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9 pre-interview tips for job-seekers

by Leo Wiles
14 June 2019

As journos, we’re used to conducting research, making sure people’s names are right and fact-checking stats and quotes before we file copy. However, it can be easy to forget that applying and prepping for a job interview requires some serious attention to detail.

Here are few things to do when preparing your application – and before you’re actually in the interview crosshairs and gunning for the job.

1. Stalk the company.

Not from the bushes, no. Instead, drill down on the job-poster’s website; check out their socials, understand the company’s history, their values and beliefs, who their clients are, what they’re worth. Heck, go the whole nine yards and find out what previous and current employees are saying about them on sites like Glassdoor.  Knowing this stuff means you’ll have an inkling how they treat employees/contractors and what they have in the kitty to spend on your salary. Plus, if there’s wriggle room to offer other incentives such as training, reduced hours, working from home, etc. as a trade-off. It’ll also give you the edge in the interview and leverage to impress them with your knowledge of the organisation.

2. Do a deep dive on the job description.

Often the job descriptions on Rachel’s List are essay-like, but this can actually give you a shedload of insight into the role and the company. Pick it apart, read between the lines and consider why and how you would excel at the role. (Of course, careful scrutiny of the JD can also reveal red flags about the role and the company – including whether they’re trying to shoehorn three roles into one.)

4. Treat the cover letter like a writing commission.

You want the job-poster to think you’re the standout candidate and that begins with you making them feel special. Writing a bespoke missive that shows that you’re not just a kick-ass writer, but that your accomplishments align perfectly with their needs. Cover letter inspo is always good if you’re stuck: check out these three very different cover letters, why a super-short cover letter is sometimes the way to go and a few ideas on injecting humour and setting yourself apart.  Employers love real-life examples – how you grew a client’s socials by 150 percent in six months; how you’ve got a knack for creating viral content and linking to a piece that did particularly well.

5. Customise your CV.

Yes, it’s a pain in the arse, but making an attempt to align the language, your transferable skills and previous achievements with the current position you’re seeking could mean the difference between the short pile and the bin.  If you don’t make the effort to be the person they want on paper, then don’t expect to get them over the line with face time.

6. Take a good, hard look at your socials.

How are you coming across online and could your social profiles stop you getting hired? In this day and age, absolutely. Get a second opinion from an honest colleague who can help to take a dispassionate look at your social platforms and critique your opinions, content, posts. Because one person’s cute cat videos / doing shots off the cute guy’s abs / tattooed selfies are another person’s fast track to the trash (incredibly unfair as that may be).

7. Get clear in your head about what you can and can’t do.

Sure, there can be a teeny weeny buffer between what you do now and a bridge to what they’re asking, but if you’ve never done the thing they want before, don’t try to upskill the night before the interview through Ted Talks or YouTube. You’ll just end up with egg on your face in the second round  when they bring in the tech guy.

8. Practise your answers to questions.

Along with an on-the-spot elevator speech, practicing your insightful answers to questions you think you might be asked is super important. Doing this can also help you analyse what your achievements are – and zero in on any parallels with what the job-poster wants. Being practiced and polished can also go a long way towards easing pre-interview anxiety and help you come across as a confident rather than cocky applicant on the day.

9. Have some great questions to ask.

If you’re a journo, you know how to write a good question. At some point, they’ll probably ask if you have anything to ask THEM and now’s your chance to turn the interview around. Asking smart, well-considered questions can not only show them you understand who the company is and what they stand for, but it can also show what you bring to the table and that you’ve really thought hard about the role. We love these examples from The Cut, including, ‘What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this role to face?’ and ‘Can you describe a typical day or week in the job?’

What are your best pre-interview tips?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

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