A non-corporate guide on how to prepare for an interview

  • May 16, 2019

Ive had countless chats recently with candidates who, despite being very smart, seem to struggle to nail an interview. I thought I’d write my thoughts/experiences on perhaps some of the stuff I couldn’t seem to find online. One of the issues is that most people have been to a heap of interviews in their time, so think that they are across everything below.. and they’re not (or even worse, they think they’re amazing at them and then come across as arrogant).

Im sure after University or relevant experience in another role, you’d be disappointed in not getting hired for the role you want for something trivial or is completely within your control?

9 times out of 10, you’re just given a job description, which alone is probably not enough to make you feel comfortable and get a grip on what’s really going on in that business. Chances are, that’s all you’ve read. Your recruiter should really have given you more than this so you’re prepared.

On the day, if your interviewer looks at you, first question and says; ‘Why do you want to work here?’, what are you going to say? I bet you don’t know, yet. The likelihood is, that won’t happen, but it’s a great question to be prepared for…. You could almost say, it’s the only real question to prepare for.

Now some people will say ‘but I (the candidate) am interviewing them just as much as the business is me’ – and you’d be right, to a certain degree. But at the end of the day – you’re the one after a salary and if you’re really not that keen on the business and what they do, should you be at that interview?

Also, if this interview is just 1 of 5 you’re attending that week and you haven’t felt the desire to prepare properly – again, ask yourself the same question.

In terms of what to prepare; The chances are I (or another recruiter / hiring manager), should have already sent you some info on;

·     A job description

·     The culture / history of the business

·     Their tech stack (if IT / software development based)

·     What’s going on there, project wise?

·     Why is this role live?

Aside from the job description, some things that will really help you feel prepared would be more about the bigger picture of the business. You will feel a lot more calm and relaxed (in my experience) if you know about the history of the business and its people, rather than just a job description.

Find out;

·     How old is the company?

·     How many staff in total and in the team your role is within?

·     Do you know how the company make money?

·     Do you know their products/service?

·     Do you actually know what they do?

I shouldn’t really feel the need to write that last bullet point – but there have been countless times where I’ve quizzed candidates and they couldn’t give me a proper answer on what the business did.

Job Descriptions; In some cases, a job description will be old – an old spec that’s spat from HR but actually dated 2012 or something (especially in larger firms) – so make sure you ask your recruiter that its current.

I personally write culture/tech documents on any business I recruit for, that accompany a job description. These are documents with general info on the business and any links from Youtube, or Linkedin I can find, as well as their current situation/why they’re hiring.

It’s important that you have read and understood more than just a job description (which in most cases, is a bit of a wish list). Once you have a deeper understanding of the business and their history, you’ll feel a lot more prepared.


Linkedin; Look up the person interviewing you on Linkedin, look at their background. Also look at their co-workers that you might meet or end up working with?

Press releases / media / Youtube; This is really important. The chances are there is information on this company online, in the press or even better – some of their employees talking at an event on Youtube. Also, a lot of companies will have a culture / ‘join us’ video on youtube too – watch them! It’s a great way to see some of the staff talking. Other areas would be the ‘about us’ section of their site. I personally am a visual person – I learn much better through video and watching one of the companies videos and their staff actually talking is absolute gold in helping you prepare.

Wear smart / casual clothes. In most cases these days, a suit / tie is a little overkill, unless it’s a bank perhaps. I say a collared shirt with smart shoes and trousers is fine for a male, same smart/casual rules apply for a female.

The journey; Have you planned how you are getting there yet? Train, public transport, etc?  Are you sure of the address? Do you have the mobile number of who you’re meeting incase you’re late/lost?

Get there 5-10 mins early, ideally.. Obviously.

Don’t go empty-handed. What sort of impression do you think it makes turning up with your hands in your pockets? Taking a laptop or ipad, with some questions prepared is a really great way to show you’ve come prepared and care about the next hour. I feel personally if you arrive to an interview empty-handed and with no questions prepared, it could create the impression you’re not overly bothered..

Eye contact / semi firm handshake. I personally am not keen on a limp handshake at all – its annoying and i’m sure i’m not alone on this, either from a male or a female. If you can’t look them in the eye, you’re probably nervous. If you’re nervous, you haven’t prepared properly. (However if nerves is something you cannot shake, please drop me an email)

Limp handshakes; Don’t do it – this is just my take on it. Shaking hands, as everyone knows, can be a bit of a minefield. Try to match the other person’s grip, give eye contact and smile! First impressions count and most people actually take it as rude if you’re not willing to shake hands properly (just being real here).

First impressions;  The most important part of a job interview is the beginning. That’s when you have an opportunity to make a great impression – or a poor one, on your interviewer. Some say they know within the first 30 seconds or so whether the person has a shot at getting hired.

I personally hate to see smart people, who have degrees and relevant experience, not get hired because of first impressions (or they have bad breath, or a limp handshake)..

Personal hygiene; I think for me personallybad breath and long/dirty fingernails are some of the more common issues I encounter. This really comes down to common sense and the fact that generally, first impressions count. Personal hygiene and the handshake, are totally in your control and easy to accomplish.

Don’t go into the interview chewing gum – spit it out before you get there or use mouthwash prior!

Mobile phone; On silent, left in your pocket or face down on the table.

Do you have any questions for us? Is a fairly common question. There’s an underlying part here, whereby even though you may ask something fairly basic, its all about registering your interest. Try to have at least 1 question in your mind. If you’re not keen to find out a few things about them, it could leave them thinking ‘how keen are you, really?’.. not always – but sometimes.

Why are you looking to leave your current role? Do not slag off your current manager or team members, even if you hate them lol! Most interviewers are fairly smart and know that there are 2 sides to every story, but, be positive and try to speak highly of your current workplace. Im not telling you to lie, but, try and put a positive spin on things. In most cases, your current workplace has provided you with a salary and been a stepping stone in your career, so try to focus on that.

To re-iterate; As I mentioned earlier, the one question I want you to prepare for; If the interviewer looks at you and ask why you want to work there, what are you going to say? Chances are, they wont be that mean and try to catch you out, but you need to have those answers, otherwise why are you there?

Some good questions to prepare the night before could be;

• Can you tell me more about the project?

• From your guys perspective – what are the painpoints at the moment/What value can I add to help? / What are the issues at the moment?

• What’s the culture like here?

• What’s the stack that you need most / technology?

• Are there any opportunities to learn / play with new technology?

• What do you guys do for fun?

Please let me know you understand all this and it’s all clear and feel free to drop me a line.

Wishing you the best of luck in your future interviews!

Email; nick@tekfinder.io