You've sent your CV for the job that you know will be perfect for you, and the employer has
called you back to arrange an interview. What now?
The keys to a successful interview are preparation and follow-up. In this, it is a very good
idea to bear in mind what the employer will be looking for from you. Simply put, the employer will be trying to
establish that you have both the skills and the desire to do the job well. This will dictate not only the
questions you may expect, but often enough, the kind(s) of interview as well. However, regardless of what the
employer may choose to throw at you, your first step in the way of preparation is research.
You can be certain that some of the first things an employer will ask you are, “What do you
know about us?” and, “Why do you want to work with us?”. Having a good idea of the employer's past performance
and future plans can help you answer these questions, and put you at advantage in the competition for the job.
Check the organisation's website. Do not be afraid to call ahead to clarify details of the position for which
you are applying, or to solicit company literature. It may prove profitable to search the Web for news articles
pertaining to the organisation. The biggest advantage of all this is that it allows you to more accurately
envision how your skills and talents can benefit the employer, allowing you to navigate the course of the
interview more agilely.
It is always a good idea to practise ahead of the interview. Call on a friend to help you in
this, if you can. Try to cover the most common questions. It is not a bad idea to record your responses and
review them afterwards. Try as well to anticipate questions that may be specific to the position. Many
interviews will be competency-based: you may wish to consider ahead of time your replies to questions that
request you detail specific incidents during past employment that demonstrate the skills, attitudes, and
knowledge required for the position in question – it should be possible to anticipate the likeliest
You may find yourself called on to participate in a telephone interview, which is frequently
used to screen candidates. Indeed, for certain kinds of work dealing with the public by phone, this may prove
to be the main interview. You do have an advantage here in that you can keep written notes on hand to aid you,
but, as the interviewer is in effect entering into your space, it is a very good idea to make preparations
ahead of time to ensure that extraneous noise doesn't intrude into the conversation.
The day of the interview, do make it a point to be, if anything, early. Make it a point to
know (and use) the interviewer's name. Have extra copies of your CV and references on hand. Dress
appropriately. You may call ahead to ascertain the dress code, but err on the side of conservatism:
conservative cut, sober colours, and minimal accessories are all good ideas.
During the interview itself, cultivate calmness: remember that it is perfectly acceptable to
ask for clarification when you have not fully grasped a question, and it is equally acceptable to take a moment
to compose your thoughts so as to reply fully. If you are required to recount specific achievements and
incidents from your past, remain crisp and to the point: do not allow yourself to meander. Don't be afraid to
ask questions about policies relevant to the position, the work environment, working hours and other matters
that might not have been well covered by the job description you've received. Not only is the employer
assessing you for fit, the reverse is true. “Do you have any further questions?” is not a formality.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer and restate your interest in the
position; you'll want to follow up with a thank-you note doing the same, usually between 24 and 48 hours after
the interview. This latter can sometimes be the deciding factor when an employer is presented with candidates
of roughly equal qualifications.