The purpose of an interview is to assess your capacity to perform in a particular job and to find out if you fit into the organisation.

Preparing yourself is the secret to a successful interview. This involves reviewing your curriculum vitae and cover letter, doing research on the company and the position and anticipating questions from the recruiter. And before you go for an interview, find out all you can about the company and the job. Doing so will allow you to explain why you are a good match for the position.

The interview is the most important stage during your job search campaign as it determines whether you get the job or not. Think of the interview as the sales pitch in your overall marketing campaign. After all the effort you have put into writing your CV and cover letter, it would be a pity to lose a job opportunity over a lack of preparation.

The big picture

In times of stress, the first thing that fails you is your memory. So you should know your work history and achievements very well.

You should also know why you are right for the job. Your certainty will convince the interviewer.

Arm yourself with as much information about the company as possible. This will help you anticipate the questions the interviewer may ask.

Quick tips

* Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer's full name and correct pronunciation of it, and his or her designation;

* Research the company via the Internet;

* Learn all you can about the job so you talk about it accurately;

* Think about the company's products or services;

* Network with your contacts for further information;

* Consider issues the company may face and how they relate to the job;

* Visualise what it would be like to work in the company;

* Revise the facts and figures of your present and previous employments;

* Consider your personal image (how you should appear to the interviewer);

* Visualise and rehearse the interview;

* Be ready to lead the interview, if necessary; and

* Devise a list of questions to ask the interviewer.

Right behaviour

During the interview, be prepared to listen. Focus on what the other person is saying and not on what you are about to say next.

Be an active listener. Pay attention to non-verbal cues such as facial expressions to pick up underlying messages.

"Pacing" and "mirroring" are ways to ensure that the interview goes well. Let the interviewer set the pace and respond in kind. If the interviewer is bright and friendly, you should try to be the same. But if the interviewer's manner is serious and formal, try to behave similarly, as much as your personality will allow.

Be clear

Answer questions in a clear and concise manner. Where possible, use examples to clarify what you mean.

Interviewers will often ask you questions about challenges you think you may face in the position you are interviewing for, or have faced in previous jobs.

Prime yourself by reflecting on situations in your past work experience, using examples to show how you handled the situations and describing the outcomes.

A useful structure for your answers is as follows:

* Situation - a brief description of the context

* Tactics - the possible responses or options you considered

* Action - what you did and why

* Results - what you achieved

Answering questions systematically enables you to demonstrate your achievements lucidly.

Finally, be prepared to accept the job if it is offered to you and you are sure it is what you want. Ask for time to consider the offer only if it is unavoidable.