How to prepare for a top performance at interview

06/04/2017

Well, first of all, if you’ve got to this stage in an application process, congratulations. 

How to prepare for a top performance at interview

Well, first of all, if you’ve got to this stage in an application process, congratulations. That must mean that you’ve written a fabulous application. Now all you need to do is make a cracking impression at interview.

You’ll notice that the title of this guide is not simply ‘how to perform well at interview’. And that’s because the preparation aspect is vital. Now is not the time for last minute dot com, relying on looks or charm, staying up all night armed with caffeine drinks or winging it. If this is your approach, you could be wasting the opportunity of a lifetime.

Those of you who followed our advice in ‘how to write a winning covering letter’ may already have some of these essential processes under your belt, in which case, you’ve made your life a lot easier. But if you’ve filled out a more standard application and applied for multiple roles or schemes, you’ll need to listen very closely.

Your performance at interview will rely on these three things;

  1. Showing a good understanding, knowledge of and interest in the organisation and industry
  2. Being equipped with relevant and strong examples and evidence of skill, understanding of your own abilities and thoughtful answers to searching questions
  3. Delivering answers, communicating and presenting yourself in a professional, impressive manner

Not much to think about then. But we’re here to help. And by allocating time for preparation, you can and will deliver your very best performance, and that’s all anyone can expect of you.

  1. Showing a good understanding, knowledge of and interest in the organisation and industry

This is all about research. And as much of it as you can take the time to do. Learn as much as you can about the company;

  • How big is it in terms of staff and annual turnover?
  • Who is the Chief Executive?
  • What is its core purpose?
  • What do they do?
  • Are they an established brand or a new upcoming entry to the market?
  • Have they faced any specific challenges or negative press?
  • What are their key successes and future objectives?
  • What are they looking for in their employees?
  • What do they offer that appeals to you?

Find this out through;

  • Internet searches
  • Company websites
  • Industry magazines or websites
  • Reading the mission statement and/or Chief Executive Statement
  • Speaking to any relevant contacts you have
  • Reading their graduate literature

The reality is, you may need only a small fraction of this knowledge on the day. But pinging in a few up to date facts, references to latest developments and awareness of the organisation’s aim will give you real credibility and wow factor. And you’ll feel so much stronger and more confident (see point 3).

2. Being equipped with relevant and strong examples and evidence of skill, understanding of your own abilities and thoughtful answers to searching questions

Evidence of your abilities

Now it’s time to go through the graduate programme literature and any role descriptions/skills and personal specifications available. Highlight or make notes on specific skills, experience, attributes and knowledge stated. And then let the self exploration begin.

Taking each element in turn, find an example in your life when you have demonstrated it. Think deeply and widely about your whole experience; academic, weekend or holiday work, voluntary work, leisure and sporting activities and achievements.

Once you have the example, take it two steps further. What exactly did you do? What was the result or impact?


Example: When have you demonstrated teamwork?

From your history: Worked on a Design and Technology project whilst in the Engineering Society.

What did you do: I took on the research stage, looking at other products and researching ways to improve them.

Result/impact: Design being adopted by a company and taken to market.

If you conduct this exercise, covering off all the key requirements, you’ll be rattling off awesome achievements like nobody’s business.


Thoughtful answers to searching questions

The more potential questions you can pre-empt, the more answers you can come up with in advance of your interview. There will always be unanticipated questions. However, it’s likely that at least some of the questions will be variations of these;

  • Why are you interested in our company/organisation/scheme?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do outside of studying?
  • Why did you choose your course?
  • What skills do you believe we need in our organisation?
  • Can you give us examples of leadership, teamwork, problem solving, good communication, analysis, commercial mindset, strategic thinking, organisation, research, initiative, resourcefulness
  • When have you faced a big challenge in your life and how did you overcome it?
  • If you had a disagreement with a colleague how would you approach it?

If you can, request a mock interview with a careers adviser, or do this with a friend or parent so that you can rehearse answering the questions. And don’t forget to use your own interview experience; each time you have an interview jot down some of the questions, so that next time you’ll be even more prepared.

 

3. Delivering answers, communicating and presenting yourself in a professional, impressive manner

This part is all about confidence. Successful completion of exercises 1 and 2 should instil you with the confidence that you’re well equipped and ready.

But your actual delivery and presentation is the finishing touch. So for a polished performance make sure you do these things;

  • Be smart, well presented, professional and appropriately dressed. Even dressing to impress takes preparation so read our dress for success guide for the ultimate sartorial advice
  • Get over any major nerves through breathing deeply and avoiding last minute stress
  • Be well rested (bags under red eyes and caffeine-shakes – not a good look)
  • Be early. Research ahead of time the directions to the venue and carry out a trial run, and leave plenty of time for transport issues
  • Take everything you need with you. Notes, your CV, company information, directions, umbrella!
  • Speak clearly and loudly, sit up straight, look your interviewer in the eye and shake hands
  • Don’t be afraid to pause and gather your thoughts rather than launching straight into an answer
  • Be armed with a couple of intelligent questions that show interest in the company
  • Don’t forget to smile

Believe in yourself. If you do everything in this guide, you will be giving it your best shot.

From the mybrink team, good luck!