There are plenty of books out there with tips about what to wear at an interview and even how to answer awkward questions. But there is some preparation that very few people do, and it is perhaps the most critical if you want to actually enjoy your next job.
1. What are the values of the organisation? I don’t mean the corporate values statement they put on their website. I mean the values that actually determine behaviour. Spend some time inside the organisation, talk to anyone you know who has ever worked there, scour the internet or even pretend to be a customer. This will give you some insight in to what the company believes in.
2. Who is interviewing you? Gone are the days when you just turn up and field questions. These people are going to be part of your lives for many months or years. “Fit” is more important on a day to day basis than employee benefits.
3. Know what you are looking for. In the past you might have left out the fact that you didn’t really like paperwork (when the job was primarily administrative) or said that your work was your life (when really your life is snowboarding). Any job can seem attractive when you want to move on, but you’ll soon realise you’ve made a mistake if you disrespect your own needs.
4. Walk the talk. It is a cliche I know, but make sure your actions are consistent with your words. You will be judged as much by what you do as what you say so if you are going to claim that you are a great listener, make sure to listen.
5. Have ideas. What are the company’s plans for the future? What projects is it involved in? Has it been in the news recently? What is going on in the industry? Demonstrating that you know the context and that you have opinions and ideas will mark you out as a leader. Don’t be controversial for the sake of it but demonstrate an interest and enthusiasm for the bigger picture.
6. Be rounded. The most successful people I have met have a broad life beyond work, television and “having dinner with friends”. Whilst you don’t want to appear as though your work is an after-thought, most employers will appreciate time you have spent travelling, working in the community, a talent you’ve developed or a passion. Think about what these say about you and how that adds value to the organisation you hope to join.
7. Know where you are going and how you will get there. I couldn’t leave this one out even though it is so obvious. Do a trial run if you aren’t too sure how long it will take. Have back-up phone numbers and a back-up travel plan in case the train is delayed or your car won’t start. Everything you do has meaning to a prospective employer. If you are the only one who made it in despite a tube strike, you’ll get the job!
8. What’s the worst question they could ask you? There is probably something you would rather not talk about. Be prepared for a question about it.
9. Interview as well as being interviewed. Even if you have done your homework, you will probably have questions or subjects you want to explore. Whilst you won’t want to sound pompous, it is fine to ask about aspects of the company which interest you and which will help you decide whether this is the right company for you.
10. Bring a notebook and a pen. You may have questions you don’t want to forget but you may also discover information in the interview you want to remember later. This is particularly important if you get nervous. Chances are you won’t have to refer to it, but knowing it is there will help you stay calm. And no employer is going to mind if you say “Actually, I gave some thought to that before I came today and I’ve made some notes”.