9 Tips for Preparing for an Interview

Getting prepared for an interview can be daunting, here’s some tips to help you get prepared.

** The following list is not the exhaustive, there’s lots of great advice available on how to prepare for an interview, but these are things that we think are important (and which candidates often fail to do)

#1 Get to know the employer

We’ve heard stories of candidates being surprised in an interview when they heard (from the interviewer) what the company’s main business was or their pricing structure or key selling points.  Those candidates never get the job.

Education companies and institutions do not keep their business secret – by definition they want people to know about it and they share a lot of information via brochures, website and other media.  If you are unable or cannot be bothered to do research this then you can’t expect to get the job.

Tip: Do the research.

#2 Go a bit deeper (with your research)

We recommend going a bit deeper in your research and doing a basic market environment and competitor analyses and SWOT.

It doesn’t have to be perfect or very deep but if you’ve given some thought to what the institution’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are in your market or region then it will help you sound like someone who could get started quickly (employers love that).  It will also help you answer questions knowledgeably, and may even help you come up with some good questions of your own.

Tip: Go deeper.  Do a SWOT for your prospective employer.

#3 Know who you are

You’re in the interview to sell a product you should know everything about: You.

So it’s sometimes surprising that candidates can’t explain who they are in a few words or a sentence.  For example, are you:

  • a data driven, detail oriented person with a good sense of humour? Or,
  • a sociable relationship builder that loves to chase sales targets? Or,
  • a reliable process person who likes working together with people in teams?

Whatever your 3 key words or simple sentence is, that’s got to be at the core of your personal brand and the thing you’re selling at the interview.

Tip: Define yourself and your personal brand and bring it to the interview.

(We don’t think it is worth pretending to be something you’re not – be true to yourself and to your interviewers, so that if you get the job there’s a good chance it will be a good fit for you)

#4 Have ‘talking points’ or simple examples ready to go

Most interviewers will be expecting you not just to give short answers but to explain what you mean or give examples.

If you can anticipate the questions then have examples prepared that help explain or support your answer.

For example:

  • Question: So how did you grow the numbers in your region?
  • Answer: One thing I did was…

And have these ready to explain your personal brand, as well as your particular skills and experiences, because they will really help paint a picture of who you are and what you can do.

Tip: Don’t just have answers ready.  Have examples.

#5 Prepare to be positive

Sometimes there’s a bad experience with an employer lurking on your CV.  Maybe you were only there for a few months before you quit or they fired you.  It’s tempting to want to fight for your reputation but an interview is not the place to do this.  Instead, if it comes up, be positive (but brief):

  • Acknowledge that it didn’t work out.
  • Explain what you learned from the experience (and what you might do differently next time)
  • Mention other jobs where it did work out for you.

Whatever you do don’t start attacking your former employer – you’ll just look like a troublemaker.

Tip: Got a bad experience in your past?  Don’t get all defensive – instead keep it positive (and short).

#6 Be prepared for the salary question

The interviewer might ask you what your salary expectation is or what you’re currently earning.  You don’t have to answer this.

The employer should have a budget and really if they’re interested they should come to you with an offer.

So if they hit you with this question you can respond that:

I’m really interested in this position and I think it would be a good opportunity for me but in terms of salary i’d like to see what you’re thinking of offering before i talk about salary in detail.

If you’re going through a headhunter it can help to talk about the range that you’re looking for – that way the headhunter can match you to appropriate jobs.

And that means you should have thought carefully about the salary level that you want, and the level you won’t go below, to make the switch to this job and this employer.  Also that way, if they make you an offer on the spot you’re ready to do the negotiation there and then.

Tip: Think about what you want for salary but be prepared to ask the employer to make the first move.

#7 Be prepared to ask your own questions

No one is expecting you to be an expert in a new employer’s business or products before you even join them, so it’s reasonable for you to ask some questions.

If you’ve done a good SWOT you might well have some great questions that can show your professionalism and approach should they employ you.

And sure you can ask about salary and benefits, in fact you should if they don’t bring it up, but a smart question about the company or the job is going to look good to the interviewer.

Tip: Good questions about their business make you look good.

#8 Why do you want the job?

Prospective employers love to hear that the job they have on offer is something that you really want to do.

Your reasons might be something like:

  • The salary is better
  • Their office is near your home
  • You like to travel (and this job involves travel)

These are valid reasons but the interview won’t be excited (and may even be disappointed) to hear them.

Tip: Think about why this job excites or interests you and why it is the right job for you at this stage of your career.

#9 Please answer this question: How can you help us?

Last but not least, the biggest tip of all:

Employers are not thinking of hiring you because they have an empty chair to fill, or a salary they have to pay or because they think you’re nice – they’re thinking of hiring you to get stuff done.

Think about what that is and how you can help them achieve it.

Maybe your answer is something like this:

I know [from my SWOT analysis] you’re facing more competition for students in this region but I think you can grow your business here by emphasising your [strengths] and taking advantage of these [opportunities].  And I think I’m the person to do it because of my [personal brand] and my particular [skills and experiences].

Tip: The interviewer may not ask you directly: How can you help us?  But be sure that that is what they want to know, so make sure you tell them.

Got any other tips?  We’d be please to hear from you so we can share with other candidates.