How to Prepare

A job interview can often feel like an exam. But bear in mind that you were invited to the interview because your application and CV have already suggested to the company that you are qualified for the job. However, this does not mean that you are guaranteed the job. If you want to be successful at your interviews you should begin preparing long before the interview date.


Learn more about the company

You have, of course, already studied the company when writing your application. But it may be a good idea to research the company even more or to refresh the information you have already gathered. At the interview, your knowledge of the company will show that you are thoroughly prepared and interested.

Prepare questions

You should also prepare some questions you can ask at the interview, for example about the working environment, challenges and scope for development. The questions can pertain to the position, the department and the company, such as the social life, the management style, the company's future plans, further training, career opportunities etc. If you do not think that it has been made clear enough in the interview, you can also ask about what kind of results you would be expected to deliver. Avoid asking too many questions about pay, pension, holidays etc. – you want to show that it is the job you are after, not the pay package. You might choose to make a list of your questions, but it is best if they come up naturally during the interview.

Clearly express your career wishes. Why do you really want this job, and what are your expectations? Also consider what you generally expect of a workplace. And you should consider your future career. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Practise

Make sure to re-read the job ad and your application carefully. Especially the parts where you argue that you are perfect for the position. Expect these areas to be covered in more detail during the interview. You may be asked to give three good reasons why they should hire you.

It is a really good idea to practise the questions you might be asked during the interview. Pretend you are an actor going on stage to perform. Imagine the questions and practise your answers. Say them out loud rather than in your mind – that will force you to string together complete sentences. When you prepare, it is a good idea to think about your life so that you can account for your choices. You need to have personal insight and an ability to describe yourself and your competences.

Professional qualifications

Prepare questions about your professional qualifications and your theoretical and practical background. You need to be able to justify our choice of education – why have you gone in the direction you have? You should also touch upon other professional experience you possess, possibly from work experience or extra-curricular courses.

You should not expect the interviewers to know your course of study and its content, so take care not to sound too technical. Explain what you have done and how it can be used in connection with the job in question. You should make an effort to show that you can utilise some of the qualifications you claim to possess. Therefore, avoid listing your qualifications, but rather provide examples. Talk about your results and reflect on what you have gained from these experiences. You could, for instance, talk about a difficult assignment you completed or a situation where you took the initiative. Think through your good stories and successes.

The negative sides

If, on the other hand, you have experienced negative situations, such as a dismissal, you can be sure that the interviewer will ask about it. You will not be disqualified just because you have been fired, but be prepared to explain why and what the reaction was. Never speak negatively about others – not even about a previous employer who may deserve it. If you talk about conflicts you have experienced, then give yourself part of the blame. It shows that you can reflect on your own performance.

Personal qualifications

In your stories, you can also incorporate your personal qualifications and highlight, e.g., your independence, your cooperation skills or your excellent ability to handle stress. If not, you can expect such questions to be asked. Interviewers are particularly interested in learning about your personal characteristics in relation to the position in question, and they will typically ask how you work with others, the role you play in a group, what you most enjoy working with and anything else that is relevant in relation to the position.

Interests and your private life

Personality is often strongly emphasised, so be prepared to talk about yourself, your private life and your interests. For instance what do you enjoy doing? The interviewer will generally want a complete picture of you as a person. While there are areas upon which an evaluation cannot legally be based – such as children, religious persuasion and political stance – these things will sometimes come up anyway. The interview may touch upon children and family life when you expand upon your flexibility and your attitudes towards overtime.

Three strengths and three weaknesses

Listing three strengths and three weaknesses, while practically a cliché, is still very useful. It shows your aptitude for personal reflection. The weaknesses are, naturally, always the most difficult. Avoid the banal "I am really bad at saying no to assignments". If you mention a semi-weakness, you can expect the interviewer to ask more questions and try to get you to go into more detail. You need to try to be honest without shooting yourself in the foot. You might name some weaknesses as areas with potential for improvement. Again, it is important to support your statements with examples.

Attire

Wear something presentable. Your attire should suit the company and the type of position. Find out whether they have a very informal atmosphere or whether they are a suit-and-tie company. When in doubt, dress up. You can usually come a long way with a classical, presentable outfit without overdoing it. For men, a button-down shirt and trousers – although jeans are not always appropriate. For women, take care not to dress too provocatively, avoid wearing too much perfume and jewellery – it can detract attention from your personality. Wearing a young and 'fresh' outfit can be risky. Above all, remember you should be yourself and feel comfortable in what you are wearing.

What to bring

It is a good idea to bring copies of your diploma and any letters of reference. The interviewers may not ask to see them, but at least you will have them with you just in case. You can also bring other things that may be relevant to the position, for example an article which you have had in a journal etc.