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Job Interview Tips

Preparing for a Job Interview

You achieved your job search objective and are now competing on an even playing field with other applicants.

All applicants have been deemed suitable, on paper, to the employer’s needs and the employer will be comparing you with other short listed candidates they want to interview.

   This section shows you comprehensive tips on how to participate in a job interview with a definite plan and gain the confidence to out-perform your competitors and win the job.

Designed to be read with Interview Process : Questions and Answers, which looks at the process of interviewing such as the different types of interviews you will encounter and how to answer them. This includes behavioural and situational interviews, structured and unstructured interviews and open and closed questions.

Interview Process : Questions and Answers,  is where you need to be if you really want professional in-depth information about interview questions and answers.  Both of these sections are invaluable to the jobseeker and are of equal importance.

The way you perform at the job interview will be determined by how well you have done your preparation, and your knowledge of the job interview process used by the employerwhether it is formal or informal, for example. If it is a formal job interview, with pre-set questions, your answers need to be well thought out. You need to anticipate these questions in advance and develop an answer and practice, practice and practice.

Brief overview of job interview questions  

Be prepared for any interview situation. Here are some good tips on how to handling some interview scenarios that have been discussed in more depth in Interview Process and Question.

People always want definitive answers to common interview questions. The unstructured job interview  (informal) isn’t about answering pre set questions. It is about thinking on your feet and being able to listen to what the employer wants.  The only thing you need to do is to know your skills abilities and what benefits you can offer the employer. 

In a structured job interview (formal) you will need to answer all types of interview questions and your answer should demonstrate the processes you used to do the job or to solve problems, for example.

 

Tips for facing an aggressive interviewer

A problem you may face in an informal interview is an aggressive interviewer. An aggressive interviewer uses body language to intimidate you as well as asking awkward questions. I hope there are not too many of these "old school" interviewers about now.

 

Tips for handling a poor interviewer – closed questions

You may also come up against a poor and inexperienced interviewer who will ask closed questions. These interviews can be difficult and frustrating, so you must take some control. You may be able to turn this interviewer around by asking the questions yourself and use the sales approach.  A section on how to approach open and closed questions can be found in Interview Process and Questions

Before your job interview prepare your referees

This is an interview tip that is rarely touch on in other literature for preparing for job interviews.

 

Due to the changes in the Privacy Act and the electronic age you should no longer put your referees on your resume, especially if posted on internet job boards. (especially specialised ones or third party sites). You need to be sure they are reputable and read their privacy policy. Who has access to your resume? Seek and Career One are very reputable as your resume goes directly to the company that advertises the job and no third party sees it.  Your privacy as well as your referees' may be compromised, particularly when you show the referee’s home and business addresses. You should just put,  "Due to privacy concerns referees provided on request." 
 

It has been said by some employment firms that employers view the absence of any referees, even when using "referees provided at the interview or on request,"  as a negative. Tough bickies. You are being ethical by not putting them on. Make sure you remind them it is a privacy issue by using "due to privacy concerns". and "upon request of referees, for privacy....". Surely they would not object to this. Certainly none of my clients have reported that this was an issue.

 

Also employers will ring a company even if you haven't provided by a referee. Is this ethical? I will leave it to you to answer that.

  • Ensure you take a list of referees to the job interview to give the employer.  You may want to add to your resume – “please contact me if you intend to contact my referees”. 

  • Your referees should be people who are able to talk about your work performance and personal qualities.

  • Ideally your referee should be your immediate supervisor.

This strategy is better than worrying your referee all the time as some are working on a fly-in-fly-out basis or move from project to project. The exception is Government jobs.  Some employers ring the referees before they get the applicant in for an interview. So wait until you know when the interview is and then chase up your referees.

Tips on how to approach and prepare your referees.

  • Ask your referees for permission to use them as a referee and let them know what is involved to give them to opportunity to decline.

  • Send them your resume with a cover letter stating the type of jobs you are going for (especially if it is a career change). For example, your referee may not know you have been studying and have a lot more skills than you used in you last job.

  • Send them a copy of the advertisement If you get a job interview and let them know when you are going for the interview, and then let them know the result.

Government jobs require answers to a lot of job related questions, including how you get along with people, and phrased in such a way to find out what sort of person you are. So ensure the referee understands the government recruitment process and has a copy of the advertisement ,and perhaps your application, (depends on your relationship with the person) because being a referee is a lot of work. 

Nurture your referees and if you do get a job send them a thank you note and/or a gift.

Case study - Be careful in your choice of referees.

If you have had promising job interviews and not getting the job please read this. Your referees may ruin your job prospects and your career.

Case Study

A very personable accountant client kept failing to get jobs that seemed promising. He had been with a company for over 20 years and went through the transition to computers  He got on well with the owner but the business was taken over by the sons, and there was a bit of friction and it was mutually agreed that they should part ways. The understanding was that there were no hard feelings and they would give him a referee report when required.

When I was made aware of the situation I asked about what sort of referees they are, and he said everything was ok  with them. He had seen them recently and asked them if everything was sweet and they assured him everything was fine.  Yet when I checked they embarked on a character assassination - running him into to the ground. In fact it was so bad there were grounds for legal action. That was why he couldn't get a job. I told him the referee report was not good but due to my position and privacy laws I could not elaborate. I said it was grounds for defamation in my opinion and he should investigate this himself.

So keep this in mind. These referees did not have the decency to say that they would not be referees and my client had no reason to suspect they had been dumping on him. Three years later he was still unemployed and being middle aged e had become unemployable.

Other Job interview preparation tips

First impressions  – non verbal communication.

Brush up on it.  It is critical to get it right.

Remember, many untrained recruitment personnel/employers/managers (even tertiary trained HRM managers) will make a recruitment decision based on a range of factors.  They will make value judgements based on body language and the way you communicate.  Employers often say they use their “gut instinct” or “gut feelings” in an interview.  What they are doing is processing your body language.

The accepted wisdom is that you have between 5-60 seconds to make an impression in a job interview. Your body language or non-verbal communication forms an impression because it makes up 65% or more (some say a lot more) of our total communication.  You need to show by your body language that you are interested, enthusiastic, want to hear more and that you are a nice person.

Also please remember that good interviewers may have made a study of body language to use in in recruitment or management. They will be able to tell if you are telling a porky pie (lie).

Find out how the job interview will conducted

In order to prepare for the job interview, you should ring the company and find out how the interview will be conduced.  Usually a company will let you know in a letter. If they don’t you need to find out: -

·         How many people will sit in on the interview?

·         Is the first interview a screening interview? (usually with bulk recruitment)

·         How is the interview going to be conducted?  You have a right to know and be prepared.  Ask if it is a structured interview? Will all candidates be asked the same questions?

·         Who is interviewing you? and what is his/her role/title?  This is important to the preparation for the interview.  For example if you are an Engineer and being interviewed by the Senior Engineer, questions will probably be technical.  If it is a human resource person you need to avoid industry terminology and phrase you answer in a less technical manner.

·         If it is a panel, who are they?  Get their title and their role in the organisation. One person may have technical skills (or have expertise in your area) and the other could be a Human Resource Officer. Once again you need to know how to pitch your answer - at what level of technicality, for example,

·         Is it a group job interview?  These are interviews are usually conducted where there has been bulk recruitment. Pro-Active Human Resource Management has job search assistance available on this process and will advise you on the sort of answers the employer is looking for.

*Graduates or trainees may go through a series of screening interviews. These need to be treated as first interviews.   

If you can’t find out this information, you need to be prepared for both structured and unstructured interviews.  See Interview Process and Questions

At the job interview

Reference Checks. As stated previously, the prospective employer may have already done a reference check even though you did not supply them with a referee.  They may want to test the information you have in your resume to ensure it is accurately matches the employer's impression of you - although since you actually got the job interview they are now looking at the person – you.

The way in which you conduct yourself, at the job interview, how you look, and the image you present at the interview, will be important and obvious. The recruitment decision will also be based on how well you will fit into the organisations culture.  Despite all the process they will go through, it will come down to whether the interviewer/s like you and if they think you will fit in. The first 5 minutes or less of the job interview is all you have to create a good impression.  Now this may not go down well with some recruitment professionals, but it cannot be denied that theory often goes out the window and our impressions will largely depend on body language. What messages is the candidate giving.

There are exceptions. If it is a Government Department (or Non Govt Agency) they must go through a very formal interview process using behavioural or situational interview processes, and they will have to document everything that goes on in the interview especially recoding answers.  There is usually not much room for bias either way.  However, the Western Australia Public Sector Standards gives each department more control over the employment process and the interview questions may be less structured and have the potential to become biased.  (See Selection Criteria).

Job interview preparation checklist

Have you researched the organisation thoroughly? (includes Govt Departments).

·         Is it a listed company? Is it privately owned and by whom?

·         Is it an Australian organisation? Is it an International Conglomerate or a subsidiary of another company? Are they quality assured?

·         Have you got an understanding how the organisational; structure is set up? This could relate to the various Departments or Divisions? 

·         Do you know their employment strategies. Do they commit to equal opportunity principles?

·         Have they got a community profile – i.e. sponsorship commitments?

·         What services do they provide?

·         Have you thought about your role?  How does it fit into the organisations structure? (Re read your application and their advertisement).

Review your skills and prepare your strategy 

 

The best way to ensure a successful job interview is to:-

·         Review your skills, abilities and achievements and decide on the type of information the company may want to know at the interview.  What benefits can you offer. Read the advertisement again. As stated in the beginning of this section, you need to demonstrate the processes you used to do the job or to solve problems, for example. See :-

Write a Winning Job Application : A Guide to Selection Criteria, by Lloyd White

·        You may have special skills and past achievements that can be repeated within the company to get a similar result.  For example, good and proven organisational skills that can free up your time and reduce the workload for others - especially the boss.

·         Be prepared to answer negatives in your work history and make a list of possible questions.  Put yourself in the interviewer’s place.

If you haven’t done an analysis of what you have to offer, you will not convince an employer that you are the best person for the job. What is your uniqueness -  what have you got to offer an employer that others haven't.

Even a good absentee record fits the bill. If you can say you have worked 2 years without a day off (and many employees have worked up to 15 years), then this is a very good feature. The benefits to the organisation need to be spelt out. You work the benefit out? What do you think it is? Have a go even it doesn't relate to your situation.  Find more on features and benefits in Job Application Letter Using Marketing Techniques

Then you must practice, practice and practice. Try and get someone to role-play with you. 

Job interview check list - Are you prepared for the day?

·         Have you got a list of keywords for interview answers and questions to refer to?

·         Have you a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer?

·         Are you dressed appropriately for the position/organisation?

·         Do you have your resume and/or samples of your work?

·         Have you got a strategy for dealing with the aggressive interviewer?

·         Have you got your answers to awkward questions prepared to answer parrot fashion?  I.e. overqualified?  Why you left your last job?

·        Are you prepared to answer question about salary if asked?

·        Are you prepared to change your approach if faced with a scenario different to the one just presented?

Tips on how to make the most of your entry

It is critical to ensure your hand is free and you are not fumbling to put down your coat, umbrella or anything else you are carrying. Make arrangements to leave these in reception when you arrive. Naturally you have arrived on time.

·       Smile – enter confidently (shown by body language).

·       Shake hands – firm grip and not too close and not too far away.  Smile,

     enter confidently (shown by body language).

 

·      Introduce yourself – or respond to introductions “pleased to meet you” - or as the Queen of England  would prefer, " How do you do".  "Pleased to meet you" is said to be "somewhat common"!!  Of course other cultures may have a different greeting!

 

·    Respond to small talk; use this brief time to build rapport. Small talk is only

   aimed at putting you at ease, so don't take them seriously.

 

·    Ensure your answers are not too personal and know that it is only small talk.    Keep it that way.

 

·    Make sure your vocal tone is even, friendly and warm. Put a smile in your

    eyes and voice.

 

Can I say it again?  It is critical that you get your body language right. Knowing how to read body language is also useful to enable you to “read’ the messages employers are giving you.                  

Tips on some "don’ts"  during the job interview.

·         Don’t bring up salary if the employer hasn’t. This will come with the job offer when you are in a better position to negotiate. Know your market value.

·         Don’t be boastful - be confident and assertive.

·         Don’t speak in a detrimental way about past employers even if you are encouraged.

·         Don’t go into the interview smelling of cigarette smoke.

·         Don’t be over friendly and get into conversation about personal issues. This is another common and very dirty trick used by interviewers. Remain approachable, and professional.

·         Don’t wear perfume/cologne/after shave – your interviewer may have allergies or may not like the fragrance. For example one perfume makes me physically ill and I can barely get through the interview.

·         Keep jewellery simple. No more than watch and wedding ring for men. Earrings, watch and a small broach or necklace for women.

Interview tips for older workers and  job interview checklist

Older workers tend to make excuses or draw attention to their age.  Some don’ts:

·         Don't mention grandchildren.

·        Don't draw attention to your age, make reference to your age or make excuses for your age, i.e. "well when you get to be my age..." Strangely enough this is often said in interviews.

·    Don't age yourself by your language.

·         Don't Dress too young or too conservative.

·         Don't be negative – remain positive.

·         Don't think old.

·         Don't wear a wig. If you are nearly bald consider having your head shaved completely.  It is trendy.

·         Don't colour your hair too dark (older men and women). If you feel you want to “touch up” your hair ensure it is  a couple of shades lighter than your natural colour, at least, and have it done professionally.  Ensure roots are not showing through. Don't you just hate this?

·         Don't make assumptions that all females are secretaries or receptionists. Making this assumption has lost many jobs. The female you may meet or speak to over the phone may be the boss.  Dear Sir, has been the downfall in many job application letters.

·         Don’t think that you do not need to prepare for the interview.

 Some additional job interview tips.

There are many more tips, some are very basic and yet they are still ignored.

·         Keep full records of companies researched and the results of each interview.

·         Watch your personal hygiene. Take a deodorant with you. No don't say this is silly. Some people do perspire before and in an interview who normally wouldn't. They produce a very distinct "fear" odour and may need to pop into a restroom before the interview to put on more deodorant. For this reason wear clothing that breathes.

·         Don’t be overbearing or opinionated.

 Dress Tips

These tips are not generally discussed in Job Search.  It is worth a go to follow them.

Dress to the organisation.  There are two ways of looking at this and one is the style of the organisation and the job.  i.e. Store person. – Not too formal

The other is to dress by workplace association.  For example, if an organisation wears a blue uniform, dress in blue.  If you want to work in a hospital for example, dress in white.  Waiters should wear black trousers and white shirt if being interviewed for a formal restaurant etc. Females can add another colour.  Psychologically the interviewer may see you as fitting in the organisation. Never, never wear black to a job interview in any circumstance.  It is too powerful in a small office particularly, and some people find black depressing.

Colours do make a difference.  Sales people should wear sales colours, i.e. red or maroon tie to a job interview.  Women in sales should avoid pastels and also dress in sales oriented colours such as red. Counsellors, for example, should wear softer colours, i.e. blue.

If you feel as though you may be overqualified for the position don’t wear strong power colours.  Dark colours are generally associated with respect and authority.  Be careful. In more recent years politicians have started to wear black. This colour used to be reserved for politicians "addressing the nation" but this has changed more recently, although it is still not a good idea to wear black. (Senior executives will not be reading this s no need to elaborate). Light colours, especially blue, establish a person as likeable; however they may not be seen as having the appropriate authority.  (backed up in uni my research project)

If an organisation has a uniform and you have an outfit in the same colours then chose this over any other interview outfit.

For further reading see John T. Molloy's New Dress for Success and New Woman's Dress for Success 

After the job interview

  • Thank the interviewer for his/her time.

  • Make your you have expressed an interest in the job.

  • Ensure that you leave the interview with a firm date and time when to ring (if appropriate).

  • Don’t let the deadline pass.  Ring the employer. When you speak to the  interviewer try and say something that will jog the interviewer’s memory to  remind him/her who you are.

Some employers have said to me that none of the applicants rang back and asked if the were successful, so they always took the applicant who made the effort to follow up. It showed they were keen. 

 Follow up the interview with a thank you letter. Your thank you letter should remind the interviewer that you expect to hear from  him/her on the date set by him/her.  Ensure you get it off immediately or it will have no impact.  example of a thank you letter

Follow up on performance.  If you are not successful in getting the job you need to find out why. This is a step many people hate. You really should ring the employer and get feedback on how you performed and try and do it better next time.

Do your own self - assessment.  Prepare a list of questions about your performance.  You should then measure yourself against your own list. Then write a list of things you will do better next time.

Some excellent interview answers can be found at Job Search Resources, and look at the Job Search Articles

Stay Motivated.  Most employers are looking for commitment and enthusiasm.  It is important to try and stay motivated during your job search.  A negative attitude shows, especially in your body language.

Good Luck

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On this page

Tips for preparing for the job interview

Brief overview of  job interview questions

Prepare your referees

Comprehensive job interview tips

Review your skills and prepare your interview strategy

Tips for older workers

Dress tips; including workplace association and psychology of colour.

After the job interview tips

 

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