Interview Preparation

Eating lunch while working

Interviews are generally regarded as the primary decision-making event in any recruitment process. Regardless of your academic credentials or career thus far, it is crucial that you perform well in the interview process in order to secure that next position. The following interview tips and techniques should help you prepare and perform at your best during an interview:

Before the Interview

It is often said that “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. Here are 5 pointers to help you effectively prepare for interviews:

1. Timing – Interviewers will generally have some flexibility in their diary. Try and choose a time of the day where you will be able to present yourself at your best. For example, if you regard yourself as a morning person, try and schedule your interview in the morning and not at the end of a gruelling day.

2. Research – It is essential that you research the company extensively prior to attending any interviews. There are three main reasons:

(a) It demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in their organization;
(b) Shows a degree of initiative; and
(c) Will provide you with a confidence boost during the interview when you are able to demonstrate this research.

Information on prospective employers is readily available and can be obtained from a number of sources, such as: the company website, search tools (such as Google) and information from the recruitment agency you are working with.

3. Interview Type & Format – Your Recruitment Consultant should be able to provide you with the following details regarding the interview: Name of Interviewer, expected duration, format and style of the person(s) conducting the interview. This information is critical, as interview types and styles vary widely and you should modify your interview technique accordingly.

4. Job Description – Familiarise yourself with the job description, regardless of the quality of the particular document. Further, it is a good idea to reread the document on the day of your interview.

5. Questions for Interviewer – It is highly recommended that you come prepared to an interview with a number of specific questions. These may relate to: the position, organisation or your ability to perform in the role. For example, “If I’m successful in obtaining this position, what do you think will be my biggest challenge?” As the interview progresses, additional questions may come to mind and you may also receive answers to some of your prepared questions. Play it by ear, but always try and end the interview with at least three relevant questions.


The Interview

Remember: An interview is a two way street, as it provides the opportunity for:

(1) Employers to compare an interviewee with other available candidates in the marketplace; and

(2) Potential employees to compare this opportunity with others in the marketplace.

However, your principal objective should be always to perform at your best and secure an offer from every potential employer (where possible), regardless of the opportunity. As a result, you will have the opportunity later on to select the best ‘offer on the table’ and make an informed decision regarding the next stage in your career.
The following suggestions should assist you in this endeavour:

1. Be on time – Plan to arrive 10 minutes before the interview commences. Allow plenty of time for traffic and unfamiliar territory.
Do NOT arrive early, as it is arrogant to assume that your interview has nothing better to do than interview you. It also puts undue pressure on your interviewer to see you immediately. If you do arrive with extra time to spare, grab a coffee or go for a walk.
Do NOT be late. However, if you are running late due to unforeseen circumstances, phone ahead to inform either your recruitment consultant or your contact at the company itself that you are running late.

2. Presentation – First impressions are critical, so dress at your best. Always wear a suit, regardless of the working environment of your potential employer, as they will want to see you at your best. If you are currently employed and do not wish to raise suspicion by wearing a suit, provide the Interviewer with plenty of notice that you will be in casual dress. It is likely that they will be fine with it. A little courtesy can go a long way…

3. Follow their lead – Do not run the interview. Give your interviewer the opportunity to set the tone and pace and follow their example. If the tone of the interview is relaxed and informal, act accordingly.

4. Answer the Question – Answer the questions as clearly and concisely as possible. Most questions should be answered in two or three sentences, with a relevant example where appropriate. Do NOT volunteer extra Information that is irrelevant to the question being asked. If you are unsure of what the interviewer is really asking, seek clarification before answering.
Avoid yes/no type questions (where possible), as they will not give you the opportunity to expand or provide examples.


After the Interview

Contact your Recruitment Consultant as soon as possible after the interview to discuss how you went. Be as honest and forthcoming as possible, as they will be able to use this information to your advantage in any future negotiations conducted on your behalf.

Cover Letter Preparation

A well-written covering letter can help you to make a strong first impression with an employer. It is an excellent opportunity to summarise your key attributes and experience and convey information that is specific to the position you are applying for.

Here are some guidelines to follow when creating a cover letter.

  • Be concise; keep your covering letter to one page and your introduction brief
  • Address the letter to the relevant contact listed in the advertisement, where possible
  • Refer to the advertised job title, reference number and where and when you saw the advertisement
  • Write your covering note in the first person
  • Outline the reason for your interest in the role/company application and explain why your skills and experience are relevant to the advertised role
  • Customise your covering letter for each role
  • Demonstrate a positive and enthusiastic attitude to work
  • Ensure that you spell check and then proof read your covering letter thoroughly before submission


Email Covering Notes

Don’t be seduced by the more casual method of corresponding via e-mail. Your covering note must still be business-like and proof read for errors. There is no need to begin your message with your contact details, as these will be in your cv. Try to keep the information to one screen of text and remember to attach your cv.



Your cv is your personal selling tool.  It must present your information quickly, clearly, and in a way that makes your experience relevant to the position in question.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare a winning cv:


Your cv should be between 3-5 pages long and include the following sections:

  • Personal Details
  • Qualifications and Education
  • Key Skills / Strengths
  • Career Summary
  • Detailed Employment History
  • Hobbies & Interests
  • Referees
  • Customise your cv for each job by focusing on previous experience or skills that are relevant to the advertised role
  • Use clear, concise and active language (e.g., accomplished, created, launched, negotiated, etc)
  • Write your cv in the third person and keep pronouns (i.e., I, we, they) to a minimum or avoid them altogether
  • List your employment history and education details in reverse chronological order (ie., start with the most recent), making sure you provide the months as well as the years


  • Customise your cv for each job by focusing on previous experience or skills that are relevant to the advertised role
  • Use clear, concise and active language (e.g., accomplished, created, launched, negotiated, etc)
  • Write your cv in the third person and keep pronouns (i.e., I, we, they) to a minimum or avoid them altogether
  • List your employment history and education details in reverse chronological order (ie., start with the most recent), making sure you provide the months as well as the years

Questions To Ask In An Interview

Your questions form an important part of the interview process, they help you to understand more about the organisation, their goals and the responsibilities of the role. Preparing questions will help you determine whether an opportunity is right for you and demonstrates a proactive, keen interest in the role. We have listed some questions below to help in your preparation, please choose those you feel are relevant in helping you understand more about your next career opportunity.

Example Questions:

1. What characteristics would define a great employee in this role?

2. How will success be measured in this role?

3. How would I report to you in this role, what is your management style?

4. What are some of the objectives you would like to see completed in the next 3 to 6 months?

5. What are some of the longer term objectives you would like to see completed?

6. How would you describe the culture of the organisation?

7. What are some of the more difficult challenges I could expect to deal with in this role?

8. Are there any advancement opportunities available for me in this role, and within what time frame?

9. How is training provided, is it typically internal or external?

10. What are the goals of the organisation during the next 3 years?

11. What new technologies or systems are you looking to adopt in the near future?

Finally, we recommend that you take notes and have your questions prepared and ready to ask at the appropriate time. Interviews can be mentally demanding and having this information written out will help you remember key discussion points. Ultimately, this information will help you in your decision making process.


How To Deal With Counter Offers

Counter offers are common in today’s market where talented candidates are becoming scarce. In many cases, companies suffer a ‘knowledge drain’ when people leave and it is costly for them to hire and train new staff.

You will need to make a difficult decision, particularly as there can be ties which make it harder to leave a familiar environment. Such as the relationships you have built, knowledge of the existing role, current travel arrangements and being in your comfort zone.
In many cases, an employer will make a ‘counter offer’ where you are asked to stay. This may cause you to re-think your options especially if there are more favourable terms offered. You may have gone into the process knowing a counter offer would be extended or it may come as a complete surprise. If you find yourself in this position, keep in mind there will have been a compelling reason that made you decide to look for a new career opportunity in the first place.

In most circumstances money is not the key motivator in a person looking to enhance their career, and often it does not address the compelling reason for a change.


You should always go back to the core reasons that made you decide to look for a brighter career in the first place. Whether you change positions now or in the future, the fact remains that you have made that decision to move and you should focus on finding the right career opportunity for you.

As trusted career advisors, we are here to help and will always try to support you with a balanced view.

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