Certain topics of conversation are no-go zones during the hiring process, but there are many questions recruiters can ask in an interview that may surprise some candidates. In Australia, we have laws that make it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants specific discriminatory questions. There are situations, however, when you might be asked a question you’re not expecting that is perfectly legitimate.
In Australia we are protected by strong anti-discrimination laws at both a federal and state level. For example, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the basis of a number of protected attributes including age, disability, race, gender, intersex status, gender identity and sexual orientation. However, on the flip-side there are many attributes that are not protected by law and some of the questions that recruiters are legally able to ask may surprise you:
- Do you smoke? Legally, a potential employer can ask you if you smoke since it’s not a protected attribute. Whether or not that employer discriminates against you based on your answer is a grey area but the question in itself is legal.
- Where do you live? Again, this is not a protected attribute. Employers want to know this for many reasons – primarily if your commute is too long and they feel you may not be reliable or that you will get tired of the travel time and leave after a short period. I had a client who lived in a regional area around 60 minutes from the Gold Coast where she was seeking work as a travelling sales rep. She was comfortable with the commute, but was knocked back six times for roles due to the distance. The travel time wasn’t an issue for her since she’d previously lived in Sydney and was used to long commutes, but for Gold Coast natives it was too long.
- Do you have any medical problems? Whilst employers need to be careful here, asking questions about your health or requesting a pre-employment medical check is within their rights. While the question might be okay, it must be asked in relation to any potential health risks associated with the job or the industry, and your ability to effectively perform the job. E.g. If you had an existing issue with your back that would prevent you from lifting boxes or performing some other physical requirement of a role.
- How old are you? Age is usually irrelevant, and it is unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their age (because it’s a protected attribute). However, where age relates to a specific job requirement, such as serving alcohol, then the question becomes a legitimate and legal one.
- Do you have the right to work in Australia? We know that discrimination based on race or ethnicity is most certainly unlawful in Australia, however employers are able to ask you to prove your right to work in Australia. This means they can ask whether you are an Australian citizen or you have an appropriate work visa. In addition, there are certain examples where race might be a genuine occupational requirement – for example where specific local or cultural knowledge is required – particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
- Do you have a criminal record? Whilst it is okay to ask this, and it’s also okay for a recruiter to make a job offer conditional upon a candidate obtaining a satisfactory criminal history check, refusing to provide it is not unlawful. In addition, there are limitations as to how the potential employer can use the information. In some states, it is unlawful to discriminate against a job applicant based on the fact that they have a criminal record – providing it is not relevant to their ability to perform the job. For example, if you’re working with people, a conviction relating to violence may be relevant, whereas a theft conviction might not. You also have no obligation to reveal spent convictions (which means you’ve fulfilled the 10 year waiting period from the date of conviction).
- Do you have any tattoos or piercings? While tattoos and body piercings have certainly become more mainstream in recent years, with some employers relaxing their standards regarding visible tattoos and piercings, many employers still have policies that require employees to totally cover or remove them. The fact is there are no current laws that prohibit discrimination against people with visible tattoos, body piercings, unnatural hair colours, or unique hairstyles or other physical attributes. While it may seem unfair to be discriminated against for this reason, appearances still count and it most certainly could occur.
Job interviews can make even the most prepared candidates uncomfortable. If you’re feeling intimidated before your interview, understand that this is not uncommon. Doing some research on the company, being prepared about why you want the role, and having some answers ready that you can draw upon will help you feel confident. Understanding how to answer tricky questions if they’re asked is a great strategy to help you feel better prepared.
If you would like assistance with preparing for a job interview and advice on how to maintain positive body language, build confidence and increase your success rate, see our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
We often talk about preparing for interviews – it really is one of the most important parts of the whole job application process – one we find is regularly overlooked. While it’s great to be prepared, it’s important to remember the vital part of connecting with your interviewer. So what’s the best way to prepare without sounding rehearsed?
We hear about it often from both recruiters and candidates – bombing out at an interview as a result of ill preparation. You may be the best candidate for the role, but if you don’t perform well in the interview, it’s unlikely you’ll progress. Whilst it is important to prepare and practise responses, there is a danger that you can sound overly rehearsed. You want to sound confident and articulate but not robotic or false. Here’s our tips to help you strike the balance.
- Practise a few different ways of introducing yourself – many interviews start off with some form of ‘tell me a bit about yourself’. It’s important to tailor this response based on the role, company, interviews and the recruitment stage you’re at. However, having three or four versions that you can tailor is a good place to start. Then before each interview, research the company, role and interviewer so you can work out where your focus should be.
- Don’t memorise scripted answers – by all means identify the types of questions you might be asked and prepare standard responses but instead of specific responses, use key concepts, words and phrases that you can draw upon depending on the question and direction of conversation. Think about the key skills and experience required to excel in the role and relate your own expertise back to that. If you identify all the technical or specialist skills, qualifications and experience you need as well as the ‘soft’ or generic skills required – areas such as communication, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, and initiative – then prepare mini stories that demonstrate that skill – you should be prepared to answer any question that is asked.
- Prepare notes on your job history with key areas to discuss – candidates often can’t recall what they did in previous roles, particularly if some time has passed. Review your job history and create quick mental or physical lists of areas to discuss so you can quickly and confidently answer questions about specific roles. A better option is to prepare mini success stories that demonstrate the value you provided – have these on hand to help you articulate your experiences and accomplishments more clearly.
- Work out what differentiates you – being able to set yourself apart is essential. Identify your unique skills and qualities and again practise talking about them. You’ve landed an interview and now it’s time to impress. Don’t come across as bored or uninterested – make an effort to show your positive approach and explain why you’re different to others.
- Prepare some questions – asking informed, well thought-out questions will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested in the role and the company – while helping you to gather some information that’s going to be useful in making a decision about whether or not you really want to work there. Asking questions in an interview won’t make you appear rude or arrogant – quite the opposite in fact – it’s the perfect way to show off several of the most important traits that recruiters are looking for. Focus on the company, the industry, the role and its performance criteria, company culture, how they measure success, and the company’s timeline for making a decision regarding the appointment. And don’t be afraid to take a list of questions with you – it shows you’re prepared and interested.
- Build rapport – remember that a job interview is essentially a person-to-person conversation so make sure to use positive body language, eye contact, and a strong hand shake to engage the interviewer and build rapport. Leave a good first impression by arriving on time or a little early, unflustered with immaculate grooming and dress. It’s not just the content that matters but how you say it – smile and show passion, excitement and enthusiasm when you talk.
It is possible to be well prepared for a job interview without sounding overly rehearsed. Try some of our suggested tips to help build your confidence while ensuring your personality still shines through.
Do you struggle to perform well during interviews? If you would like assistance with preparing for a job interview, build confidence and increase your success rate, see our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
The concept of boomerang employees – or re-hiring ex-employees is not new, but it is on the rise. According to recent research, HR professionals are more open than ever before to re-hiring former employees. In the past, this practice was sometimes frowned upon – even if the employee had left on good terms – but now it’s becoming more and more common – and with good results for both employers and employees.
With this practice on the rise both in Australia and around the world – it’s worth considering as a viable option for your next role. Many companies that had to retrench workers in previous years are starting to increase their capacity again as business continues to improve. There are benefits to both employee and employer, but a few things worth considering.
Firstly, as a boomerang employee, you have to maintain good relationships with your previous company and colleagues. This means ensuring any split is amicable and then making sure you keep in touch with colleagues and bosses (LinkedIn makes this easy). When you leave a job, do so on good terms by remaining professional and positive about your reasons for leaving. Draft a professional letter explaining your reasons and what you plan, then try to provide some positive comments about your experience. For smaller companies, a more personal approach might be better – think about sitting down with fellow team members or colleagues to explain your reasons for leaving. If your company conducts exit interviews, endeavour to remain upbeat – if this isn’t possible keep your answers short and simple.
Ensuring a Good Fit
Before making any decision to re-join an ex-employer, consider the reasons why you left and investigate whether they still exist. Likewise, make sure the things you loved about the role and/or company still exist. If you left to grow your skills in other areas, study or travel – your new skills will be attractive to a former employer. Not only do you know the company, but now you have an added level of competency they can leverage.
If you are approaching a former employer about returning back, be sure to have a goal in mind and then be honest with them about what it is you’d like. Try to communicate your new skills, competencies and experiences and how that would help the company in the future. They may not have something open currently, however if you articulate your new skills and/or direction they can keep you in mind for future roles – perhaps thinking of you in broader professional terms than how they saw you previously. If you’re after a more senior level role than the one you left, articulate the reasons why you think you’d be successful by incorporating examples of relevant accomplishments you’ve made in the role(s) since you left.
While the whole process of being employed at a previous employer may be far less formal than if you were a new employee, don’t become complacent. Remain professional and focused and be prepared to go through the same selection process as others. The questions you get asked may be a little different and focus around your reasons for wanting to re-join, any new skills you will bring and how they’re relevant, what immediate benefits you might achieve for the company, and your thoughts on what will stop you from leaving again.
Becoming a boomerang employee has plenty of benefits for both the company and the employee. Employers benefit from someone who knows the business, culture and processes and this is a huge saving – both in time and the cost of getting someone up to speed. For employees, the knowledge and contacts you have puts you in a great place to ‘hit the ground running’ and achieve some quick wins in your new role.
Are you considering returning to an ex-employer? Would you like help from one of our professional resume writers to prepare a winning Resume that clearly articulates your value? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services. Perhaps you’ve secured some interest and would like help preparing for the interview? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.
We’ve all been in that position at the end of the interview when you’re just not sure you’ve done enough to stand out as the best possible candidate for the role. It’s a stressful and daunting experience – but a necessary fact of life. The key to success is being prepared. Here’s some ideas on how to end an interview and give yourself the greatest chance of being selected:
- Ask questions – asking questions in an interview provides an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company, and whether you think it would be a good fit for you. But it also provides the perfect opportunity to showcase your interest, stand out as a great candidate, and make that final positive impression to the interviewer. If you get asked if you have any questions, it’s important to ask at least one! Questions could focus on specific details of the job, the company, the interviewer’s experience with the company, the market, or competitors. Having questions pre-prepared is important but don’t worry if they all get answered during the course of the interview, just say something along the lines of “I did have a list of questions prepared, but you’ve answered all of them, thank you. I was interested to hear you talk about XYZ though, so can you tell me a little bit more about the impact that has on this role?”
- Address concerns – ask the recruiter outright if they have any specific concerns about your experience, expertise or areas that make them feel you’re not right for the role. This question does take courage to ask but wouldn’t you rather be given the opportunity to address any concerns before leaving the room? Be sure to think about what concerns might be raised before asking this question though. That way you’ll have some idea about what you’re going to say. Examples include gaps in experience or education, frequent switching of jobs, any time periods where you didn’t work etc. On the other hand, if the interviewer has no concerns and says you seem well qualified for the role, thumbs up all round.
- Sell yourself – a great way to end an interview is by summarising the reasons you’re interested in the role and why you think you’re a good fit. Start by stating how keen you are for the role after being here today, then remind the interviewer of your key capabilities that would be an asset in the role.
- Cement your interest – don’t leave without making sure the interviewer knows you’re interested. This is one of the most important parts of an interview. If they aren’t sure about your level of interest, they could assume you’ve changed your mind or aren’t a good fit. If you’re interested and want the job, make sure to communicate that. You could say something along the lines of “Thanks for your time today. I really enjoyed hearing more about the role and the company and it’s just reiterated my interest in the role. Can you tell me when you think you might make a decision?”
- Say thank you – the very last thing you should do is thank them for their time. A follow up email is also a great idea – this can be another way to reaffirm your interest in the role. Keep it brief, concise, professional, and polite. Asking what the timeline for the decision making process is or when you can expect to hear the outcome is also a great wrap up.
Securing an interview is tough, so being prepared and leaving a great first AND last impression is essential. Recruiters use interviews to test candidates’ performance under pressure because people who can think quickly on their feet are an asset in business. Concentrate on the interviewer and make your time count.
Would you like some assistance preparing for a job interview? Are you keen to overcome your nerves and build confidence in order to stand out from other applicants? Our interview coaches have extensive knowledge of current recruitment practices and are experts in their field. For more information, please see our Interview Training & Coaching service.
Congratulations if you’ve secured an interview! Now comes the all-important preparation. Even the most confident and fearless individuals can be terrified of interviews. Whilst they can be nerve wracking experiences, taking time to prepare yourself can make all the difference to the outcome.
You have more than likely applied for a role you are qualified for, you think you have the experience and skills to succeed, and you like the sound of the role or company – so making an effort to prepare as best as you can prior to the interview will give you the best chance of success. Depending on the type of role, level, and company you’re interviewing with, the questions will vary, however to help you get started with your preparation, we’ve provided 10 common questions with suggestions on how to respond:
- Tell me about yourself. The recruiter is looking for a brief summary about you and is interested in your professional background – not your hobbies, relationship status, and favourite foods. Try summarising recent professional achievements in less than two minutes, and relate what you say back to the role you are interviewing for so the recruiter can immediately recognise your potential value. Include a summary of qualifications as well if that’s important to this role.
- Why do you want to work for us? It’s essential to research the company and role beforehand and have a good strong answer to this question. You could talk about the market the company is in, your interest in that area, the role itself, and what appeals to you. Relate your future aspirations to the position, then reiterate why you’d be an asset in the role. Make sure you understand the company and role and discuss specific aspects so the recruiter recognises you are genuine about working there.
- Tell me about a time you improved on something. This question is a great one to prepare for using the STAR technique. It could relate to anything – a process, a relationship, an approach, or a competitive situation. Identify a relevant example beforehand and make sure to include just enough detail about what you did, why you did it, and how you did it, then summarise the eventual positive outcome.
- Why do you want to leave your current role? Focus your response on the fact you are seeking new or greater opportunities, responsibilities and/or challenges. If you’re trying to break into a new industry, mention it and the reasons why, then try making a link to the new focus. For example, you could showcase why you think you’ll succeed in this new area, based on what you’ve achieved previously, and how you want to extend yourself.
- What are your strengths? The interviewer is looking for your strongest qualities that relate to the role you are applying for. We suggest providing three key strengths with examples that demonstrate those strengths in action.
- What are your weaknesses? Most employers don’t want to hear something basic like “I’m a perfectionist”, or “I work too late”! The most important part of this question is to emphasise what you’ve done to overcome and/or mitigate your weakness. This question is all about how you turn your answer into a positive.
- Describe a time when your best laid plans didn’t work out. Give a specific example of a particularly difficult situation you encountered in the workplace. Again, prepare for this question using the STAR technique so you can discuss what went wrong, how you went about resolving the issue, and the eventual outcome. Ensure the outcome is positive though – don’t use negative examples and show the interviewer what or how you learnt from the experience for next time.
- Do you have any questions for us? This is one of the most important interview questions you can prepare for. It’s essential you have some well thought out questions prepared. It not only demonstrates your interest in the role and the company – but will also help you decide if you want to work there. Your questions could focus on the company and its future direction, the industry, competitors, recent news or events, the department’s direction and how it fits with company strategy, why the incumbent is leaving or where the work has come from (for newly created roles), the expectations of the role, scope for expansion down the track, performance expectations, success measurements, company culture, the timeline for a decision and/or next steps in the recruitment process.
- Why should we hire you? The best way to respond to this question is with specific examples of your skills and accomplishments that relate directly to the role. Compare the job description with your expertise, maintain a positive approach and showcase the value you could provide.
- What do you know about us? Again, it’s important to research the company so you can respond in an intelligent way to this question. Check their website and social media pages to see the latest promotions and information being shared. Look up the person or people interviewing you on LinkedIn to gain some insight into their interests and background as well.
Preparing in advance by doing some research about the company, the role, and the people who are interviewing you will ensure you put your best foot forward in the interview. Of course, interviews are two-way and while the interviewer needs to determine if you are right for the company, you should also assess whether the company is right for you. Feeling confident and in control is all about preparation, so do as much as you can.
Do you struggle with nerves or knowing how to answer questions in interviews? If so, Interview Training can help prepare you for your next job interview. Please see our Interview Coaching Services for more information.
While business attire is generally a lot more relaxed than say 20 years ago, a bit of effort with what you wear to an interview will go a long way. That may mean dressing a little more conservatively than you might do if you were heading out for a night on the town – but first impressions are extremely important in an interview.
If you are currently preparing for an interview, congratulations! There’s lots to think about but focusing some of your preparation time on working out what to wear is a great idea. Our main tip is to find out what the company’s dress code is – then dress slightly smarter than that to show you have made an effort. You don’t however want to appear overdressed and uncomfortable. If you’re going for an interview in a very casual environment and you turn up in a suit and tie, you may not feel confident and that will only jeopardise your chances.
Since workplace dress standards are so varied these days, I’ve broken it into three categories – professional, business or smart casual, and casual. These outfit ideas are just suggestions of what might work for each category – work out where the company fits and then base what you wear around these ideas.
- For women: a dark suit (could be a skirt or pants, but make sure the skirt is long enough for you to sit down comfortably), coordinated shirt/blouse, conservative shoes, limited jewellery, professional hairstyle, optional neutral pantyhose, light make-up and perfume, neat nails with clear or conservative coloured polish, and a portfolio or briefcase with any notes you want to take.
- For men: a dark coloured suit, long sleeve shirt (white or conservative colour coordinated to match your suit), belt, tie, dark socks, conservative leather shoes, neat hair, limited cologne or aftershave, neatly trimmed nails, and a portfolio or briefcase with any notes you want to take.
Business Casual Attire:
- For women: casual tailored pants or a skirt (no elastic waists or tights), a knit top or shirt, neat leather shoes, boots, ballet flats or similar, an optional blazer or tailored cardigan, light make-up and perfume, neat nails, and a portfolio or satchel with any notes you want to take.
- For Men: cotton or more casual style pants, long sleeved button-down shirt, polo or knit top with a collar, leather shoes, belt, neat hair, limited cologne or aftershave, neatly trimmed nails, and a portfolio or satchel with any notes you want to take.
Whilst a casual dress code is fairly open – anything doesn’t necessarily go! Make sure you are still tidy looking and that your clothes aren’t worn or shabby.
- For Women: a pair of smart jeans, a plain top or tailored t-shirt, and a jacket works well. You could wear a smart pair of open toe sandals, but a simple ballet flat or smart casual lace up works better. Again it’s best to wear light make-up and perfume, ensure your nails are neat, and you could carry any notes in a portfolio, satchel, or a nice tote bag.
- For Men: again a pair of smart jeans, a nice t-shirt, and a casual jacket (optional), shoes should be closed in, clean and not too worn. Again make sure your hair and nails are neat, don’t overwhelm with cologne or aftershave, and carry notes in any type of satchel, portfolio or folder.
Regardless of the dress code and type of role you are going for, pay attention to your overall look. There are some things you should never wear, and certain things to pay attention to, including:
- Not wearing anything too revealing, skimpy, or skin-tight
- Choosing moderate, neat and clean shoes and definitely no thongs
- Limiting jewellery
- Making sure your hair is neat
- Not wearing too much makeup
- Using a light perfume/cologne/aftershave
- Ensuring nails are neat and manicured
First impressions are very important in an interview so a little bit of time taken to plan what you’re going to wear is important. It could go a long way in determining who will get the job!
Do you struggle to work out what to wear to an interview? If you would like assistance with preparing for a job interview, to build confidence and increase your success rate, see our Interview Skills Training service.
Most people admit to being nervous going into a job interview – in fact many would say there is nothing more nerve racking than a job interview. Recruiters don’t usually go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to perform under pressure. What are the biggest mistakes made, and how can you avoid them?
If your application was a success and you’ve secured an interview – congratulations! That’s a great achievement in today’s competitive job market! If you’re feeling uneasy about the interview, you’re not alone. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.
MISTAKE # 1 – Not knowing much about the company – you will most likely be asked what you know about the company and why you want to work there. This should be one of the easiest questions to answer – if you’ve done your research. Review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages before your interview. Get a feel for the company culture and how it matches your values – workplace culture is very important and an area of increasing focus for employers to ensure candidates are a good long term fit. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can read recent media articles that are not controlled by the company. This often uncovers issues or situations that may be appropriate to discuss.
MISTAKE # 2 – Not being well prepared – it’s amazing how many people don’t recall what they did in previous roles. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Under pressure, you can’t just ‘wing an interview’. Taking time to prepare by reviewing your job history and creating quick mental or physical lists of areas to discuss is essential. A better option is to prepare mini success stories that demonstrate the value you provided – have these on hand to help you articulate your experiences and accomplishments more clearly.
MISTAKE # 3 – Not dressing appropriately – dress neatly and ensure you are well groomed. The actual attire you wear will vary depending on the role and company but if you research the company first, you can decide what would be expected. If unsure, err on the more conservative side.
MISTAKE # 4 – Arriving late and/or flustered – work out where you’re going and how you’re getting there before you leave. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, know where the parking is and allow extra time in case of last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a lasting negative first impression.
MISTAKE # 5 – Lying or stretching the truth – not knowing your true value could lead to the temptation to stretch the truth. Be prepared to talk about yourself, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked, you have some accurate things to say. Focus on achievements made for current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios. If you’re asked if you’re good at something that you’re not – be honest, but give it a positive spin if you can. You could say something like “Well I wouldn’t call myself a whiz, but I have been learning more recently, and have been able to solve some fairly complex issues.”
MISTAKE # 6 – Making non-verbal mistakes – body language is one of the most important aspects of an interview with many psychologists believing non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. It is therefore essential to pay close attention to your body language – so it supports what you are saying. In summary, pay attention to the following: smile, limit hand gestures while talking, retain good posture, maintain eye contact (but don’t stare), don’t cross your arms, match your facial expression to what you’re saying, and avoid fidgeting. For more information, read our previous article – Body Language – 8 Tips for Interview Success.
MISTAKE # 7 – Bad-mouthing a previous employer – this is never appropriate. All it does is make you look like someone who might be difficult to work with. If you accidentally say something negative about a former employer – simply say “Let me re-phrase that” and move on with a more positive approach.
MISTAKE # 8 – Talking too much about what you want – and not about what you can offer. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before-hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions. Understanding the company, the role, and the needs you meet is key to being able to successfully talk about what you can offer in the role.
MISTAKE # 9 – Failing to differentiate yourself – being able to set yourself apart is essential. Identify your unique skills and qualities and again practice talking about them. You’ve landed an interview and now it’s time to impress. Don’t come across as bored or uninterested – make an effort to show your positive approach and explain why you’re different to others.
MISTAKE # 10 – Not asking for the job – if you’re interested, show it, and say so. You could also follow the recruiter up with a short email to reiterate your keenness.
Securing an interview is tough these days, so being prepared is essential. Recruiters use interviews to test candidates’ performance under pressure because people who think quickly are an asset in business. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count.
Would you like some assistance to prepare for a job interview? Are you keen to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.
Do you get tongue tied in interviews when asked ‘do you have any questions?’ Are you worried about asking the ‘wrong’ question? In an interview, you want to make sure you ask questions when given the opportunity – but they need to be well thought out. You want to show that you’d work well in the role and you’re compatible with the company culture.
If you’re afraid of looking foolish by asking the wrong question, read our tips and take the time to prepare prior to your interview. Asking informed, well thought out questions will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested in the role and the company – while helping you to gather some information that’s going to be useful in making a decision about whether or not you really want to work there. Asking questions in an interview won’t make you appear rude or arrogant – quite the opposite in fact – it’s the perfect way to show off several of the most important traits that recruiters are looking for. Here are some areas to focus on:
- The Company: even just a quick Internet search will provide you with enough information about the company to formulate some intelligent questions. This shows interest and preparation and will help you to better understand some of the challenges the company might currently be facing. Questions could be quite general, or focus on a specific area of concern or something currently/recently in the news. Examples: What affect has ‘the recent issue’ had on the company? How does this company differentiate itself from its competitors? What changes do you anticipate in the industry and how will these impact the role?
- The Role: You want to gain a good insight into the position, the expectations and what you’d be doing on a day to day basis, but you should also try to gain an understanding of where the role is headed and its scope for expansion down the track. Examples: What are the essential capabilities/qualifications/experience to achieve success in this role? What is the company’s vision for this role? What were the strengths/weaknesses of the previous incumbent? Why is this position vacant – has the previous person left/been promoted? Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff/my manager/my team during the interview process? What do you see as the most important performance criteria for this role in the next six months/12 months/2 years?
- Success Factors: You want to understand how the company measures success and what impact this role has on the company’s overall success. This demonstrates that you are able to think strategically and understand that every role has an impact on the company’s bigger picture. Examples: How do you evaluate success here? How would you describe the company’s culture?
- The End Result: You will be keen to understand the timeline for the company’s decision making process and you shouldn’t leave without gaining this. Walking out of an interview without this understanding can be very frustrating. Waiting isn’t fun, and not knowing when to follow up a recruiter is hard. You could also offer the best way to contact you and confirm your enthusiasm to progress to the next stage. Examples: What is the company’s timeline for making a decision? What are the next steps that need to be taken before you make your decision about who to offer the role to? When can I expect to hear back from you? Is there anyone else I need to meet with? Is there anyone else that you would recommend I talk to? Is there any other information I can provide?
Many of our clients think of interviews as a chance for recruiters to grill them relentlessly to test their suitability for a role. However the best interviews are two-way streets. Be prepared and ask some of your own well thought-out targeted questions and listen to the interviewer’s responses so you can clarify areas that don’t make sense. By doing this, you will demonstrate just how much of an asset you could be in the role. Make sure not to ask about something that has already been addressed, since this may hinder rather than help your chances.
Do you struggle with formulating intelligent questions to ask in an interview? Would you like assistance deciding what areas to focus on? If so see, please see our Interview Coaching and Interview Training Services.
The process of interviewing candidates has changed significantly in recent years. Where previously, you could have potentially predicted the types of questions you’d be asked and prepared by learning some great responses, this is no longer the case. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.
Most people would agree they get nervous before a job interview – in fact many would say that there is nothing more nerve racking than job interviews. Recruiters don’t generally go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to think and perform under pressure. Despite this, many job seekers make it worse by not properly preparing. Many of the following common interview mistakes can be avoided:
1. Not knowing much about the company: Being asked what you know about the company should be one of the easiest questions in an interview – if you’ve done your research. Always review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can review media that is not controlled by the company. This could highlight issues or situations the company is currently involved in. Try to also gain an understanding of the company culture and how that matches your own values – workplace culture is very important in terms of the interview and this is one area the interviewer may focus their attention on to ensure you provide a good fit for the company.
2. Not being confident with your own information: It’s amazing how many people don’t recall employment dates or what they did in previous roles. Review your resume and make sure you have a good recollection of your experience, the timeline of roles, skills you’ve developed and successes in each role. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Put together a list of accomplishments in each role that you can quickly and confidently discuss. Don’t just focus on the roles that interest you or that you feel are the best fit. Be prepared to discuss any part of your background if pinpointed by the recruiter. Taking time to review your history and create a quick list will refresh your memory and help prepare you to discuss experiences and accomplishments that you may have otherwise forgotten in an interview situation.
3. Turning weaknesses into positives: If you’re asked about your weaknesses – resist the temptation to say “I’m a perfectionist”, “I work too hard” or something equally as clichéd. A better way to approach this question is to think seriously about a weak point or something you have previously struggled with and what you’re doing to improve it or enhance your skills in that area. Interviewers are not really trying to trip you up with this question – they just want to make sure you’re a good fit for the role.
4. Not asking questions: At some point during most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions. Having none can make you appear uninterested and unprepared. Before the interview, put together a list of relevant questions. It’s acceptable to take some notes in with you to refer to if you think you may forget. Ideas for your questions could include areas of the role you’d like to know more about, the current or previous person in the role and their career, the interviewer’s career, how long they’ve been with the company, what they like about working for the company, a current situation with the company or market, what the recruiter sees as the biggest challenge in the role etc.
5. Being negative and/or switching off: Make the effort to show you are positive and enthusiastic by remaining attentive and upbeat – don’t come across as bored or uninterested. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count. If you find yourself becoming distracted, make a conscious effort to re-engage with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair and sit up straight – this takes more effort and concentration and helps you to remain alert. Also remember that no matter how much you disliked your last job, boss or colleagues, this is not the time or place to discuss it. You should never criticise or undermine a past supervisor or company as the recruiter may get the impression that you’d be difficult to work with.
Securing an interview these days can be tough, so make sure you fully prepare for it. The bottom line is that you don’t get a second chance to impress at an interview. Recruiters use the interview to test candidates’ thinking and performance under pressure because people who can think quickly in business are an asset. If you want to succeed in an interview, preparation is key – it will help you feel more confident and will show in your performance.
If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach with preparing for a job interview, to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate, please see our Interview Coaching and Training service.
Even for the most confident and fearless individuals, job interviews can be terrifying. In order to have the best chance of success, many candidates prepare answers to long lists of questions they perceive as being challenging to answer. One issue with this approach is that it can be difficult to predict exactly what line of questioning a recruiter will take and the process may leave you feeling more anxious with long lists of questions and answers that you’ve tried hard to memorise. Worse still, you could end up sounding false and/or over prepared in the interview.
A great way to prepare for an interview is to think about the following three key areas and then try to relate each question back to them:
What are the skills and experience required to excel in the role? By thinking about this question and relating your own expertise back to it, you can answer many questions fired at you. Identify all the technical or specialist skills, qualifications and experience you need as well as the ‘soft’ or generic skills required – areas such as communication, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, and initiative. Once you have prepared for this question you can more succinctly answer many standard questions without going off on a tangent. Questions such as tell me about yourself, why should we hire you, what can you offer us that other candidates can’t, and what challenges might you face in the role, all relate back to the skills and expertise you possess to ensure success in the role.
What is the company, industry and market going through? Finding out as much as you can about the company and its industry in general will help you demonstrate enthusiasm and interest. Having an understanding of the company’s market position, strategy, where it’s headed, current industry and economic influences etc. will help you to answer the obvious questions like what do you know about the company and why do you want to work here, but will also help with more difficult questions such as how your ambitions fit with the company’s, where you see the company heading/succeeding, what challenges you think the company or industry is facing, and why you think the role is a good fit for you.
What is the company culture? Whether or not you are a good cultural fit is a key area of focus for recruiters because many candidates are a perfect fit in terms of qualifications, background and experience, however their personality and/or work style will preclude them from succeeding. Every company has their own unique way of working – establishing this cultural fit with candidates is an important part of the overall recruitment process. As a candidate, it can be difficult to determine the detail behind a company’s culture, but it helps to talk to other employees (past and present) if you can. If you’re applying for a job through a recruitment company, talk to the recruiter before interviewing with the client – they should be able to help. If all else fails, you can research online. A specific site that might help is a site called Glassdoor where employees provide reviews of what it’s like to work for certain companies – of course the data is only as good as the people contributing and it is largely opinion based, so take it in the context it’s provided and don’t assume 100% accuracy. Once you have an understanding of the company’s culture you’ll be able to answer questions that focus on your work style, how you’d describe yourself, how your colleagues or superiors would describe you, and what makes you an ideal candidate for the role.
Of course, interviews are two-way and while the interviewer needs to determine if you are right for the company, you should also assess whether the company is right for you. Prepare questions focused on the same key areas – ask about training and development opportunities and how you could improve your skills and expertise, discuss recent company news or events, the department’s direction and how that fits with the company strategy, and ask why the incumbent is leaving the role OR for a newly created role, where has the work come from? Feeling confident and in control is all about preparation, so do as much as you can.
Do you struggle with nerves or knowing how to answer questions in interviews? If you would like assistance with preparing for a job interview, see our Interview Skills Training and Coaching Service.
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