A successful interviewee demonstrates planning, focus and enthusiasm. Researching the job and the company, and thinking in advance about possible questions and answers, will help prepare you to perform well in any interview.
- Research the job
There are two good reasons for learning what a job entails: to be well informed at an interview and to find out what you will be doing if appointed!
Most employers will have a section on their website with information for potential employees, including the competencies they are looking for. If the job description and person specification isn’t available, call the company and ask. The HR department are used to such a question so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask. Be prepared to make a thorough search to gather the information you need.
- Research the company
Researching the company before an interview will make you better prepared to ask and answer questions. Preparation really positively shows!
As a minimum, you should look at the website for the organisation. What is its mission? Look on the company's website for a mission statement or marketing strapline. What are its values? Look for information about its customer service standards, for example. Is there anything distinctive about its company culture?
Be prepared for questions about the sector in which the organisation operates. Who are its main competitors? What market issues is it currently facing? Why are you applying for this company in the sector? These questions apply to public sector organisations as well as to commercial companies.
Other useful sources of information include:
- Other graduate employees
- Academic staff
- The TU Delft Career Centre Team
- Professional press
- Careers/recruitment fairs
- Company presentations/social media
- Company reports and accounts, brochures
- Trade and business directories
- Network contacts
- Logistics of interviews
Knowing what is going to happen on the day, and where, will help you arrive on time, properly prepared and in the right place.
- Can you visit the site before your interview to time how long it takes to get there?
- Will you be travelling in rush hour traffic?
- Does the company operate on more than one site, and do you know which one to go to?
- If you are attending an academic interview, which campus and building do you need?
- Have you a location map and a number to phone in case you get lost or are unavoidably delayed?
You may receive special instructions with your invitation to interview. Make sure you are happy with all the arrangements and check anything you are unsure about. For example, do you need to arrive early to sit any tests? Are you required to give a presentation?
Things to ask about if you are making a presentation:
- What technology is available?
- Is a laptop provided?
- Is there an internet connection?
- Can you bring your presentation on a memory stick?
- Do they need your presentation in advance?
- What to wear
How you look on the day will affect how you are perceived. Suitable interview dress depends on the type of job and organisation, but there are some things that are generally considered inappropriate.
A good general rule is to dress as smartly as you can without feeling uncomfortable. Another good measure is to dress a little smarter than the people who already have a similar role in the organisation. Whatever you choose to wear, look clean and tidy.
If you have visible piercings or tattoos you will know that some people use them to make assumptions about you. It is up to you to judge what is appropriate for the organisation you want to work for, and whether you are prepared to compromise on your appearance.
- Assess yourself and practise!
Thinking in a structured way about your past and upcoming interviews will help you be prepared, confident and effective.
Reflecting on your previous performance is a good way of preparing for future interviews. You may already have been interviewed for a part or full time job, work experience, voluntary work, or a university course. Were you well prepared? What went well? What could you improve?
Although there is nothing like the real thing, practising answers to potential interview questions will help you recall answers and examples in the interview itself. Knowing that you can do it in a practice session will give you confidence on the day itself. It will also build your belief in your ability to do the job. And if your research and preparation have been through enough, there should not be too many surprises.
Practising out loud will help you to hear if your answers 'sound right'. You are welcome to book a mock interview with the TU Delft Career Centre. It will give you good practice in a safe environment and with objective feedback and advice.