How to ace a job interview

Young woman being interviewed

6 minute read

Remember Claire our Financial Best Friend (FBF)? She recently went for a job interview and nailed it. We asked, what did she think led to success?

Claire: Preparation, preparation, preparation. I hadn't had a job interview for quite some time, so naturally I was nervous and a little unsure about how to approach it. So I approached it like I normally do, I sat at the computer with a wine in hand and asked Google. I read a lot about what you should and shouldn't do. Sometimes it seemed like a lot, so to make it easier for my Child Care Super FBF’s I've broken it down to five top tips:

  1. Know before you go
  2. Show up early
  3. Create a strong first impression
  4. Be prepared
  5. Have a conversation

Know Before You Go

Claire: Learning as much as you can about the business you want to work for is important. You'll get an idea of what they're looking for in an employee, and researching the organisation will prove you’re serious about getting the job.

Use the internet, business or industry magazines and brochures to find out information. Look for clues, do they talk about their culture, values and vision? Is the business involved in the community? Is it possible to visit before your interview? For example, if it’s a retail store pay a visit, maybe make a purchase and review how they deliver on the customer experience.

Speak to anyone you might know who has or does work there. Or people who might have information about the business.

Show Up Early

The big day is here. You’ve worked so hard to perfect your résumé (a fancy word for CV) and prepare for the interview. To show you’re responsible and committed to this position, you decide to show up early.

But then you wonder, how early is too early?

Claire: I have decided to show up at least 15 minutes before any scheduled interview. This gives me a few minutes to check in with the receptionist (if there is one), use the restroom if necessary, and to acclimate yourself with the office, space or shop.

I have a friend who is always nervous about being on time, so they suggest trying a dress rehearsal, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Beforehand, she commutes to the location at the same time of day she is scheduled for an interview so she can plan travel time appropriately.

While it is important to allow yourself plenty of time to settle in, arriving too early may also hurt your chances at landing the job. There is a fine line between showing interest and looking desperate, and you don’t want to send the wrong message.

Also, arriving over 15 minutes early can be frustrating for a hiring manager. There is a reason the interview was scheduled when it was, and your early arrival could throw a curveball into their schedule.

If you find yourself running way ahead of schedule I suggest killing time by ducking into a coffee shop or walking around the neighbourhood. And if you’re running behind, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world as long as you handle it appropriately. There are always going to be situations where people are running late. Apologise, show authenticity in your apology, don’t harp on it, and move on with the interview.

Create A Strong First Impression

The most important part of a job interview is the beginning. That’s when you have an opportunity to make a great impression—or a poor one—on your interviewer. Some say they know within the first 30 seconds or so whether the person has a shot at getting hired.

You probably have a little more time than that, but it’s important to make the best impression you can within the first few minutes of meeting your interviewer.

Have a good handshake. When you are greeted by the interviewer, offer to shake hands and introduce yourself to get the interview off on the right foot.

Smile. You don’t want to overdo it, but think positive and smile when you’re meeting the interviewer and when it’s appropriate during the interview. Positive people with strong interpersonal skills are more likely to be hired.

Show your enthusiasm. On a related note, show your enthusiasm and passion for what you do and what you’d like to do in your next job. It’s fine to let the interviewer know that you love your work and are excited about this opportunity.

Share how you’re a great fit for the job. Backup your enthusiasm with facts. It’s not enough to say that you’ve got the right stuff for the job. Be specific and show the employer why and how you’re qualified.

Be Prepared: Claire’s checklist

  1. Review your CV, cover letter and application forms to remember the skills and experiences you shared.
  2. Get ready for the employer’s questions.
  3. Read the job description and think of questions the employer may ask.
  4. Do an online search for common interview questions.
  5. Prepare answers to possible questions. Even if you aren’t asked them, it will help you plan what skills and experiences to highlight.

Have A Conversation

Nobody likes sitting silently while someone talks at them. Your interviewer wants you to talk with them. Treat it as a conversation. Make sure you have some good questions to ask. Try not to waffle, (hard when you're nervous), but try and be on point and use real examples from your work history that demonstrate what you have achieved in the past.

Ask your interviewer questions about the work environment and the future of the company. By doing that, you’re no longer in the middle of a nerve-wracking interview but having a conversation where both sides are building a relationship.

When you leave an interview, the company knows if you’re the right person for the job. They want to know that you’re equally confident about them. It would be a waste of resources to train you and three months later you realise the work environment isn’t for you.

Claire: Here are some questions, I always ask to show my interest:

  1. What does a typical day look like for a person in this position?
  2. Why do you enjoy working here?
  3. What qualities do your most successful employees have?
  4. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this opportunity. What are the next steps in the hiring process?

Claire’s final job interview tip

If you don’t know the answer to a certain question, it is perfectly acceptable to pause for a moment and simply state, “Let me think about that for a moment.”

The employer will appreciate you taking the time to give them a thoughtful answer.

Be sure to provide specific examples wherever possible. Taking time to prepare for an interview will ultimately help you feel more relaxed and confident during the process.

Good luck!

Ps: Don’t forget to take us with you! If you do land the job make sure you tell them that you’d like to keep your Child Care Super account or your employer will choose another fund for you.  Learn more