Preparing for and attending a job interview

If you get the call for a job interview, that is great news! it means that the employer thinks you meet the core requirements of the job, and they now want to meet you to see how you fit in their company.

It is natural to feel nervous before a job interview, the fact that you are nervous means that you want to do a good job! The fact is that the people interviewing you will all have had interviews themselves, and at the time they would have felt exactly the way that you are feeling. Most employers understand and expect you to be nervous, but the best way to push through and perform is to prepare well. Here are some tips:

  • Know the job you are applying for, perhaps even call or drop in and see someone that does a similar job in that organisation before the interview and talk to them about:
    • How a normal day runs,
    • What are the key challenges,
    • What sort of performance targets or expectations are there and how they go about meeting these, this will help you to come up with ideas that you can share with the employer at the conclusion of the interview
  • Make sure you read over your application a few times before the interview, particularly for more technical roles as employers will often ask other questions that are ‘off script’ relating to claims you have made in your resume or application
  • Put yourself in the employer’s shoes, think about what you might ask someone who was applying for the position, and have some responses ready if asked those questions
  • Look at the key requirements of the position, and think about examples of where you have met or exceeded these requirements in the past
  • Dress for success, when choosing what to wear, look at the type of position and what you would wear in that job as a guide, you must always be well dressed and tidy, but you do not always have to dress formally for an interview, make sure you are comfortable
  • If you are due for a haircut, a beard trim or any other personal grooming, now is the time, if you look good, you will feel more confident
  • Think about visible tattoos and piercings, as a guide look at how others dress in that organisation, before your interview
  • Give yourself extra time to travel to the interview and think about your trip plan, traffic, connecting transport etc. It is good to be 10 minutes early, but if you are an hour early, find something else to do to distract yourself, rather than sitting in the waiting room
  • It is important that with complicated or multi-layered questions that you ‘confirm’ that you have answered the question. Don’t use the same confirmation each time, but it never hurts to say something like ‘does that answer your question’, or ‘is that the sort of thing you were looking for’. When you ask the question, watch the body language of the interviewer and provide more information if you feel necessary
  • Good personal hygiene will help you to make a good impression, wear deodorant (don’t overdue it), and dress appropriately so that you feel comfortable. For women, consider that you may be sitting at a low, open chair for the interview when choosing a skirt or dress
  • Make eye contact when you meet the interviewee/s, shake their hand firmly if they present, but don’t overdue it, and REMEMBER THEIR NAME/S
  • People like to hear their name, use the interviewee’s name when answering their questions
  • Although you are nervous, avoid clamping your hands together while waiting, when we are nervous we perspire, and having clammy hands doesn’t help to provide a good first impression when the interviewee shakes your hand
  • Always have a couple of questions to ask the employer about the job and the company, not questions that you could answer by reading their website, but possibly about future plans, this shows interest, never end the interview simply by asking about pay

Provide examples

Providing examples is a great way to answer an interview question, interview techniques have changed over the years, and most medium to large employers will now ask behavioural questions, requiring you to demonstrate where you have displayed a certain skill, behaviour or attribute in the past.

It pays to be prepared for these types of questions, and the SAR format is a good way to do this. Look at the key requirements of the position and think about the elements that the employer might consider most important, as a guide they are usually mentioned early in the ad, given emphasis, or are mentioned more than once. Examples include:

  • Strong customer service skills
  • The ability to prioritise, deal with competing priorities and meet deadlines
  • The ability to work as a member of a cohesive team
  • The ability to meet and exceed performance targets

Once you have determined the most important elements of the position, develop a short SAR example for each of them and read over it a few times before the interview. It pays to take your memory back to that example, and tell it as it happened, people love hearing a story!

S – Situation: Include enough information that would give the interviewer the ability to build a picture in their mind’s eye of the situation that you faced. This is the ‘where’ and ‘when’, ‘what the problem was’, ‘what you needed to achieve’ and ‘by when’.

A – Actions: Describe the actions YOU took, try not to use the term WE in this part, the employer wants to know what YOU did.

R – Result: Describe the result in measurable terms. Describe how YOU resolved the problem and how the resolution was measured. For example, ‘Because of the actions I put in place, the deadline was met, and the customer left a positive review about their experience’.

These SAR statements can also be used when you are ‘stumped’ by a question. For example, if the interviewer asks you a question about the elements that make up a certain skills or attribute and you cannot remember them due to nerves, you can also say ‘do you mind if I provide an example’, then you have your SAR ready to go!

The Cessnock City jobs portal has been jointly funded by the Australian Government and the Cessnock City Council.