Like most people interviews used to give me the heebie-jeebies, I used to literally shake. I'm lucky that that changed about ten years ago. In that time I've spent a lot of time on the other side of the interview table, initially working in an accountancy practice but latterly in a commercial role. I've interviewed school leavers, graduates, part-qualified and qualified accountants and operations team members. I've asked so many questions that I'm now pretty confident in preparing for interviews and so I thought I'd try to pass on some of my knowledge in case it's of help to anyone.
My first tip would be to start your preparation nice and early. If you've applied for a role through a recruitment agency, get as much information as you can from them about the role, the company and the format of the interview. Unfortunately if you've applied direct, you're limited to the information you're given. Once you've got as much detail as you can, you can start mulling it over and digging into it in more detail. Not only is it useful in the interview to demonstrate how much you know about them, you may just find something out which makes you much keener to work from them (or not!):
- Research the company, find out what they do, where they're based, who the leadership team are, what their main products or services are, have they won any awards, featured in the local press recently etc.
- If you know who will be interviewing you, research them as well. Google them or look them up on LinkedIn, it may just give you an indication of what type of person they are and what they'll be looking for.
- Make sure you know what the job will involve. Run through the various skills required. For any which you're confident of, come up with an example of when you've demonstrated that skill before. If there are any you're inexperienced in, consider whether it's similar to something else you've done, or worst case scenario have an example up your sleeve of a time when you picked up new skills quickly.
When it comes to the interview itself, being on time is vital. Check how long it'll take you to get there and leave plenty of time, check in advance where you'll park, or where public transport arrives, don't leave anything to chance. Unless you've specifically been told not to, wear a suit, first impressions count and I've been in interviews where untidy dress has really created a bad impression. If you arrive early, take the opportunity to nip to the loo, you don't know how long you'll be in there. Make sure your hands aren't clammy and when you go into the interview room, greet your interviewer(s) with a big smile and a firm handshake. If offered, ask for a glass of water, you can take a sip if you need thinking time, and it'll stop you from getting a dry mouth from all the talking. When responding don't gabble, take a deep breath and think before answering questions. Although it's a nerve-wracking situation try your best to be confident in yourself, remember, you want to find out about them to see if they're right for you, as well as vice versa. At the end, you'll probably be asked if you have any questions. You can prepare a couple of these in advance, some may have come out of your research, it's good to have two or three as it shows you're interested in the role and company. If they ask you whether you're interested on the spot, say yes, even if you're not sure. It at least leaves your options open for later. Collect your thoughts afterwards so you can pass on your feedback. Hopefully they'll like you and you'll like the role too.
I hope this has been useful and good luck with your future interviews. If you have any questions or I've overlooked anything, please let me know.