Facing an interviewer can be daunting. Whether your interview is in person, via video or phone, it can feel a bit like doing a test. Don’t fret—a little thought and preparation can go a long way. The nerves may niggle, but with a clear head and a few stories ready, you can make your interview the one they remember.
When you prepare well for an interview, you gift yourself with a toolkit of resources to dig into during the interview.
These five tools will set you up for a great start.
Read the job description again. If you haven’t done the job before, think about the skills the employer is looking for. Write a list of your skills that could help do that job. Many skills can be used across different jobs, for example, communication skills, teamwork and safety awareness. They’re worth having top-of-mind when you’re answering questions.
You might be asked why you want to work for the company or if you have any questions about it. It’s an opportunity to make your mark. Check out the employer’s website and note things you like. Think of questions that relate to the work you’d be doing. For example:
What is the size of their team?
Do they use digital equipment?
What’s their workplace culture like?
Prepared questions show genuine interest.
Asking about your skills and training is the obvious start, but an interviewer will also want to know about your personality and way of working.
Commonly asked questions include:
Tell me about yourself
Why do you want to work for this company?
What was your previous wage/ What is your wage expectation?
Why did you leave your previous job?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Since it’s hard to think on the spot, spend time beforehand thinking about answers that would bring out your best qualities.
We all want a decent wage, but what else do you want from your work? Don’t be surprised if the interviewer is interested in what you value. Well-considered answers can help an employer make an offer you’re likely to accept.
What benefits are important to you? Training opportunities or rostering flexibility might be realistic options for an employer to offer.
What kind of workplace culture are you looking for? You could ask about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The employer might tell you about their anti-bullying policies, multicultural celebrations or what their diversity and inclusion officer does. Modern employers are interested in employee mental health, so you could ask about wellbeing initiatives.
What company values are important to you? Would you rather work with a company that places teamwork at the top of their list, or honesty? Accountability or a culture of learning? Qualities that matter to you can show an employer your character.
What management style helps you do your best work? Tell the interviewer about your style of learning. Do you like structured tasks with clear steps and outcomes, or do you prefer the freedom to figure out the best way to complete a task? Talk about types of leaders that have helped you thrive at work.
Answering questions in your head can feel very different to speaking them aloud. Run through a mock interview with a friend, or practice delivering your answers in front of a mirror. Talking out your answers helps you find where you fumble for words. Practicing will help your answers roll more easily off the tongue.
When you step into the interview, the way you present yourself can help the interviewer connect with you. If all goes well, it’s possible for both of you to enjoy the interaction.
Here’s how you can get the best out of your part of the interview.
When you’re with someone in person, the words you use are only a small part of your communication. Your body posture can communicate whether you’re interested or bored before you’ve even opened your mouth. During the interview, avoid folded arms or slouching, as these can make you appear guarded or disinterested. Face your interviewer squarely and rest your hands lightly in your lap without fidgeting. Be aware of your facial expression - nerves can make you frown or look down a lot. Do your best to make eye contact with your interviewer and don’t forget to smile.
The interviewer already knows your basic details and experience from your resume. The interview is their chance to build on this information and learn more of your personality. Look for opportunities to show extra details like how you approach tasks, things you’re good at and accomplishments you’re proud of.
Often interviewers will ask about times you’ve faced work challenges, or difficult people, or when something went wrong, because those are workplace realities. It’s important to touch on what you’ve struggled with, because no interviewer will believe a candidate never had difficulty. But don’t stop at the difficulty. The interviewer is looking for your ability to deal with and overcome challenges. Speak of times where you turned a bad situation around, like:
The time you calmed an angry customer or co-worker.
How you responded to an injury when the forklift truck knocked boxes off a shelf.
How you convinced your boss to try a new solution to an ongoing problem.
If you see an opportunity to mention something amusing, it could help you stand out as someone who is enjoyable to be around. Be careful not to joke at someone else’s expense or to overuse humour so that it seems you’re not serious about the job. What often works well is poking fun at yourself or laughing about a work incident. Humour can help everyone relax and cause a person to warm to you.
Most people will experience interviews that don’t go the way they’d hoped. It’s deflating, but don’t lose heart—it’s not wasted if you learn from it.
If you see the interviewer’s eyes glaze over or you go blank and have no answer at all, don’t panic. Ignore the voice in your head saying you’ve messed up.
Instead, stay calm and treat every new question as a fresh chance to show you’re a worthy candidate. You don’t know exactly what the interviewer is looking for—it might be a personality type rather than someone who knows all the technical answers, or vice versa.
One way to recover is simply to ask, "Are there any gaps in my skills that I can help clear up?" It could create an opportunity to point out how your soft skills would help bridge the gap. For example, explaining how you’re tech-savvy or a fast learner might keep you on the shortlist even if you don’t have the required program experience.
You could also ask, "Is there anything you would like me to expand on for you?" If the interviewer wants to hear more, it could lead to a more genuine discussion about where you might add value to the company.
Presenting well in a job interview is a skill you can keep improving. If you are a standout candidate, you may have a second or third interview for the role. If you’re unsuccessful, you’ve got more interviews ahead of you too.
Self-reflection is an effective way to become more self-aware and make improvements. After an interview, ask yourself:
What went well?
What didn't go well?
What will I do again next time?
What will I do differently next time?
Either way, don’t give up. Many factors influence why someone is offered a job or not. Not all of them are within your control.
It’s possible to outshine all your competitors in a job interview and be the successful candidate. If you prepare before an interview and practice your delivery, you’re already steps ahead. During the interview, stories that help the interviewer get to know you and your skills can make you stand out. Whether or not you’re successful, the key is to let every experience help you improve.