Job Interviews: Do’s & Don’ts
February 28th, 2020
Job interviews are an opportunity to share information, so be prepared to ask questions as well as answer them. It is your only chance to make a good first impression, so make sure you present well. However – remember, it is only a meeting, so no matter how much you want the job, try to relax!
Wear appropriate attire – if you’re not sure what to wear, ring and ask. If your situation doesn’t allow you to look your best, ring up and advise the interviewer beforehand. As a general rule, take extra care with your appearance. For trade and technician roles, a crisp, clean shirt/collared top with either trousers or pants (or skirt for female candidates) and closed toe shoes is appropriate. Lastly, wear clothes that are comfortable so you are concentrating on the job interviews and what is being asked of you.
Take a copy of your resume with you. The interviewer should have one, but it is better to be prepared and provide you with extra confidence in being able to refer to the detail. Take an original and copy of your relevant qualifications or provide an online MyPass URL or QR Code. Most employers will want to cite the originals and then to keep a copy.
It will help your cause if you research the organisation and have a reasonable understanding of who they are and what they do.
Act positively and appear interested, no matter how good your credentials. A nonchalant approach may be your way of exuding confidence, but it can come across like disinterest or worse still, arrogance.
Make eye contact with the interviewer – it suggests confidence and honesty.
Smile! Engaging comfortably with your interviewers will build rapport. Most interviewers will work hard to help you relax – as they realise that it is the best way of learning about you and bringing the best out in you.
Have a reason for your interest in the position. Even if you are unemployed and it’s obvious you need a job, you need to articulate what attracts you to this job.
Prepare well for job interviews – you will need to offer specific examples. You will need a Situation or Task, the Action you took and the Result or outcome (often referred to as the STAR principle). See below on specific instruction and tips on this.
Understand what gives you job satisfaction and what doesn’t. And don’t simply say “I’ve always been happy in all my jobs” – think of something (eg “conditions were extremely harsh” or “the boss was very supportive”).
Anticipate a question on weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, so understand your areas for development. Talk about something you have found difficult but are taking steps to overcome – awareness and willingness to change are a good combination.
Know the dates of your qualifications. Many people falsify their qualifications, and not knowing doesn’t sound very convincing.
Know your salary expectations. You will be asked for this information and you need to know your own worth. Outline your current package and your future expectations. It is often unusual for employers to ‘give away’ the salary package, which means it can be difficult for you to then know where to pitch your expectations.
Come prepared with referee names and contact details – also ensure that you have briefed your referees ahead of time and that they are prepared. Be very clear about what your referee will say about you.
Ask questions – most interviewers will ask if you have any questions. This is the time during job interviews to clarify process, benefits, timeframes, terms and conditions on offer etc. However, DO NOT ask “what is it that the Company can do for me?” Instead, you can more positively seek information by providing context, eg “I’m really interested in developing my skills further. I’m interested to know what kind of training and development programs the company offers”.
Be late to job interviews. Punctuality is important and being late, regardless of the excuse, will not help. Be clear about where you need to be and if necessary, do a practice run the day before to check how long it can take.
Try to hide a redundancy. It doesn’t carry a stigma these days, but try to put it into perspective, eg “I was retrenched as part of a major restructure within the business”.
Just say “I’m seeking a new challenge” when asked what you want in your next role. Be specific – is it managing people, an operations focus, travel, autonomy?
Give generic answers when asked for an example. Rather than saying, “Oh, that happens all the time and what I usually do is…”, try “Last week, my supervisor wanted me to …”.
Waffle! If you stick to the STAR principle and prepare your answers ahead of time, you will know when to stop. There is nothing more irritating to an interviewer than when a candidate does not know when to stop or cannot be succinct in their answers.
Responding to Interview Questions
You may or may not be familiar with the term ‘behavioural interviewing’. It essentially means that interview questions will require you to provide specific examples. Interviewers are seeking real and recent examples of where and how you have demonstrated a particular skill or competency. Behavioural interviews are based on the theory that the best predictor of your future performance is your past performance. Questions will typically be structured to seek information relating to:
- The Situation at the time, or Task you were given;
- The specific Action you took in that situation or for that task; and
- The Result or outcome of your actions.
- This is often referred to as ‘STAR’ questions and answers.
As a guide, you can expect questions relating to:
- Team orientation
- Your technical skills and knowledge
Think about recent experiences you have had that may demonstrate your capability in each of these areas.
Most interviewers will also ask for an overview of your career. This allows them to better understand how and why your career has taken the path that it has and to identify any roles that you particularly enjoyed or did not enjoy.
Next, practice, practice, practice! You need to practice answers that are succinct and articulate – where you still provide enough detail but without waffling. Providing an overview of your career is one area where people can take too long. You need to provide a brief overview of each role, the types of projects or responsibilities you had and why you moved on to the next role. This is the time to highlight some key achievements – particularly any that align with the requirements of the role you have applied to. As a guide, your career overview should take no more than 5-6 minutes.
If you stick with the STAR method, you will provide concrete examples, rather than generalisations that won’t demonstrate your skills. It also ensures that you won’t waffle – there is nothing worse than a candidate who does not know when to end the answer.
If you identify five or six specific examples under each area (eg safety, initiative, team work etc), it then almost does not matter what the question is that is asked – your answer will suit! This means you’ll then feel more relaxed during the interview and less nervous about thinking of an answer on the spot. Obviously, your answers need to be true because they will likely be checked with your referees.