Job interviews can be super exciting but maybe also a little scary! Most people get incredibly nervous leading up to a job interview, this is completely normal. To help ease interview nerves and help you shine, the best thing you can do is prepare and practice.
In this blog I share my insights to help you will understand the interview process, what employers are looking for in job seekers and tips to help you prepare and ace your interview.
Understanding The Interview Process
The interview process varies greatly from one company to another. Please note this is a general guide, specific information on a company’s interview process may be available from their company websites. Always research the company before your interview and pay close attention to any information they provide about the interview process.
Generally, the larger and more structured the company is the more formal and structured the interview process will be. A good indication of how formal an interview is likely to be is how formal the application process is. For example, if a company requires the completion of an application kit, application form, request for detailed cover letter and resume, you can expect a formal interview.
The position, industry and level of the role will also influence the interview process. The more senior the position, the more risk involved in the recruitment process, the more structured and thorough the process is likely to be.
Once an application has been submitted, the strongest resumes/most suitable candidates are shortlisted. Larger companies and recruitment agencies will most likely have automated screening software that works with keyword searches. For these types of roles, it is important to have a keyword optimised resume.
Once applications have been filtered, a person from the HR department, Recruitment team or a Manager will review the remaining applications and select the most suitable candidates. In smaller organisations it is generally the person who the role reports to or the company manager who will filter through the applications and shortlist suitable candidates.
Companies generally shortlist around 5-10 applications and aim to interview at least three candidates for each position. It is important to note, some companies will have strict recruitment policies where an application must be received by a certain deadline. These companies will not review applications until the deadline has ended. Others will have more flexible policies and suitable applicants may be contacted before the application deadline has been reached.
Tips before submitting your application:
Before sending your application, research the company, check if they have information available about the recruitment process and ensure you follow these.
Make sure you thoroughly read the job advertisement and follow the instructions on how to apply i.e. forward cover letter and resume/ respond to selection criteria/complete application kit etc.
Submit an application as soon as possible and tailor it to the company’s requirements
Ensure your resume includes as many keywords as possible
If a phone number is provided, call the company with a suitable question about the role or simply follow up with your application after you have submitted it.
Phone Interview/Screening Calls
Once applications have been shortlisted, successful candidates will be contacted via a phone call. This is usually a brief call to check your interest in the position and clarify anything that was unclear in your application. If all goes well, you will be asked to attend a formal interview.
Tips to get through the screening call:
First impressions count – ensure you answer your phone in a polite and professional manner.
Keep track of your job applications so that when you do get the call you know exactly what job you applied for, and with what company.
While actively job seeking, ensure you are contactable by phone at all times during working hours (0800 - 1730 Mon - Fri).
If you do miss a call, ensure you have a professional voicemail set up with a normal ring tone. Call them back as soon as you get the message.
Check your emails daily, in some instances, you may get an email message with an interview request or call request.
Be flexible with the interview time offered. Generally, interviewers will have limited availability. Make it a priority to be able to attend your proposed/allocated time slot.
The interview is an in-depth discussion about your technical and behavioural suitability for the role.
An interview will also assess your suitability for the workplace culture and how you fit the team you will be working with. The interview is also an opportunity for you to assess if the job and company are a fit for you.
There are a number of different interview types depending on the company and the role you are applying for. Some roles only require one interview and others may have several interviews to select a successful candidate.
Some interview types include:
Small group interviews,
Telephone or video conference interviews, (since COVID-19 these are more and more common)
Behavioural based interviews,
Task oriented or testing interviews, and
On site interviews.
The most common form of interview is individual face to face, however video interviews are increasingly common, particularly if the role allows for hybrid or fully remote work.
An interview can last anywhere from 15 minutes to up to 90 minutes. Allow extra time at the end in case the interview takes longer than expected.
Interview Questions And How To Answer Them
During an interview you will be asked several different questions. The purpose of which is to gauge your suitability for the role.
These may include:
Open questions such as who, what, where, when, how and why
Probing questions which relate to a specific detail or scenario
Closed questions which look for single facts
Hypothetical questions such as ‘how would you feel… ‘
Behavioural questions such as ‘tell me about a situation when you… ‘
It is important to carefully listen to the question being asked and ensure your answer addresses what is being asked.
Keep your answers structured and to the point, a good way of doing this is to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).
Situation – Give the interviewer the background information to set the scene. This links your response to the question
Task/Target – Give specifics about what was required to achieve the task (this is - when where who),
Action – Illustrate what you did in the situation and what skills you used to achieve the result
Result – Describe the outcome, or summarise what happened as result of your actions
Your answers should be based on real experiences (these do not always have to be work related) and you should aim to keep your response to the question to a maximum of two minutes.
Common Interview Questions
There can be a countless number of questions you could be asked during an interview. You can gain some indication as to what questions you will be asked, based on the key skills and requirements listed in the job advertisement.
Make sure you take time to think about what you want to bring up in an interview and practice answering questions - you might want to record yourself, get your partner to interview you or practice in front of a mirror.
Some common interview questions and tips:
Tell me about yourself?
This type of question requires a summary of your professional experience relevant to the role. Use this opportunity to highlight key experiences that makes you suitable for the position you are being interviewed for. This is your opportunity to make a powerful first impression.
What do you know about the company and the role?
This is your opportunity to show them your interest in the company, the role and also your research skills. It is essential you do your research and show them that you have a good understanding of the job and the company you have applied to work for. Facts, figures, details matter here.
Why are you interested in this job?
This is your chance to demonstrate you understand the company’s values and show them the skills you will bring to the table along with your ambition.
Why are you looking to leave you current position?
Always ensure your answers are positive; never speak badly of your previous employer.
How you speak about your previous employers will give your future employer an indication of how you speak about them. Always speak professionally about your previous workplaces.
A good answer to this question might be that you are seeking new challenges and looking to further develop your skills, you are ready for the next step in your career.
What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Share a strength that is also going to be a strength the employer will appreciate. When it comes to weaknesses, everyone has one. In answering this question be honest but ensure that the weakness that you share will not scare the interviewers. This is your opportunity to show them how you can overcome weaknesses. A good way to answer this question is to choose an answer that demonstrates how you are overcoming or improving your weakness.
What sort of team player are you?
Think about scenarios where you have had success and also faced challenges in a team and what your role was. Employers are looking for team players, there are many characteristics that make up a successful team. Are you the creative one, the leader, the organiser, etc.?
The key skill to demonstrate here is that you know what it takes to be a member of a successful team.
Tell me about a stressful situation you had and how you managed it?
Employers are seeking to understand how you handle stress. The interviewer is looking for you to demonstrate your resilience. Pick an example with an outcome that demonstrates your ability to cope and achieve results under pressure.
Where do you see yourself in 2/5 years?
Employers are looking for long term employees who will grow with them. Show them you understand the business and possible career paths within the business and try match your future self to one of those roles. Keep your answers honest and realistic.
What is your greatest achievement?
Ideally this will be an achievement from your career, something that is relevant to the role. You can also add a short note about a personal achievement such as your family if relevant. This helps the interviewer understand what you consider as success.
Technical questions about your ability to do the role
Generally, there will be some technical questions about your ability to perform specific duties of the role in any interview. This varies greatly between roles and industry, but you are more likely to encounter this type of question for a role that requires technical skills. Ensure you research the job and the company and can show that you understand and can perform the technical requirements of the role.
Do you have any questions?
At the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have questions. Ensure you have at least 3 questions to ask. It is wise to stay away from questions regarding remuneration during this stage of the interview.
Some examples of questions you might ask are:
Why is the position available?
What are the KPI’s for the role?
What size is the team you will be working for?
What sort of training does the role involve? and
Is there a position description available?
Remember the interview is also an opportunity for you to assess if the company and the role are a suitable fit for you.
What Employers Are Looking For In A Candidate
Essentially, employers are looking to hire people with a good attitude, who will quickly become productive, add value to their business, and be a good fit for their team.
Employers seek employees who have the skills and abilities to do the job they need done and/or have the transferable skills and/or ability to acquire them.
If the role needs specific qualifications and licences, applicants must have these before applying.
When comparing equally qualified people for the role, employers will be looking for someone who:
Understands their own path and career direction
Has a history of success and knows their strengths
Is goal orientated and responsible
Works well in a team
Has initiative and the ability to think independently
Has ambition and drive, and
Is willing and able to learn new skills.
Employers are also looking for people who want the job and want to work for the company. In your interview, it is important to make this clear. They also seek employees who share values that align with the company’s culture.
Research the company before your interview, understand their product and services and their vision and values
Research the people who will be interviewing you
Think about what you can bring to the company
Interview Protocol, Presentation, And Attire
When it comes to interview protocol, presentation, and attire always keep in mind the position you are applying for as this has influence. Are you applying for a corporate office job, a trades position or a hospitality role?
How you dress for the interview will show the interviewers that you understand and fit into the industry.
Interview protocols vary greatly depending on industry, position and even who is conducting them.
Below are some general rules to follow when it comes to interview protocol.
When confirming you’ll be attending the interview, ask who will be interviewing you and whether you are required to bring or prepare anything. Always take enough copies of your resume (and cover letter) for each member of the interview panel.
Arrive 10 minutes early for your interview (not earlier, not later). Make sure you know where you are going, and allow time for traffic delays, parking issues etc. Never arrive late to an interview. If for unforeseeable circumstances you are running late ring, apologise and let them know you are running late. Do not make excuses.
Bring contact details of your referees with you.
Ensure your phone is turned off before you arrive for the interview. Leave it off until your interview is finished.
Make eye contact with the interviewers on arrival and departure.
Listen to the questions you are asked and answer them specifically. It is OK to pause and think about your answer, or if you did not understand the question ask for clarification.
Do not interrupt the interviewer; let them finish before speaking.
Do not ask too many questions during the interview, at the end of the interview you will be given an opportunity to ask questions. Make sure you have some questions for the end of interview.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer/s for their time and express enthusiasm for the role.
Send a follow up email the next day to again thank them for their time, the opportunity and again express your interest in the role.
Due to COIVD-19 virtual interviews are increasingly common. Prepare for your virtual interview as you would for any other interview, however, take the following tips into account.
Tips specific for virtual interviews:
At least 15 minutes prior to your interview ensure you device is set up and your internet is connected
Check you have the required App where the meeting will take place installed on your device (i.e. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype)
Check your microphone and camera are working
Check your background view, does it give a good first impression?
Check your camera angel, does it give a clear head-shot view of you?
Check you are in a quiet location where you will not be disturbed.
Arrive/connect to your virtual interview exactly on time.
Have a glass or bottle of water at arms reach.
Presentation And Attire
Think about how people dress in the industry you are applying for as a guide. It is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. A good tip for this is to think about what the person interviewing you will be wearing and try to match it. Will they be wearing a suit and tie, or will they be wearing jeans and steel cap boots?
Always ensure your clothes are clean, ironed, and conservative. Overall make sure you are well groomed. Keep perfume/aftershave, makeup, and jeweler/accessories to a minimum.
Presentation is very important in an interview as this will be your first impression.
About 80% of our communication is non-verbal.
Keep in mind the following body language tips:
Use open body language; do not cross or fold your arms or legs
Make eye contact and look at the person you are speaking to
Show interest by nodding; do not go over the top though
Sit up straight and hold good, relaxed posture.
When you are being spoken to it is Okay to lean in slightly to show interest.
Never sit with your hands on your head or lean back in your chair.
Keep your hands visible to the interviewer, try showing your palms as this signal’s honesty
Do not touch your face, play with your hair or fidget
Be mindful of your tone, ensure you express energy and enthusiasm
Speak slowly and clearly
On a final note, remember if you have secured an interview the employer is interested to know more about you. Relax and enjoy the experience to showcase your value and abilities.
If you are still feeling nervous about job interviews, are struggling to understand your own value proposition or need to build your confidence be sure to book a free consultation call to explore our career coaching services including interview preparation and mock interviews.