How do I prepare for a job interview?
The key things you can do to prepare for your job interview are:
- Do some research on the organisation which is hiring
- Think of what questions you’ll be asked and work out how you will answer
- Think about what questions you would like to ask them
- Put together a suitable outfit to wear at the interview
Read on for more about these.
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Why should I research the employer before my job interview?
Before going to a job interview you should find out as much as you can about the job you’re applying for and the organisation that you’re asking to work for (if you didn’t already do this before sending in your application). Not only might this help you decide whether you really want to work for them, it will also help give you some ideas for questions you can ask the interviewer, which will show them that you are serious about being considered for the role.
Searching their website - for example - will give you an idea of the nature of the company’s business, how large the company is, and their culture. If you know anyone who already works there, arrange to meet up with them and get some inside knowledge.
Something to keep in mind is that, just as you can research your potential new employer online, they can also research information about you online. It’s worth "googling" your name just to find out what search results you get and whether they would give a potential employer a good impression of you as a worker.
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What kinds of questions will I be asked?
You need to think about what questions the interviewer might ask you, so that you can prepare suitable answers. Most employers will ask questions such as ʺWhy should we employ you?ʺ or ʺWhy do you think you are a suitable candidate for this job?ʺ to get you to talk about the qualifications, skills and experience you have which are relevant to the job you are applying for.
You can find examples of common interview questions on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Employment website and on the Careers NZ website.
They may ask for specific examples from your past roles which show you can, for example, work well in a team, give a subordinate negative feedback, or help resolve a workplace conflict. These are called behavioural event interviews. You can prepare for these by thinking back and noting down workplace situations which illustrate your ability to, for example, motivate team members; overcome obstacles to complete an important task; deal with a difficult client.
You may also be asked to expand on what you’ve told them in your CV, so it’s worth taking a copy of your CV with you for reference.
Be prepared for questions about any gaps in your employment history, jobs which you held for very short periods of time or anything else which might suggest that you are anything other than a reliable and productive worker.
They may want to know why you left your last position. Try to answer truthfully but in a positive way. For example, if you did not work for several years because you were raising your children during that time, you can use this to talk about how it has made you better at organising your time, prioritising, and dealing with stressful situations.
If you were unhappy at your last job, avoid making negative comments about it or the people you worked with there.
Some types of questions are inappropriate in a job interview and you should not have to answer them, for example questions about your age or whether you plan to start a family soon. More about this is in the Human Rights Commission’s A to Z for employers and employees.
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What should I say at my job interview, about the fact that I was made redundant from my previous job?
There is no obligation to volunteer this information. However if you are asked this question you should answer truthfully i.e. say you were made redundant.
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What kinds of questions should I ask the employer?
Job interviews are not just for employers to find out more about potential employees – this is also an opportunity for you to find out more about the job. Having a few questions to ask the interviewer will also show them that you have spent time preparing for the interview and are serious about being considered for the role.
For example you could ask them:
- what a normal day at work would involve,
- whether you would be working in a team or on your own
- whether there will be opportunities for greater responsibility in future
It’s best not to bring up the question of salary unless you are asked or they offer you the job. But in case they ask you how much you want to be paid, it’s well worth finding out what the salary ranges are beforehand - if you can do this discreetly.
More examples of the types of questions you can ask are on the Careers NZ website.
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What should I wear to my job interview?
First impressions have a big effect on how well you’ll be received, so it’s important to be suitably dressed for your interview. You don't have to wear new or expensive clothes, but make sure you have something smart and simple that enables you to look neat and tidy. Spending a bit of time getting ready will be worth the effort.
Giving a good impression means more than just wearing the right clothes; it’s also about behaving in a respectful and professional manner:
- Be at the interview on time, preferably a few minutes early so that you have time to put yourself in the right frame of mind. Make sure you know where the interview is to be held and how long it will take you to get there
- Give the interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact and aim to sound friendly and interested
- Turn your mobile off before you start (or at least keep it on silent if you really must leave it on)
- Don’t bring food or drink with you
- Avoid interrupting when the interviewer is speaking
- Use body language to show you are interested and confident e.g. lean slightly forward rather than sitting back; maintain eye contact; avoid fidgeting, speak clearly and thoughtfully.
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Where can I get more information about job interviews?
There are plenty of resources about how to prepare for a job interview; you’ll probably find a number of them at your local library and on recruitment websites. Listed below are a few New Zealand-specific online sources: