How to conduct yourself in an Interview

Probably the most important part of the job selection process is the face-to-face interview. It's your chance to present your skills, experience, personal qualities and other strengths as they relate to the position you are applying for.

The interview is also an opportunity to get more information about the organisation and the position. This will help you decide if it is the right role for you.

If the role appeals to you, you'll want the interview to lead to a second interview or directly to a job offer. If the position or organisation is not for you, you'll want the interview to help clarify this.

Before the Interview

  • Research the job. Get a copy of the Job Description or Person Specification to identify the qualities of the ideal candidate. If the job was advertised, try to work out from the advertisement what the requirements are likely to be.
  • Competency based interviewing techniques are commonly used. These use previous behaviours to illustrate particular competencies or skill sets.
  • Competency based questions will typically be prefaced by “Give me an example of….." or “Tell me about a time……". These events are then probed further with questions such as How? Why? and What was the achievement or outcome?
  • Prior to your interview, refer to the Position Description and think about questions you may be asked. Practice your answers.
  • Research the organisation – use the internet and your networks.
  • Interviews can vary tremendously, with some being more casual discussions with the hiring manager, while in others you may face a panel of interviewers. Make sure you know the scenario that you are going to face.
  • Research the interview – Who is on the Panel? What will the format of the interview be? Do you need to take anything, such as work samples, with you? Will you have to undertake assessments?
  • Make a list of questions you want to ask.
  • Choose smart and appropriate clothing. You need to feel comfortable, so whatever you wear should be professional, neat and tidy.

First Impressions

  • Arrive ten minutes prior to scheduled interview time.
  • Use the time to read any literature on the organisation and have a last look at the information you have on the role.
  • Relax - breathe deeply.
  • Shake hands with the interviewer/Panel members.
  • Look them in the eye when listening to, and answering, questions.
  • Don't be put off by the interviewer/Panel taking notes, that's normal.

During the Interview

  • Relax.
  • Follow the interviewer's direction about where to be seated, sit upright and look alert. Know when to talk and when to listen.
  • Listen carefully to what you are being asked or told.
  • Be friendly and allow your humour to show, without getting carried away.
  • Show you are prepared for the interview by referring to what you have found out about the role and the organisation.
  • Pause and think before your answer.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand a question.
  • Expand your answer with examples rather than just saying “yes” or “no”, and always distinguish clearly what part you played versus the collective “we".
  • Sell yourself - be positive about your skills and achievements.
  • Avoid criticising previous employers or colleagues - this may be seen as an indicator of poor performance or a lack of ability.
  • Ask relevant questions. For example, to ensure you have a clear understanding of the job requirements you could ask “What do you expect the successful candidate to achieve in the first 6 and 12 months”.
  • Thank the interviewer/Panel for their time.
  • Make sure you know what happens next - whether there is another interview, when you can expect a decision, etc.

Key Points to Remember when Answering Questions

  • Avoid straight yes/no answers when you can.
  • Listen carefully to the question.
  • Speak clearly and stick to the point.
  • Avoid rambling and being vague.
  • Show the interviewer you have prepared by bringing in your knowledge of the job and organisation.
  • Check if you have given the interviewer enough information e.g. “Would you like to know a bit more about that?”
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand a question.
  • Give examples to back up your claims where you can.
  • Take time to think before answering.
  • Be positive about your skills and achievements.

After your interview ring the people&co. consultant who recommended you for the role. Tell them how the interview went and what your level of interest in the role is. This is an important feedback loop.