A job interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your strengths, skills and experience. At the same time, it is a chance for you to find out about the position and the organisation so you can determine if it is the right role for you.
Preparation is key! Below is our checklist to help ensure your interview goes off without a hitch.
Pre interview checklist
- Double check the time, date and address of the interview location. If your interview is in a different time zone, be sure you have correctly calculated the time difference.
- If your interview is virtual, test the technology in advance and be sure that the interview can be carried out in a quiet location where you will not be interrupted (more tips for a video interview here).
- For a face-to-face interview, it is good to map out beforehand how you are going to get there and if you are driving, where you are going to park. Leave yourself enough time so you are not late!
- Personal appearance – ask your consultant about the appropriate attire if you are unsure.
- Research the individual/s interviewing you and the company. You can look at the company website, LinkedIn page, recent news and industry blogs. Try and find out more about the organisation’s reputation and information that demonstrates you have an understanding of their products and services, the markets they operate in and their competitors. If you know someone that works there, ask them what the organisation is like.
- Have a list of at least five unique selling points ready – these should be your strengths and transferable skills.
- Prepare for a formal interview and adjust your style and approach if needed.
- Use the CAR (context, action, result) formula to successfully answer behavioural based questions (more detail on this is below).
- Have questions prepared to show you are engaged in the process and invested in the opportunity.
Day of the interview
- Arrive on time.
- Switch off your mobile phone before you enter the building or join the virtual interview.
- Give a firm (but not aggressive) handshake.
- Let the interviewer/s control the interview and set the pace.
- Be enthusiastic while reading the room to match your energy, voice level and tone with that of the interviewer/s.
- Be positive – do not complain about your current job!
- Be brief and to the point (it is extremely common to talk too much).
- Maintain an appropriate level of eye contact. If there is more than one interviewer, ensure you acknowledge everyone in the room throughout.
- Do not ask about salary levels in the first interview but be prepared to discuss this if it is raised by the interviewer/s.
Common interview questions
Regardless of the style of interview, you should be prepared to respond to questions about yourself, your career aspirations, your work style and your interest in the role and company. The types of questions you can expect include:
- Tell me about yourself / your career to date?
- What interests you about this role / company?
- What benefits can you bring to our organisation?
- What is your longer-term career plan?
- What type of environment do you work best in?
- How do you respond to criticism?
- Tell me about your strengths / weaknesses?
- How would you describe your work style?
- What are you interests outside of work?
- Why you want to leave your current role?
- What are your salary expectations?
Behavioural based interviews
A behavioural based interview focuses on asking about specific situations from your previous work experience and how you have responded. The goal is to understand how you might respond to similar situations in the future, while also giving the interviewer/s insights to your skills and ability.
Behavioural based questions are centred around competencies that are important for the job, such as leadership skills, communication or how you deal with ambiguity.
The CAR model will provide a structure to your responses:
- Circumstance: Give a summary of the situation / problem you encountered.
- Action: Describe the action you took, including any obstacles that you had to overcome.
- Results: Highlight tangible outcomes achieved such as time saved, money saved or improvements made as a result of your actions.
Think about the relevant behavioural traits required for the role as this will be a good indication of the questions that you may be asked. Then, make sure you have relevant examples to speak to and rehearse your responses in advance.
Below are some examples of behavioural based questions as examples for specific competencies.
Influencing or persuading others
- Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s viewpoint significantly?
- Can you talk through a time when you were asked to do something that you disagreed with?
- If you were managing a team, how would you work with, and command respect, from team members who are more experienced than you?
Interpersonal and team skills
- Can you give an example of a time when your skills and personal qualities contributed to the teams you have been part of?
- Tell me about a time when you handled a situation with a difficult person?
- Describe a time when you have had to build new relationships?
- Tell me about a time when you were successful in getting crucial information from another person?
- Tell me about a time when you worked with people from a culture unlike your own. What did you do to overcome any perceived barriers to communication?
- Tell me about a time when someone misunderstood what you were attempting to communicate to them?
- Describe a situation that best demonstrates your ability to effectively develop and lead a team?
- Tell me about a time when you had to manage a conflict between individual and team needs and how you went about obtaining co-operation?
- Tell me about a time when you delegated effectively?
- Can you give an example of how you motivated an employee who was performing poorly?
Personal adaptability, energy and resilience
- Can you tell me about your most satisfying accomplishment to date?
- Tell me about a time when your work or an idea was criticised?
- Can you give an example of when you worked on a project or piece of work with unclear responsibilities. What did you do and what was the outcome?
Self–management, self-motivation and self-knowledge
- Tell me about a time when you acted over and above the expectations of your role?
- Can you describe a time when you have successfully demonstrated initiative?
- Can you talk about a time when you overcame a weakness or learned from a mistake?
Problem solving and decision making
- Can you tell me about a time when you have worked under pressure and what was the result?
- Tell me about a difficult or unpopular decision that you have made?
- Tell me about a time when you had conflicting priorities and what you did to resolve the situation?
Conflict management and ethics
- Have you ever anticipated a difficult situation before it arose? Describe the situation, the action you took and the outcome.
- Tell me about a difficult customer or a complaint that you have dealt with?
- Tell me about a time when you have resolved conflict in the groups or teams that you have membership of?
Your questions for the interviewer
There will be time for you to ask questions of the interviewer/s. Having questions prepared helps you assess if the role is a good fit for you. It is also a chance to show that you have done research, are prepared and are interested in the opportunity.
Your questions could include:
- Can you tell me more about the company strategy?
- Can you tell me about what a typical day might look like?
- What do you see as being the main challenges and opportunities of the role?
- What does success in this role look like?
- Can you tell me why this position is available?
- What is the company culture like?
- Can you let me know about opportunities for future growth in the organisation?
It may be that your prepared questions have been covered off during the course of the interview. Even if this is the case, it is important to ask questions – it may be that you ask for more detail on a topic covered during the interview, for example.
Concluding the interview
When the interview is concluding, thank the interviewer/s for their time and emphasise that you are looking forward to hearing from them about the next steps.
A job interview can be a daunting experience – preparation is one of the main ways you can help to alleviate nerves.
Always remember that it is a two-sided process. It might seem like the ball is in the employer’s court but equally, they need to make a good impression and promote the benefits of joining their organisation to you.