how to prepare for a job interview

The job interview is one of the most important steps in your job search journey, this is your chance as a job seeker to show the hiring manager or recruitment company that you are the right person for the job. Knowing how to prepare for a job interview is a vital step in your job search journey to secure a job.

how to prepare for a job interview

The job interview is one of the most important steps in your job search journey, this is your chance as a job seeker to show the hiring manager or recruitment company that you are the right person for the job. Knowing how to prepare for a job interview is a vital step in your job search journey.

The day before the interview - Preparing for the job interview
  • Ensure that you have correct directions and physical address and venue - request a map from the recruitment agency or potential employer.
  • Make a note of the person/s who is/are interviewing you, their designations as well as their contact details
  • Request details of the job vacancy/position to prepare yourself for the interview
  • Request the website address of the potential employer in order to do research regarding the organization
Make sure your outfit for the interview is ready.

The day before your interview make sure that the outfit you have selected is clean and ironed. Select clothing that you feel comfortable in, the clothing and manner in which you present yourself to the potential employer will reflect an aspect of your personality. Interview preparation includes your wardrobe as first impressions are lasting impressions!

Basic guidelines for clothing choices for an interview:

  1. Men - dark suite, white shirt, tie. Try to avoid wearing very busy and vibrant colours.
  2. Ladies - Dress, shirt or loose fitting pants with a jacket.
  3. Look neat and clean, it gives an air of efficiency.
  4. A good haircut can do wonders for one's image.
  5. Don't overdo the after-shave or perfume.

Not all working environment's are the same, if unsure ask upfront what the dress code of the organization generally is. Most times a tie and jacket are not necessary, the best option is always dark slacks with a white shirt. 

Dressing for success - How can you as the job seeker dress to suit the interview?

We were always taught never to judge a book by its cover, but what happens if you can only see the cover? Dressing for success is an important facet of an interview, at the risk of sounding fickle, how you go about dressing for an interview does have an impact. Dressing for success in respect of an interview would require a neat appearance, leaving buttons undone or arriving with a skew tie would not define dressing for success at the interview in this context. 

In dressing for success in your interview, you should try to eliminate the preconceptions about first impressions. If you as the job seeker is overly concerned about the way you have dressed during your interview, there is less focus on the job interview itself, which is essentially more important! Take the time to consider what defines dressing for success, both from your own perspective and that of the prospective employer.

conduct research on the company where you will be interviewing

Who is the company/ Prospective employer

Important general questions to research during your job interview preparations should include:

  • What is the core business of the potential employer/organization?
  • Who are the strategic clients of the potential employer/organization?
  • Has there been any publicity around the organization lately that you as the job seeker should be aware of?
  • Is the organization involved in any form of social responsibility projects?
Research the company/organizational culture

Different organizations have different cultures and work ethics, this has an influence on dressing for your interview. Research on the company culture will give you additional insight into the organization, which you can not only use in the interview but it will give you an idea of what would be appropriate to wear when you attend the interview.

If the potential employer and company are conventional in nature, it becomes apparent that dressing for an interview would be more traditional and business like. An organization that encourages creativity and risk taking, might lend itself toward a completely different focus.

questions about the job that the job seekers can prepare for the interview

During interview preparation, think about questions that might be important to your specific interests, skills and requirements:

Interview question examples:

  • Is overtime required in the job?
  • What computer skills are required?
  • What other technologies are currently being used by the company?
  • What learning opportunities on new technologies exist?
  • What are the technology plans for the future?
  • What interaction with customers - internal or external are required?
  • What workflow systems are in place?
  • Does the organization have a flexi-time policy?
  • what is the direct reporting structure of the position?
  • What is the team size and how many teams are in the department?
  • The size of the division you will be working in?
  • What are your opportunities for a career path or career growth?
  • What is the company group structure (subsidiaries and holding company)?
  • Who are the main competitors in the market?
  • Where is the company heading e.g. what is its strategic direction?

And many more... Remember, you interview preparation is just as important as the interview itself!

Qualities prospective employers will be looking for

As part of your interview preparation is to think about the qualities that the prospective employer will be looking for, possibly:

  • Responsibility
  • honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Initiative
  • Drive
  • Attitude

In summary, the potential employer will be looking for a job seeker that would be an asset to their organization. Think about how you as the job seeker can convey these qualities during your interview. Additionally during your interview preparation ensure that you prepare for possible behavioural questions.

What is a behavioural question?

A behavioural question is one that asks the interviewee for an example of a specific time when a certain behaviour or skill has been applied. The underlying philosophy is  'past behaviour predicts future behaviour'. Think of actual examples that support your skills and knowledge and how you wish to portray yourself during the job interview to the potential employer.

  • Professional
  • Self-motivated
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Prefer working alone
  • Fast learner
  • Attention to detail
  • Conservative
  • Positive attitude
  • Making things happen
  • Ability to work unsupervised
  • Leadership abilities

the day of the interview

What to do on the day of the interview:
Do on the day of the interview:
  • Ensure that you arrive on time for your interview
  • Before the interview, take a deep breath and try to relax!
  • Remember to put your cellphone off before the interview
  • Practice positive thinking and remind yourself of your successes to date
  • Acknowledge your worth and the value that you could contribute towards the organization
  • Introduce yourself clearly. Do give a firm handshake without overdoing it
  • Keep a good posture, body language and good eye contact
  • Have a positive attitude. Show confidence and maintain poise and SMILE
  • Be assertive without trying to dominate
  • You may show ambition but be careful not to make the interviewer feel threatened about their own position
  • Don't express strong prejudices or any personal intolerance
  • Don't repeat yourself during the interview
  • Don't waffle
  • DO NOT chew gum
  • DO NOT smoke before the interview

Get to the interview on time!  Arrive at your interview earlier than planned to ensure that you will be there on time, regardless of how sympathetic the potential employer may be to the fact that you had a puncture, it is virtually impossible to overcome a negative first impression. Should you at any point in time not be able to make the interview for whatever reason, remember it is of utmost importance that you phone the interviewer(s) as well as the recruitment agency to make alternative arrangements, not 5 minutes before, at least a day before.

The first 5 minutes of your job interview matter the most.

The first 5 minutes of your job interview matter the most, this is your chance to make a good impression immediately.

How long does a job interview last?

Some say only 5 minutes, regardless of the actual length of the interview.

why is the first 5 minutes the most important?

The first 5 minutes of your interview are crucial, if you as the job seeker have not presented yourself in a credible and professional manner during these first 5 minutes, it is going to be difficult to regain the interviewers interest in you and your resume.


Within the first 5 minutes of the job interview, you as the job seeker would need to convince the interviewer that:

  • You are a capable and professional employee
  • You are a serious contender for the job
  • You are in control of yourself and the job interview

The interviewer will have noted during the first 5 minutes of the job interview the following:

  • Your appearance
  • How you have introduced yourself
  • Your posture and composure
  • Your eye contact
  • Aspects about your personality and who you are

Think about the impression that is formed in a person's mind based on the information mentioned above. All this information and analysis within the first 5 minutes of a job interview!

How important are the first 5 minutes of the job interview?

Interviewers and potential employers are interested in finding and securing job seekers that are competent and able to present themselves in a professional and capable manner during the job interview. Spend time practicing what you are going to do and say during the first 5 minutes of your job interview. It is important that you make a great impression that would even impress yourself.


During your interview, you need to get the right information across to the potential employer in a concise and clear style.


Use as few words a possible to provide maximum information during the interview. Don't mumble or fall over your own words. Try to relax and speak clearly.


An important interview tip to remember is that short and direct sentences help your prospective employer understand your skills and experience, they don't become bogged down by unnecessary information conveyed during the interview. Understandably easier said than down, however bear it in mind and think before you speak.


Listen intently to the interviewer when he or she asks questions. Don't become so focused on what you want to convey during the interview that you forget to concentrate on the interview questions being asked. You wouldn't want to have to ask the interviewer to keep repeating the questions (unless of course you don't understand the interview question) or even worse give an incorrect or irrelevant interview answer.


During the interview, your attitude and demeanor are as important during the interview as the response to the interview questions. It is essential to be professional and focused as well as friendly and enthusiastic, try to convey this in your interview responses. No one wants to employ someone with no personality, regardless of their qualifications.

clarify your resume - don't repeat it

During the interview, don't just repeat your resume but highlight important facts or, even better, give examples to describe the extent and range of your experience.

Most important aspect of your work experience

Think about what the most important aspect of your work experience is. Imagine if, during the interview your forgot to mention the most critical aspect of your work experience. When discussing your work experience, ensure that you cover the what's, the how's and the breadth and scope of your experiences during the job interview.

What occurred? Did you improve the:

  • Systems
  • Productivity
  • Morale etc.

In the workplace?

Perhaps you as the employee refined technological tools, created programs, or organized procedures. Tell your interviewer what occurred. An important interview tip mentioned above is to use brief examples to describe your experience whenever possible.

  • How much and how many?
  • Did you implement new projects?
  • How many?
  • Did you meet the budget?
  • How much time did the project take to complete?
  • Don't forget percentages, numbers and degrees that can apply

reason for leaving or resigning

Should you be asked your reason for leaving or resigning from your previous employer, remember that you as a job seeker should never run down a previous employer no matter what. Bad mouthing a previous employer will not buy you any points, always talk about the real reasons for leaving or resigning such as:

  • Wanting greater opportunities
  • Looking for new challenges
  • Needing a change in career path
  • Working with modern technologies
  • Ready for greater responsibilities
  • Wanting to work for a bigger or smaller company
  • Wanting to make a difference in a company
  • Desire to grow and gain exposure on how other organizations do business

The Interview - the Interviewer

An interview is about the exchange of information, the definition of an interview is a meeting of people face to face for consultation. The interviewer needs to know more about you, you as the job seeker need to know more about the organization as well as the interviewer as your potential manager and employer.

An interview is generally a formal process, each interview having its own style. Some styles may be less formal than others, if you are well prepared you as the job seeker should easily adapt to whichever style of interview you are faced with.

Don't be disillusioned if you are not able to gauge a reaction of the interviewer. The more experienced interviewers will generally not give anything away during an interview, the best thing for you to do as the job seekers is to be prepared and give it your best shot!

Overcoming interview nerves...

how does the interview make you feel?
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Concerned
  • Stressed

It is perfectly normal and absolutely fine to feel slightly uneasy before an interview, especially if there is much at stake and you have set your heart on the job. Welcome to interview nerves!

Regardless of what the thought of the interview does to your emotional state, the more important thing is what you do about this to get those interview nerves under control. Keep in mind that the interview is possibly your once in a lifetime opportunity to get that job you really and truly desire, you are on centre stage, this is your time to shine and you are entitled to shine! Don't let the interview nerves get the better of you.

Why do we get interview nerves?
  • You have placed high hopes on what it is your want to achieve
  • You don't want to fail
  • You are looking for approval and acceptance by being offered the job

Regardless of the reasons causing your interview nerves, allowing these interview nerves to overcome you, will prevent you from allowing the interviewer to see the real you, your abilities, goals, energy, enthusiasm, skills and experience. Allowing yourself to be overcome by interview nerves could potentially destroy your ability to have a successful interview.

how can you overcome your interview nerves?

Interview nerves are perfectly normal and are to be expected, knowing what you are going to say during the interview and practicing out loud, possibly with family, friends or in front of a mirror, will help in overcoming your interview nerves.

Conduct research on the potential employer and think through possible questions that you could be asked during the job interview and go ahead and practice the answers. Get a good night's sleep before the interview, don't let the interview nerves keep you up all night.

In moderation, interview nerves are a good sign, they indicate that you care about the job in question and that you are serious about your commitment to the job. If you are prepared, take a deep breath, see the interview as a challenge you are about to conquer. You might find yourself relaxing and enjoying the interview process, forgetting all about those interview nerves that have followed you all the way to the door.

types of interviews

the one on one interview

A one on one interview is usually an in-depth interview. The interview generally comprises of the job seeker and either, the person who you would potentially be directly reporting to, or the HR officer/Manager creating the shortlist. If it is the HR Manager interviewing, it is more than likely that there will be at least one other interview before an offer of employment is made. The one on one interview is less daunting that other types, but is more intense and focused as there are only two people in the job interview.

groups interviews

Group interviews can be conduct with other applicants, and your general interactions, behaviours and responses are noted and recorded as part of the interview process. Group interviews can take longer where various topics and questions are covered in a group setting and individual situation.

panels interviews

The panel interview can be quite intimidating. In a panel interview you as the job seekers is in the hot seat and there are numerous pairs of eyes boring into you and assessing your every word and movement! Usually during the panel interviews the interviewers will take turns asking questions in a controlled and structured process. As the job seeker make sure that you acknowledge the person asking the question and direct your answer to that specific interviewer. Remember that there are other interviewers with whom you need to make eye contact.

When to negotiate your salary

the big question - Do you raise the salary issue in your job interview?

The answer -  It depends...

Your current salary and expectations are generally specified on your CV sent to the potential employer if the job application was done through a recruitment agency, however this is not always the case.

If you salary expectations are already known by your prospective employer, it is not appropriate that you start negotiating salary during the job interview. Negotiations are then done once an offer of employment has been made and negotiations can then be done via your recruiter or recruitment agency. This is often more preferably to job seekers as some do not feel comfortable doing this themselves and would rather get help in this aspect.

On the other hand, if the interviewer asks your salary expectation during the interview, you as the job seeker are entitle to say that you would consider a market related salary for your skills and experience and that you are negotiable on salary. Should you be nervous or unsure of how to negotiate salary rather leave the salary negotiations to the recruitment agency as they are usually aware of what the company budget is for the role and can negotiate the best deal for you.

If as the job seeker you are confidence is negotiating your salary, you are entitled to do so. As a courtesy keep your recruiter updated and involved to avoid any miscommunications or disruptions during the negotiations.

What is salary?

When it comes to your salary expectation as the job seeker, be careful to understand what is being said regarding your salary, or what you are asking for in terms of salary.

There are many different terms that are used when referring to a salary, as the job seeker make sure that you understand these terms, it makes a difference on the monetary value of your salary at the end of the day.

what is a basic salary?

A basic salary refers to your cash salary, before any perks, commissions or bonuses.

What is Cost to company (CTC) or total cost to company (TCTC) Salary?

Cost to company salary is a total package, including your benefits. If a cost to company (CTC) or (TCTC) salary is quoted, it means that the value of your medical aid, pension fund etc. have been added and included to your basic salary figure.

The CTC figure might sound substantial, but when the benefits are excluded, may look measly. Be sure that you as the job seeker is aware of the difference between a basic salary and Cost to Company (CTC).

WHEN to begin negotiating salarY?

It is generally best practice to wait until you have received and offer of employment in writing. This offer of employment allows you to fully understand what the salary is being offer to you and allows you the opportunity to do your research. Put a value to your experience and understand what income you need in order to meet your expenses and savings plan.

How much negotiating should be done for salary?

Salary negotiation tips:
Once an offer of employment has been received, the first decision is - do you want this job? If yes, then read on...

Once you have decided that this is the job that you want, you would need to decide if the salary and package offered is acceptable. If not.. read on

When negotiating your salary offer to a new or prospective employer, you need to be particularly clear in your approach. Be careful as not to ruin the offer by handling the salary negotiations poorly. Be prepared!

Make a list of what you have to offer
Understand and think about what you have to offer to your prospective employer
Make a list of your:
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Talents
  • Knowledge
  • Qualifications
  • Explain to your prospective employer what capability and value you will add to the company
understand your salary thresholds
Establish your salary requirements. Know your salary limits.
Identify three salary figures:
  1. A Salary offer you will not accept - If will not cover your expenses
  2. An okay, middle of the range salary,  you would accept, but it wont make you jump
  3. A Salary that is beyond your wildest dreams - where is the acceptance form!!!

Understand that this salary information allows you to know where you stand. You may be prepared to sacrifice some salary in lieu of future job prospects or other non-monetary items. Identify how desperately the job needs to be filled, the more urgent the incumbent is required to start the job, the more negotiating power you as the job seeker has in terms of your salary requirement.

be prepared to clarify your previous salary
Although there is much debate around fairness on questions regarding previous salaries, it is still a reality. If your previous salary earnings have been high, you need to let your prospective employer know what your salary earnings where in the previous position. Many employers will at least try to match, if not supersede your current or last salary earnings. Understand that the prospective employer has a budget for the job role, may employers have a salary range in mind or that has been budgeted for a particular role and will not be forthcoming with the highest salary ranges in the first instance so as to allow themselves room for negotiating if need be.

Know what the going salary rate or fair market value is for your type of position. Discuss these figures once salary negotiation commences. There are salary surveys out there, know where to find the information you require in order to substantiate your salary negotiations and requirements.

When discussing your salary expectations, make your prospective employer feel that you are both on the same side and working together to find a remuneration package that would satisfy your needs as well as their budget. Don't become defensive and confrontational during these salary negotiations, it will not bode well for your future career growth within the organization. never run and offer down outright! Always leave the door open for the recruitment agency to see if they can possibly get a better offer on your behalf.

Ending the interview

If you enjoyed the interview, you can at this point say this to the interviewer. The could potentially open doors for the follow on interview, and it would most certainly set a positive ending to the interview. If you really want the job, ASK FOR IT but be careful not to sound desperate, even if you are!

If the job is offered to you on the spot and your want it, accept it!

Ask the interviewer when you can expect feedback. This will give the recruitment agency and yourself and indication on how soon they will make a decision. If the job is offered to you and you need to think about it, say so, stating a definite time frame when you will provide feedback to the recruitment agency or potential employer. Show willingness and availability for a second interview. Remember to smile and thank the interviewer for the opportunity and their time to see you with a firm handshake.

Phone your recruitment agency as soon as possible after the interview to give your impressions of the potential employer, the job and the interview. The agency will the follow up with the employer to give you feedback.

Other things to remember:

  • Show interest in the company's business and its goals. These goals are generally the goals of the same people who are interviewing you
  • Respect yourself without taking yourself too seriously
  • DON'T talk religion, politics or other contentious subjects
  • Don't slouch when being interviewed. Sit up in a relaxed manner, with an open body language
  • Be positive, happy and talk, yes - TALK to them the same as you would to an old work acquaintance
There will be different interviewers with different methods and styles. One cannot plan for every question and situation that is going to be thrown your way during your job search. Each interviewer will be looking for something different. All you can do is go along and be yourself. Put your best self on display. Be positive about whom and what you are, it makes a wealth of difference. After all, it you are not going to endorse yourself, who is?

Never jump to any unfavorable conclusions. Evaluate the job opportunity as a whole and base your conclusions on the bigger picture. See the whole process through and then make your decision.

 Be positive! Be yourself! And remember only you can make it happen! If it doesn't, don't be too hard on yourself, take it as a learning experience. You can always try again and there will be other opportunities.

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interview preparation
how to prepare for an interview
dressing for an interview
types of interviews
negotiating salary
ending an interview


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