What is the Best Way to Prepare for an Interview? (Part Two)

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

In Part One of this series we took a look at interview preparation by considering our confidence and nervousness before the event. This time we’re considering the importance of know what we want to get from an interview and we’ll also be looking at how we might dress for an interview.

It’s fair to say that most people think an interview is a one-way process. I.e. the interview ‘happens’ to the candidate. This is an old-fashioned way of looking at them. Interviews are very much a two-way process . Not only must the employer make sure that the candidate has the right skills, experience and personality to fit inside their organization, the candidate must also ensure the employer offers the right benefits, culture and progression opportunities.


So this is the deal; the better you prepare your own questions, understand your expectations and identify your desires from your potential employer then the better you will perform in the inteview and recognize if the job is right for you. If you don’t prepare then, in my experience, you are risking taking a job that you don’t like if you are offered it.

The effect of preparation comes through in interviews – I can always tell who has prepared and who hasn’t, as can any experienced recruiting manager. Evidence of preparation is a big plus for the candidate. The kind of things I look out for are:

  • Open questions that make me think – e.g. “What changes to your technology strategy will you make, in light of your organization’s decline in stock value?
  • Questions that discuss organizational culture – e.g. “What is the typical cultural response to change in your organization? “, or “How do people go about challenging something without making themselves vulnerable?
  • Questions that ask about long-term benefits and linkage to performance
  • Questions that involve current events in the organization, such as a restructure or product launch
  • Questions that reference key people in the organization, or key clients

(When preparing for the above two, a search of financial press websites always comes up trumps, such as the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times )

  • Questions that inquire about organizational structure and progression. E.g. “Is the organization a meritocracy, or is it more about skills and technical competence?
  • Questions that inquire about alignment of the candidate’s past experience to the current strategy of my organization
  • Questions involving personal sacrifices that may be expected, such as “Will I need to travel for long periods?

Basically, use the interview to seek very specific and very relevant answers to the things that matter most to you.No question should be too cheeky or too trivial if it is important. If you don’t find out now then you will regret it later.

OK, we’ll move onto how you might dress for an interview.

If you’ve seen my series of articles on As A Leader, Your Personality Is Everything , then you will know my views on why consistent behavior is an important aspect of leadership. The same is true here; successful candidates dress according to their personality.

Whether you think it’s right or not, there is still the powerful event of the first-impression. And people make so many judgments about us in those first few seconds. Within a few seconds, they will have decided from your body language and style of dress if you’re highly motivated, or easy-going, maverick, introverted, happy-go-lucky, etc. There are styles of dress that are expected of each personality type (only by social conditioning mind you). I believe it’s important to project your personality through you clothing so that people know what to expect from you.

I do suggest that you exercise caution though. Back in July I asked Is ‘Dress for Success’ Still Applicable in Today’s Business? and I concluded back then after research that it’s wise to dress according the norms in your organization. I still believe this to be true. As a candidate at an interview, though, how do you know what is ‘normal’ in that organization? Well I’ve known people who wait around to look at the people going into the workplace and find out the day before an interview! I don’t think that is necessary. Here’s what I think is the best approach.

Wear something that you think is comfortable and fits with your personality, but is also in the ‘middle ground’, e.g. a plain shirt and trousers. Then before you go into the interview, check out what other people are wearing. If it’s casual, then sling a denim jacket over your back, or whatever suits you. If it’s formal, then slip on a neck tie and/or jacket, and put your lunch in your briefcase (ladies too!). This tactic obviously requires some preparation and foresight, but it’s a winner. This way, you wear something comfy that fits your personality.

If you’re still unsure before you walk into the interview, it’s better to play safe and slip that neck-tie on (or whatever you have that you would class as ‘smart’.) You can always take something off when you’re in there, but it would look very odd if you put something on!

Next time we’ll be thinking about the ‘big day’ and to explore the great ways of getting over nerves and our anxiety of the performance.

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