Interviews

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Interviews

The key to a successful interview is preparation. Research the company and understanding the role. Offer polished responses to show initiative, enthusiasm and a keen interest in the job. Use the interview tips to impress your potential employer during that vital first meeting.

Preparing for the Interview

Researching the company will help you to better understand where your role fits and your knowledge will boost your credibility with the interviewer. The company website, annual report, newsletters, and media releases can provide you with valuable information on the company’s key products and services, target markets, recent events, structure, culture and future direction. Your interview preparation should also include reading trade publications and newspaper/magazine articles. These will give you an insight into the company’s reputation, major competitors and wider industry challenges.
Carefully examine all the information you have about the role, including the job advertisement and position description. This information is useful for anticipating what you are likely to be asked, so that you can prepare relevant responses beforehand. To set you apart from other candidates, you can also use this information to form intelligent questions to ask at the conclusion of the interview.
Rehearsing answers to the questions you are likely to be asked is the most critical step in interview preparation. For each potential question, identify practical examples that show how you responded to the task/situation and specify the positive outcome. Rehearse your responses with a friend to gain feedback on whether you are matching your skills, experience and personal attributes to the requirements of the job in a coherent way.
The key to presenting yourself in the best possible light is to know your key strengths and be able to communicate them confidently. The interview is your opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself, so be sure to have prepared concrete examples of what makes you special. Revise the key achievements from your resume so they are top of mind when responding to questions, and use them to demonstrate how you can meet the needs of the employer better than any other applicant.

Tips for Making a Great First Impression

The interview is your opportunity to make an impression on a potential employer and convince them that you are the strongest candidate for the role. Make the best impression you can by applying the following tips.

PLAN YOUR ARRIVAL

Punctuality is a strong indicator of your professionalism and enthusiasm for the role. Confirm the time and address of the interview, research directions and parking, and aim to arrive 10 minutes early. Bring any required documentation and the phone number of the person you will be meeting with in case of an emergency.

Your appearance conveys how serious you are about the role, and how you would represent the company in the future. Be sure to dress appropriately and professionally. Pay attention to details such as clean shoes and limit the amount of jewellery you wear.
It is important to remain as relaxed as possible. Even the most seasoned professional can get interview nerves. Preparing thoroughly will help you to maintain your composure. Remember that both you and the interviewer want a successful outcome from the interview.
First impressions count. Greet your interviewer standing, with a firm handshake, good eye contact and a smile. Try to find out the name of the interviewer or the interview panel in advance. This will help you to address them correctly and make a positive impression.
Positive body language is vital. Be aware of your tone, eye contact and how you are positioned in the chair. Try to convey genuine enthusiasm, warmth and professionalism. Speak with clarity and confidence. Remember that your motivation and attitude are often as critical as your skills and experience.
Close the interview with a handshake, a smile and a genuine thank you. A brief, friendly email thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration is often viewed positively. Restating your enthusiasm for the role could be a deciding factor as to whether you are offered the job.

Common Interview Questions

To demonstrate at an interview that you are the right fit for the role, preparation is vital. Use these common interview questions to prepare relevant responses; matching your skills and attributes to the needs of the company and role wherever possible. Remember to also prepare a suite of compelling examples to help convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job. Preparation, positivity and proof are your keys to interview success.

This is a commonly asked question designed to break the ice. A strong, succinct answer will quickly gain the interviewer’s attention and separate you from other candidates who may be tempted to divulge their life story. Give a brief, concise description of who you are and your key qualifications, strengths and skills. Tailoring your answer to the role on offer and declaring the strongest benefit that you offer an employer will leave the interviewer compelled to know more.
The interviewer is trying to gauge your enthusiasm for the role as well as your level of knowledge about the company. Give specific examples of things that attracted you to the company and elaborate on your strengths, achievements and skills and how they match the position description, making you the right fit.
The interviewer wants to know what you are particularly good at and how this would fit into the role. Choose a few of your key strengths that are required for the role and give examples of how you have demonstrated them successfully in the past. Strengths could include the ability to learn quickly; composure under pressure; ability to multi-task; team focus or your ability to work autonomously.
The interviewer is trying to gauge your self-awareness. We all have weaknesses so it’s best not to say you don’t have any. Avoid using the word ‘weakness’ and instead talk about an ‘area for improvement’ that is not vital for the job, or specify a ‘challenge’ that you are working to overcome. Demonstrating a willingness to develop yourself and face challenges turns the answer into a positive.
The interviewer wants to know if you are a high-achiever and ascertain how your accomplishments will be beneficial to them. Select one or two recent accomplishments that are directly related to the job on offer. Identify the situations, the actions you took, skills you used and the positive outcomes; quantifying the benefits where possible. Show how you can bring what you learned to the new role.
The interviewer is trying to find out your definition of ‘difficult’ and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. Select a tough work situation that was not caused by you. Explain the way you approached the problem, including the actions you took and the solution you applied to overcome the problem. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes setbacks and frustrations in your stride, as part of the job.
The interviewer is trying to find out your key interests and whether the job on offer has responsibilities you will dislike. Focus on what you particularly enjoyed in your last role and what you learned from it, drawing parallels to the new role. When addressing what you disliked, be conscious not to criticise your last employer. Choose an example that does not reflect on your skills (such as company size) or which reveals a positive trait (such as your dislike for prolonged decision making).
This should be straightforward. Reflect positively on your current employer but state how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Explain how your current role can no longer provide you with these things, but how you believe the role on offer presents an opportunity for growth that will make full use of your strengths and potential.
A sense of purpose is an attractive feature in an applicant, so this question is designed to probe your ambition and the extent of your career planning. Your commitment is also under question, but avoid blankly stating that ‘I want to be with your company’. Instead, describe how your goal is to continue to grow, learn, add value and take on new responsibilities in the future that build on the role for which you are applying.
The interviewer wants to see that you have composure, problem-solving skills and can stay focused in difficult conditions. Give an example of a time when you were faced with a stressful situation (not caused by you) and how you handled it with poise. Describe the context, how you approached the situation, the actions you took and the positive outcome. Demonstrate how you remained calm, in control and got the job done.
The interviewer wants to see that you have composure, problem-solving skills and can stay focused in difficult conditions. Give an example of a time when you were faced with a stressful situation (not caused by you) and how you handled it with poise. Describe the context, how you approached the situation, the actions you took and the positive outcome. Demonstrate how you remained calm, in control and got the job done.

Asking the Right Questions

Show your initiative by preparing and asking relevant, insightful questions regarding the role. Asking questions to determine whether the role and company is a good fit for you is just as important for both you and the employer, it will also help you to make an informed decision if an offer is made.

  • How has the position become available?
  • How is performance measured and how often is it reviewed?
  • What long-term career opportunities are available and how do you support the up-skilling of staff?
  • What are the key challenges of the role, particularly in the first six months?
  • How would you describe a typical day in this position?
  • How many people are in my team and what are their roles?
  • How does the team fit into the organization as a whole?
  • How would you describe the culture of the team?
  • With whom will I be working most closely?
  • What are the company’s plans for this team over the next few years?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • Can you tell me about your background and your key strengths?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What are the qualities you do and don’t like to see in your team members?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What is the leadership style of the upper management team?
  • What are the major plans for the company in the next five years?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What is the leadership style of the upper management team?
  • What are the major plans for the company in the next five years?

Negotiating Your Salary

To negotiate your new salary from a position of strength, preparation is crucial. You must have clear and realistic expectations of what your skills and experience are worth and be prepared to ask your potential employer for what you want.

Use the tips below to help negotiate your new salary with confidence.

It is critical to research what your role is worth before you begin negotiating your salary. Visit websites such as Trade Me and Seek  to find out the average range for your sector, location and experience. Scan similar jobs on the internet and talk to your Connect Recruitment consultant and industry colleagues for advice on what people are earning in similar positions.
Make sure you also research the financial performance of the company, its recent staff movements and industry conditions. This will help you to better understand the company’s position and anticipate potential objections when negotiating your salary.
Balance your research with your personal needs to determine a realistic salary range for negotiation. Decide on a figure that

  • You need to live on
  • You would be satisfied with (the minimum you would accept)
  • You would be delighted with (your ultimate goal)

The last two figures comprise the salary range for which you should aim. You should always start negotiations at the higher end to allow room for negotiation.

Always wait for the potential employer to raise the topic of salary negotiation first. If you are asked about your salary expectations, tell the interviewer you would like to know more about the role first. Avoid divulging your last salary; instead, tell them what you believe you are realistically worth based on your research, skills and experience. This may be a different figure to what you were earning in your last job.
Good negotiators will enter a meeting with a range of options. Think about non-pay alternatives if the opportunity to negotiate salary is limited. Support for education and training or flexible hours are potential alternatives to financial incentives. The job might offer a clear promotion path or the opportunity to review pay in three to six months, so make sure you consider these alternatives as part of your salary negotiation.
Employers respect applicants who are hard but fair negotiators. Having the confidence to negotiate well for yourself shows the employer that you could bring these skills to the role and strengthens their belief that you would be a valuable addition to the team.