Let’s prepare your stage entrance!
Here are the essential steps for preparing to succeed at a job interview:
Deepen your knowledge of the job and the company. List a few questions you’d like to ask the recruiter.
Prepare your presentation pitch: the next chapter will detail this exercise.
Identify questions the recruiter will probably ask you and practise answering them, including preparing concrete examples.
Work on your image: your appearance and attitude.
Prepare the documents and equipment needed for the interview, just like when you used to prepare your school bag the day before going back to school!
Step 1: Deepen your knowledge of the job
Once again, you’re going to immerse yourself in the different information collected about the job and the company.
Review the job offer and your cover letter
Sometimes, several weeks have passed since you wrote your cover letter and/or you have already applied for other jobs. Refresh your ideas and clear your mind to focus on this job! There’s no room for confusion – imagine talking with the recruiter about a job advertised by another company! You can’t afford this kind of mistake, and under stress, it’s easy to get things confused if you haven't prepared.
Assuming you're applying to several gigs or jobs at once, you'll have prepared a tracking chart to keep your applications straight. Refer to this chart and note the contacts, the dates, the tailored CV and cover letter you sent, and re-read the job offer. Double check that you understand it.
Look up company announcements
Now that you have an interview, it's a good idea to learn more about the company and the job offer. In addition to all the other sources of information already discussed, it's especially worthwhile at this stage to search for any company announcement that has been published since you last looked.
Analyse current recruitment
Have a look through the company's recruitment web page if you can find it or Google the name of the company with the word "vacancies".
If there are a lot of jobs posted, the company is probably expanding and prepared for mass recruiting. You will probably be dealing with a recruitment professional for the initial interview. They will question you about your career to date, your qualities, interest in the job and the company. At this stage, they won’t go into validating technical skills.
If only one or two jobs are advertised, it’s more likely you will be seen by your potential line manager! In this case, the interview will undoubtedly focus more on the business field, technical skills, work organization, etc.
Look up the interviewer
If you know who will be interviewing you, look them up on the company's website, on LinkedIn, even on Google.
Understanding their role in the company could inform how you approach your interactions with this person, how you answer their questions and what questions you might ask them.
It also helps remind you that they are human too so you can relax! It might also open an opportunity to connect with them personally, which will encourage them to see you as a potential colleague.
Prepare to talk about the job and the company
Try to imagine yourself in the interview and prepare the words and phrases you’ll want to use. Working from the keywords you have highlighted, summarise the job offer in your own words.
Learn everything you can. However, do be selective and summarise! One-two minutes is enough when answering either or these questions. The aim is to show your interest, not to tell them what they already know. 😉
If the recruiter doesn’t ask you the question, it doesn't mean they're not paying attention to your understanding of the job or the company. Having prepared what to say in response to these hypothetical questions, you’ll be able to understand the information they give you, respond to other questions in a relevant way, and be prepared to ask pertinent and interesting questions of your own.
I suggest you write what you have understood in 5–10 lines:
The company, its geographical and hierarchical organizations
Its business: products, customer base, market, partners and competitors
Its development projects, key issues, corporate social responsibility commitments
How it communicates its values and the image it wants to portray (on its website, blog, social media, advertising campaigns, etc.)
If you are a customer, give some thought to what you think of this company as a customer, what you like about it.
Standard questions to ask the recruiter
Take advantage of this activity to prepare a few questions to ask the recruiter. These questions should enable you to clarify certain details concerning the job, the company, or its development plans.
For example, depending on the information you have already gathered:
What are the company’s development plans over the months ahead?
What are your priorities for expansion abroad?
Of the missions described in the job offer, which ones have priority?
Which tools do you use?
How is the team made up?
How is the selection process organized?
When will this recruitment campaign be closed?
What is the next step?
Step 2: Prepare your presentation pitch
The pitch is a smart and effective presentation about yourself that will allow the recruiter to quickly understand your assets.
To prepare for this short speech - lasting only a few minutes - select the best information about yourself including impactful points and examples of your experience. In a way, see it as your advertisement slot! It has to convince the recruiter that you are someone they can’t do without.
We'll have a closer look at preparing this all-important pitch in the next chapter.
Step 3: Anticipate questions
After preparing your pitch, put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. What questions would you ask to get to know the candidate well enough to believe they'll succeed in the role?
Who is this applicant really? What are their key assets? How can they have managed a team when they’ve just finished their education? Why did they go to Japan and how long did they stay there? What is their level of Spanish really like?
Your professional story must be coherent
Are there any “holes” in your CV? If so, be ready to explain them, ideally in a positive light!
Does your career progress logically with regards to your qualifications, experience, and acquired skills? If it doesn't, be prepared to show the recruiter the guiding principle running through all your experience.
Be reassured that “linear” career paths without any gaps, crossroads and changes in direction are increasingly rare! The employment market is no longer like that, and attitudes have generally evolved to value diversity in work experience.
Nowadays, people work in different countries, take a year off, get sacked only to bounce back better or go back to school at any age or stage in life.
We have all encountered difficult crossroads at times. You just need to know how to analyse and present them. Don’t defend yourself - you are not "guilty" of anything. It’s your story, so own it! 😎
In any case, it's vital to train yourself to tell a story that is both coherent and sincere:
Explain the reasons for the changes: you left certain situations that were complicated or perhaps harmful for you.
Explain how and in what context you came to choose this direction. In this way, you will be showing who you are, your courage in the face of certain difficulties, your ability to question yourself appropriately, to adapt to different situations.
Explain the ways in which this experience enabled you to grow, and in particular, what you learned about yourself.
Examples of questions to prepare for
What interests you the most/least in the job being offered?
How do you see your field developing?
Can you give more details of some specific experiences? The skills developed? The results achieved (figures, deliverables, etc.)?
How did your last contract finish (end of fixed-term contract, dismissal, etc.)?
What obstacles have you encountered in carrying out each mission?
What attracts you to us?
What are your salary expectations? Your hopes for progression?
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Do you have any other offers in the pipeline?
Practise your answers
Remember it's not enough to simply identify questions the recruiter might ask: you must prepare answers.
This is not a question of memorising what to say, but rather one of brainstorming, having concrete examples ready and practising!
You may want to try drafting potential answers, practising in front of the mirror or role-playing with someone. This will reduce the risk of either having nothing to say or rambling.
Step 4: Work on your image
Being successful at a job interview isn’t only about your professional experience; it also depends on your attitude and behaviour. The recruiter will be observing you, building an understanding of who you are, analysing your reactions. They also want to assess if you’re a good fit for the company and its culture!
Before the interview
Practising your pitch and your answers to potential questions is not just about deciding what to say, it's also about optimising how you'll present yourself:
Don’t speak too quickly
Tell your story so it flows smoothly and sounds spontaneous
How to dress?
Have you examined the company’s website? Often there are photos on the “Jobs” or “About us” page that show the work environment, the management and staff members. You might even find videos.
Aim for an equivalent style of dress, but be careful: clean, well-ironed clothes, not too casual! Avoid t-shirts and revealing clothing. When in doubt, understand that it's not a problem to show up dressed a little more formally than the employees working there.
Don’t force yourself to wear a women’s suit and high heels or suit and tie if you don't normally wear them or if no one dresses that way in this workplace. Dress for the position. If you’re applying for a senior management job, you’ll want to appear more elegant than if it was a position as a developer.
During the interview
Here too, pay attention to behaviour, and win over the recruiter!
Be attentive to your entrance:
Be punctual: arrive at the right place, at the right time.
Prepare your first sentence for arriving (you may be greeted by a receptionist); for example, "Hello, my name is _, I'm here for an interview with Mrs X / Mr Y" or "I'm here for an interview for the _ position".
Prepare your first sentence for the interviewer; for example, “Hello Mrs X / Mr Y, thank you for seeing me”.
Be conscientious of your handshake: you mustn’t crush the other person’s hand, but your handshake must be clear-cut, firm, and dynamic!
Maintain eye contact with the recruiter, and smile.
Likewise, pay attention to your exit:
Summarise the points on which you are in agreement: “I’ll get back to you next week”, “I am available”, and yes, sometimes you may decide to withdraw your application.
Thank the recruiter for their time and their interest in your application. Say “Goodbye” as courteously and positively as you said “Hello”! Practise in the mirror saying hello to test your look and your smile! 🙂
Step 5: Prepare documents
People rarely arrive at an interview empty-handed.
Ask the recruiter what you need to bring to the interview. It may be a physical portfolio of your completed projects, your laptop or other equipment needed for tests or validating skills, etc.
Generally, it will be useful to take a copy of the job offer and your notes from the phone interview or the e-mails already received:
Print out at least the job offer, your CV and your cover letter.
Plan to collate all your notes onto a single sheet – don’t hesitate to summarise them.
Also take with you:
An ID – otherwise you risk not making it past a potential security check!
Something to take notes with: a pen and pad.
Your diary – this may mean updating the calendar on your smartphone with any dates and events that will influence your availability for a follow-up interview.
For certain interviews, it may be necessary to take:
Your most recent qualifications in order to prove you actually obtained them – take the originals.
A list of three references with e-mail and phone contact details (Contact them ahead of time! They could include a former line manager, an HR manager, colleagues, teachers, or partners with whom you have worked).
Your passport, visa and or other travel, residence or work documents.
Let's take a closer look at the second step, preparing your pitch!