There are many times in life when you will find yourself needing to prepare for an interview. It could be your sixth form college interview, university interview or a job interview. So being able to prepare yourself for an interview is a useful and important skill to always have.
Interviews are notoriously difficult to prepare for. Some organisations and companies are kind enough to tell you exactly how or what to prepare, but most places will not do this for you. The whole point of the interview is for them to see how you think, how you apply your skills and talents, or how you react to a situation or scenario. They want to make sure that you will be an asset and a good fit for their college, university or company.
Your aim for the interview is to convince the recruiters that you have the skills, knowledge and experience for the job, while also showing them that you fit the organisation’s culture and work ethic. Here are seven useful ways that you can prepare yourself to reach this aim:
Do your own research about the college, university or company: The recruiters need to know that you are actually interested in their organisation and not just using them for your own gain. They might ask you direct questions about their organisation or they might ask you more indirect questions. You need to do enough research about the organisation beforehand to make sure you can answer their questions well. Visit the organisation’s website to make sure that you understand what they do, their background and mission statement, and their courses or products that they offer. You can also get more perspective about the organisation by reading up about them in news or trade publications.
Compare your skills and qualifications to the entrance, course or job requirements: Fully analyse the entrance requirements or job description and outline the knowledge, skills or abilities that they list. Make sure that you are suitable for the organisation and that your qualifications match or better what they are seeking. If they list a particular skill, they may want you to demonstrate if you know how to do it, so you should ensure that you have the skill and that you are well-practised in it.
Prepare responses to commonly asked questions: Most interviews have a set list of questions that they are sure to ask, such as what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are your academic or career goals etc. You should prepare your responses to questions like these beforehand so that you can answer them easily. You should also understand that there are different ways to ask the same question, for example, they could ask you about your qualities that are useful to their organisation instead asking about your strengths. Both of these questions can be answered in almost the same way so make sure that you can identify that.
Plan what you are going to wear: Your appearance is your first impression and so you should make sure that they do not rule you out before you even get a chance to tell them about you. It is best to dress smartly in neutral colours, with your clothes clean and ironed and hair combed and out of your face. Be sure that your overall appearance is neat and clean.
Prepare what you need to take to the interview: It is advisable that you plan what you need to take to the interview so that you look prepared. Some organisations will tell you what they want you to bring to the interview, but if not then you should just take the following: at least one copy of your transcripts or CV on quality paper, a notepad or professional binder and pen, a list of references, information you might need to complete an application, and a portfolio with samples of your work if relevant.
Understand and pay attention to nonverbal communication: Nonverbal communication speaks volumes and has a huge influence on your impression and therefore your interview. As soon as you walk into the building, make sure that you are mindful of your nonverbal communication, even in the waiting room. Show that you are confident, but do not appear arrogant. Smile, establish eye contact and use a firm handshake. Sit with good posture and be aware of nervous movements such as tapping your foot. Maintain good eye contact while answering questions – do not look around too much as this will make you seem inattentive. Be aware of your facial expressions and reactions, and try to keep negative reactions internalised. At the same time, do not appear too fake or rigid. Be comfortable and self-assured.
Prepare questions that you can ask them at the end of the interview: Interviews usually end with an opportunity for you to ask questions or clarify any queries. Using your prior research, you can come up with a list of questions that are insightful. Be strategic with questioning and ask questions about information not discussed in the interview or found on the organisation’s website. For example, what do they consider the most important criteria for success in this job, or how will your performance be evaluated, or what is the next step in the hiring process.
This will both impress them and provide you with useful information.
The interview process may seem daunting and difficult, but as you can see, with the proper preparation and prior knowledge, you will be able to succeed in displaying your best qualities for any potential sixth form college, university or employer.
GT Scholars is a social enterprise that provides tutoring, mentoring and enrichment to young people from a range of backgrounds. To find out how we can provide you with a knowledgeable mentor or insightful course to help you prepare for interviews, get in touch with us.