Careers advice

How to prepare for a job interview: the ultimate guide

With job interviews, it's all about preparation. Here's our one stop shop for getting yourself ready.

Be proud! Getting a job interview in New Zealand’s competitive market is no mean feat, and you’ve already beaten a lot of competition to get this far. Now, it’s all about that next step.

Nervous? Good. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be preparing, and winging it isn’t smart.

To help you enter these encounters in the best possible mindset, we’ve created this handy step-by-step guide, covering everything from researching the company to planning your route to their front door.

Research and strategy are key to job interview success.

1. Do your homework on the organisation

While you can’t predict every question, if you don’t get something similar to ‘why do you want to work here?’, we’d be more surprised than an Australian lifting the Bledisloe Cup.

Ideally, you already have a firm grasp of the business, its values and its mission, as this info would have been important for tailoring your CV and cover letter.

You don’t need to memorise every product they sell or every project they’ve completed, but demonstrating a solid knowledge of the company  is vital.

The internet makes this organisational stalking pretty easy. Most modern businesses post their company values prominently on their website, and produce media releases on achievements they’re proud of. From these sources, you should be able to get a good idea of how the company views itself, helping you to get on the interviewer's wavelength.

Bonus tip: research their competition. This isn’t to bad mouth them, but rather to show a broader understanding and passion for the industry.

2. Dive into the job description

Many of the questions you’ll face will be about the role itself, so be sure to read the description fully.

Note down key demands from the listing, and under each of these headings, bullet point qualifications or experience from your past that show you meet their criteria. 

Use your Trade Me Jobs Profile here as an easy reference point for selecting which examples most closely match their requirements.

Take notes from the job listing to highlight important requirements.

3. Prepare your answers

Every interview and interviewer is different, but there are typical questions you can prepare for. Make a list, and start thinking of how you’d approach each.

These normally fall into one of several categories:

1. Questions about your CV:

Prepare to talk about every aspect of your CV, as you never know which bits caught the interviewer’s eye. CV questions are designed to test whether you’ll be able to do the job, and expect a mixture of broader ones, e.g. ‘tell us about your past work experience’, as well as focussed examples like, ‘what was your greatest achievement at uni?’.

Crucially, tie the responses about your past to the job you’re applying for – this is what your audience really want to know.

2. Behavioural interview questions

These questions work on the logic that if you behaved in a certain way before, you’re likely to act similarly in the future.

Behavioural interview questions often begin with a phrase like, ‘tell me about a time when …’, or similar. Standard examples include:

  • Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with stress
  • Give me an example of a time you solved a major problem at work
  • Describe how you’ve dealt with conflict in the past
  • How do you react if you don’t meet your targets?

The good news? There’s a great framework for effectively answering behavioural interview questions – the STAR method. STAR stands for:

  • Situation: this is the context for your answer. For example, a past job, uni or a volunteer project.
  • Task: what were you doing? If you were talking about dealing with stress, perhaps you were facing a heap of tight deadlines.
  • Action: what did you do? With stress, you could have created a priority list and worked through it to prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed.
  • Result: how did your actions lead to a successful solution? Talk about what you achieved and what you learnt.

Expect to give examples of times you've worked well with others.

3. Personality questions

These can range from the dreaded, ‘what is your greatest weakness’ to more light-hearted examples like, ‘if you were an animal, what would you be?’.

The point of these questions? No one wants to work with an ego-maniac, a Debbie Downer or someone who doesn’t pull their weight. The interviewer wants to know what you’re like.

You can also expect them to take an interest in what you do for fun. This helps them build a rounded picture of you, and decide if you’d be pleasant to have around.

4. Your own questions

Job interviews aren’t a one-way street, and at the end you’ll have the chance to ask some questions of your own.

Note – interviewers want you to ask questions. It shows you’re actually thinking about their company, and not just taking the first job that comes your way. So, have a few questions up your sleeve, and don’t be afraid to bring along a notepad – this isn’t a memory test.

There’s a lot you could ask, but here are some popular ones to get you going:

  • What are the biggest challenges of the role?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • How will you measure success for this role?

4. Do a mock interview

Once you’ve prepared answers to common interview questions, and some role specific examples, set up a mock. This could be with a family member, partner, friend or anyone else you trust to take it seriously.

Speaking answers out loud is very different to writing bullet points or rehearsing them in your head. While you don’t want to sound robotic and over-rehearsed on the interview day, a mock is a good opportunity to work on responses you struggle to communicate well.

Also consider your body language. Are you making eye contact? Are you gesturing naturally, or are you frozen like a deer in headlights? If you’re naturally fidgety, lose distracting items like jewellery and clicky pens.

5. Choose some clothes

People obsess about what to wear for a job interview. Of course, it’s important to create the right first impression, but don’t lose too much sleep

Today, companies often include suggested dress codes in interview invitations, but if they don’t, feel free to ring and ask what they’d advise.

If in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed – you can always adjust your choices once you’ve landed the job.

If you're not sure what to wear, ask for guidance on company dress codes.

6. Work out your route

Don’t leave this to the day of the interview. The last thing you want is all your hard preparation going to waste because you missed the bus and arrived late.

Aim to arrive 15 minutes or so before the start time so you can compose yourself and get in the right headspace.

It’s a good idea to look at the predicted weather for the day of the interview – even if the location is walkable, you don’t want to do this in the rain or high wind (cough, Wellington) for obvious reasons.

So, now you know how to prepare for a job interview. Follow these steps, add in a splash of your natural charm and charisma and you’re well on your way. You got this.