How to Impress at Interview – Being Prepared

The more prepared you are for your interview, the more confident you’ll feel. Good preparation will help you answer questions, and come across as an enthusiastic and serious candidate. Give yourself enough pre-interview time for these essential preparation steps:

1. Research

Find out as much as you can about the company. Start with their website to research key personnel, when and where they were founded, and how they have grown since then. You’ll need to know about their products or services, as well as the markets they operate in. Try and find press releases that give information about their achievements and performance. Have they stated their company vision or corporate values? Who are their competitors? What are the wider industry trends which might affect the company both positively and negatively?

You probably won’t be quizzed on company history at the interview (though you might get a “Tell me what you know about our company” question) but as importantly, understanding the company and what it does will help you understand where your role fits, and how or why it’s important to overall company success.

2. Know your CV inside out

Any differences between what you’ve stated on your CV and what you say at interview will raise red flags. Dates and information must match exactly. Bear in mind, too, that whatever you write on your CV might come up as a question at interview, so make sure that everything you include will give you an opportunity to shine.

Read through your CV critically to predict questions about your background and to decide which parts will be useful for your “career stories”: the stories that show off key qualities, experience or skills that are relevant for the job you’re applying for.

See Answering the competency questions for more information on how to do this.

3. Practise answering questions

Get the basic questions right, and you’ll sound and feel more confident. You don’t want to appear  over-rehearsed, but you also want to avoid hesitation. Here are some introductory questions you’re likely to get, so make sure you can give a polished, confident answer to them.

4. Prepare questions of your own

Having a few, well-chosen questions to ask your interviewer shows your interest in the company. Don’t ask banal or “me” questions (i.e. about perks or benefits). Instead, focus on questions that highlight your desire to make a contribution to company success. Ask about priorities, the projects you’d be working on and the type of candidate the employer is looking for. Show your eagerness to fit in well by also asking about company culture and management styles.

5. Get a full briefing from your recruiter
Your recruiter can be a great source of information about the company – and  maybe even the interviewer.  You might be able to find out why this position has become vacant, what the key issues are for the company or department, or even get valuable insights into the interviewer’s particular interviewing style, likes and dislikes, etc. Take your recruiter’s advice seriously: it could make all the difference to your chances for interview success.


Clare Whitmell is a qualified business communication trainer and specialises in writing and presentation skills coaching. As well as regular contributions for Guardian Careers she also blogs CV writing and job hunting tips on