: Find a quiet and private place to have your interview and make sure you’re not interrupted during the call.
- Check your surroundings: Make sure you have good lighting and that your background is clean and professional. Remove any clutter or anything that might be distracting.
- Dress appropriately: You should dress as if you were attending an in-person interview. Dress professionally and appropriately for the job you are applying for. Make sure that your clothes are clean and neat, and that your hair and makeup (if applicable) are groomed.
- Practice your body language and facial expressions: Since the interviewer will only be able to see your head and shoulders, you should practice your facial expressions on camera. Its a good idea to sit up straight and maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Smile and nod when appropriate to show that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.
- Be ready to share your screen: If you’ve been asked to share a presentation or samples of your work, have them ready and practice sharing them before the interview. Make sure that you are familiar with the software and tools that you will be using.
- Always turn off any notifications that could be distracting
- Make sure your desktop/background is clean and appropriate
- Close any unwanted tabs, windows or programmes
- Follow up after the interview: After the interview, consider sending a thank-you email to the interviewer to thank them for their time reiterate your interest in the role.
For general interview advice, read our interview preparation tips above.
How to prepare for an in-person interview
In-person interviews tend to be the most common type of interview, especially during the later stages of the recruitment process. It’s not uncommon for organisations to interview people multiple times. Here are some tips to help you prepare for an in-person interview:
- Plan your route and arrive early: Make sure that you know exactly where you are going and how to get there. Plan your route and account for delays. You can take a practice run if you’re not confident. You should aim to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to give yourself time to get settled and to calm any nerves. If you are going to be late, phone the company at least 10 minutes before your appointment to let them know when to expect you.
- Dress appropriately: Dress appropriately for the job you are applying for. You should take the company culture into account, but it’s always best to dress professionally. Before leaving the house you should make sure that your clothes are clean and neat, and you’ve checked your teeth, hair and makeup (if applicable).
- Take a copy of your CV: It’s always good to bring a few copies of your CV, and any other relevant documents, such as a portfolio or references. This can demonstrate that you are well-prepared and organised. It’s also a good way to remind yourself what you shared with the company before your in-person meeting.
- Prepare your own questions: Always prepare a few questions to ask at the end to show that you are engaged and interested in the opportunity. If all of your questions have been covered during the interview, it’s important to have some backup questions. We have some example back-up interview questions above (point 5).
- Make a great first impression: It’s important to show you’re prepared and happy to be considered. Nerves are expected, so don’t put yourself under too much pressure to be relaxed. To calm yourself, when you arrive at the interview, make sure you have a warm greeting for everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the interviewer.
- A handy tip is to assume everyone you meet that day is part of your interview. It’s not uncommon for interviewers to ask other members of staff you interact with what they thought of you. You never know if the person you saw in the coffee shop before/after your interview is a member of the company.
- Follow up after the interview: After the interview, consider sending a thank-you email to thank them for their time and to remind them of your interest in the role.
By following these tips, you’ll feel much more prepared for your next in-person interview and increase your chances of making a good impression. Good luck!
For general interview advice, read our interview preparation tips above.
Let us help you get job ready
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Our interview workshops and one-to-one mentoring can help you better prepare for all types of interviews. Stand out from others, and get one step closer to your dream job.
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As the leading sport for employment charity in the West Midlands, we can help you develop the life skills needed to move into further education, training and employment.
Mock interview programme
Mock interviews teach you how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve your communication skills, and reduce your stress before an actual job interview.
We partner with local businesses who volunteer their time to make interviews more realistic. These corporate partners are able to help you develop your interview skills by giving you real employer-based feedback and tips on where to improve.
Workshops and events
We host various mock interviews event, employability workshops and one-to-one mentoring to help young people improve their chances of finding a job.