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Preparing for a Job Interview - Insight of an Intern

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Having been chosen from potentially huge numbers of applicants, you've reached the interview stage - congratulations!

Those few days before any interview can be a nerve-wracking time, so it can be difficult to channel your time into doing anything constructive. However, preparation is the key to any interview - though many people don't actually realise this.

Preparing for an interview is vital for three main reasons:

1 - It helps you answer questions clearly and concisely. Although you can't second guess every question you might be asked, if you are prepared you can tailor them to fit or at least draw upon them for inspiration.

2 - For your own confidence. If you're prepared, your body language and demeanor will show it. For both interviewees and interviewers, there's nothing more soul-sapping than an interview in which you have to drag ill-prepared and under-researched answers out.

3 - To show willing. The interview allows your potential employer a first opportunity to judge whether you're right for the job, and showing you're keen and organised enough to do your prep work is a big plus on any employer's tick list.

With this in mind, the following article will provide you with some key pieces of advice for making sure you walk into your interview room armed with as much relevant knowledge and confidence as possible.


The Basics

Before your interview, be sure to find out the following basic pieces of information:

- Where will it be held?
- How long will it last?
- What format will it take?
- Will there be any capacity tests or group exercises?
- Do you need to bring or prepare anything specific (such as a presentation)?

Do your homework!

- Know the Organisation: showing an interest and a firm knowledge base about the company you're applying to is essential.

There are many ways to go about this; check the company website, read the company news, follow the company Twitter account, read any press releases relating to the company, visit the premises and talk to anyone you know who works there already, or who has worked there in the past.

- Know the Role: walking in with a vague idea of what your position within the company would be is not good enough.

Ask for a job specification with a list of the duties and responsibilities that go with it. Then, go through it and make notes of any relevant prior experience you may have relating to those specific details.

Why not ring the nominated person on the job description? They may be able to give you more of an insight, and answer any questions you have.

If you've got friends or family in similar roles and industries, pick their brains for advice. Even if they're not working for the specific company interviewing you, they may be able to provide you with some inside industry tips.


Question Preparation

- Remember *STAR*: during your interview, you will undoubtedly be required to give solid examples from your past that exhibit your competencies, skills and qualities in real life situations.

Honestly one of the most useful things ever taught to me for this kind of situation is the *STAR* model, which is a framework for answering questions and keeping you on track.

STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action and Result.

Situation - the context of the example you are giving.
Task - what you were asked to do
Action - what you did and how you did it
Result - the outcome and the effect it had

- 'Lessons learnt' examples, where you talk about something you did in the past and how you might now do it better demonstrate a capacity to learn and grow from less than ideal situations.

- Think about why you want the job (barring the money!) and your plans for the future, as employers are usually looking for someone who will be staying with the company long term (or returning after a final year in university, in many placement year student's cases).

- Prepare your OWN questions - this is one of the most frequently missed aspects of preparing for a job interview. Draw upon your earlier research into the company to tailor your questions - are there specific departments or projects you are interested in? What about training opportunities? You could ask about the team you'll be working in (how large, how frequently do they meet etc). Just show some interest beyond the confines of the interview room!

Now What?

You've done everything you can, so now it's time to pay attention to some of the smaller, more mundane details. Think about what you're going to wear for the interview - this may seem simple, but you won't want to be worrying about this an hour or so before you leave for the interview. If you're going to be using public transportation to get to your interview, make sure you check the times. You don't want to be late!

Get some rest. A good night's sleep will do you wonders, and leave you feeling ready to take on that all important interview.

Good luck!