How to prepare for a job interview: tips for success | Main Region

How to prepare for a job interview: tips for success

Woman preparing for job interview

There are many different types of interviews, ranging from conversations lasting a few minutes to several formal meetings, sometimes with more than one interviewer. Preparing for an interview allows you to approach these conversations with confidence and demonstrate that you are the right candidate for the job.

Preparing for an interview

Do your research

The better prepared you are, the more relaxed and comfortable you will be when the questions begin. The following offers a few tips and suggestions on how to prepare for a job interview for your interview preparation.

Before a job interview, it is a good idea to gather information about the organisation that has the position vacant and try to relate your experience to the specific duties of the job opportunity available. You can research the company online for more information, and view their website for more detailed news and insight into its culture, history, products and services, customers, values and purpose. Annual reports, social media, news stories and review websites such as Glassdoor are other great resources to utilise when researching the company.

Research the industry, too, to find out about any recent developments, trends and changes. Don’t forget to also find out as much as possible about the role. You can do this by reviewing the job description, company social media accounts and the website. 

Finally, you can research the hiring manager. But don’t be tempted to send a LinkedIn connection or Facebook friend request to your interviewer. Instead, it is perfectly acceptable to research the hiring manager on social media, provided you focus on:

  • Determining how her or his role relates to the role you have applied for – this can give you a better idea of how to focus your answers, for example on the technical aspects or on the implementation process.
  • The culture of the organisation – you can get a feel for the type of person who is likely to excel in the organisation.
  • Projects and clients – you can go into your interview understanding the type of projects or clients the organisation works on and with.
  • 1st degree connections in common – you can check if you have any former work colleagues in common. If you do, ask if they can tell you anything more about the company.
  • Published blogs or articles – read any published blogs or articles written by your interviewer. It’ll give you an insight into their point of view on current industry trends. You can also review the company website for content authored by the hiring manager.
  • Comments – you can comment on one or two of her or his industry-related blog posts. If you make an insightful comment your interviewer may recognise your name when it comes time for your interview, but don’t overdo it.

Plan ahead

Well before the interview you should also:

  • Practice interviewing. Enlist a friend (better yet, a group of friends and colleagues) to ask you common interview questions. Practice making eye contact.
  • This includes planning how you are going to introduce yourself in a job interview and talk through your ‘story’ so far.
  • Video record your practice sessions. Pay attention to body language and verbal presentation. Eliminate verbal fillers, like “uh,” and “um.” Practice using positive body language to signal confidence, even when you’re not feeling it.
  • Handle logistics early. Have your clothes, resume, and directions to the interview site ready ahead of time, to avoid any extra stress.
  • Make sure you’ll look the part. Look, act and dress professionally. Ideally, a business suit should be worn. Clean shoes, clean finger nails and clean well groomed hair are important. If wearing a black or very dark suit, make sure there is no dandruff or specks of fluff on the shoulder.
  • If you are attending a video interview, be aware of these additional video interview tips to ensure you prepare thoroughly.

Understand behavioural, competency and situational interview questions;

When preparing for a job interview, you should next make sure you understand how to answer job interview questions. To get to the motivations and working style of a potential employee, interviewers often turn to behaviouralcompetency, and situational interview questions to understand your behaviours and establish your core skills and competencies relevant to the role, such as teamwork, creativity and innovation, decision making ability, business awareness or conflict resolution.

Behavioural and competency based interview questions usually begin with, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of an occasion when…” Both behavioural and competency based interviewing are based on the idea that past behaviour can predict future action.

Sample competency based interview questions and behavioural based interview questions include:
  • Describe a situation in which you didn’t meet your stated goal. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a situation in which you took the initiative to change a process or system and make it better. How did you identify the problem? How did you go about instituting change?
  • Describe a time when you were required to use your analytical skills to make an informed decision.
  • Tell me about a time when you used your creativity to solve a problem.
Situational interview questions, in contrast, ask you to describe how you would act in a given hypothetical situation. Rather than use examples from your past to indicate your future behaviour, you need to talk about how you might handle a particular situation you would encounter in the job.
 
Sample situational interview questions include:
  • What would you do if you weren’t satisfied with your work on a particular task, but no one else seemed to mind?
  • You are faced with a dissatisfied customer. What do you do?
Before the interview ask your recruiter or go through the job description to understand the core competencies relevant to the role. For each, memorise one or two examples from your most recent roles that demonstrate your abilities and successes in each area.
 

Know your salary expectations

“What are your salary expectations?” is a question that most people find daunting. You know you’re going to be asked this tricky interview question though, so prepare your answer in advance by researching typical salaries, considering if benefits could compensate for some salary, checking your expectations with a recruiter and practicing your answer. You can find more advice on how to answer, ‘What are your salary expectations?’ here
 

During the interview

Make a good first impression

The second you step through the door or join the virtual interview – before even introducing yourself to your interviewer – you are already making your first impressions. So, on the day of your interview, ensure you:

  • Refresh your mind of the job description, your CV, and any key notes you have made
  • Be polite to everyone you meet, including receptionists and passing employees;
  • For a face-to-face meeting, wait professionally in the reception area before you’re invited for your interview. Rather than scrolling through your phone, look around you. Are there posters that tell you more about the organisation? Or marketing materials like booklets that you could flick through? This will not only help to illustrate your interest in the company from the outset, but will also teach you more about the organisation
  • Arrive on time – being 10 minutes early is best. For a video interview, be sure you are ready to go 10 minutes prior to the meeting.
  • For a face-to-face meeting, when you meet your interviewer offer a firm (but not bone crunching) handshake and a big smile will do wonders. Some small chit chat from the reception area to the interview room will also help make a good first impression.

Be aware of your body language

Body language and other forms of non-verbal communication are important elements in the way you perform. Appearing relaxed and trying to act naturally is easier said than done but good appearance is mostly a matter of assuming a position that you are comfortable with.

We suggest sitting up straight, leaning forward slightly and always maintaining good eye contact with the interviewer or panel. Looking disinterested will limit your options.

If offered a drink this can help and can be used as a prop to perhaps give you some time to answer a difficult question. By accepting a drink it shows that you are fairly confident and reasonably relaxed. Just remember to ask if you can put the cup in the dishwasher for your interviewer at the end of the interview.
 

Answering Interview questions

Always treat the interview as a two way discussion and answer questions honestly, directly and keep to the point. Everyone present will be focusing their attention on you, so clouding your answer with jargon or evading the issue will be more obvious than you think. If you are not certain about a particular question, do not be afraid to ask if it can be rephrased. Listen, never interrupt and answer only what is asked.

There are common questions which arise in most job interviews, and while you should prepare for these, try not to rehearse answers that are too precise. We suggest a better approach is to work on broad subject areas that are likely to come up during the interview.

Common interview questions include:

General background - Often the first question is a request for a summary of your background. People applying for their first job should focus on extra curricular activities, education, and qualifications. It is quite acceptable to repeat major points you have outlined in your resume or letter of application.

Qualifications - A specific question often asked is "Why do you think you are qualified for this position?" Qualifications, in this context, mean all qualifications which could make you suitable for the position including educational, employment-related and personal.

Experience - Here is where your research pays off. Your answer should include details about relevant employment, community or educational experience and a discussion of the nature of the industry, the organisation and the position itself.

Reasons for applying - If you are applying for your first, or one of your first jobs, your answer should describe what you find appealing about the position, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organisation and how you believe your present job equips you for the position in question.

Career objectives - Be ready to discuss your long-term aspirations. Your best approach is one that indicates you have thought about your career in these terms and have taken some action towards realising your ambitions. It’s a good idea to link your answer to the job. Find the commonalities between your career ambitions and this job, to reassure the interviewer that you’re committed and your goals align with this particular position.

Crisis management - In some organisations, employers give candidates questions designed to test their ability in situations or crises. You should try to find out the most common type of dilemma for employees in the job you are seeking and formulate an intelligent response.

Other common interview questions

  • What job would you like if you had a completely free choice?
  • Why do you want to work here?;
  • Why are you seeking a position with our company?
  • Why do you want to be a *****
  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why should I hire you?
  • How do you cope with pressure situations? Be ready to give an example.
  • What are your greatest achievements to date?
  • What objectives did you set yourself at the beginning of your career or study?
  • Have you achieved those objectives?
  • What interests you most/least about this job?

To answer questions, the following tips might help:

  • Review your research about the company and the position.
  • Make a list of key attributes required.
  • Memorise examples from your recent roles that demonstrate your strength in each of these key attributes.
  • The STAR technique (Situation – Task – Action – Result) can help you do this:
    Situation - Describe a situation you were in. For example, a colleague was struggling with performance.
    Task - Tell them what you decided to do. For example, I sat down with my colleague to discuss how I could help.
    Action - Describe what you actually did. For example, I gave my colleague examples of how I improved my own performance.
    Result - Tell them what happened as a result of your actions. For example, his/her performance improved dramatically.
  • Practice using these examples so that you are very familiar with them.
This is also a good strategy to follow when faced with an interview question that you don’t know how to answer. After all, most interviewees find that, in every interview, there’s at least one unexpected question they did not prepare for.
 

‘Do you have any questions for us?’

Towards the end of the interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions of your own. Be confident when asking your questions and use them to score additional points in your favour.

Examples include:

  • Why is the position available?
  • What training and induction will be given?
  • What prospects are there for personal and professional development?
  • What are the company plans for the future?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?
  • What skills and attributes do successful people at your company usually have?
  • What do you like best about working at the company?
  • What results are expected from me?
  • What specific problems are you hoping to solve during the first six months?
  • What communication style do you prefer?
  • What are your goals for the department?
 

End of the interview

At the end of your interview, smile and thank the people involved for their time. While decisions and job offers are usually made some time after the interview(s), should an offer of employment be made at the conclusion of any interview you attend, ask whether the offer will be confirmed in writing. Also, it is not unreasonable to request a short period of time to consider the offer before formally accepting in writing. Our job offer acceptance template and tips may help.

If you aren’t sure how your job interview went, look out for these signs your interview went well.

Preparing for a job interview means taking the time to understand the process, how to answer job interview questions, and how to present yourself in the best possible light. Survey after survey highlights the positive impact that taking the time to prepare for a job interview has on your success, so it’s well worth your effort.

Interview Guide

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