Employment Plus - Tips & Tools

Tips for job interviews

Interviews unpacked

Interviews help employers determine which candidate has the most suitable skills and experience and will best fit in with the company’s culture. For you, it’s a vital opportunity to highlight all the positives you will bring to the job. However, nerves sometimes do get the better of us. Research, planning and preparation can help you feel less nervous and let you make the most of your opportunity.

Preparing for the Interview

Whichever kind of interview you’re having (one-on-one, or a panel etc.) one of the keys to success is preparation.

  • Make sure you are clear on the date, time and location of the interview and the name and position of the person you will be speaking to. Plan how you’ll get there and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time for the journey.
  • Learn as much as you can about the company and position. Look at the company’s website, annual reports and news articles etc.
  • Look at the job advertisement and your job application again. You’ve been offered the interview based on your application so this should help your confidence.
  • Try to anticipate some of the questions because your answers will be better if you’ve thought about them in advance. For example:
    • How do you understand the role being offered?
    • Why are you interested in the role?
    • How do your skills and experience match the role?
    • What achievements and accomplishments are you particularly proud of?
    • What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?
    • How do you work as part of a team?
    • How do you approach problems and challenges?
  • If you are asked about a weakness, remember we all have them. Such a question is an opportunity to explain how you are working to improve in that particular area.
  • Look at the key skills mentioned in the job description and, for each, write down an example from your past that you can talk about.

Overcoming interview nerves

Most people find interviews stressful and even the strongest candidates sometimes under perform due to nerves.

  • Write down some answers to questions you think might come up and then practice saying them to a family member or friend, or just to yourself in the mirror.
  • On the day, try and get up early to exercise to release tension in your muscles and reduce stress.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview, and if you arrive very early use the time to review your application.
  • Immediately before the interview, try practicing simple breathing techniques such as focusing on breathing in and out slowly and rhythmically.
  • Remind yourself that you’ve got this far on the merit of your application.

On the day

It’s important to make a good first impression. For example, if you are slouching in your chair the interviewer may assume that you’re not motivated. Similarly, if you don’t make the effort to appear neat and tidy, the employer might think you won’t make an effort at work.

  • Arrive 5-10 minutes early and know who to ask for when you get there.
  • Make sure your phone’s turned off so you don’t get interrupted.
  • Maintain eye contact during the interview.
  • Try not to fidget too much (although most employers understand ‘interview nerves’).
  • Appear relaxed and friendly.

After making a good first impression you will then need to do well with the questions.

  • Interviewers often ask “tell me about yourself”. This is your chance to stand out as an individual. Try to avoid repeating what’s in your CV and let the interviewer know, briefly, a little bit about yourself and how this role fits with your future career plans.
  • Listen carefully to each question and make sure your answer what’s being asked.
  • If the question is not clear, or you forget it midway through your answer, it’s better to ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify it than guess.
  • Try to avoid giving yes/no answers. Always expand your response, giving examples where you can from your previous experience.
  • Make sure that when using examples, your focus is still on how you will be able to benefit your new employer.
  • Avoid saying anything negative about former employers.

Before the end, most interviewers will give you a chance to ask questions, so have a couple prepared. For example:

  • If I am successful, what would my priorities be for the first three months?
  • Can you tell me more about the team in which I would be working?

At the close of the interview display your interest by asking when a decision will be made and remember to thank the interviewer.

Key points

  • Interviews are your opportunity to show that you have the skills and attributes listed on your resume, that you are genuinely interested in the role and that you will be a good fit.
  • You will perform better if you’re well prepared.
  • Be clear about the role, research the company, think about why your skills and experience make you perfect for the job, prepare for some common questions.
  • First impressions are vital so make sure you think about your appearance and body language.
  • Listen carefully and make sure you answer the questions asked, giving examples from your past which relate to your future performance with the new company.
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