You got an interview, but how do you nail it and get the job? It's all in the preparation.

So you’ve got an interview – congratulations! You’ve clearly impressed your potential employer enough to get to the next stage, but how do you nail that interview and secure the job? Answer – it’s all in the preparation.

Review and analyse the selection criteria

You need to spend some time reviewing and analysing the selection criteria and your responses. If you have to respond to the criteria in a written application prior to interviewing, your answers will already be fairly succinct. In the interview you’ll need to be able to expand on individual elements and give further information and examples. If you haven’t had to respond to them yet, now is the time to write, review and practise your answers.

Don’t forget to look at the flip side and put yourself in the interviewers or panels shoes. What do you think are the key issues or most important criteria from their point of view? What do they want and need to know about you based on the selection criteria? Make sure you also spend time addressing this while prepping for your interview.

Think about all of the potential questions

Take the time to think about all of the potential questions you could be asked at an interview outside of those related specifically to the selection criteria. These questions are often designed to get key information the interviewer or panel considers important in different way.

Commonly asked questions include:

  • Tell us a bit about yourself?
  • What is your greatest achievement… and what makes you consider it an achievement?
  • What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What do you like/dislike about your current job? Why are you leaving?
  • Why do you want to work for us?

Not sure how to address these? Seek.com.au has a great article here.

Review your referees

Some companies will contact your referees before an interview is offered and some after. Regardless, if you’ve been offered an interview it’s highly likely that your referees will be contacted at some point. If you haven’t already notified them that you’ve applied for the position, now is the time to do so and to also give them a copy of the selection criteria, role description and even your application.

If you haven’t yet provided referees, choose them with care. If have already provided them and you’re given an opportunity to confirm them, review them carefully. They should be people (usually two to three are all you need unless otherwise requested) who can comment on your knowledge, skills and abilities (particularly with reference to the selection criteria for the position you’ve applied for). They should have reasonably recent knowledge of your work. You don’t necessarily have to nominate your current supervisor, but you should be aware that you may be asked to do so.

Take a copy of your referees and their contact details with you to your interview, just in case.

Prepare mentally and physically

Much like a professional athlete who visualises winning before a big race, you too need to visualise success. Mentally “play through” your upcoming interview, think about your positives and what makes you the best candidate for the job. Imagine the interview itself; you are confident, calm, positive and assertive. Picture yourself answering questions and nailing them. Think about the difficult questions too but think about all the strategies you have to deal with them and all the preparation you’ve put in – you’ve got this. By visualising all the positives for your upcoming interview, your mind will be more relaxed and confident and you’ll not only be less likely to dwell on any negatives, but you’re more likely to do well (true story).

Don’t forget that by having some catch phrases like “I am in control” and “I can handle this”, and repeating them to yourself before and during the interview, is a great way to stay calm and positive.

Bridging the mental and physical aspects, you can also try some deep breathing exercises to help you feel calmer and more in control.

Physically you need to get a good night’s sleep before your interview and while you may be nervous, try not to skip any meals. Have a shower to feel refreshed and try brushing your teeth for a confidence boost. Above all, sit up straight, maintain a good posture and smile – this will work wonders even if your mind is in turmoil. As the saying goes: fake it until you make it.

Practise, practise, practise!

You’ve no doubt heard the saying “Practice makes perfect” before, and doing a practice interview before the real thing might is a great way to prepare for an interview.
Ask a friend, family member or trusted colleague to help you out and stage a practice interview. Give them the job advertisement and/or description as well as the selection criteria. If you’ve spent a good amount of time on the second tip in this article, thinking about all the potential questions, give them a list of these too.

By practising your responses to a range of questions, which your “interviewer” will no doubt ask differently to the way you’ve been thinking about them and in a different order, will help you think through and refine some of your prepared answers in a more realistic situation.

Don’t forget to remember this motto though: practice sometimes doesn’t make perfect, but it is always a big help!

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