Tips for a successful job interview

Man interviewing for a job

If your job application is successful, you will be invited to attend an interview with your prospective employer.

If you are offered an interview, it means that an employer likes what they have read in your resume and cover letter.

They're inviting you to an interview so you can meet and find out more about each other.

Being prepared for an interview can help you to stay calm and focused. It's an opportunity to make a great first impression too.

We've compiled a list of sample interview questions with some tips on how to answer them, along with some quick tips to ensure you give the best interview possible:

Before the interview:

  • Find out what type of interview it is e.g., one-on-one, panel or group.
  • Research the company before the interview, weaving some of your knowledge about the company will impress your interviewer.
  • Arrive early - research public transport times, or available parking before the interview day.
  • Dress neatly and professionally to make a good first impression - even for manual work or roles where you get your hands dirty.
  • Come prepared - jot down some answers to some key questions before the interview to help you commit it to memory.
  • Turn your mobile phone off for the duration of the interview.

During the interview:

  • Speak clearly and confidently, take a deep breath if you feel yourself getting stressed.
  • Focus on each question at hand - keep your answers to less than 1-2 minutes in length.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat a question if you need to.
  • Quote real examples of when you have used certain skills or training.
  • Be enthusiastic and friendly when answering questions.
  • Prepare one or two questions to ask your interviewer about the job or company to ask at the end of your interview.

Things to avoid during a job interview:

  • Don’t smoke beforehand or chew gum during your interview.
  • Don’t use swear words or too much slang.
  • Avoid fidgeting, try to keep your hands as still as you can.
  • Don’t be dishonest when answering any questions.
  • Don’t criticise your former company or colleagues.
  • Don’t talk over the top of or argue with the interviewer.

Sample interview questions

'Tell me a bit about yourself.'

This is the classic, open-ended interview question and likely to be among the first. It’s your chance to introduce your qualifications, skills and experience in a way that you stand out. Keep it mostly work and career related.

'What attracted you to this job?'

Do some company research before the interview and mention specifics about the company and the role which you were attracted to.

'How do you plan and prioritise your tasks?'

Planning is very important and you should include the steps you take to prioritise.

Sample answer:

'I start by making a list. I work out what order to do things by deciding which tasks are urgent and how important each task is. If I’m not sure what’s urgent and what isn’t, or how important different tasks are, I’ll find out from my supervisor. If I’m given a new task, I’ll add it to my list and make a note of the priority or due date'.

'Why did you leave your last job?'

Be careful with this one. Avoid being disloyal to your last employer. Be honest, keep it positive and make statements.

Sample answer:

'I want to gain new skills, a career move, I wanted a new challenge.'

You can also find some more examples of what to say when you are asked why you left your last job.

'How do you work under pressure and handle stress?'

Talk about what you do to help you manage in a stressful situation - examples like list writing to manage your tasks, talking to a trusted person to help you clear your head, breathing exercises or using some positive stimulation exercises like a stress ball.

You can also mention things that you do to relax like fishing, yoga, exercise, socialising with family and friends.

'What were the day-to-day responsibilities in your last job?'

Mention duties you did that relate to the role you are applying for and will be of interest to the employer.

'Describe a situation where you had a conflict in the workplace and how did you handle it?'

Provide a short example here. The key is to show how you reacted to the conflict and what you did to resolve it.

Sample answer:

'I’ve found that when I’m in a difficult situation, it helps to communicate with the other person, understand their perspective and try to work out solutions together'.

'What are your strengths?'

Point out any positive attributes and skills that you have that relate to this job. Think back to the job description and what you have that they are looking for.

Sample answer:

'I have great time management and organisational skills but my greatest strength lies in project management and managing a team of staff'.

'What are your weaknesses?'

Don’t spend too much time on this one. Focus on professional traits, not personal. Point out a minor weakness that you want to work on and describe steps you have taken to work on improving this.

Sample answer:

'I am always working on my communications skills; I recently took a professional writers’ course to improve my writing skills which has been helpful'.

'Which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?'

Answer with positive and work-focused adjectives.

Sample answer:

'Conscientious, hard-working, honest, reliable and courteous', plus a brief description or example of why each fits you well.

'Do you have any questions?'

Ask one or two questions to show your eagerness. Remember questions are a great way for your to find out things about the company or place that you can’t find answers to elsewhere such as what the culture is like, or if there is a ‘high turnover’ which means lots of people have left.

Some examples of questions you could ask:

  • What are the prospects for growth and opportunities?
  • How would you describe a typical day and week in this role?
  • Who does this position report to? If I am offered the position, can I meet them