Job interview preparation
Tips for job interviews
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.
Different types of interviews
There are many different types of interviews but they are all designed to help an employer decide which candidate is best for their business – based on the candidate’s skills, experience and how they will fit with the company’s culture and work models.
Telephone interviews may be used to decide which candidates go on a shortlist. They are also commonly used by recruitment and labour hire companies. Usually, the interviewer will call you at an appointed time and then ask you a series of questions to help them assess your suitability. The main difference between a one-to-one and a telephone interview is that you and the interviewer cannot see one another, which means nearly all non-verbal communication is lost.
A few tips for telephone interviews:
- Find a location that’s quiet with no distractions and where you won’t be interrupted.
- Have copies of your resume, cover letter and the job description to hand.
- Make sure your phone battery has plenty of charge.
- Because you can’t see the interviewer it’s more difficult to judge their reaction to your responses. You can try to check that you’re on-track by asking questions like “would you like me to go into more detail?” or “is there anything else you’d like to know about that role/event/experience?”
- The interviewer can’t see your body language either, so you need to make sure that your words and voice convey your personality and enthusiasm.
Group interviews are often used by companies who are conducting bulk recruitment drives. Often you will have to complete a range of group activities which are designed to assess your soft skills, such as teamwork and communication, as well as your ability to do the job. Group size and the activities involved will vary. If you want more information, you can ask the employer beforehand. Don’t panic if they aren’t giving much away – remember all the other candidates will be in the same boat.
A few tips for group interviews:
- The important thing is to find a balance. You want to demonstrate that you have lots to contribute to the group, without being bossy or domineering.
- If you’re naturally quiet, make a real effort to participate in discussions and give answers.
- If you’re very talkative or tend to take the lead, try to channel this into facilitating discussion, encouraging quieter candidates to get involved, and praising others for good ideas.
- Find one or two ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd so that interviewers remember you. For example, before everyone introduces themselves at the beginning of the session, try to think of something memorable or different to say about yourself.
Panel interviews involve being interviewed by a few different people at the same time. This kind of interview is common for roles in larger companies and in government, particularly for managerial positions. Panel interviews can sometimes feel especially nerve-wracking, but just try to treat them like a normal interview. A few tips for panel interviews:
- Remember to address your response to the person who asked you the question, but try not to ignore the rest of the panel – move your attention and make eye contact with everyone.
- It can be useful to find out who’s on the panel beforehand, especially their positions in the company, so you can anticipate the kind of information they might want.
Assessment centre interviews
Assessment centre interviews are usually undertaken with a group of other candidates. They may last from half-a-day to a few days and require you to participate in a range of tests and tasks. Usually, informal observation will also take place during social periods, such as at lunch or during dinner.
A few tips for assessment centre interviews:
- If you’re taking personality assessment (psychometric) tests, try to avoid second-guessing and thinking about which is the “right” answer/response – just be as honest as possible.
- When taking ability tests, i.e. verbal or numeric reasoning, keep an eye on the time – try not to rush, but try not to spend too long on any one question.
- If you can, find out what abilities will be tested beforehand and try some practice tests (many are available online or in print) so you know what to expect. Plus, if there are any areas where you’re a little rusty, you can spend some extra time revisiting those.
- Try to focus on your own performance rather than worrying about what other candidates are doing.
One-on-one interviews are usually conducted by a manager or an HR representative and will include a series of questions designed to help them assess your suitability for the role. As you’re one-on-one, this kind of interview provides you with a real opportunity to build rapport with the interviewer.
A few tips for one-on-one interviews:
- Try to build a connection with the interviewer by finding the balance between being friendly and professional.
- Make eye contact.
- Respond to their non-verbal cues and try to match your body language to theirs if you can do so comfortably and without being too obvious, i.e. adopt a similar sitting position, if they use their hands a lot while talking, try and use your hands too.
- 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.