Date posted: 26/10/2016

Top tips on the interview process

Become a Student Affiliate

Start a conversation with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand by signing up as a Student Affiliate and you’ll be kick-starting your future career in business and finance.

Sign Up NowAbout Become a Student Affiliate

Feeling nervous before your interview? Don't worry - whether it's your first one or you're a seasoned interviewee, feeling nervous before you go is normal. Here are some simple and effective ways to give yourself a leg up.

Preparing for an interview

It doesn't need to be said that the more you prepare, the better your interview will go.

  • Interview details: If you don't already know, ring up and ask relevant questions about the interview - How long will it take? Do you need to prepare anything? What kind of tests may be involved? Will you be on your own or participate in a group? Do you need to head to an assessment center? It is also good practice to learn more about the position and the organisation you're applying for - check out their website and see if you can find out more about them.
  • Location details: Make sure you know exactly how to get to the interview. If you have time, you might like to do a trial run the day before to familiarise yourself with the transport, travel time, and the location itself.
  • Dress: Dress to match the organisation and the role. If the organisation is a trendy design company, a stuffy suit won't help your case. On the other hand, you wouldn't want to turn up to a large corporate business in jeans and a t-shirt. Again, researching the organisation will help.
  • How to mentally prepare: Think about yourself - why you want this job, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your ambitions are, even what you can offer the organisation. Think about the role - remind yourself of the ad that got you there, and think about the skills it asks for and think about your responses if those skills are questioned. Learn about the organisation - the 'About us' section on their website might be a good start.

The interview itself

  • Always arrive early enough for them to realise you're committed and keen. 5-10 minutes is plenty.
  • If you are sitting down during the interview, keep a good posture and upright. Keep your hands in your lap, and avoid putting them on the table or crossing your arms.
  • Look the interviewer in the eye during the interview. Good eye contact not only shows commitment, it also allows you to gauge the interviewer's reactions.
  • Be prepared to talk - that's what you're there for. So, don't just reply 'yes' or 'no'; expand on that answer. Try not to talk too fast - if you're nervous, take a deep breath before you start your answer. And avoid saying 'err' or 'um'.
  • Be honest with your answers, and try to give insights into how you think and approach tasks. If you have to give a negative answer, back it up with a solution. Secondly, if you're not sure about the question, ask the interviewer to clarify it.
  • Finally, end on a positive note. Prepare a couple of questions you'd like to ask beforehand - such as training opportunities, the career path through the organisation, or on something you've read about the company previously.
  • Ask what happens next: when you can expect to hear from them, any further interviews required, and reiterate your interest in the role. And don't forget to thank them.

How to get around the tricky questions

Some questions can catch you by surprise and undo all that preparation and research. It's common for interviewers to throw in a tricky question or two, such as what your weaknesses are, what's been your biggest failure and how friends would describe you.

Take a deep breath before you answer questions such as these. Pause, and think about it. Then answer as honestly as you can. If possible, turn your answer back to the role you're interviewing for. For example, if the question is how friends would describe you and the honest answer is 'a little shy to begin with but a loyal friend once they have my trust', turn that into a message about being cautious and considered to start, but very focused once you’re sure of your facts.

Interview mistakes to avoid

Here's a list of common interview mistakes. You might find it useful to read them before you set off to your interview:

  • Lack of preparation
  • Inappropriate appearance
  • Poor communication, such as mumbling or simply answering yes or no
  • Not making eye contact
  • Not attentive to the interviewer's questions
  • Not appearing interested in the organisation, just in yourself
  • Exaggerating, lying or dishonesty
  • Not asking questions
  • Appearing over-anxious
  • An overemphasis on money and rewards.

What to do after the interview

The next day, send a thank you note. Depending on the nature of the organisation and the interviewer(s), this could be via email, a handwritten note, or a typewritten note with a handwritten signature.

Remember that your thank you note is still a chance to sell yourself. If the interview went well, comment on the rapport and your enthusiasm. If there were tricky questions you think may have undermined the impression you made, try a comment such as 'having had more time to think about it, a better answer would be...'

Next, write some notes from your experience of the interview, your impressions, and any particularly good or bad answers. File this in case you have a second interview.

To finish off, put any future contact dates in the diary. It's generally agreed that you shouldn't contact the interviewer again until after the date that they said they would be in contact.

Good luck, and happy job hunting!