An interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your qualifications for a role, your interest in the company and your personality. Being prepared for an interview can help you feel calm and confident on the day and ensure you can answer the questions you'll likely be asked. There are many steps you can take to prepare for any interview. In this article, we provide several ways in which you can set yourself up for success in your next interview.

How to prepare for an interview

Preparing for an interview is an important step on your way to getting a new job. Having a thorough plan can both help you remain calm during the interview and set you apart from other candidates. Here is a list of steps to help you get started with your interview prep:

  1. Analyse the job description
  2. Review your qualifications and goals
  3. Research the company's organisational structure
  4. Practise interview questions
  5. Prepare for industry- or role-specific evaluation
  6. Think of questions for the interviewer
  7. Print out copies of your CV
  8. Prepare travel arrangements
  9. Have a follow-up plan

1. Analyse the job description

Thoroughly reading the job description helps you to understand what qualifications, qualities and background the employer is looking for in candidates applying to this role. You can use this information to best determine which of your qualities and qualifications you want to emphasise. Understanding the job description may also tell you more about the company in general and help you think of possible questions the interviewer might ask.

2. Review your qualifications and goals

After reminding yourself of what the employer is looking for in candidates, review your CV to identify the qualifications you provided the employer that you'll likely be asked to elaborate on. You may be required to explain how your professional background fits in with the job description and role's expectations.

This is also a good time to figure out how this job aligns with your future goals. Think about how this position fits in your career path and how it could help you reach your ultimate professional and personal goals.

3. Research the company's organisational structure

Having a full understanding of the company and your potential position within allows you to better determine how you'll fit in with the employees, management and overall company culture, which you may be asked about. Here are a few places to research before your interview:

  • Company website and 'About Us'
  • Company history, mission and values
  • Company social media
  • Industry news, like press releases and articles
  • Professional networking platforms, for both the company and its employees
  • National reporting or professional industry sites for information like employee satisfaction and salary reports

While researching, if you come across information about the company that you want to know more about, bring it up during your interview. The interviewer may be impressed that you thought to ask, which can demonstrate your interest.

4. Practise interview questions

Reviewing common interview questions is a great tool for preparing for an interview. Thinking through these questions helps you to present yourself eloquently, accurately and positively. Take note of your skills and past accomplishments and think about how you can integrate these points into your answers to prove that you can be a great addition to the company.

Common interview questions may include:

Why do you want this job?

The best way to prepare for this question is to understand the job description and company mission statement and mention how it aligns with your personal career goals.

Example: 'I'd love to work for a company where I can make an impact and grow at the same time. From what I can tell, this company really embraces the same ethics that I follow in my own life.'

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Here is your chance to talk about both soft and hard skills. Mention your personal attributes that would help you succeed in this job. When talking about weaknesses, focus on how you think working for this company can help you improve.

*Remember you have many transferable skills from your military service, leadership, management and many more
 - do not undersell yourself!

Example: 'I'm an early adapter of new technology and applications, which really helps me as a social media manager to stay on top of trends and the best ways to communicate for the company. I'm also working on how to better express myself, and I think the daily morning meetings the company has are a great way to improve my interpersonal communication.'

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

Here the interviewer is really asking two things⁠—what are your ultimate goals, and do you see yourself working in this company for a significant amount of time? Try to connect your ultimate professional goals to the skills and experience you plan to gain in this role, and describe the potential advanced positions you wish to hold at the company in the future as you grow in your career.

Example: 'I hope to continue from assistant product manager to product manager in the next five years or less. Since being a product manager means knowing all the aspects of a particular product and its brand, I think it's beneficial to remain in the same company for a long period of time so you truly understand the operation.'

5. Prepare for industry- or role-specific evaluation

You should also be prepared for a possible test or evaluation, which the interviewer may use to see your skills at work. For example, if you are interviewing for a job as a computer programmer, you may be asked to evaluate code, or if you are interviewing for a position as a supply chain manager, you may be presented with a hypothetical problem and asked how you would solve it. Approach such an evaluation with confidence and talk through your thought process so your interviewer can get a better idea of how you work.

6. Think of questions for the interviewer

Asking thoughtful questions about the position and the company can make a great first impression. Prepare several questions to ask the interviewer to show that you are interested in learning more about the company and have a thorough understanding of the position. Here are some questions you might ask:

  • What's a typical day like for a person in this position?
  • What's your favourite thing about working for this company?
  • I've really enjoyed learning about this role. What are the next steps in the hiring process?

*Many employers will ask 'do you have any questions for us' - be sure to always ask something by saying nothing it may come across as you're not really interested and this can put potential employer off!  

7. Print out copies of your CV

The interviewer probably has access to a digital copy of your CV already, but bringing a hard copy to the interview shows that you are prepared. Bring at least three copies for multiple interviewers, plus one for yourself to follow along.

*Be sure to have friends and family check over your CV to make sure there are no errors and it is easy to read - if you need assistance with writing your CV, we can provide a one-to-one career coach to help build your civilian CV taking out any military jargon and make sure you are selling yourself for the job market! 

8. Prepare travel arrangements

Determine where your interview is located, how long it will take to get there from your home and what mode of transportation will be the most convenient. Having your travel planned out can ensure you arrive on time, which can promote confidence during the interview and demonstrate your professionalism and time management abilities. Here's are some steps for ensuring everything goes smoothly the day of the interview:

  • Leave early: Once you know how long it will take to get to your interview location, leave early to account for any traffic or travel delays . In addition, arriving 15 minutes early is great for showing you're interested in the position and can plan ahead. Use that time to mentally prepare, review your CV and familiarise yourself with the building.
  • Research the area: If you have the time available, try to visit the building where the interview will be held a few days before the scheduled time. If you don't have the time, study the area. Look at local train timetables and research any travel disruptions, such as station closures or planned engineering works. If you can't find sufficient information, call the interviewer and ask them for more information about the area.
  • Save interview contact information: In the event of an unexpected travel issue, have your interviewer's phone information so you can call and alert them to the problem. Try to provide a fair notice, such as an hour, as a professional courtesy for their time.

9. Draft a follow-up message ahead of time

A few days after the interview, it is a good idea to send an email to your interviewer. This shows the interviewer you are still interested in the position, reminds them of your conversation together and allows you to bring up any points you forgot to mention.

Before your interview, consider drafting the message with a standard greeting, a structure for points you want to include, such as a reference to a conversation topic, and areas to include other information you want to emphasise. End by saying that you look forward to hearing back. Then, after the interview, you can efficiently fill in the draft and send it promptly.

Example email

Subject line:Thank you for your time

Dear[Interviewer’s name],

Thank you very much for your time yesterday — it was a pleasure speakingwith youabout theAccount Executive role. From our conversation, it’s clear that[Company name]has the energetic and hard-working environment I’m seeking.

I especially enjoyed discussing your need for someone who can create value and insight during client conversations. It’s an interesting challenge, and I’ve continued reflecting on it since our meeting. Over the last few years, I’ve encountered many of the same challenges we discussed: tightening client budgets and lengthy decision making processes. Prioritising the quality of the conversation, over simply delivering information, has been one of my most successful tactics in overcoming those roadblocks and one reason I’ve routinely exceeded my quotas.

In my relationships with clients, I focus on building trust and boosting credibility — and I’m excited about the prospect of bringing that skillset to[Company name].If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me by email or phone.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]
P: +44 4555 5555 55
E: [email protected]

Hire a Hero is here to support you in your search for civilian employment after your service, if you would like support please contact the team on 01495 366670 or email [email protected] 

Credit: Indeed