Everything you need to know before going to a job interview

Congratulations! You’ve just received confirmation that you have secured an interview for the job you applied for. Now, it’s time for the preparation to begin.

What is the purpose of a job interview?

Your main goal when attending a job interview is to secure yourself new employment. For the interviewer, the purpose of a job interview is to figure out what you have to offer. What are the skills, abilities, and knowledge that you have that sets you apart from the rest? And does who you are fit with the ethos and values of the organisation that you are interviewing for?

When being interviewed it can seem like an interrogation. But it’s important to remember that interviews are a two-way street. Your interview is an opportunity to assess whether the role, and the organisation, is right for you. Of course, before applying for the job you would have researched the company and role; however, you may find when being interviewed that the role and/or organisation isn’t exactly what you thought it might be.

Key information to take note of

It is more than likely that you will be told about your upcoming interview via email. Within this email will be all the key information that you must take note of in order to attend your interview. This information will include:

The date of your interview

It may seem obvious but noting the date of your interview is hugely important. You don’t want to completely miss the event, and it’s also important to figure out how much time you have to prepare.

What type of interview it is

You shouldn’t assume that your interview is going to be face-to-face. During the pandemic, interviews were done virtually, and many companies are continuing to interview in this way. It may be that your first interview is virtual and, if there are second interviews, the second in-person. Either way, knowing what type of interview you are having will allow you to better prepare for the event.

The interviewers

On your interview invite it will usually let you know who you will be interviewed by. It could be one person, or a panel of people, it is entirely up to the company that you are interviewing for. Taking note of who you are being interviewed by will help you in your research and preparation.


Sometimes an interview will include a short task for you to complete. The task could be competency-based, a maths and/or English test, an IQ test, or a short presentation. Knowing if there is a task, and what it will be, will give you time to prepare anything that you may need.

Preparation is key

Regardless of how confident you feel about an interview, you must prepare. By getting an interview you have shown that you are a strong candidate, but you can not assume that you are the best candidate. You don’t know who else they are interviewing and how their experience compares to yours. With this in mind, be proactive and thoroughly prepare for your interview.

Preparation for an interview includes:

  • Researching the company and your interviewers.
  • Preparing for the task (if there is one).
  • Answering practice questions.
  • Preparing what you are going to wear.
  • Knowing how to get to the location (if the interview is in person).
  • Making sure that your interviewers know of any accessibility issues you may have.

Research, research, research

“It’s important to do your research before going to an interview,” says Specialist Vocational Advisor Natalie Wright. “Try researching the company and making notes on points of interest that you can bring up in your interview.”

Before your interview you want to know as much about the company as possible so that you can show your interest in the role and company to your interviewers.

There are several places that you can look to find out more about a company, but the first place should be the company website. This is the most logical place to start your research because you will be able to find out about the organisation, the work that they do, the partners they work with, and any news/updates. This will give you an excellent base of knowledge to build upon.

On the company website, you should also be able to find their most recent impact report. This will give you the latest information on how the company is performing, latest statistics, and ambitions for the future. With this information you can more clearly align your experience with the current work that the organisation is doing, and emphasise how your skills can contribute to further success.

After browsing the company’s website, have a look through its social profiles – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Not every company will have all these social channels, but they should have at least one for you to browse. A company’s social channels will give you the most recent updates, including what they are working on and recent successes. During your interview you can comment on these bits of information, letting your interviewers know that you are keeping up to date with the progress of the organisation.

Finally, Glassdoor is an excellent resource for finding out more about how a company is rated by their employees. On Glassdoor you will find ratings and comments by past interviewees, as well as current and former employees. With this knowledge you will get a more authentic look into the company and a better understanding of the morals and working ethos they have.

How do you fit into this role?

Now that you are an expert on the company that you are interviewing for, it’s time to think about how you will fit within both the organisation and the role. The best way to do this is to look at the person specification and write down what relevant experience you have. “Go over your initial application and make sure that you know your CV,” advises Natalie.

When you are doing this part of your preparation, you may find it difficult to think of relevant experience or situations that you have been in. If this is the case, think back to the roles that you had in the military and try to find suitable links. Think about what you have achieved and where you have added value. Try and memorise a few key achievements and tangible outcomes that you could mention in the interview.

The big day

Hopefully, you wake up on the day of your interview after a restful night’s sleep – you certainly don’t want to be yawning during your interview.

Regardless of whether your interview is a morning or afternoon appointment, it’s important that you eat a good breakfast to set you up for the day. You may not want to eat due to nerves, but food is brain power so it’s always best to eat something.

Then, it’s time to get ready. “I would ask the interviewer beforehand what to wear,” says Natalie. “Some potential employers may want formal wear; but some may ask for anything just not jeans, or casual.” If you are unsure of what to wear, always err on the side of caution and dress in something smart. It is important, however, that you feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing, so bear this in mind when picking your outfit.

If your interview is in person, then make sure that you know how to get to the location with plenty of time. It’s always best to arrive 15 minutes early so that you can do any check-in procedures necessary and calm your nerves before the main event. Alternatively, if your interview is online, make sure that you are in a quiet location with a strong internet connection, and that you can access the interviewing platform. Although technology issues do happen, it’s always best to be well prepared so that they are less likely to occur.

Calm your nerves

Interviews can be incredibly stressful, and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous – it shows that you care. But it is important to control your nerves so that you can show the most confident version of yourself in your interview.

Everybody calms their nerves in different ways, however, taking some deep breaths is an excellent starting point. Box breathing is just one technique that you can try. Used by the US Navy SEALS, breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds and hold for four seconds. Repeat this process as many times as you need until you feel yourself becoming more relaxed.

Putting your interview into perspective can also help calm you down. It’s important to remember that your interviewer(s) are not there to interrogate you. They want to know more about you, your experience, and how you might fit into the role and company. Remember that you are there to interview them as much as they are interviewing you.

Of course, this is an important opportunity, and you must do your best to succeed, however, if you aren’t successful this time, there is always another opportunity. “Just remember you can only do your best,” says Natalie.

Before you go into your interview, whether it’s virtual or in-person, take a final deep breath and let out all your nerves.

Five top interview tips

Listen, think, answer

It’s important to remain calm during your interview, because if you don’t then you could misinterpret a question or not give a full answer. When you are asked a question really listen to what is being asked, take some time to think about your response, and then answer. This is the most effective way to get a clear and concise answer to your interviewer(s).


When answering interview questions don’t forget to use the same STAR technique that you used in your interview preparation.

Avoid military jargon

When interviewing for a civilian job it’s important to bear in mind that your interviewer(s) may not necessarily have a military background. As such, try and avoid all military jargon unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to use any jargon, then make sure that you explain what it means in context.

Ask questions

Remember that a job interview is a two-way street and that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. At the end of your interview, you will be given the chance to ask any questions you have, so take this opportunity to ask anything you want to know. “During the research stage, you should get some idea of questions that you want to ask an interviewer. One of the questions I like to ask is what do they like about working where they are,” says Natalie.

Say thank you

Regardless of how well you think the interview went always say thank you at the end. It’s important to stay professional and polite whilst you are in the presence of your interviewers and members of the organisation. Firstly, because your interview may have gone well and you may be a strong contender, and secondly because you never know if another opportunity may come up at the same company.

The aftermath

Before you leave your interview, you should be given a timeframe of when you should hear back from them. Regardless of what this timeframe is, a day after your interview send a thank you email to thank the interviewers for their time. This may seem like a small gesture, however, it shows that you are polite and appreciative of the opportunity even if you are unsuccessful.

If you haven’t heard anything back from your interview after a week, or if the length of time has exceeded the timeframe given to you, then don’t hesitate to send an email or phone your interviewers with a polite enquiry into whether they have made their decision. Make sure that you don’t do this any earlier than a week, or before the timeframe they have given you, as you don’t want to pester them.

Regardless of how well you think the interview went, it’s important to continue networking and applying for jobs. This will put you in good stead in case you are unsuccessful this time, plus it is always good to have a wide range of connections made through networking.

Dealing with rejection

Dealing with rejection is always difficult, especially when it is a role that you wanted. That being said, it’s important to stay calm and not let anger drive you to lash out at the company that you applied for. Instead, stay positive. Ask your interviewers for feedback as you can put this information towards your next application and interview. “I always remind people that they have done very well to get to an interview stage and it is all practice and things to learn from,” advises Natalie.

Remember, getting a civilian career is a time + volume = success equation.

Help from the Forces Employment Charity

We are here to help you throughout your career. Our specialist team of Advisors are on hand to provide you with life-long employment support and guidance, including interview tips and tricks.

David registered with us in 2020. He says:

“The biggest challenge I was facing was my interview skills. My Advisor helped me check my CV and gave me strong advice on what to do during interviews. I don’t think I would have succeeded without their help and support.”

Once you have registered with the Forces Employment Charity we will be here for you whenever you need us. Whether you need help taking the first steps into your civilian career, or you want to climb the career ladder, we provide tailored employment advice and guidance to help.

Register with the Forces Employment Charity today.

Want to hear about our programmes, partnerships, events and ways that we could support you?