The job interview is your opportunity to talk about how your skills, knowledge, experience and interests align with the role and the organisation.
The purpose of a resume is to win an interview, and the purpose of an interview is to win the job! The interviewer will be gauging if you have the potential to do the job, the motivation to perform well, and the ability to fit into the organisational culture. You’ll be finding out about the responsibilities of the role and if the organisation is the right fit for you.
Types of interviews
There is no single interview format that all interviewers follow, as it will depend on the industry, role and type of employment.
These are preliminary discussions which assess the candidate’s suitability to progress to the next stage of the recruitment process. They will focus on your ability to communicate, your motivation and interest in the role and your ability to answer basic interview questions. Common screening methods include telephone interviews and video interviews.
These interviews usually involve an unstructured conversation with the employer and are commonly used by small businesses like cafes, bars or independent retail stores. The interviewer may ask you some questions relating to the position but these are generally not standardised and your answers are not scored in a formal way. While an informal interview can feel like a friendly chat, remember that you’re being assessed for your suitability for the job.
Formal interviews are structured with carefully-chosen questions that examine your suitability for the role. All candidates are usually asked the same set of questions. There are several sub-categories of formal interview:
- One to one – you’re interviewed by one manager or staff member.
- Panel interview – you’re interviewed by several people at once (usually between two and five). Many people find this daunting but there is no reason to be intimidated. The aim of a panel interview is to gather input from different stakeholders when making hiring decisions rather than relying on the judgement of a single interviewer. Remember to engage with all panelists when answering or asking questions.
- Case study interviews – require you to work through an assigned business problem or scenario. They’re common in the management consulting field.
The interviewer(s) meet with several candidates at the same time. This can be either a screening method or a final interview depending on the employer’s needs. It’s essential to speak up, while also being respectful of your fellow interviewees by not talking over others or dominating the conversation.
The key to successful performance at an interview is preparation. You will feel a lot more confident if you understand the organisation and can anticipate questions based on the role description. Here are some key tips for preparing for your next interview.
1. Before the interview
- Research: Find out all you can about the industry, the organisation and the job, as the employer will expect you to understand the organisation’s services and values. Use the internet, industry publications, the University Library’s resource guide for researching organisations and industries, and personal contacts.
- Reflect: Consider your skills and past achievements. Employers will expect you to know what they have to offer and be able to provide evidence of your potential value to the organisation and role. Make a list of all the selection criteria, and reflect on examples you can cite for each criterion. For example: Criterion – verbal communication skills; Example – finalist in Toastmasters’ public speaking competition.
- Rehearse: The job advertisement or description may provide some clues as to what the interviewer will ask you. Practise with a friend or relative and ask for their honest feedback. You can also rehearse in front of the mirror, or record your answers and listen back over them to identify areas for improvement. Guide your practice using our sample interview questions. Use the Interview Simulator to practice your interview skills in real time, record your answers and compare your responses against video advice from employers.
2. During the interview
- Ensure everything about your appearance reflects your professionalism and attention to detail, such as wearing appropriate attire for your industry, and having polished shoes, neat hair and nails.
- Be on time, and make sure your mobile phone is on silent or turned off.
- Smile, maintain eye contact and confident posture and body language.
- Listen to the questions and make sure you are answering the question you were asked, not the question you were anticipating.
- Avoid rushing into your answer without thinking. The interviewer will expect you to take your time and give a considered answer.
Questions you can ask
You will probably be given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, so think about what you’d genuinely like to know. Asking a considered question can show your interest in the job and the organisation. Things you might ask about are:
- questions based on your research of the organisation’s website or its annual report
- types of projects you’d be working on and the mentoring or training opportunities
- specific questions about the tasks you’d be involved in on a day-to-day basis or about the team that you would be joining
- relevant questions that show your enthusiasm, for example, when the interviewer/s expect to make a decision on the successful candidate, or, in the case of a series of interviews, the next stage of the recruitment process.
Make sure that all your questions are not about the benefits such as travel, leave entitlements and promotions. Don’t ask questions about information you’ve already been given, although you can ask for clarification. Read our tips on salary negotiation when considering whether it is an appropriate query at this stage.
3. After the interview
Don’t forget to follow up the interview with a thank you email to the interviewer. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role. Make a note of any questions you struggled with and think of possible alternative answers so you’re better prepared next time. If you’re not successful at landing the role, ask for feedback to identify areas for improvement.