How to prepare for a job interview: A guide for success

How to prepare for a job interview: A guide for success
SEEK content teamupdated on 30 November, 2023
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Landing a job interview is a huge achievement and deserves a pat on the back. It means that your resumé stood out and you possess some of the key skills the company is searching for in the role – congratulations! 

Getting to the interview stage can be slightly nerve-racking as well. You need to put your best foot forward and ensure your first impression is a positive one – which all comes down to preparation. Every job interview requires some basic research to showcase the right skills, brush up on the company, and understand the role and how it meets your career goals. Take a look at the essential interview preparation tips below, so you walk into the room with knowledge, confidence and a strategy for success. 

Researching the company

Wondering how to prepare for an interview? One of the most important things to do is gain a solid understanding of the company. It’s not just about impressing the interviewer with your knowledge (though this is an added bonus), but about showing a genuine interest in the company and its achievements and goals. Knowing the company's history, values, culture and recent accomplishments shows that you're not just looking for any job, but are interested in becoming a part of their specific team. 

How to research the company

You may be sitting in front of your computer wondering where to begin. Here are a few tips to help you get started in your research:

  • Read through the company's official website. Pay close attention to their ‘About’ section and see if they have posted any news or press releases. 
  • Visit their social media channels like X (Twitter), Instagram or Facebook, for insights into the company's recent activities. 
  • Search for any industry reports, for a broader view of where the company stands and future trends that might affect it.
  • If possible, connect with current or former employees through networking platforms. They can provide invaluable insider knowledge about the company culture and expectations.
  • Read the company’s online profiles, like their SEEK Profile and reviews

What to look for when researching the company

So you’ve got the basics, but where do you go from here? Now’s the time to dive deeper into the company’s timeline, what they’re like and what they’ve accomplished:

  • Company culture and values: this will determine how well you would fit into their environment. Look for information on their approach to work-life balance, team collaboration and employee engagement.
  • Recent projects and achievements: being across these areas can provide talking points during your interview and demonstrate your interest in their work.
  • Leadership and management style: knowing who leads the company and their management style can give you insights into their strategic direction and how they value their employees.

Understanding the job description

A handy hint is to always refer back to the job description at every stage of your interview preparation. It outlines the responsibilities, skills and qualifications the employer is looking for, so it pays to tailor your responses to demonstrate that you're not only a fit for the role, but enthusiastic about it! 

How to analyse the job description

Break down the job description into individual tasks and responsibilities. Try to imagine what a typical day in the role might look like and consider how your previous experience aligns with these duties. You should also pay attention to the specific skills and qualifications mentioned and consider which of these you have. Come up with examples from your past experience where you have demonstrated these skills.

Finally, pay attention to the language and tone of the job description. This can give you insights into the company culture and how formal or informal the workplace might be.

What to look for in the job description

  • Essential vs desirable criteria: distinguish between what is essential and what is desirable. Focus on aligning your skills and experience with the essential criteria, but also be ready to discuss any desirable skills you have.
  • Company-specific requirements: for example, if the company emphasises teamwork, think of examples where you have successfully worked as part of a team.
  • Growth and development opportunities: consider how the role might offer opportunities for personal and professional growth. This shows that you’re thinking about a long-term commitment to the role and the company.

Reviewing your resumé and cover letter

Your resumé and cover letter have already succeeded in landing you this job interview, but their job isn’t over. These documents have served as your first introduction to the employer and will likely form the basis of many interview questions. After all, they’re the reason they asked you for an interview!

Reviewing these documents helps you to go over the specific experiences and accomplishments you've included, so you remember to highlight them again in the interview. It also prepares you to expand on any points or address any gaps or changes in your career path.

How to review your resumé and cover letter

  • Revisit your achievements: go through each point in your resumé, especially focusing on the achievements and experiences relevant to the job you're interviewing for.
  • Understand the flow of information: ensure you understand the order and structure of your resumé. This helps in navigating the document quickly during the interview if you need to refer to specific points.
  • Reflect on your career: your resumé and cover letter should share your career journey to date. Be prepared to discuss how this role fits into your career path.

How to prep for interview questions

One of the most nerve-racking parts of any interview is not knowing what you’ll be asked. That’s why learning how to prepare for interview questions is so important. By practising common interview questions, you’ll have all your bases covered. Remember to tailor your answers so they are relevant to the role and company. 

Common interview questions

  • Tell me about yourself: this is a standard opening question about who you are from a professional standpoint. Prepare an overview of your career, focusing on experiences and achievements relevant to the role.
  • Why are you interested in this role/company? Use your response to reflect your knowledge of the company and how your skills fit with the job description.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Choose strengths that are relevant to the job and discuss weaknesses honestly, but also mention how you're working to improve them.
  • Describe a challenge you've faced and how you dealt with it: use the STAR method to describe a situation, the action you took and the result of your actions.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Talk about your career goals in relation to a potential career path within the company.

Preparing for behavioural interview questions

Many job interviews include behavioural interview questions. These provide the interviewer with insight into how you've handled situations in the past, so they can get an idea of how you'll perform in the future.

They often begin with phrases like, "Tell me about a time when..." or "Give me an example of how you..." These questions aim to see your approach to different work-related scenarios, such as meeting a tight deadline, resolving a conflict or leading a team. 

How to prepare for behavioural interview questions

  • Use the STAR method: prepare your answers using the Situation, Task, Action, Result method.
  • Reflect on experiences: think about different types of experiences – challenges, team projects, successes, failures and lessons learned. 
  • Practise your responses: rehearse your answers so you remember what to say in the moment. 

Integrating behavioural questions in an informational interview

If you're wondering how to prepare for an informational interview, one thing you can do is come up with behavioural questions to ask the hiring manager. These can help you gain insight into the role and the company. Asking questions like, “Can you tell me about a challenge your team recently faced and how it was resolved?” or “Could you give me an example of a successful project and the key factors that contributed to its success?”, can give you valuable information about the company's working style, challenges and success stories.

Dressing for success

First impressions count, which is why getting ready for an interview requires plenty of consideration. The way you dress can speak volumes about your professionalism, attention to detail and understanding of the workplace culture. It also boosts your confidence, allowing you to focus on the interview itself rather than feeling out of place or uncomfortable.

How to dress for a job interview

The dress code will vary depending on the company culture. For corporate settings or hospitality, traditional business attire is usually expected. For more creative environments or for roles in childcare, smart casual might be more appropriate. If you’re unsure, delve a bit deeper in your research or reach out to HR for guidance. In most cases, it’s better to err on the conservative side.

As a general rule, opt for classic, well-fitting attire that is neat and polished. In more conservative workplaces, you might want to keep jewellery and makeup to a minimum and avoid overly trendy clothes that might be distracting or look ‘unprofessional’. Ensure your clothes are clean, ironed and in good condition. No matter your style or the job you’re going for, make sure you’re comfortable and well-groomed. 

What to avoid wearing to a job interview

  • Overly casual clothing: even if the company has a casual dress code, avoid wearing clothes that are too relaxed, like shorts or t-shirts with slogans.
  • Distracting accessories: noisy jewellery and quirky ties can be distracting. Keep accessories simple and professional.
  • Strong perfume or cologne: avoid wearing strong scents as some people are sensitive to them and it can be off-putting in an interview setting.

What to take to a job interview and when to arrive

There’s nothing worse than turning up flustered at a job interview. It always pays to leave extra time to find where you’re going and to allow for unexpected delays. If you happen to arrive early, it’s the perfect opportunity to sit with a coffee and compose yourself before the interview. Here’s some tips to help:

  • Research the interview location beforehand, considering traffic and potential delays. Aim to arrive 10–15 minutes early, allowing yourself a buffer for unexpected delays.
  • Prepare the night before by laying out your attire, printing extra copies of your resumé and packing everything you need to avoid last-minute scrambling.

What to bring to a job interview

  • Multiple copies of your resumé: bring several copies of your resumé in case there are multiple interviewers or if an interviewer needs an extra copy.
  • Portfolio or work samples: bring samples of your work that showcase your skills and achievements.
  • Notebook and pen: bring a notebook and pen in case you need to jot anything down. 
  • Questions for the interviewer: prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer about the role, team, company culture and anything else relevant to the position.

Understanding the interview process

Navigating the interview process can be daunting, especially if you're unsure of what to expect. Here are some of the typical stages of an interview to help you feel prepared.

What to expect during the interview process

The interview process can range from a single meeting to a multi-round marathon. Here’s what the typical interview process might look like:

  • Initial screening. This may be a phone or video call to assess your suitability for the role. Make sure you have your answers ready about your background and why you’re interested in the role. 
  • First face-to-face interview. This stage often involves more in-depth questions about your experience, skills and how you would handle specific situations. Wondering how to prepare for interview questions and answers? Review the job description and your resumé in detail. Prepare examples using the STAR method to demonstrate your skills and experiences.
  • Second and subsequent interviews. These may be with higher-level management or other team members. The questions can be more detailed, focusing on your fit within the company and team. In this interview, be ready to go into more detail about your skills and experience, and provide answers to more complex questions. 
  • Assessment or task. For some roles, you may be asked to complete a task or assessment to demonstrate your skills. If a task is part of the process, ensure you understand the instructions and criteria before starting. 
  • Final interview or offer discussion. This could involve negotiating salary and discussing start dates and other terms of employment. Before heading into your final interview, have a clear understanding of your salary expectations and any other conditions important to you.

What to do after the interview

  • Send a thank you note. Shortly after the interview, send a thank you email to express your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the role.
  • Follow up. If you haven’t heard back within the timeframe mentioned, send a polite follow-up email inquiring about the status of your application.

Researching the interviewer

Knowing who will be conducting your interview offers a great advantage. You have an opportunity to research their background and interests to tailor your responses and build a more personal connection during the interview. Here are some places to check out: 

  • Social media: review their career, noting any positions or companies in common, and any articles or posts they’ve shared.
  • Company website: often you’ll find bios of team members on the company website.
  • Internet search: a broader search can reveal interviews, articles or panel discussions involving the interviewer.

Following up after the interview

The interview process doesn't end when you leave the room. The follow-up is an opportunity to thank the interviewer for their time, reiterate your interest in the role and briefly highlight why you’re a great fit. Ideally, send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview, keeping the tone professional yet personable. 

What to include in a follow-up email

  • Begin by thanking the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to interview.
  • Clearly state your continued interest in the role and the company.
  • Include a specific reference to a part of the interview that was particularly meaningful or interesting. 
  • Briefly restate why you believe you’re a good fit for the role, focusing on key qualifications or experiences discussed during the interview.
  • Offer to provide additional information.
  • You can politely enquire about the timeline for the next steps in the hiring process.

Dealing with nerves and anxiety

Feeling nervous or anxious before and during a job interview is common. It’s actually good, because it shows you really want the job and care about the outcome. On the downside, nerves and anxiety can get in the way of your ability to communicate clearly, think on your feet and present yourself confidently. Effectively managing these feelings is important to ensure you perform the best you can. 

Here are a couple of ways you can manage your nerves before the interview: 

  • Preparation: being well-prepared is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. Knowing your resumé, understanding the job description, and practising answers can boost your confidence.
  • Relaxation techniques: deep-breathing exercises, mindfulness and meditation can help calm your nerves. You can find free breathing exercises online. 
  • Take a breath: if you feel overwhelmed during the interview, it’s okay to take a moment to pause and take a sip of water. Take a brief moment to collect your thoughts before answering.

Handling difficult interview questions

Navigating tricky or challenging questions during a job interview is a skill in itself. Your interviewer may give you hypothetical scenarios, questions about weaknesses or failures, or questions that test your ability to think on your feet. These questions are often intended to test your problem-solving abilities and how well you handle pressure.

Here are some ways to handle difficult interview questions: 

  • Stay composed: when faced with a difficult question, take a deep breath to compose yourself. 
  • Think before you speak: pause for a sip of water or a deep breath, to give yourself time to pull your answer together.
  • Be honest: if asked about weaknesses or failures, be honest – but focus on what you learned from the experience and how you’ve grown professionally.

Showcasing your skills and experience

In a job interview, it’s important to showcase your skills and experience in order to separate yourself from other candidates. It helps the interviewer understand your value, how you can contribute to the company, and why you’re a fit for the role. 

How to showcase your skills and experience during the interview

Provide specific examples from your past experiences that directly relate to the job's requirements. Utilise the STAR method to structure your responses clearly and effectively.

What to do if you don't have experience in a certain area

Start by sharing your willingness and ability to learn new skills. Provide examples of how you've quickly adapted in the past or learned new things. You can even offer to take a short course to get yourself up to scratch. It’s important to be honest about a lack of experience in a certain area. Highlight any skills or experiences that are transferable to the area you lack experience in. 

Making it to the job interview stage is a big step. Now you need to showcase your skills, experiences and fit for the job while standing out from your competition. Preparing for a job interview is the best way to do just this. It involves understanding the company and the job description, reviewing your resumé and cover letter, practising for common and behavioural interview questions, and managing nerves and anxiety. 

Now that you know how to prepare for a job interview, you can approach them with confidence, ready to make a strong and lasting impression on your potential employer. 

FAQs

What should I wear to a job interview?

Choosing what to wear for a job interview comes down to the company culture. For a corporate environment, traditional business attire is a safe option. For more casual or creative workplaces, smart casual might be more appropriate.

How early should I arrive for a job interview?

Aim to arrive 10–15 minutes early for your job interview. This allows time to calm your nerves, go over your notes and compose yourself. Arriving too early can be inconvenient for the employer, while being late can create a negative first impression.

What should I bring to a job interview?

You should bring two copies of your resumé, a list of references, a portfolio or work samples and a notebook and pen. Remember to bring anything else the employer may have specifically requested.

How do I follow up after a job interview?

Follow up with a thank you email within 24 hours of the interview. Express gratitude for the opportunity, reiterate your interest in the position and briefly highlight why you’re a good fit. 

What are some common interview questions?

Common interview questions include:

  • “Tell me about yourself.” 
  • “Why are you interested in this role/company?”
  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • “Describe a challenge you’ve faced and how you dealt with it.”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

How do I handle difficult interview questions?

Stay calm and pause for a moment to think before responding. Be honest, and if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to admit it.

How do I manage nerves and anxiety during a job interview?

Preparation is key. You can practise relaxation techniques like deep breathing, and visualise a successful interview. Allow yourself to pause and think before answering questions. 

What if I don't have experience in a certain area?

Focus on related skills and experiences, and share your willingness to learn. Be honest about your lack of experience but frame it positively, highlighting your adaptability and eagerness to grow in the role.

What if I don't know the answer to a question during the interview?

It’s okay to admit you don’t know the answer to a question. You can say something like, “I’m not certain about that, but I would be keen to learn more”. This shows honesty and a willingness to learn.

How do I research the company and interviewer?

Start by looking at their website, recent news articles and social media profiles. For the interviewer, check social media profiles and company bios, and conduct a general internet search to understand their background and interests.

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