Career

How To Smash Any Job Interview

You’ve sent in the application for your dream job (three minutes before deadline still counts). You’ve been offered an interview and you’ve narrowed your “mature but still fun, but still hardworking” outfit down to seven options.

Job interviews can be understandably anxiety inducing, especially if it’s a job you really want. So, we’re going to run through an interview start to finish to help you totally smash it, with the help of Ruth Horsfall, an Aussie HR Professional working in London.

Pre-interview prep

Nerves and anxiety before an interview are totally normal. Ease your nerves by going for a run, taking a bath, crying – whatever works for you. While you’re at it, gather your thoughts about the job.

“It’s definitely useful to have a think about why you would like the role, and what it is about the organisation attracts you as a candidate,” says Ruth on preparation.

“Sometimes this will be easy (going for your dream job at your dream organisation) and sometimes it is hard (you will take literally any role that comes up because you are unemployed, broke, and capitalism still exists)” she says.

Don’t stress yourself by trying to memorise the names, titles and star signs of each employee, but having a bit of knowledge on the work, culture and ethos of the organisation can be great. Answering questions with these things specifically in mind can be a great way to make you stand out.

Ruth suggests sending an email to the HR team if you want some more guidance on the interview, what to expect, suggestions on how to prepare.

“It’s good for the interviewers too because it means candidates are more engaged and more likely to provide interesting responses,” she says.

First impressions count

Be on time. Ten minutes early is the perfect time to arrive. (I once arrived at a job interview one week early, as I had the date wrong. I did not get the job.)

“Be friendly! We always say the interview starts when you meet someone in the reception area,” Ruth says.

“Small talk is tedious and can be a bit awkward but making a little effort to ask about someone’s day, or comment on the weather/commute is still better than 30 seconds of awkward silence while the lift climbs 10 floors.”

Be confident, make eye contact and give a killer handshake. Have you ever shaken someone’s hand it feels like a dead fish? It’s gross.

What to wear?

It’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, Ruth advises, but don’t sweat rushing out to buy a fancy suit just for the occasion.

Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and you believe reflects the culture of the organisation.

It’s question time.

Listen to each question and figure out what they’re trying to learn about you. If the question is about time management, give tangible examples of your time management skills in action. If the question is alluding to communication, explain your effective communication skills and so on.

Ruth says that questions and question types vary based on the organisation and the role.

“You will usually know from the type of application it was, and the information provided to you before the interview whether you need to practice some competency responses or just focus on connecting with the interviewers and conveying to them why you love the company and the role,” she says.

Avoid being overly familiar with the interviewers, including avoiding swearing and being flippant. Obviously don’t diss the organisation and try not to drag previous employers through the mud.

Ruth advises that “if you don’t know an answer to a question, don’t say ‘I don’t know’ or make something up. Explain you’re not sure, but if you were to have a guess, it would be…”

“Do you have any questions for us?”

YES. You do. Trust me.

Asking questions at the end of an interview can not only allow them to see your keen interest in the role or organisation, but give you a genuine idea what the job will entail or look like.

Ruth advises keeping a few questions up your sleeve. “Don’t discount this time to find out important things about the job that will impact your enjoyment,” she says.

Questions about the workplace culture, staff perks and HR policies can give you a great indication of how it will be to work there. Use that time genuinely for your own benefit, not to just sound keen.

Last impressions

Usually they’ll give you an indication of when you will find out if you got the job. If they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask.

Always end on a polite and positive note by thanking them for their time.

Then that’s it, you’re done! Head straight to the pub and nervously down an entire pint.

Job interviews are scary, but they’re a necessary evil. So take a deep breathe, straighten up your metaphorical tie, and go smash it.


Dani Leever is a freelance writer from Melbourne. Working as the Online Content Assistant at Archer Magazine, Dani’s has had work published in SBS, VICE, Broadsheet and Pedestrian.tv. When not writing, Dani is a workshop presenter for PROJECT ROCKIT, Australia’s youth-driven movement against cyberbullying, hate and prejudice.