Interview Preparation

Interview Preparation

The Interview

If you have been called for an interview, well done! This means that your application has convinced the selection panel that you can meet their requirements for the position.

However, it isn't over yet. There is still work to be done to win the job!

The chosen application for the job is not necessarily the 'best person for the job' in terms of experience and qualifications, but the person who performs the best at the interview stage!

Preparation

Preparation is the key to a successful interview and can be completed across 3 areas:

Professional Preparation

Research the organisation.  Visit the organisations website and familiarise yourself with what the company does and what their work culture is. Learn what you can about the organisation from your research and weave this information into the interview to demonstrate you have done your homework.

Prepare a professional portfolio. Gather all relevant original documents (resume, qualifications, certificates, etc.) that you attached in your application. More often than not, employers will not ask to see these documents in an interview, but it is best to be prepared in case they do.

Anticipate interview questions. This is the most important preparation that you can do. Research common questions asked in your industry or line of work and prepare answers for them. Don't try to memorise an answer as you will come across as robotic. Prepare ideas about how you would answer each question, including key points and possible examples, and practice saying your responses out loud.

Prepare questions to ask the employer. At the end of an interview, it is likely you will be asked if you have any questions. It is important that you have some questions already prepared.

Know who will be conducting the interview. It is a good idea to find out how many people will be interviewing you and what their job roles are.

Review the job description and your application. Be sure to read over the job description again to remind yourself of the job requirements, duties and selection criteria. Reread your job application and familiarise yourself with what is in your resume so you don't get caught out during the interview.

Personal Preparation

Dress appropriately. Consider what formality of clothing is appropriate for the industry and organisation you are attending. If you are unsure about what to wear, do some research or seek advice from friends. Ensure your clothes and cleaned, ironed and ready to be worn, and also clean your shoes.

Pay attention to detail. Make sure you are wearing matching socks, and even matching shoes!

Be aware of your body odour and breath. Don't overdo it with perfume or after-shave. It is also a good idea to avoid anything that can affect your breath, e.g. garlic, coffee, cigarette smoke.

Know where you are going. Be clear about where the interview is and how you long you will need to travel there. Make sure you allow plenty of time and try to arrive around 5 minutes early. Don't be too early and definitely don't be too late.

Interview Preparation

Essentially, employers are looking for 3 things in a candidate. Prepare answers to the following questions, making sure you are able to express yourself clearly and effectively:

  1. Can you do the job and do it well?
  2. Will you fit into the team or organisation?
  3. Do you have the right motivators that will suit the company culture?

Practice Questions

To prepare for an interview, it is important that you anticipate and prepare for some of the questions that you might be asked. Below is an example list of frequently asked questions.

Tell us about yourself

Talk about your core strengths and skills that are relevant to the position. Do not provide a detailed summary of your background, this is outlined in your resume. You want to give a rounded description of your main skills and achievements, focusing on anything that is relevant to the job role.

What interests you about this job/position/opportunity / What skills do you want to gain from this experience?

Why have you applied for the job? Are you interested in working for the organisation? Are you interested in a challenge? Be sure to demonstrate what is in it for the organisation - what skills can you bring to the job role? You need to have done your research of the company to best answer this question.

What are your greatest strengths?

Focus on strengths relevant to the job role. Be careful not to boast.

What are your biggest weaknesses?

Saying you have none is not a good answer. Employers are looking for candidates who have self-awareness and can identify areas for improvements. At the same time, you don't want to raise any red flags and confess to a weakness that could stop you from successfully fulfilling the role. Identify a real weakness you have that would not majorly affect your performance and focus on the steps you are taking to proactively improve. Don't go into too much detail. Keep your answer brief and avoid sounding defensive or too negative.

Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?

Think about what it is that the organisation is seeking. Is the role you are interviewing for one where you will be working alone, or will you be working within a team? If you enjoy working in either and are able to do so effectively, then say. If you have a preference, express it in a positive manner and focus on how you will best contribute to the organisation in this preferred environment.

Give an example of how you have worked successfully in a team.

The aim of this question is to find out whether you can collaborate effectively with colleagues. Prepare a specific example and use the STAR model to answer this question. Briefly describe the situation (background), explain the task you collaborated on, identify any actions you personally took and the impact you had on the team. Lastly, share what was achieved as a result of the teamwork.

How do you handle conflict?

It is natural that at some point in your career you will clash with someone at work. The employer wants to make sure that you can handle conflict and won't cause any unnecessary conflict. If you relate well to others and don't tend to find yourself involved in a conflict, say so. With any question relating to conflict, try to provide a real example of a time you were involved in a disagreement with a work colleague and explain how you overcame the conflict.

Good responses to this question include:

  • Raising concerns or issues with someone in a way that will not cause them to react defensively
  • Listening to the point of view of everyone involved and trying to come up with a constructive solution together
  • Only seek help from superiors / managers after you have tried to resolve the conflict yourself - don't go running straight to your boss!

Do you perform well under pressure?

If you handle pressure well, explain how. Give specific examples to demonstrate your experience and ability.

If you don't handle pressure well, focus on how you use particular skills (e.g. planning/organisational/communication/prioritizing skills) to manage your work effectively.

How would your colleagues / boss / best friend describe you?

Be honest and use positive adjectives to describe your skills, behavior, attitude and personality

What initiatives have you taken in the past?

Give specific examples of when you have used your initiative and what impact these initiatives had. Focus only on initiatives that led to positive results.

Tell us about some of your major achievements.

Focus on achievements that demonstrate the knowledge and skills you would bring to the position.

What are your salary expectations?

First of all, see if they will give any indication of the salary range they have in mind. Be sure to talk in ranges rather than a specific figure. Be prepared to consider the total package, including superannuation, benefits and holidays.

It is best, however, to try to leave salary discussions until late in the selection process.

What is your reason for wanting to leave your current job?

Regardless of the reason, you want to answer this question as positively as possible. Avoid expressing deep feelings of anger or resentment towards your current or previous employer. Focus on wanting to move on and explore new opportunities to develop yourself professionally.

What are your career goals / What do you want to do with your degree/qualification?

With this question, the employer wants to understand your growth potential and what motivates you. You want to answer this question in a way that the employer will clearly see how you will benefit the organisation. 

Questions to ask the Interviewers

As mentioned above, it is likely that you will be asked if you have any questions for the employer at the end of the interview. It is important that you have some questions already prepared.

The questions you ask give further information about you which may influence their assessment. Ask questions that will demonstrate you are a good candidate for the position, as well as provide you with the information you want.

10 example questions to ask at a job interview:

  • Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the role?
  • What are your expectations of this role in the first 3 months / 6 months / year?
  • How will performance in this role be measured and assessed?
  • What is the typical career path for someone in this role?
  • What changes or challenges do you expect the company/organisation to face in the near future and would I be in a position to help you solve these problems?
  • What does the company/organisation offer in terms of professional development?
  • Is there an employee performance review process? How often does that occur?
  • What do you enjoy the most about working here?
  • What are the next steps in the selection process?
  • Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful or questions that I can answer?

Further Support

8 Most Common Mistakes Candidates Make in Interviews

Tips from INSIDER GUIDES about what to avoid in an interview.

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