Anyone who says they don’t get nervous before an interview is either very lucky or lying. Even people who’ve done dozens of interviews will still say it’s the most stressful and demanding part of looking for a job.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to prepare. All interviews are unique and depend very much on the skills and demands of the interviewers. The format can vary, too: some interviews are one-to-one, some have more than one interviewer, and some include a group exercise (where interviewers observe the way candidates work together). You may also need to do a short test before your interview.

Don’t worry, though – most interviewers will let you know beforehand if they’d like you to take part in any tests or group discussions. And whatever the format of your interview, it is possible to prepare yourself for the process. What’s more, if you do the groundwork, you’ll feel more confident and perform better at interview than someone who relies on a “spur-of-the-moment” approach.

Before you start… know what employers are looking for

While no two interviews are exactly the same, every employer will want to find out whether:

  • you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job
  • your experience indicates that you can use these skills successfully
  • you have the right personality to do the job, and would fit into their organisation

It’s important to keep these points in mind when you’re preparing for the interview, and during the interview itself. If all your answers to their questions focus on these three things, you’ll do just fine!

8 ways to prepare for an interview

  1. Do your research. Find out more online about the company you’re applying to work for, and make sure you have some key facts to tell your interviewer if prompted, such as the company’s history, or their key values.
  2. Make sure you’ve identified the key skills needed for the job. It’s always useful to read the job description, person specification and your own application a few times to help you to identify what skills and attributes the employer is looking for. If you know someone who works for the same company, or even someone who works in a similar role, you could ask them, too. Prepare some STAR examples to demonstrate how you’ve met these requirements in past roles, or outside of work. Remember, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Most of your answers should follow this format, explaining a situation you found yourself in, the task required of you, the action you took to complete the task, and the direct results of your actions.
  3. Prepare some answers to common interview questions, such as “Tell me about yourself and why you’re right for this role” and “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”. They may sound cliché, but these are still asked very regularly in interviews!
  4. Plan your travel carefully. Look up the exact location of your interview and decide what route to take to make sure you arrive in plenty of time. Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes early, so you can relax and get your thoughts in order before you go into your interview. If you’re feeling anxious about travelling, try doing a practice run the day before the interview.
  5. Practise your entrance. First impressions count, so your posture, greeting, smile and general demeanour can have a huge impact on your interviewers. If possible, ask a friend, your employment advisor or a member of your family to stage a “mock” interview and give you feedback on your performance.
  6. Prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview. Asking about opportunities for progression, what a standard day working for the organisation is like or what the employer’s favourite part of their job is shows that you are really interested in working with them, and can help get a conversation going and build rapport.
  7. Decide what you’re going to wear in advance of your interview. Wear something very smart, and make sure it’s washed and ironed the night before.
  8. Be your best self! Be friendly and warm with the employer, start a conversation with them and build a good rapport. Remember, there’s more to you than just your experience- show that you’re a human being that they would want to work with.