The word ‘interview’ sends shivers through most people, no matter how many you have undertaken or how far you have moved up the ladder. After reading this post, we aim to have you more educated, confident and understanding of how to prepare as well as what to and what not to say during an interview.
An interview is not the time to work out what you are truly looking for, learn about your skills or think about your strengths and development points. It is the time to demonstrate you know all of these things about you and prove you can clearly articulate them.
There are various stages you need to check off on the lead up to an interview.
1) You read, understand and process the position/ job description and what is expected of you.
2) Research the company inside out- understanding the companies culture, values, goals, objectives, industry, financial position (where possible), competitors, prior achievements, development in the pipeline and anything else you can get a hold of. Company websites are a great place to start, but don’t ever just focus on that, get your information through as many channels as possible, such as a financial publication, news, industry publication, reviews and your networks.
3) Use your networks to ask the right questions. Find out if you know someone who works/ worked there and ask them questions about culture, people and growth strategies that may not be available to the public. Don’t forget to keep in mind if you speak with a past employee only, to take into consideration their feedback if they didn’t leave on good terms as it may be blurred.
4) Understand you. This means everything including what you have to offer, why you have applied for this role, how this role will help drive your career, what skills and/ or knowledge you can bring to the position, your strengths and development points. With all these facts about you in mind, now start to develop example scenarios for questions in the interview.
5) Prepare, practice & prepare- graduate jobs are at the most competitive they have been in decades, so you need to treat this like a final exam to get through, not just a hurdle. Tie the next 3 points together and you will develop amazing answers:
- All the information about yourself with the role and the company
- Develop scenarios and example answers that overlap with why you want to apply for this role, at this company
- What you can bring to this role and why that’s a benefit to the company
Allow your passion, drive and desires to come through whilst being mature, confident and prepared. If this interview is one of your first, practice with an experienced professional such as a family member or lecturer. This way they can let you know what to develop and focus on in case you can’t spot these issues yourself. Feedback is key to success.
6) If you know that you struggle with a particular point such as nerves, clear communication, explaining yourself or anything else, practice it over and over and over again until you feel more confident in that undertaking. Nerves can’t always be removed BUT they can be reduced… the simple trick to reduce nerves is to prepare and know everything that you can about that topic. Over prepare so if nerves take over, you can reel of endless amounts of useful information to leave a lasting impression on how much effort you put into preparation.
7) Ace the interview- Undercover Grad Recruiter has now told you what to prepare for and how to do it, so now it’s time to dive into the interview and what to and not to do.
Do the below during an interview:
- Prepare prior- lots and often.
- Be extremely well dressed- be the best dressed as that’s always better than under dressed.
- Have a firm handshake with continuous eye contact.
- Sit up straight and watch your body language. Positive body language is facing the interviewers straight on, slightly leaning inwards and have your hands uncrossed in your lap or on the table.
- Remember the names of your interviewers and use them during the interview- to increase connection.
- Relax and enjoy the experience and opportunity- don’t allow nerves to take control. We as interviewers understand nerves can rear their ugly head, especially for students, so as we mentioned earlier- preparation is the best way to lessen nerves.
- Engage in small talk at the start- it’s critical to building instant rapport and make the situation more comfortable. If small talk doesn’t come naturally to you- PRACTICE. If all else fails, ensure you read current news on the lead up to the interview to help engage in small talk based on news topics.
- Where required, take a breather to think about your answer- never rush a thought.
- Ensure you listen carefully to the question and formulate your answer on the question. FAR too often as interviewers we hear answers that have little to none to do with the question because the candidate has not paid attention to what has been asked. Ask for clarification if you aren’t sure about the meaning of the question.
- Be honest, dishonesty only leads to potential problems down the track. You want to receive an offer based on what you can actually bring to the table as if you don’t perform it will lead to a bad outcome for both you and the employer.
- Do pay attention and evaluate your surroundings. An interview is a two-way street. You need to ensure if you receive an offer that you are also happy with the culture, environment and people that you met during the interview.
- It is essential to be able to outline your career path plans. When interviewing graduates, we as employers don’t expect you to be able to explain exactly what your career will look like, but we do expect you to be able to tell us at a high level which path you want to go down, want experiences you want to gain and how the company you are interviewing for can provide you with the path you want.
- Ensure you come across as friendly and engaging in nature, often we try and be too serious and overly professional, however this can come across as ‘dry’ and ‘unfriendly’ so ensure you find a balance in the middle.
- Formulate questions prior to your interview based on the position description, company as well as what you want to learn about. Ensure the questions are professional and insightful and not based on simple information you can find on the company website.
- We can’t presume that the interviewer has got all the relevant information they wanted from you…especially if they are following a pre-set interview guide and don’t deviate, therefore as a candidate you must ensure you ask the question: “Have I given you enough information during this interview to prove that I am a good fit for this role?” It’s a pretty bold question to ask, however this could secure you an offer if the interviewer feels something was missed out on, they will ask it now. It shows your confidence but also an open nature. Put this question in your own words and ensure it’s positioned right at the end of an interview. Trust us- it works wonders!
- Follow up with a short and pleasant thank you email after the interview.
Don’t do the below during an interview:
- Be under prepared because it shows. A top reason a candidate is made unsuccessful is because they come across as under prepared, they don’t know enough about the company, the role or why they are the right person for the role, not because they don’t have the right skills to fit the role (especially as a graduate!). Please remember this point as most unsuccessful candidates wonder what skills they were lacking vs reflecting to realise they simply didn’t prepare enough and were not able to explain their relevant skills and experiences accurately.
- Dress casually or use casual or abbreviated/ slang language, everything about you must be professional. It’s worth mentioning don’t over do the perfume, it’s intoxicating (not in a good way) in a small interview room. The same goes for smokers- avoid smoking at least 30 minutes prior to your interview as the smell lingers on you and will fill up a small interview room, which for a non-smoking interviewer is a real distraction.
- Be late- never ever be late, pretend the interview is scheduled for 30 minutes before the actual time and work to that in case of traffic jams or public transport issues.
- Answer ANY question with ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I haven’t prepared for this question’ or ‘Um, I’m not sure how to answer that’. In all the above situations, it may actually be the case for you, but never ever let the interviewer know this. It’s another sign you have not prepared enough. So if you feel you are about say the above or similar, this is what Undercover Grad Recruiter suggests to do:
-Always think quickly and find a substitute answer, use an example from another scenario and change it to work.
– Ask for a minute to think about the answer, this is perfectly fine.
– Ask for clarification of the question so statement 3 above doesn’t occur, it may be a simply fact of clarification.
NEVER SAY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING IN AN INTERVIEW:
|‘I don’t know’|
|‘I haven’t prepared for this question’|
|‘Um, I’m not sure how to answer that’|
- Speak negatively about a prior workplace, colleague or boss. This comes across as a negative.
- Be a joker- unless you are going for a role as a stand up comedian.
- Say “No,” when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?”
- Look through your resume to find answers- this is not the time to be doing resume re-con, it should all be memorized.
- Fidget with your hands, jewellery, hair, clothes, pens, books or anything really. If you know you are someone who does this, the best thing to do it place your hands flat on either the desk or your lap and place all things such as pens and books away.
- Interrupt- this is very prevalent with students interviewing for graduate position. Often you may not even realise you are doing it. There is a simply rule here- if someone else is talking- you don’t. Wait for them to finish what they are saying and then talk.
- Disagree or correct an interviewer in regards to something they ask you or state. You can only correct an interviewer if they pronounce your name wrong OR state something incorrect about you.
- Don’t offer negative facts or information about yourself unless the question is directly asked. In that case the question will be ‘Tell us about your weaknesses?’ This is one answer that should be very well prepared for and logically thought out so you can rattle it off. If asked, you should focus on something that you are working on, for example: ‘A weakness of mine is that I’m a bit of a slow reader, so to improve I have taken a short course on speed reading and have been practicing by reading lots of articles and books and timing my self to track my improvement’.
- You should never answer with ‘My weaknesses are I don’t like team environments, working late or writing long documents’. Trust us- this will end badly.
- Don’t think that just because you have done one interview for another graduate position last week that you don’t need to prepare again and that all graduate roles are the same. They aren’t! Every interview opportunity deserves the same amount of dedicated preparation.
- If you are a high performing student with excellent grades and top of your class, also don’t presume this will get you a job and that you can wing it. Grades and smarts are not what gets you the job, graduates are hired based on personality and cultural fit whilst displaying passion, drive & enthusiasm.
Interviewing is like a science, we know the formulas that do and don’t work, so ensure you remember the do’s and don’ts, prepare, practice and prepare some more.
Good luck and remember your resume gets you the interview, but your personality, passion and ability to explain why you are the right person for the role gets you the job.
A final resource for you is 31 most common interview questions found at the muse.
Best of luck
UC Grad Recruiter