5 Top Tips to Prepare for an Interview

You’ve got an interview coming up but how do you prepare? You might have a million questions and/or worries running through your head – how do you present your best self? What should you wear? What if you don’t know how to answer a question? What questions should you ask at the end? The list is probably endless – right?

It’s perfectly natural to worry about an interview, in fact, we’d go as far as to say that the majority of people will feel some sort of nervousness. So, let’s take a breath together and help you prepare to do your best – and remember that’s all you can do, your best.

1. Be prepared

You’re reading this article so that’s a step in the right direction already! So, we probably don’t need to tell you this, but being prepared is key. You can do this by researching the company, the role, re-reading the job description and perhaps taking a look at their social media pages or news coverage. Think about what your key strengths, skills and qualities are that are particularly relevant to this role and some good examples that highlight these.

Top Tip: If you’re not sure about your top strengths and skills, remember to make use of My World of Work’s Strengths Quiz and Skills Explorer.

2. Listen to the question

Listening to the question and what the interviewer is asking you may sound simple, but in an interview situation you might be surprised at how often people don’t actually answer the question. Preparing answers for questions can be helpful, but it can mean you fall into the trap of using a response you have prepared that doesn’t actually answer the question you’re being asked.

Top Tip: Remember that it’s OK to pause and think about your answer before launching into it.

Some potential employers may provide the questions in advance, which will give you time to prepare and make sure you’re answering the question. If this is the case, you could even practice with someone else and get their feedback on whether you’re answering the question.

3. Be specific

It’s easy to panic when you get asked a question, but the most important thing is to be specific. Try not to waffle but also make sure you go into enough detail to really answer the question and show off your key strengths and skills. One really great way to do this is the STAR method. This means structuring your answer so that you share the:

  • Situation – set the scene and describe the situation you were in
  • Task – what tasks were involved in this situation?
  • Action – what steps did you take to address the situation?
  • Result – what happened as a result of the steps you took? Did you learn anything from this experience or maybe is there anything you’d do differently next time?
Top Tip: It might be useful to think about a couple of examples from your work, volunteer or school experiences that you could prepare in advance and use in an interview to adapt for different questions.

4. Ask questions

At the end of a lot of interviews, you will normally get a chance to ask any questions you have. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the role, the organisation and also whether you want to work for them (remember this is a two-way process). There are no right or wrong questions to ask here, but it’s a great opportunity to find out more so try not to pass it up! You can ask things like:

  • What does a typical day in this role look like?
  • Who will the role be reporting to and who else is in the team?
  • What would the first 30 days look like for the successful candidate?
  • Can you tell me about the working culture in this organisation?
Top Tip: You can prepare a few questions in advance but remember questions might arise from discussion in your interview – you could jot them down or mentally store them for the end!

5. Try to relax and be yourself

We know this is easier said than done, but try to relax if you can. Breathing exercises, mindfulness activities or coping strategies can all help you to relax before your interview. Try to understand what helps you feel best prepared and relaxed, that might be getting a good night's sleep before, practicing with a friend or family member or doing some meditation. What works for someone won’t necessarily work for someone else, so finding what works for you is important and it might take trying a few different things out to work out what’s best for you.

Top Tip: Remember that whatever happens with this interview, you got an interview and that is a success in itself.

The My World of Work website has plenty more tips to help you prepare, including information about how to sell yourself in an interview and how to talk about your achievements and goals. Remember Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has a whole range of careers advice and support you can access via your school’s careers service, the SDS helpline or through local careers centre too. You’re not alone when it comes to preparing for an interview and you also won’t be the only one feeling the way you do.

We’ve got our fingers crossed for you – good luck!

To find out more about career advice and information, take a look at the Scottish Careers Week page.