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Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Interview Prep

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Whether you love or loathe them, job interviews are an integral part of your job search. Whilst some are naturally confident when sat opposite an interviewer, most people get incredibly nervous. So, here’s a guide on how to prepare for the modern interview and help subdue those pesky nerves.

Interview Types

From your point-of-view, an interview may appear to be a one-sided interrogation but it shouldn’t be. An interview is a two-way conversation that facilitates the exchange of information. It offers the interviewer the opportunity to gain an understanding of what you can offer as a potential employee. This includes your personality, attributes, experiences, strengths, and anything else relevant to the role’s requirements. This is also an opportunity for you, as an interviewee, to ask your own questions to clarify if the role and the organisation meet your criteria. 

Knowing the type and the structure of an interview will be key to helping you prepare.

Telephone/Screening

A short telephone interview is usually the first round of screening and nailing it is key! You will need to prepare for this one as much as you would for a face-to-face interview. Questions tend to be more general as their purpose is to screen out candidates who don’t meet specific requirements for the role.

Key points: Follow the interviewer’s lead and don’t volunteer information that is not being asked for – if you’re worried that they wanted more information, simply ask “does that answer your question?” These interviews can often be hard because pauses in the conversation can be more accentuated due to not being able to see the other person’s face.

Informal

If you’ve been invited for a coffee, consider it an interview. This informal chat is usually one-on-one and a great opportunity to ask the interviewer lots of questions to gauge whether you’re interested in what they have to offer, and if you’re a good fit for the role and organisation.

Key points: Prepare in advance. Although this is an informal interview, make sure you look professional but don’t overdress. It’s a good idea to also have your EFTPOS card close at hand on the rare occasion that the interviewer forgets their wallet and you need to pay for your beverage.

Skype/Video Call

These types of interviews are becoming a regular part of the hiring process. So, to prepare for one, ensure your camera and sound are in good working condition and there won’t be anything obstructing the camera’s view of you prior to the interview. During the video call, focus your attention on the camera and not on the screen.

Key points: Avoid any interruptions from other people, children or pets. Pay attention to your body language such as focusing on sitting up straight, relaxing your shoulders and making eye contact.

Formal Face-to-Face Interview

Typically, formal interviews are either one-on-one or will have a panel of several decision-makers. The interviews will have a series of questions designed to figure out if you’re the right person for the job. This is the type of interview that you’ll face most often throughout your job search.

Key points: With a panel interview, as you answer a question maintain eye contact with the panellist who asked the question but also ensure to make eye contact with the other panellists as well to involve them throughout the interview.

Interview Structure

While many interviews are a combination of general and behavioural/competency based questions, it helps to prepare by focusing on the competency-based ones. These types of questions are like telling a story, so use specific examples and break each down into the following steps:

 

SSituation, provide the background of the situation

TTask, describe your responsibility and/or what you had to do

AAction, describe what you did and be sure to keep the focus on you versus “we”

RResult, summarise what went well and what you learned from the example – even challenging situations can have a positive outcome

 

Examples of competency based questions include:

  • Analytical thinking – Give me an example of when you took a risk to achieve a goal. What was the outcome?
  • Interpersonal skills – What have you done in previous situations to contribute toward a team environment?

No two interview styles are the same, so go with the flow and remember that interviewers always value the following qualities:

  • Honesty
  • Enthusiasm
  • Energy
  • Clear communication
  • Humour

Preparing for an Interview

When you’re preparing for an interview, the first step is to research the employer and if possible, your interviewer. Should the interviewer ask why you want to work for the organisation, the information you will gather will help you to formulate a good answer. On top of that, the more you know about them the better position you will be in to ask intelligent questions during the interview, and this will show you’ve done your homework.

Whilst you should already have a good understanding of the role, you’ll want to ensure you know everything there is to know. Re-read the job description and ask your recruiter to provide as much additional information as possible. Specifically, the key criteria for the role, key competencies and attributes the client is looking for. This will give you a clue to the type of questions they are likely to ask in the interview.

Being punctual (arriving five minutes early is perfect) takes a little forethought and planning. Parking in the city is a nightmare, especially during business hours. So, make sure you leave early enough to account for any unexpected delays.

First impressions really do matter, so to create a strong one by dressing smart and greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and make eye contact. This is sure to create a good initial impression and first impressions really do count!

Basic Dos and Don’ts:

  • Stay upbeat and positive
  • Be friendly but not overly friendly (there’s a fine line)
  • Be confident but not arrogant
  • Watch out for bad posture and body language (don’t slouch)
  • Don’t chew gum, smell of smoke (if you’re a smoker) or yawn (yes, we’ve had this feedback from hiring managers)
  • Don’t criticise previous employers
  • Don’t waffle or get too far off your point
  • Don’t say “we” instead of referring to “I” or “me” and highlight your achievements
  • Be honest, if you have not had a situation that they are looking for, say so
  • Write down your questions ahead of time

After the Interview

At the end of the interview, it is okay to ask what happens next and even to tell the interviewer that you are interested in the job. However, remember to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of you.

Last, but not least, and as soon as you can, find a quiet place and call your Recruitment Consultant to describe how it went by reviewing the interview as objectively as possible.

Summary

I can’t emphasise enough how important being authentic and believing in yourself and what you have to offer is. Whatever happens, don’t be disheartened and see every interview as a learning experience. If you are not successful, ask for feedback and determine what you did well and where you need to improve.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It really is a no-brainer; the better prepared you are the better you will do in the interview. So, do the work, put the time and effort into your prep and your rewards will follow.

During any stage of your job search, if you have any questions or would like help, please just ask. As your recruiter, we want you to do well and are happy to take the time to help you prepare. So, give us a call today to start your search.