Let’s face it, no matter how long you’ve been in the game, the interview process is daunting.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just finished your studies, or you’re changing your career, job interviews can turn even the calmest of people into a hot mess.

We sat down with an industry expert Trish Gray, Learning Adviser (Careers), to find out the dos and don’ts of job interviews. Get a one up on the competition with our tips for nailing the dreaded job interview process.

1. Do your research

Find out about the employer. That means the company, the position, the industry and if possible, the person hiring you. Find out about their core values and share how you’re aligned to these in the interview.

LinkedIn is a great resource you can tap into. Make sure your profile is polished and up to date.

And speaking of social media, go through your Facebook and Instagram, and either check your profiles are on private, or go through your photos and cull. You don’t want your future employer to see those embarrassing shots of you. Because many employers will do their research too!

2. Calm your nerves

Sometimes nerves can distract you from your best performance. Arrive early, find out where the bathrooms are, take a seat, centre yourself, and take a few deep breaths.

Being early also allows you to recover from the journey there. BYO water and slowly sip at it – this will help reduce your heart rate.

In the interview, try not to fidget and if you lose concentration while a question is being asked, or you don’t understand, apologise and ask the interviewer to repeat it. It’s a sign of respect that you’re trying to understand and pay attention. They asked you here because they want to meet you! Remember that.

3. Remember first impressions last

A first impression is made in 30 seconds.

Represent yourself the best you can by looking sharp and smelling good. But remember that overpowering aftershave or perfume can be just as offensive and distracting as body odour, so don’t overdo it.

You want to be the sleekest dressed person there when you arrive. Use people’s names if you know them and always thank them for the opportunity to interview. Showing respect shows that you value them.

If you’re feeling particularly nervous, check out the workplace a week before. That way you can get a sense of style and know exactly how long it takes you to get there.

4. Never say never

When you’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer, one of the worst things you can respond with is, ‘I don’t know’. Or if you don’t have a particular skillset that’s desirable, never say ‘no I don’t have that skill.’ You’re just starting out.

A great response is, 'I'm so interested in finding out more about XYZ, I understand that’s something your company does particularly well, and I’d be keen to become proficient in that skill. A comparable experience I’ve had is…'. If you’ve researched the role, you’ll know what it entails, and if you don’t have a particular skill, be prepared to talk about what it is you’re prepared to do to develop that.

5. Know your worth

Make sure you know your worth before you step foot in that interview room. And know the worth of the job.

If this is a great opportunity for your career and you’re just starting out, the experience will outweigh any pay packet. (Though we’re not saying work below minimum wage!)

Do your research and find out what the industry standards are – you can do this using resources like PayScale and Indeed. If you accept the job and pass the probationary period, that’s another great time to discuss salary. If the curiosity is killing you in the early stages, you could tactfully ask about the remuneration package, even about superannuation – it’s a more subtle way to ask.

6. Strengthen your weaknesses

It’s good to be prepared for the dreaded, ‘what’s your biggest weakness’ question.

The last thing you ever want to do in an interview is tell the interviewer that you’re bad at something. Try and avoid answering with something that the job requires. If it’s a project management job, don’t say you’re disorganised or struggle to meet deadlines (even if that’s true!). Every negative can be turned into an opportunity, and that’s exactly what you can do here.

An important part of your answer is showing self-improvement. You should include details about the steps you’re taking to learn a skill or correct a weakness.

For example, instead of saying you’re disorganised, say you have a hard time delegating tasks so you take on more than you should. But you’re really working on your assertiveness and mutual trust in colleagues to make this work better.

Free career advice

Trish Gray is a Learning Adviser (Careers) based at the Learning Hub at Victoria University, Footscray Park.

The Learning Hub online offers recent graduates and students access to the online jobs board, career resources, virtual interview practice, and drop-in sessions and workshops on campus.

VU also offers Talent Connect, a program that guides students in their final year of study into employment through career master classes and alumni mentoring.

For career information, advice and support, visit our Learning Hub online or on campus.


Writer: Jessica Jury