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Dos and don'ts of a successful interview

GradAustralia

Graduate employers tell us their interview tips on how to make a positive and lasting impression: here are 10 golden rules.

The dos and don’ts of a successful interview

You’ve done your research, written notes, tracked down a shirt that actually fits and had your hair cut. The time has come to walk through that door and be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Thing is, all of your hard work and preparation will be for naught unless you can conduct yourself appropriately during the actual interview. That means dressing well, maintaining eye contact, listening and being respectful.  

Sure, you want to keep it real – show your employers the true (albeit slightly more professional) you – and that’s great. But you’re also convincing them that you’re the best candidate to invest their money in.

We repeat...

These people are not your friends (yet).  An interview is not catch-up. It’s a formal discussion in a professional setting. So be friendly. Be a bit funny. But most importantly be aware.  

Here a few of our closest employers weigh in on their interview essentials and errors.  

When you first walk in:

'Look me in the eye and smile. Give a firm handshake (no wet noodle please).'

'I like a good handshake. Smile and introduce yourself. I don’t mind a bit of awkwardness. It means you’re taking things seriously.'

Making a positive (and lasting impression):

'Listen to the questions being asked. I can’t count how many people have not answered what I have asked.'

'Appear excited about the job. Show me that you’ve actually thought about yourself being successful in my company. Also, show me that you’re self-driven through some good examples from your life.'

'Iron your bloody shirt. Details matter. Your appearance is a reflection of your personality and shows outwardly what you value.'

On knowing whether you’re prepared:

'If you’re asked a question – don’t be a fence-sitter. Answer one and then explain why the other position does not work according to your opinion.

'Sign up so you know what our service is about. The best thing you can do is understand what it’s like to be an actual consumer.'

Answering questions about your weaknesses:

'When asked what are your weaknesses – answer honestly. Everyone has them. The more realistic they are the more we know that you are self-aware. Discuss how they impact others, this shows that you have empathy. Mention how you try to overcome them, it shows that you can act on these weaknesses. Also, discuss how successful you have been at addressing your shortcomings and growing as a person.'

'Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses. It’s important to show that you’re aware of both. Own your weaknesses but focus on your strengths.'

The biggest mistakes you can make in an interview:

'Not really wanting the job. Going through the motions and letting it show.'

'Being forgettable.'

Dos and don’ts - 10 golden rules

Do:

1. Dress the part for someone in your chosen field

Make sure your clothes are neat, clean and well-fitted. We know it can be hard to track down a suit when you’re fresh out of uni but looks really do matter and your physical appearance is a very powerful first impression.  

2. Greet your interviewer(s) in a professional manner

Extend your arm and offer a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. Take note of everyone’s name. Smile.

3. Show enthusiasm and focus through your body language

Sit up straight and maintain eye contact as you listen and talk. Let your interviewers get to the end of each question before jumping in with a response.  

4. Ask questions

This reinforces your enthusiasm for the job. It also shows that you’ve researched the company and are keen to know more. Asking further questions about the job requirements shows that you have really thought about the criteria and how you might be able to fulfil it.  

5. Thank your interviewers at the end

Thank the person(s) in the interview for their time and for giving you this opportunity. Reiterate your interest in the job and suggest they get in contact if they have any further questions. Follow up with an email when you get home, similarly thanking them and letting you know that you look forward to hearing from them. Don’t follow up again after this point.

Don’t:

1. Be critical

Nobody wants to listen to you criticise yourself. Similarly, stay away from tongue lashing past jobs or employers. What employers are hearing is that you are clearly a downer who can’t work effectively with others.  

2. Stretch the truth

You’re a graduate. It’s absolutely fine that you have no work experience. Don’t turn a summer job at Coles into an example of when you led a team of hundreds and changed the corporate landscape. Employers usually see through these stories and very quickly question your integrity and character.

3. Check your phone during an interview

It should go without saying but apparently, it needs to be said. Show your interviewers that they’re your number one priority.

4. Be too casual

If you’re a super friendly and bubbly person go ahead and let that show. Just remember that you’re also being assessed as a professional. Employers need to know that you can operate in a slightly more formal environment.  

5. Ask about salary unless it is specifically raised

You’re there to learn more about the job and whether you’re the right fit. Priorities, people.

So there you have it. We suggest keeping this handy list close by and reviewing just before your next interview. After all, who wants to get a wet noodle handshake?