The interview is one of the most influential stages in the application process.
The interview is your opportunity to really understand what the role and the company can offer you, and it also allows you to demonstrate, face-to-face why you are the most suitable candidate. Interview preparation is key to your success in the application process.
Most likely, this is where you will be meeting with your potential manager, giving you the opportunity to build rapport and develop a positive relationship. First impressions do count.
This guide does not talk through how to dress or what body language to display, nor does it give you a list of questions that employers might ask in the interview. However, this article focuses on the content of the interview. You will learn how you can best be prepared to talk in the interview and ensure you are confident, relaxed and answer the questions effectively.
FREE TEMPLATES: This guide comes with free templates to help you prepare for a successful interview. To download your free templates and get access to the Career Launch Toolkit, simply enter your name and email below!
Preparation can be divided into 3 main areas:
- The Company and the Job
a. Create a full list of your skills and abilities.
Think about what you are good at and your proven abilities. This should have already been complete prior to drafting your resume and you can refer back to this. However it’s good to review this and add additional information at this point in time so you can be prepared to explain your skills and abilities in more detail with examples.
If you have a job description, it is a great idea to match your skills and abilities to the requirements of the role. If you don’t have a job description, match your skills and abilities to those that are relevant for the Company, such as the industry or career sector to which you have applied. Make sure you have examples of where you have demonstrated each of your skills and abilities.
TEMPLATE: See template ‘My Skills & Abilities’ in the Career Launch Toolkit.
b. Identify one professional weakness or area for development
It might seem odd to want to think of a weakness or area for development, however this is one of the most commonly asked questions to interviews today.
You need to be honest in your answer. Think of an area or skill that you would like to develop further and acknowledge how you plan to do this.
An example of this might be “I don’t currently have a great understanding of XYZ, however, I have the ability to learn quickly”. Try to stay away from clichés such as “I work too much”. This has been overused and does not come across as honest!
c. Develop a list of all your relevant previous experience
This is a key component of the interview. Every employer wants to know not only that you have the skills and abilities to do the job, but that you have also proven that you have these skills and abilities through previous experience.
As a new graduate, you can lean on examples from all facets of your life including your extracurricular activities. Employers understand that you may not have relevant career or industry experience and that’s ok.
Use examples from your classes at university, your sport teams, your music, your societies, your networks… think of anything and everything that you have done to demonstrate the skills and abilities that the employer is looking for.
Group your experience under key topic headings such as leadership, communication, innovation, teamwork etc.
Use the STAR technique to describe each of your experiences. That is, describe the Situation or Task you were given. Outline the Action that you personally took. Describe the Results of your actions.
TEMPLATE: See template ‘Previous Experience’ in the Career Launch Toolkit.
2. The Company & the Job
a. Research the Company
The easiest way to research a company is through their website. Make sure you know the values and the culture of the company, the products or services it offers, the locations of their offices, which their customers or clients are and what they are trying to achieve.
Firstly, you want to ensure that you are comfortable working for the company. Secondly, being well-prepared and researched in understanding the company will help you to build rapport with your interviewer, feel confident and answer questions in a way that is more relevant to what the interviewer looking for.
TEMPLATE: See template ‘The Company’ below.
b. Research the role
If you were provided with a job description, then great! But most employers don’t provide a fully detailed job description when advertising for the role.
To get around this, make sure you have a clear understanding of what the role entails by re-reading the job advert that you originally applied for. If you applied for the role through a recruiter, give them a call to get more details on the role. If you applied through Gradrecruit, feel free to get in contact with us directly and we can share our understanding of the role.
If you know people already in the company, reach out to them and ask for advice. If you know people working in similar roles, have a chat with them to get a good understanding of what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis.
This will help you ensure the answers you provide are relevant for the job being applied for.
c. Research the industry
This is an area that can SET YOU APART from other graduates attending the interview.
Now that you have a good understanding of the Company and the role, you will also want to have a look at the industry that the Company is operating within.
What are the trends that are taking place in the industry? How are they affected by economics, politics, environment and society?
What opportunities are there in the industry the Company operates?
Showing that you have a good understanding of the industry is a sure-fire way to impress your interviewer. Most graduates will apply for a role without caring too much for the industry they are working in. However, the industry you choose to work in straight-out of university can shape the future of your whole career.
a. Create a list of questions for the interviewer
From the research you have conducted in Step 2 above, you will most likely have a range of different questions you would like answered.
Develop a list of 5 to 10 questions that you are genuinely interested to have answered. When it comes to the actual interview, you will need to use your own judgement in how many questions to ask, based on how long you have left in the interview and what questions are relevant for now and which ones can be answered later.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the interview. Remember that you are also interviewing the employer. You want to make sure that they are the right fit for you.
TEMPLATE: See template ‘Questions for the Interviewer’ in the Career Launch Toolkit.
Note: It is not possible to predict the exact format for questions in an interview. However, it is possible to know yourself and your skills, and to give your answers based on this. An interview question could be phrased in a variety of ways but the answer may still be the same, e.g. “What are your key strengths?” versus “What can you bring to the company?” The answer to both of these questions can be about your key skills.
- Make sure that you prepare examples for both your technical skills (e.g. IT skills, numeric ability, research & analysis, etc…) and your ‘soft’ skills (e.g. communication & interpersonal skills, team-work, etc…), and understand how to transfer these skills to the job for which you are interviewing for.
- Prepare 2 to 3 examples for proving where you developed and used each of your skills or abilities. The examples can be taken from your education, professional/work experience or from your personal interests and achievements.
- A variety of examples will emphasise your true abilities!
- As much as possible, use examples that are of relevance to the job for which you are interviewing!
Interview preparation is key to successful employment. To help you out, we have developed a number of templates that compliment this guide to help you prepare for your interview to the best of your ability.
The templates are part of the free Career Launch Toolkit which you can access by simply entering your name and email below!
Have you checked out our other Career Launch Guides?
- How to Write a Resume
- How to Write a Cover Letter
- How to Prepare for the Telephone Interview
- How to Prepare for Psychometric Tests