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10 Brilliant Ways to Prepare for an Interview

Congratulations, you’ve landed an interview. But that’s the easy part, now you’ve got to prepare appropriately to ensure you give yourself the best possible chance of being hired.

You can be sure your competition is doing the same, so the more thorough you are at this stage, the better you’ll perform and the more likely you’ll be to come out on top.  Also, the more you prepare the more your confidence will increase, and you’ll be more relaxed. In our experience, the more relaxed candidates, who allow their personality to shine through, perform best at interviews.

Sales roles rely heavily on being prepared for meetings, so not readying sufficiently for an interview could be a big red flag to potential employers.

Here, then, are our top ten interview preparation tips.

1. Interview preparation - The basics

It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many candidates fall at the first hurdle – getting the location or the time of the interview wrong. Anyone turning up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, can kiss goodbye to their chances of success there and then.

Check, and double-check where you are being seen and when. Find out how you will get to the interview and give yourself plenty of time. Arriving just on time, flustered and sweaty, will not create a good impression, making you appear disorganised – hardly a plus point for a salesperson.

2. What to wear to an Interview?

Perhaps the biggest faux pas after turning up late is dressing inappropriately. In sales, business-like is always the way to go for first interviews.  Outside of IT, we recommend a suit and tie for gents (perhaps an open shirt for IT roles), and smart office attire for ladies.

Turning up in jeans, t-shirt and trainers shows a distinct lack of professionalism. Even though not many workplaces insist on them anymore, men should wear ties.  A great tip is to call up and ask reception whether interviewees are best to wear a tie or not.  This will inevitably get back to the hiring manager, and you’ll have won a ‘brownie point’ before you’ve even arrived.

For more information see How to Make a Terrific First Impression

3. How to research a company before an interview

At the interview, you are expected to be knowledgeable about the company you want to join. Showing a lack of understanding gives the impression you don’t care or that you cannot grasp detail – both things that will mark you down negatively in a sales role.

There are many ways you can read up about your target company, such as its website. Also, look at its LinkedIn profile, any media coverage, its share price (if applicable) – consume as much as you can about the business and its strategy.  One of the most important areas to research, particularly with larger companies, is their corporate values and how these could resonate with your own.  See How to Ace a Values-Based Interview.

Also, find out about its culture and who works there. If you don’t know anyone ‘on the inside’, look for staff members on LinkedIn. Then, search their social media accounts to see if there are any posts about their employer – don’t worry, this is not stalking, it’s simple basics to get an idea about a company, its staff and culture.

Also, look at Glassdoor to see what current and previous employees have written about working there.

For further reading see Researching a Company Prior to Interview.

4. Who will be interviewing you?

If you can, find out who will be conducting your interview, so you can research them as much as you can. Doing so will prepare you better for what to expect, and possibly open-up mutual interests or past associations that you can raise naturally during the interview.

If you can, ascertain if more than one person will interview you, or if it is to be a panel interview. Ensure your interview preparation is the best it can be for panel interviews, where you must appear confident before several people, all of whom will have specific roles during the process.

5. How to decipher a job description before an interview

Are you 100% sure about what it is that you are being interviewed for? Have you examined every word of the job description to be clear it’s what you want from a new role?

The job description not only aligns you with the vacancy, it will give you a good idea of which direction the interview will take.

Look at the core tasks of the role and write down examples of when you have excelled in these areas.  Then, look at the requirements and see if there are any gaps between these and your skills. If there are, think of arguments to counter against them. For example, if the brief states ‘must be a graduate’ then you could detail that you gained the grades to attend University but you decided against this particular path.  Interviews are now commonly competency based so it’s worth preparing specifically for this format.  It isn’t as daunting as it may sound, see How to WOW at a competency-based interview

6. Is this role really for you?

If after reflecting on the job description, your heart is not 100% in the new role, then don’t go through with the interview, even if you feel it may be good practice to do so.

However, it is imperative to communicate this to either your recruiter or to the interviewer directly. Not turning up is simply not an option. Business is a small world and we have tens of examples where further along in their career a candidate has had their ‘no show’ at an interview ‘come back to bite them’.

Any interviewer will hate their time being wasted and would far prefer to hear the reasons why you are withdrawing from their process and your rationale behind this.

Be confident about what you want from a new role, and this job search checklist may help you.

7. Know your product or service

If you’re gunning for a new sales role, preparing for a job interview must include thorough research of the product or service you’re going to be selling.

You’ll hardly inspire confidence at interview if you haven’t got a clue what the product you’re selling is, how it works, or who will be buying it.

8. How to practise interview answers to common interview questions

Many questions will crop up at just about any interview, particularly in sales. You can read some common interview questions here.

The more you rehearse these, the more confident and knowledgeable you will appear during the interview.

9. What questions should I ask at an interview

Preparing for a job interview isn’t just about the questions that you’ll be asked. Every interview concludes by asking the candidate if they have any questions. Don’t be the one who shuffles nervously in your seat and says: “No, I think we’ve covered everything.”

Have questions up your sleeve to ask at the end, or even to bring up during the rest of the interview (without coming across as too earnest).  Here are Five Good Questions to Ask at an Interview and How to Close a Sales Interview

10. What do I tell my current employer when I am attending an Interview?

If you need a few hours away, think about how you will inform your employer. Don’t say you have an interview as it’s likely to mark you down as disloyal and raise questions about things such as data security and business continuation.

Instead, take a half-day holiday or be as honest as you can, saying you have an urgent personal appointment. Most employers will understand without demanding to know the reasons behind it.  It can sometimes be useful to book a week off, around two weeks after you start your job search, purely to dedicate to attending interviews.

By following these ten pointers, you should be well prepared for your next interview. Just be yourself, answer truthfully and be expansive but relevant and focused in your answers. Show interest, too, and you will stand a good chance of progressing to the next recruitment stage.  For more advice visit the Aaron Wallis Career Tools Section

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