How to answer questions and make a good impression at interviews.
First impressions count
Interviewers will start assessing you as soon as they meet you, so your presentation and attitude are important. To make a good first impression:
- arrive on time
- dress smartly
- smile when you meet people
- be professional as soon as you enter the building. The receptionist and anyone else you meet might tell the interviewer what they think of you.
How to answer interview questions
- Speak clearly and vary your tone to show you’re interested and enthusiastic.
- Take time to think about each question before answering so you can give a good response.
- Listen to questions carefully and let the interviewer lead the conversation. If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be explained or repeated.
- If you’ve had a job before don’t criticise previous employers or co-workers.
- Give examples from your experience that demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
- Show confidence in your skills and be positive about what you have done. For example, instead of using phrases such as “I only have…” or “I don’t have…” tell the employer what you do have to offer.
Questions about your experience
When you answer interview questions about something you’ve done it’s best to use the STAR method (situation, task, action, result).
- Situation – describe what the situation was.
- Task – describe the task you had to do.
- Action – describe what you did to achieve the task.
- Result – describe the final result.
“When I was an assistant manager at Sally’s Sandals we hosted a VIP sales event for our loyalty card customers, and I was in charge of organising it. I needed to make sure that the store was decorated, we had food and drink for the customers, and we had enough staff members to work that evening. The event went very smoothly and we exceeded our sales targets for the evening by 50 percent.”
Common interview questions:
Can you tell us about yourself?
Summarise your work and study experience and talk about your goals.
Why do you want to work for us?
Use your research about the job and organisation to answer this question.
What made you apply for this job?
Talk about your interest in the job and the organisation
What makes you the best person for this job?
Explain how your personality, skills and experience make you ideal for the job.
Have you done this kind of work before?
Discuss any skills or experience you have that will help you do the job.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Discuss your strengths and then talk about how you overcome your weaknesses.
Tell me about a time when you…
Describe a specific task or situation, what you did and what the result was using the STAR method.
Answering questions about a gap in your CV
When answering questions about a gap in your CV it’s important to:
- address the gap directly
- explain why you chose to or needed to take a break
- explain the issue around having a gap and make it clear it’s sorted out
- provide evidence of your strong work performance if the gap was due to redundancy.
Gaps due to long-term illness
Employers will usually ask you if you have any mental or physical conditions that could prevent you from doing the job you’ve applied for.
- If you’re fully recovered from an illness, be honest and make it clear that your health won’t be a problem for the employer.
- If you have an illness that could affect your ability to do the job, be honest and answer the question positively. For example, “I have arthritis in my foot that prevents me from standing for more than an hour at a time. This has never been a problem in my 10 years of working at a desk, but I’ve been told it could spread to other parts of my body in time.”
Workbridge offers a free service to help people with any form of disability to find work. You can contact them for support with your job search and interviews.
Gaps due to prison time or serious criminal convictions
If you’ve been in prison or have serious criminal convictions, approaching previous employers could be useful when job hunting. They will know what you’re like as an employee and may offer you another job. They may also give you a good reference.
If you get a job interview you may be asked if you have a criminal record. Consider the employer’s concerns and discuss what you’ve done since the conviction. For example, “I have to tell you I have a criminal record. However, I’ve taken an anger management course and I’ve learned how to control my anger in difficult situations.”
It’s important to tell the interviewer about any convictions to demonstrate your honesty. If you don’t mention a serious conviction before you get the job and they find out about it, you risk being dismissed. The Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 allows you to conceal some convictions that are more than seven years old.
- Human Rights Commission website – information on rights and responsibilities when job hunting (PDF – 526KB)
- Ministry of Justice website – information on the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004
The above information is from www.careers.govt.nz
Here’s 19 Job Interview tips from www.kellyservices.co.nz
Know yourself – your strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments. A job interview is not the time to wing it! Prepare as much as you would for a presentation to the Board of Directors at your company.
Research the company
Find out as much as you can about the company through annual reports, Newspapers, Value Line,” S&P, etc. Your effort will show in the job interview, and you’ll be seen as proactive, hardworking and astute.
Dress appropriately to match the company culture
Many companies have gone to corporate casual. Check with your contact to see what they require. When in doubt, always err on the side of formal business attire.
Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early
Punctuality is a subtle clue about attitude and behaviour. Tardiness, no matter the excuse, is a major blunder. Research in advance what your parking options are and allow plenty of time.
First impressions, positive or negative, dramatically affect the ultimate evaluation. You can make or break an job interview within the first five minutes.
Appear friendly and outgoing
Smile and say hello to everyone. A positive reaction from the support staff is an important factor in the evaluation. Many hires have been heavily influenced by an Administrative assistant.
High self-esteem and self-confidence are the hallmarks of the successful individual. With confidence, be able to demonstrate how you have overcome obstacles. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself.
Come prepared for key questions
Practice your responses to all the typical questions, such as “tell me about yourself” and “why are you looking for a new position?” How well you speak will have a bigger impact than what you say.
The most effective job interviews are those where an active two-way conversation takes place. Not the typical question and answer type. Begin early in the interview to interject your own relevant insight. Remember, don’t interrupt your interviewer.
Establish your worth
Discuss your specific accomplishments that demonstrate a proactive attitude. Such as: have you installed systems, done something not required, trained someone, etc. It’s always important to demonstrate how you either created revenue or saved expenses, and be specific with the amounts and how you accomplished that goal.
Know your six key strengths
Be prepared to discuss in detail and with examples your five or six main attributes. These should be the ultimate reason you get the job over someone else. Assuming you have done the proper homework on the company, these strengths should also be closely aligned to the key traits the employer is looking for in a person to fill their position.
Give 1 to 2 minute responses
Communication is the key to successful interviewing. A minimum of one to two minutes of well-prepared discussion gives the interviewer insight into your intellect and supports your contentions.
Support statements about yourself with specific examples. These will provide legitimacy to your claims. Without them, the interviewer won’t accept them as valid.
Stay alert during the job interview. Maintain good eye contact. Sit forward in your chair. Be animated. Show high levels of interest and stay enthused. These actions can maintain or generate momentum during the interview. This is especially important when you are doing multiple interviews on the same day. The energy level must be as high for the last as it is for the first.
Don’t be arrogant
A presumptuous, overbearing attitude will offset the finest abilities. There’s a fine line between being too confident and cocky. Don’t cross that line.
Ask probing questions
A few strategic questions can demonstrate your intelligence, analytical skills and assertiveness. Have these prepared from your research. Avoid superficial small talk.
Be positive about co-workers
Don’t bad mouth previous positions, companies or employers. No matter how well founded, this implies a negative attitude, typical of those who don’t take personal responsibility for their actions.
Clearly state your interest
By the conclusion of the interview, state that you are definitely interested in the position and would like to know when the next step will take place. It’s best to demonstrate this interest throughout the session. Be careful not to go overboard.
Know your objective and end with it
Establish your objective before the job interview, like a second interview or an offer. Ask for it if you have not achieved it. Ask a question such as, “do you think my skills match your needs?” This gets straight to the point and, at worse, reveals other obstacles to overcome.