The skills you need to stand out from the crowd

Applying for jobs? Time to prepare for interviews!

It’s important to approach an interview as you would an important exam – the more you study, or in this case the more you prepare, the better you will perform. Here are our simple job interview tips:

Common interview questions and tips for effective answers

  • Research the company: Viewing the company’s website or social media pages before your interview will give you a better understanding of the business and how the role you’ve applied for fits into the organisation. This will help you shape your answers to suit what they are looking for and show the interviewer that you are interested in their company and the position.
  • Practice answering questions out loud: This will help you avoid using filler words and phrases such as ‘um’, ‘like’, ‘you know’ as you’ll hear yourself do it and be able to get on top of it.
  • Ask for time to think if you need it: An interviewer won’t mind at all if you need some time to think about your answer – they will like this far better than answering with ‘I don’t know!’ If you get stuck on a question, feel free to ask for some time to think about your answer, to refer to any notes you may have, or to come back to the question later in the interview. This will show the interviewer that their questions are important to you and you want to answer them thoroughly.
  • Presentation and attitude are important:  Always dress appropriately and professionally and be positive but not over confident. Both before and after the interview make sure you smile, shake hands, make eye contact and before you leave make sure you thank the interviewer for their time and for considering your application.
  • Be punctual: Aim to arrive about 10 minutes early so that you are not feeling rushed or under pressure.
  • Turn off your mobile phone, or leave it in the car or at home:Nothing is more distracting than a ringing or vibrating phone, and it may give the impression that you are not focused or that you have other priorities.
  • Think about some questions to ask the interviewer: Almost every interviewer will ask if you have questions for them. By preparing some questions beforehand, this shows that you are interested in learning more about the role and the company and that you have done some research. Don’t focus just on salary, working conditions or start date – feel free to ask questions about the role such as what kind of team you’ll be working with.

Suggestions:

  • Show the real you. Talk about your education, work history, family, hobbies and interests
  • Don’t go on too long or share too much, but do provide enough information to give the interviewer a sense of the kind of person you are – remember, they are looking to see how you fit with the team, not just how well you can do the job.
  • Where possible focus on aspects of your life that may relate back to the job role or company and that paint you in a positive light.
  • Try to avoid interests that may appear negative such as partying on Friday night and sleeping in on the weekend.

This question won’t be relevant if you have just left school or have no previous work experience.

Suggestions:

  • Be honest, but focus on the positives and opportunities that the new job offers and how it will help you achieve your ambitions.
  • Don’t speak negatively about previous employers, as this can give the impression that you did not have good relationships with employers or coworkers or left on bad terms. It also gives the impression you will speak negatively about the company you’re interviewing for when you leave them.

Suggestions:

  • To prepare for the interview, make a list of the skills and experiences you have that match those required for the job. Refer to the Employability Skills section of this Ready to Work Plan as well as the job ad or position description. Focus on 3-5 of your key strengths that are relevant to the job and memorise the list before your interview.
  • You may include intellectual, business, character traits and physical skills.
  • Think of an example of how and when you have used each strength.

Suggestions:

  • Focus on areas that relate to the job and think about skills and attributes that may not be essential that you think you could improve on. The interviewer wants to see that you can assess your own ability. But don’t be too confident, everyone has at least one weakness!
  • Provide an example and try to show that your weakness could also be considered a positive. For example, impatience can also be seen as eagerness to get a job done and see results.

Suggestions:

  • Show the interviewer that you have done your research and have some knowledge about the job and the company. Discuss features of both the position and the business that appeal to you.
  • Explain why you are a good fit for the role, what you hope to get out of it and what you can bring to the company.

Suggestions:

  • Show that you know yourself and how you react to different situations. Don’t say that you don’t get stressed – everyone experiences stress at various times.
  • A good way to answer a question like this is to provide an example of a stressful experience and how you handled it. This could be at school when you had multiple assignments due or meeting a tight deadline at work.
  • You could also discuss your time management and prioritisation skills in a pressure situation, or how you use these skills to avoid stressful situations.

Suggestions:

  • This is your chance to sell yourself to the employer. Show that you are the best candidate for the role and explain what sets you apart from other applicants. It can be hard to talk yourself up if you’re not used to doing that but remember – no one else is going to do it for you! An interviewer will only call your references if you give them a good enough reason to.
  • Be confident, but not over confident. Explain what you have to offer and why this is relevant to the job and the business. Provide examples of your skills and attributes that are relevant to the role. You can refer to the Work ready skills part of this Ready to Work plan.

Suggestions:

  • Demonstrate that you have ambition and that you are eager to learn and develop new skills in this job, as well as how you can contribute to the growth of the company and how this role will help you achieve your career goals.
  • Focus on how you can grow in this role and future opportunities with this company. Don’t refer to other companies that you’d like to work for or even plans to start your own business in the future.  The interviewer wants to see if you will be a reliable, long-term employee.

Behavioural interview questions

Behavioural interview questions relate to your Work ready skills and focus on how you behave in particular situations. These questions require you to provide specific examples of situations where you have applied these skills. Being prepared for these questions is a key to a successful interview.

 

Tip: when answering behavioural questions, assume the interviewer has no knowledge of the situation you are describing – as most of the time they don’t! It is better to provide too much detail when giving examples to ensure the interviewer understands the scenario and the part you played in it. When you don’t go into detail, these answers can seem vague and unprepared.
It might help to be specific by using the S.T.A.R. model:

  • Situation – what was the situation?
  • Task – what were you trying to achieve?
  • Action – what did you do?
  • Results – what was the outcome of your action
  1. Describe an occasion when you have gone out of your way to help a customer. What did you do and what was the result?
  2. In various situations in life, you may encounter people that you don’t get along with or agree with. Describe an example of when you have experienced this and how you managed that person.
  3. Describe how you decide when to communicate via the phone, email or face-to-face?
  4. Tell me about two or three key strengths you have in dealing with people. Can you provide a recent example for an incident in which your strengths proved to be valuable?
  1. Describe an occasion when you have taken the initiative and solved a problem on your own. What was the outcome?
  2. Describe an occasion when you have worked with minimal supervision or taken on additional responsibility for a task or project?
  3. Describe an occasion when you had to be relatively quick in coming to a decision even when you felt that you did not have sufficient information. What did you do?
  1. Give an example of a situation when you have had to keep up with changes to processes or information? How did you make sure you kept up to date?
  2. Explain how have you taken control of your professional growth?
  3. Give an example of a goal you set and how you reached it.
  1. Describe an occasion when your organisational skills helped you succeed.
  2. Describe an occasion when you had to multitask.
  3. Give an example of a situation when you had to complete tasks with competing deadlines and how you prioritised them?
  1. Give an example of a situation when it was important for you to appear confident when talking to others.
  2. Describe an occasion where you needed to make an immediate good impression on someone. How did you achieve this?
  1. Describe an occasion when your workday ended before you were able to finish your task.
  2. Describe an occasion when personal issues pulled you away from work and how you handled it.
  3. What is your approach towards your personal and professional goals? How do you prioritise them? Give me some examples?
  4. Describe an occasion when you were accountable for a mistake you made. Did you accept responsibility?
  1. Give an example of an idea you have come up with and successfully implemented.
  2. Describe a situation where you needed to solve a problem. What steps did you take to determine the most appropriate solution?
  1. Describe an occasion when you worked effectively in a team. What was your role? What impact did you have?
  2. Describe a team situation where things did not work out well. Briefly tell us what happened. What would you do differently next time?
  3. Describe an occasion when you had to speak up in order to be sure that others knew what you thought or felt.
  4. What has been the most challenging situation you have faced in a team environment?
  1. Describe a situation when you have felt that you were juggling too much. What did you do to get through it and what was the result?
  2. Describe an occasion when you have kept track of multiple priorities and still focused on quality. What strategies did you use?
  3. Describe an occasion when you had multiple tasks to complete in one day. What strategies did you use to organise your daily tasks? How did you prioritise them?

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