Our recruitment consultants have coached thousands of job seekers through the interview process, and even our strongest candidates occasionally slip up during this crucial stage. This back to basics interview guide provides an essential checklist of what you need to do to deliver a strong performance before, during and after your interview.
Before your job interview
Preparation pays: there’s no winging it when it comes to job interviews. The most successful interviews are those when you’ve done all of your homework.
- Research the company: your first point of call is always the company website. Develop some base knowledge about everything from their vision and mission to their recruitment policies, products and services. Search for recent articles about the company as well as other important information, such awards they may have won. Most importantly, if you’re going through a recruitment agency get as much information as you can from your recruitment consultant about the company and their culture.
- Understand the job brief: read the job description thoroughly and make sure you understand the focus, responsibilities, and competencies required for the role before the interview. Don’t assume that because you’ve done a similar role in the past that the job requirements are exactly the same – every company is different. Ask your recruitment consultant for any clarification you need and ask them for additional context, for example, why the role is vacant, where the position sits within the overall company structure and any other information that is not included in the job description.
- Review your own resume: too many of us forget to review our own resume before an interview and stumble when asked to explain what we do/did in our day to day roles or describe specific details about our work history. To come across confidently its important to refresh your memory on all of your past roles, their key responsibilities, dates, and reasons for leaving etc. Most importantly, its critical that you can highlight the most relevant aspects of your experience to match their needs of your prospective employer. Reviewing your resume will also help you identify your core strengths and weakness, which is a common interview question.
- Rehearse: practice makes perfect and the ideal preparation for a job interview is to rehearse. It is even more valuable if you can do this with a friend or family member who can provide you with constructive feedback. Anticipate and prepare responses to common interview questions until they flow easily and you feel confident in your answers. If you have a recruitment consultant they’ll tell you what to expect in terms of the interview format, and if its a behavioral or competency based interview its essential to give considerable thought to some examples that you can draw on for this purpose (see our behavioral/competency based interview guide)
The job interview: first impressions and general etiquette
Its a cliché but its true; the importance of making a good first impression cannot be underestimated.
- Arrive fresh: get a good night’s sleep before the interview, don’t put yourself under pressure – make sure you allow plenty of time to get to ready and have a brief practice run before you leave for the interview. Being rushed and flustered doesn’t put you in the right frame of mind. Take a deep breath, have some water or go for a head-clearing brisk walk to try to shake off any nerves before you arrive.
- Be on time: before the interview do a practice run to see how long it will take you to get there and explore parking options. Always aim to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time. This gives the impression that you are eager, organised and have planned well.
- Present yourself appropriately: we mainly recruit accounting and finance staff for large corporate employers, so we always recommend that our candidates dress smartly and wear a suit if possible. However, many other business have more casual dress codes, so if you’re unsure aim for something that’s smart/casual and remember its probably better to be slightly over dressed than too casual. Cleanliness, neatness and manners are essential; make sure you are freshly ironed, stain-free and don’t chew gum, smoke or drink alcohol before the interview.
- Engage with them immediately: greet your interviewer with a smile, address them by name, always look them in the eye, give a firm and confident hand shake and always thank them for the opportunity. It is important to demonstrate from the outset that you are pleased to be there and are enthusiastic about the role.
- Be yourself: let your personality show through. Try and be as natural and relaxed as possible. Be genuine, honest, open and warm. You can’t pretend to be something that you are not, so be confident in who you are.
- Keep it professional: without contradicting the above, let your personality shine through but always keep it professional. Don’t relax to the point of letting your professional standards slip by cracking inappropriate jokes or getting too familiar as this can be taken the wrong way.
The job interview: the quintessence
Creating strong engagements and sharing quality answers are arguably the most vital components of a successful interview. Make your responses count.
- Demonstrate suitability: don’t assume that this is obvious from your resume, make sure that you spell out why you believe your experience is a good match for the job and where you have had the most relevant experience to their specific needs. If there are any skill gaps identified, overcome these in a positive way by demonstrating how quickly you have learnt new skills in previous roles, or by highlighting further study you are looking to undertake or your willingness to undertake professional development.
- Listen attentively and respond directly: show your interest by remaining connected throughout the interview, with good eye contact, positive comments, concise responses that directly answer the questions and a good level of animation and energy. Provide that balance between enough information and keeping your answers succinct. Don’t go off on tangents and try and stay on track; remember what they are looking for and reflect this in your answers. If you are unsure of what the question means ask them to repeat or clarify the question to make sure you are clear and to give you more response time.
- Sell yourself: this may not come naturally but remember that an interview is not the time to be too modest. Know your strengths and be prepared to highlight these as well as align them with the requirements of the role. Make sure you address all of the requirements of the role throughout the interview. Discuss your key achievements and spell out why you believe you are the best person for the job. But be prepared to give examples as to why. Don’t go overboard though and risk coming across as arrogant – just focus on being positive, confident and self assured.
- Ask relevant questions: have these prepared and try to interject them at appropriate points throughout the interview to demonstrate your interest and intelligence. Do not double up with things already covered as this shows you have not listened and avoid asking questions about salary as this may be perceived as too forward.
Example questions include: how many people are in the team and who would I be working most closely with? Can you tell me more about the culture? What are the greatest challenges of the role? What sort of training and development or induction program do you provide? When can I expect to hear from you?
What to avoid during an interview:
- Don’t say anything negative about a past employer
- Never interrupt during the conversation or talk over the top of the interviewer
- Don’t fidget
- Try not to get off track with your responses, stick to the point
- Avoid “yes” or “no” answers – always back up your responses with examples and substance
Closing the deal
- Cover off anything you’ve missed: sometimes you can be limited by the questions asked by the interviewer and may feel that you haven’t had the opportunity to discuss experience, skills or attributes that you see as important or relevant to the role. Don’t be too shy to briefly highlight these things as a part of your close, for example: before we wrap it up can I briefly mention that you may be interested to know that I also gained excellent experience at…
- End on a positive note: finish by clearly stating your interest in the role and thanking them for their time and the opportunity. For example: it has been a pleasure meeting with you and thank you for your time. I am very interested in the position and your organsation, it appears to fit both my skill level and career objectives perfectly. I hope to hear from you again soon…
- Follow-up: demonstrate your eagerness by following up on the interview the following day. Email the interviewer (or your recruitment consultant if this is being coordinated by them) to politely thank them for their time and confirm your interest. If you are unsuccessful ask for constructive feedback as to why so you can learn from the experience. Don’t let it dishearten you though – simply reflect on what you could have done differently and use the experience to help you improve for next time.