Few people enjoy the pressure of a test environment. That’s probably why job interview preparation can stir up a stomach full of nerves for so many of us; it’s a test of sorts, but considering the path of your career is dependent on its outcome, it’s even more nerve-wracking.
For some, a job interview can feel like standing in the path of a spotlight on a lonely stage, verbal jabs coming from every which way.
The thing to remember is that while a job interview is designed to challenge you and your personal skills but it’s not an effort by your interviewer to catch you out—it’s a method of gaining enough knowledge in a short space of time for them to make a very important decision.
Your interviewer wants you to succeed as much as you do, or else they wouldn’t have invited you into the room in the first place. Consider this less of a test and more of an opportunity to prove what you captured on your CV, with the ultimate outcome being success for both you and your new company.
Preparation is the skeleton key to success and thankfully, there are many ways that you can prepare yourself for the task. Below, we will provide you with easy tips and tricks you can follow to prepare for your next job interview.
Your CV tells the story of your career, professional and personal achievements, so it’s a good idea to make sure it’s a sound visual representation of all of these elements. Canva resume templates range from the colourful and creative, such as Pink Creative Resume to the detailed and simple, such as Cream Simple Acting Resume.
Learn about the company values and culture
The typical job interview is engineered in a way to test a few qualities at once, most notably your ability to build rapport and think on your feet, as well as overall confidence. Considering a CV generally covers hard skills—the programs you’re well-versed in, responsibilities your regularly undertook and tasks you know how to tackle, for example—an interview is geared towards understanding your soft skills, which are arguably are more important.
Your soft skill set, which can include attributes such as problem solving, teamwork, communication, flexibility, are the skills that are harder to teach and therefore, if you’ve got them, makes you the more desirable candidate. Put simply, it’s a lot easier to teach a flexible, open-minded person how to use Excel than it is to mold an Excel expert who’s rigid, self-interested into a team player.
In a nutshell, you landing the job is really dependent on one thing; you being the better candidate. As the interviewee, what makes you the better candidate can’t always be known explicitly but there is one thing you can guarantee—you need to be one step further ahead than the competition.
Any good performance rests on the ability to effectively prepare. Your interviewers will expect you to be well prepared—it shows enthusiasm, interest and most importantly, it will help you retain confidence under pressure. Here are some steps to get you ready to prove you’re the better candidate.
Analyse the job
In order to be able to prove you can do the job that’s being advertised, you need to know it back to front. The job description is your starting point; decipher what skills and attributes this company might be seeking and find your own personal attributes to match.
It’s likely that among the job description, there will be aspects that you both have and haven’t fulfilled in your current role and you should be prepared to have a confident answer to both. For any responsibility that you have previously performed, record and memorise an instance in which you did this well. For the tasks that you haven’t yet performed in a professional context, find a personal experience that could relate to how you might tackle that in future.
Consider your first impression
Studies confirm that first impressions last and considering this, you should do your utmost to make this as favourable as possible. Of course, this means entering the interview looking polished and professional but it also encompasses additional elements; come equipped with an additional copy of your CV, a rich and demonstrative portfolio or examples of any relevant work. It also pays to bring a notebook and a pen—you never know when you might need these and you look like someone who’s always prepared if you have this to hand.
Create a killer portfolio to showcase your best work with a Canva template such as Green and White Media Kit or Mint Green and White Corporate Social Media Report.
Making a good impression also depends on things you shouldn’t take into your interview; a coffee cup, for example, or a phone that isn’t on silent. You also shouldn’t bring anything that gives the impression that this interview is being squeezed in between other tasks, presenting the idea that it’s not a priority—such items include bits and pieces picked up on errands.
Research the company
It’s imperative to do your due diligence on a company that you’re hoping to work for. That doesn’t just mean having a look at their website, however—you can definitely go further. Search for relevant news articles that demonstrates you understand where the company sits in the marketplace or to tie into any conversations, have a look through Linkedin to understand who your colleagues and managers might be, and spend some time looking at competitors. Your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so it shows initiative on your part understanding where they stand in relation to others.
Practice the interview verbally
Hearing yourself answer some standard questions as you say them aloud doesn’t just confirm new neural pathways and help to cement the answer in your mind, it’s a way of vetting some of your natural responses. Take yourself through some of the anticipated questions (why do you want to work for…? What do you think you can bring to this role?) and chat them out to yourself in the shower, while making coffee or while driving.
Develop your own messaging
Have you ever noticed how politicians overtly toe the line by incorporating the same handful of words? This is a powerful way of creating continuity and strength and you can also apply this strategy to your job interview to hammer home just how perfect you are for this position. When you’re digging through the job description and the company’s website, have a look out for key terms that might create a theme—teamwork, innovation, challenge, for example. Once you’ve aligned these to your personal attributes, focus on using these words throughout your interview.
A good way to exit your interview knowing you’ve done your utmost to secure the position is to decide on three things you want to express during your meeting and tick them off. It could be as simple as ‘I’m most proud of my success in managing a team of five’ or ‘I’m ready for the challenge of absorbing a national team’, aimed at expressing both what you can offer your potential future employer as well as what you’re hoping to gain from the job and being part of the company.
Reflect this messaging further by encapsulating your personal brand in a business card using one of Canva’s creative templates such as Black and White Square Pattern Web Designer Business Card or Black & White Edgy Creative Freelancer Business Card.
There inevitably comes that time after every discussion when your interviewer will throw the microphone to you in the form of: do you have any questions? The answer should always be yes. Always. Having at least three questions to ask shows your interviewer a few things: firstly, that you’ve been actively listening (if you ask a question that relates to new information imparted during the interview), secondly, that you’re keen and are showing discernible interest and thirdly, it’s a great opportunity to revisit any aspects of the interview that you feel you didn’t address effectively. Some refer to the question part of the interview as the ‘second chance’ section for this reason.
Send a follow-up email
One final step many overlook is the importance of a follow-up email. In the form of a thank you, it’s a way of imprinting yourself in the minds of your interviewer as someone who is courteous, considered and, most importantly, very invested in the position following the interview. You’ll be more memorable in the minds of your interviewer after taking this simple step.
Want to make a lasting impact? Try sending an email that’s finished with a perfectly professional logo to add to your email signature such as White with Black Dots Personal Logo or Blue with Orange Diamond Icon Personal Logo from Canva’s range of templates.
Common job interview questions (and how best to answer them)
Although each industry, company and role will demand a different set of skills, there are some interview questions that are universally illuminating for an interviewer to understand more about your personality, your suitability within the workplace culture and also how you apply your soft skills in the context of day-to-day tasks. Below are some examples.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Although this may seem like a cool and casual question, the interviewer isn’t asking you about your weekend. Take this opportunity to capture and distill the most important things they need to know about you as an employee—your most impactful job, the skills you’d most like to highlight, as well as some of the projects you feel showcase your abilities are the best things to call attention to when kicking things off.
What are your weaknesses?
This is a classic interview question and is generally asked in some form or another. Previous advice tended towards suggesting that a weakness such as ‘working too hard’ is your best bet but this answer has long since gone out of fashion. The problem with this response is that it’s not genuine and that never comes across well. The important thing to remember when discussing weaknesses is to express what you’ve already got underway to alter it. For example, if your weakness happens to be a tendency to get overly stressed during particularly busy periods, mention that you’ve been meditating at lunch times and working on communicating with superiors in order to manage this. Everyone has weaknesses—it’s how we manage them that’s important.
Describe a time you faced a challenge and what steps you took to overcome it.
Another quintessential question, a response to this demands self-reflection and self-examination, focusing on problem solving skills and your attitude to challenge, conflict resolution and how you cope under pressure. Work through the S.T.A.R method if you get a little stuck: it stands for situation, task, action and result. First, contextualise the situation for your interviewee by presenting the challenge in a professional manner and explain how it arose in the first place, then explain a little about where you fell in the group in relation to the task at hand. The action step requires you describe the specific measures you took to overcome the problem, backing by the reasons you decided to take this particular path. Then, end with the result, which is obviously positive as it was a challenge you overcame.
Why do you want to work for us?
This is where your genuine passion for the role and the company should shine—it’s your opportunity to authentically present the reasons you’ve chosen to apply. A good way to highlight this is to incorporate the company’s mission, ethos and culture into your answer, as well. You can do this by considering how and why those aspects drew you to apply for the role and also how you as a person and employee can complement and fulfil these if you were to step into the job.