How to prepare for a job interview: tips for success

How to prepare for a job interview: tips for success

the males shaking hands

The different types of interviews you can encounter are endless, ranging from conversations lasting a few minutes, to multiple rounds of formal meetings and sometimes with more than one interviewer. Getting properly prepared for an interview will give you the confidence to approach these conversations in a way that demonstrates your enthusiasm and expertise. 

Preparing for an interview

Do your research

Putting in the time to properly research the organisation before your job interview can help boost your confidence. 

An easy way to start this process is simply by doing a Google search on the organisation and try to relate your previous work experience to the specific duties of the job opportunity available. Don’t stop there though, you can also click on the news tab after you search your potential employer to see if they have appeared in media outlets recently, giving you access to some topical news that might be useful to mention in the interview to demonstrate you have taken a deeper level of interest into the business. 
It doesn’t hurt to do some research on the industry as a whole as well, to see if there have been any recent developments or trends that may be affecting the sector and could directly have an impact on the position you’re interviewing for. It’s also another piece of information that can be brought up in the conversation to demonstrate your desire to understand the industry. Don’t forget to find out as much as possible about the role itself before the interview –review the job description, company social media accounts and website. 
Finally, research the hiring manager, as well as anyone else who might be attending the interview, on LinkedIn to better understand their working history and professional interests. However, we’d recommend sending any connection requests after the interview happens. 

Researching those involved with the business can help for various reasons: 

  • Determining how her or his role relates to the role you have applied for –  for example, if they will be your direct manager, you can include some questions around how they may like to work with their team, or what success in the role looks like to them.

  • The culture of the organisation – you can get an understanding if the company’s values align with your personal values.

  • Projects and clients – you can go into your interview understanding the type of projects or clients the organisation works on and with.

  • First degree connections in common – you can check if you have any work colleagues in common. If you do, ask if they can tell you anything more about the company.

  • Blogs or articles – read any 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.

Plan ahead

Well before the interview you should also:

  • Have some ready examples of previous work achievements that demonstrate your suitability to the role’s requirements.
  • Practice interviewing. Call up a friend (better yet, a group of friends and colleagues) and get them to run mock interviews and ask you some common interview questions.
  • This includes strategising how you are going to introduce yourself in a job interview and talk through your ‘story’ so far.
  • Video your practice interview sessions. Pay attention to body language and verbal presentation. Practice using positive body language.
  • Handle logistics early. Have your clothes, resume and directions to the interview location, or details of the video interview, ready ahead of time to avoid any extra stress on the day.
  • Look, act and dress professionally. Have a prepared interview outfit composed of business attire.
  • If you are attending a video interview, be aware of these additional video interview tips to ensure you are well prepared

Understand behavioural, competency and situational interview questions

When preparing for a job interview, ensure you understand how to answer interview questions – they are different. To get to the motivations and working style of a potential employee, interviewers often turn to behaviouralcompetency, and situational interview questions to better get an understanding of your behaviours and your core skills and how they are relevant to the role. Well-known examples of this would be questions that explore your capabilities around teamwork, creativity and innovation, decision making abilities, 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. 

Some samples of competency- and behavioural-based interview questions could 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 hypothetical situation. This requires you to discuss how you would handle particular scenarios, instead of detailing examples from your past. 
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?” can be a tricky question to answer during an interview but is commonly asked. Prepare to answer this one in advance by researching salaries typical to similar roles, considering if benefits could compensate for some salary and checking your expectations with a recruiter. You can find more advice on how to answer that question by reading our ‘What are your salary expectations?' article and you can also see what the average salaries are for your particular position in our Salary Guide.

During the interview

Try to 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: 

  • Review the job description, your CV, your cover letter, and any key notes you have made, again.
  • Be polite to everyone you meet between the front door and the meeting room, including receptionists and passing employees.
  • For a face-to-face meeting, resist the urge to scroll through your phone if you’re left waiting in the reception area. Instead, look for further information on the organisation in your surroundings. 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 early – Arrive on time, but being 10 minutes early is best and won’t make you look overly eager. For a video interview, be sure you are ready to go 10 minutes prior to the meeting just in case you encounter any trouble accessing the online 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 great impression.

Be aware of your body language

Your body language will say as much about how you’re feeling about the role as your words do so be mindful of what you're saying. Appearing relaxed and trying to act naturally is easier said than done but it might help to keep a few prompts in mind to make sure you are presenting yourself in an attentive fashion. 
We suggest sitting up straight, leaning forward slightly and always maintaining a good amount of eye contact with the interviewer or panel. 
If offered a drink, taking a sip can help you buy some time to think of an answer for a difficult question. Just remember to ask if you can put the cup in the dishwasher for your interviewer at the end of the interview[EW3] , this small act can demonstrate a level of conscientiousness to the interviewer. 

Answering Interview questions

An interview is a two-way discussion between you and the interviewer, remember to answer questions honestly, directly and concisely. Everyone present will be focusing their attention on you, so clouding answers with big words that have little substance or evading the issue entirely 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. Make sure to actively listen, avoid interrupting and stick to 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 as they can come across as wooden during the interview itself. Instead, concentrate on broader 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. If you’re applying for your first job – focus on extracurricular activities, education and qualifications. It is perfectly fine to repeat major points you have outlined in your resume or letter of application.

Qualifications - A specific query 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, work experience 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 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 or the company itself, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organisation and how you believe your present job equips you for the current opening 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 steps towards realising your ambitions. It’s a good idea to link your answer to the job you’re applying for. 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 role.

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. This is where your research about the company and your interviewers can assist. 

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?
For more, read these 17 questions to ask your interviewer

End of the interview

At the end of the conversation, make certain that you smile, thank the people involved for taking the time out of their day to meet with you, and say you look forward to hearing from them for a second interview or whichever stage of their interview process is next.. While decisions are usually made some time after the interview(s), should an offer of employment be made at the conclusion of the interview, ask whether the offer will be confirmed in writing. Also, it is common to request a short period of time to consider the offer before formally accepting in writing, so don’t feel pressured into accepting immediately. 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, educating yourself on who you are interviewing for, how to answer questions in the best way, and how to present yourself appropriately. 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 to do so for your next interview.

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