Congratulations – your application checked all the boxes and you’ve reached the next stage of the process. But what should you expect from this stage, and how do you prepare?
Employers use a range of rigorous selection tools throughout the recruitment process to efficiently and quickly shortlist the most suitable candidates.
These tools may include any or all of the following:
- application form
- telephone or face-to-face interview
- psychometric assessment
- assessment centre
- final interviews.
What is an interview?
A job interview is basically about selling one thing – YOU. It’s your chance to convince the employer you are the right person for the job. However, it’s also your chance to find out a bit more about your potential employer and see if you think they might be right for you. Through your interactions with the employer you may be assessed on many points, including your skills, strengths, weaknesses, qualifications, attitude, aptitudes, motivation and personality.
Approaching an interview
A positive way of approaching an interview is to see it not as a contest but more a marketing exercise, or even just an initial meeting. Another good way to approach an interview is to think of it as a performance. By concentrating on the performance rather than the outcome, your focus will stay on the areas under your influence. View the interview as a conversation with a purpose.
Pre-interview preparation checklist
- Review your résumé for key points.
- Review the job description.
- Dress professionally and appropriately – it shows you’re serious about the position.
- Know where to go.
- Be on time.
- If possible, know the name of the interviewer.
- Bring extra copies of your résumé and reference list.
- Bring a pen and notepad.
- Prepare your own questions to ask the employer.
- Thank the interviewer(s) at the conclusion.
An interview is a two-way street. Asking the interviewer questions reinforces your interest in the position and organisation, and also provides an opportunity to find out more. Avoid asking questions that indicate ignorance or lack of preparation, that have already been answered, or that focus on the benefits (e.g. salary).
Examples of questions to ask include:
- What induction/training programs do you have?
- How are industry changes impacting on organisational direction?
- What do you enjoy most about working for the organisation?
- I’ve read your organisation highly values its community involvement. Tell me about participating in these projects.
Treat every interview as a learning experience. Take notes on difficult questions, and if possible, seek feedback from the interviewer and incorporate their suggestions in your next performance. Immediately after the interview you may like to send a short, professional email thanking the interviewer for their time – it’s a perfect way to reiterate your interest.
Situation: a specific scenario you were in
Task: the role or project you were required to complete
Action: what you did to complete this task
Result: the outcome of your action and what you learnt
Preparation is critical to how well you perform. Employers are continually amazed at the number of applicants who reveal they do not know the basic facts about the industry, profession, organisation or job.
Know the job
Be clear about the details of the position, especially the selection criteria. Request a position description if one hasn’t been provided, and if possible speak to someone doing similar work.
Know the organisation
Learn specifics about the company, for example key products, services and activities; recent events to impact the organisation; size; strategic direction. Employers look for applicants who demonstrate genuine interest in the organisation. Good sources include annual reports, websites, business directories, trade journals and professional associations.
Be clear about what you offer
Have a range of practical examples ready which demonstrate your skills, abilities, personal qualities and experience. For example, you may have been promoted to store manager in your part-time retail job. This demonstrates leadership, interpersonal skills and your ability to accept responsibility.
There is no way you can predict exactly what interview questions you’ll be asked, but preparing answers to likely questions can help clarify points in your own mind. Memorising answers is not the way to go, but anticipating possible questions can help refine and clarify the way you articulate skills, experience and qualities. Think of a range of examples to support your answers. You don’t want to simply tell the panel you have skill X; you want to prove it with concrete examples.
The above article contains edited extracts of RMIT University’s ‘Interviews FACT sheet’ by Michelle Maes, previously available on the CD&E website (www.rmit.edu.au).
For more information on interviews, including sample questions and techniques, visit the ‘career advice’ section of the GO website and talk to your university careers advisor.