There are many articles and books on interview techniques, types of questions and interview styles, that can easily be found via Google search, book stores, and job and career websites.
However, the aim of this article is to give you an Australian perspective on interviews. It will also provide information on what is important to Australian employers, human resources departments and recruitment agencies.
If you are invited for a job interview it usually means that your job application documents already impress the employer.
The purpose of a job interview is for the employer to verify:-
- How well you fit with values and culture of the organisation
- The accuracy of skills and experience listed on your job application documents
- How well you match the requirements of the position compared to other candidates being interviewed
- Your motivation for wanting to work for the company
Important: Australian employers want to know HOW you have applied the skills you offer to the position. Don’t just say that you have the skills to do the job, explain how you have used the skills to achieve a positive result.
Main types of interview
- Panel—this is the most common type and will involve a group of people interviewing one candidate at a time. The panel will usually include the line manager of the position being filled and a Human Resources department representative. Additional people may include a senior manager, member of the team, or an impartial observer from another department to ensure that the interview is conducted in a transparent and fair way. Questions will be asked by several members of the panel, if not all of them, during the interview session.
- Informal—this can happen in Australia for a number of reasons such as, when being interviewed by a manager of a small business, when the nature of the industry is less formal (e.g. trades, cleaning, aged care), or if the position has not yet been formally advertised. An informal interview can involve a casual discussion about what the company needs and your skills. It can be in an office or over a coffee in a cafe. This style can be more challenging as the rules are less obvious. It is best to always behave professionally, regardless of how informal an interview may seem.
- Group—this is when several candidates are interviewed at the same time, usually by a panel of people. The questions asked of each candidate may be the same or each is asked a different question during the interview process. Successful interview candidates are either offered the position privately after the group interview is completed or asked to attend an individual interview at another time.
- Assessment centre—this often involves a combination of group interview, group problem solving activities and individual activities. Observations are made of participants as they progress through activities. The aim is to identify skills such as, team work, leadership, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Though assessment centres can be daunting, they can provide you with great insight into your strengths and areas you may need to improve when you reflect on the experience.
Things that are important in Australia during the job interview
- Respect everyone—your behaviour may be observed from the moment you arrive for your interview. Be courteous to everyone regardless of their perceived status. This includes the receptionist, cleaners, or security. Status is viewed differently in Australia. It is best to be polite and respect everyone, equally.
- Names—people’s names are very important within Australian culture. You will make a good impression if you remember the names of the people conducting the interview and use their names at the beginning and end of the interview. If you need to clarify a question during the interview, it is good practice to respond to the person who asked the question by name. When speaking to people use the name by which they were introduced.
- Eye contact—Australians view a medium level of eye contact as a sign of being honest and friendly. Observe how Australians interact with each other and be conscious of how much eye contact you normally use.
- Personal space—this can vary from person to person depending on their own cultural upbringing. It is important to observe the reactions and movements of others when you stand next to them. To begin with, stand one arms length away and then let the other person adjust to suit themselves.
- Handshake—most Australian professionals use a hand shake when greeting others, regardless of gender. Handshakes need to be firm but not crushing with a duration of around one to two seconds. A weak handshake is seen as a lack of interest in meeting the person. Eye contact is made at the same time as the handshake and remember to smile.
Self-awareness and observation skills are vital when preparing for and participating in Australian job interviews.
Go to places where business people meet (such as cafes near business areas) and watch how they interact in regards to the points made above. Developing these skills to a high level will also improve your networking techniques and help you adjust to the Australian workplace.
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