Preparing for an Interview
Getting an interview is a big deal. It means that your CV and cover letter did their job and that the employer wants to learn about you and your skills on a more personal level. While there is no sure-fire way to ace an interview, there are several ways that you can prepare ahead of time, namely by doing research, preparing answers to commonly-asked questions, and knowing when and when not to negotiate terms.
Research the company as thoroughly as possible
Now that the vast majority of Kiwis have regular access to the internet, many companies expect candidates to learn about them before the interview. If the company has a website or a social media profile, look over their About page or their recent posts over the last few months (or years, if they don’t post frequently). While you don’t need to memorise the company history or anything of that sort, it’s helpful to know the company values and if they have showcased any of their work that you think is impressive and can bring up as an example during the interview.
Be ready for common interview questions
Because interviewers can ask any questions that come to mind, there’s no way to be prepared for everything. And even if there were, having pre-planned, rehearsed responses for every question can come across as not being genuine. A good middle ground is to have a general framework or outline of what you want to say without worrying too much over the exact wording. Some common questions you’re likely to hear include:
1. Tell me about yourself.
This is frequently used as the first question in an interview and is used to gauge what you think is important about yourself. Typically, you’ll want to include a mixture of skills and work experience with your hobbies and interests, because the employer already has your cover letter and CV and doesn’t need you to retell the entire thing.
2. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
Some workers try to avoid the weaknesses portion by turning a strength into a negative attribute, such as “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”. While those can be legitimate concerns if they affect productivity or mental well-being, this question is a chance to address some of your shortcomings to show that you’re aware of them and actively trying to improve them.
3. Why are you interested in our company?
This is where the company research comes into play. Use the information you looked into to give an informative, knowledgeable response. It shows that you are willing to work hard and that knowledge and awareness are important to you.
4. Why are you leaving your current job?
Generally, you should try to frame your leaving in a positive light, even if you are leaving or have left your last employer due to a negative workplace or bad interactions. Answers like “I am looking for a place with more advancement opportunities” or “This job would be better for my long-term professional development” instead put the interviewing company in the spotlight and give them an opportunity to mention how their work culture can help you achieve your goals.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Often, this question is to see how driven and realistic your expectations are. Because of this, saying that you see yourself in the same position you are applying for could be seen as a negative. How far do you think your skills can take you in five years with the company? Would you aim to be a senior or a manager by that point? Again, be ambitious, yet realistic.
6. Do you have any questions for us?
It’s always good practise to have a few important questions prepared ahead of time as part of your company research. Try to have several so that you have something to ask in case some of your questions are answered during the interview. If certain things are required by you (such as a specific schedule due to conflicts) that never comes up, use this as an opportunity to make sure that the position is a good fit for you.
Even for agreements covering multiple employers, candidates have the option to negotiate terms due to an amendment to the Employment Relations Act in 2018. Negotiations can be difficult or even uncomfortable for some people, but it’s important to make sure the terms are to your satisfaction if you receive a job offer and that they match what was promised in the interview.
The interview is not only a good opportunity for an employer to find out if you are the right candidate, but for you to see if the company and position is one that you are comfortable working. If it isn’t, and there are specific terms that cause you to feel this way, the interview or job offer are an opportunity to address these. Learning if you can find common ground early on can save both you and the employer time and energy. If this is not possible knowing this early allows both of you to focus elsewhere where you are better suited.