Interview preparation guide
An interview is your chance to make a good impression and stand out from the rest of the applicants. Follow these tips to increase your confidence, impress your potential employer and get the job.
The two key elements to successful interviewing are preparation and enthusiasm. Preparation is essential and increases your chances of performing well at any interview.
Here are some tips on preparing for an interview:
- Ensure you have a detailed understanding of the position description, the team environment and the organization. Ask for a position description to be emailed to you prior to the interview.
- Research the organization by visiting their website. Understand its products and services, size, location, financial situation and growth potential.
- Dress in a professional manner.
- Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name (and correct pronunciation) and title.
- Spend 30 minutes reviewing your resume and experience and its relevance to the position. Identify specific examples from your background that are directly relevant to the position and that demonstrate your ability to do the job. Refresh your memory of the details of present and past employers, your work history and key achievements.
- Be prepared to convey why this role appeals to you, why they should consider you and what makes you stand out from the rest.
- Prepare questions that you will ask the potential employer. The employer will determine through questioning if you have the qualifications necessary to do the job. This is your time to find out if the company will give you the opportunity for growth and development.
Examples of questions you might ask:
- What would a normal day in this role look like?
- Why is the position available?
- How would you describe your organisational culture?
- What induction and training programs does the organisation offer?
- What sort of people have done well in this team/organisation?
- How is the company positioned against its competitors?
- What is the company’s vision for the future? What are the plans, if any, for growth or expansion?
- What are the three things that would make someone an outstanding success in this role?
- How well do you think I match the requirements of the role?
- What is the next step in the process?
Competency Based Interviews
Competency/behavioural based interviews are the most common style of interviewing. This interview style requires you to draw on past experience and describe situations that demonstrate your competence in a particular area.
The most effective way to answer these questions is to use the STAR technique:
Situation – briefly describe the background to the situation.
Task – specifically describe your responsibility.
Action – describe what you did.
Result – describe the outcome of your actions.
Ideally, it is a good idea to have eight to ten specific examples that relate to the core behavioural competencies required in role. This will ensure you can provide an appropriate example if required.
You may need to provide one to three real-life examples to validate one particular competence. There are many websites that can provide examples of competency/behavioural based interview questions. Do some research to assist in your preparation.
Standard HR questions you may be asked:
- What are your career aspirations?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What interests you about our product/service?
- Of your previous jobs, which did you enjoy most and why?
- How have you managed conflict in the past?
- Describe what you have done in your career that shows your initiative.
- What are your weaknesses? Your strengths?
- What does teamwork mean to you?
- What style of management gets the best from you?
- What have been your major achievements to date?
Remember that you’re being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody, not because they want to trip you up or embarrass you. By observing your interaction, they will be identifying your strengths and weaknesses and evaluating you on your qualifications, skills and intellectual qualities. They will probably probe deeply to determine your attitudes, aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity.
Your style and behaviour
During your interview, the employer will be evaluating your total performance, not just your answers. The following are some factors and mannerisms that will usually produce a positive reaction from a prospective employer:
- an interested balanced approach
- ability to express thoughts clearly
- career planning and objectives
- informative replies
- tact, maturity, courtesy
- maintenance of eye contact
- a firm handshake
- posing intelligent questions about the job, environment, organisation
- preparation and knowledge of the company/industry
- enthusiasm for the role and the organisation
- a positive, can-do attitude.
- plan to arrive on time or a few minutes early.
- greet the interviewer by their first name.
- wait until you're offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair and look alert and interested at all times. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile.
- maintain eye contact.
- follow the interviewer's leads, but try to get the interviewer to describe the position and the duties to you early in the interview so you can relate your background and skills to the position.
- make sure you convey your strengths to the interviewer in a factual, sincere manner. Keep in mind that you alonecan sell yourself to an interviewer. Make them realise the need for you in their organisation.
- conduct yourself as if you’re determined to get the job you're discussing. Never close the door on an opportunity. It is better to be in the position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.
- answer questions with a simple yes or no. Explain whenever possible.
- lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as much to the point as possible.
- make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers or companies.
- over-answer questions. The interviewer may steer the conversation into politics or economics. It is best to answer the questions, honestly, trying not to say more than is necessary.
- let your discouragement show. If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and that you’ve already been rejected, don't show discouragement or alarm. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction.
- enquire about salary, bonuses or holidays during the first interview unless you're sure the employer is interested in hiring you and raises the issue first. Know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.
Closing the interview
If you're interested in the position, make sure you tell the interviewer. Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. You've done all you can if you’ve answered the two most important questions in their mind:
- Why are you interested in the job and the company?
- What can you offer the role?