Interviews are one of the more nerve-wracking parts of getting a job.
When you’re meeting an employer face to face, you might feel like you have to know everything about your trade, or worry they’ll ask you tricky questions.

But remember, interviews are often more like a chat with the employer. If they’ve read your CV and asked to interview you, they’re already pretty sure you have the skills to do the job. So mostly, your employer wants to have a chat to get to know you and see how you’ll fit in at the company.

Having said that, there’s a lot you can do to help your interview go well. This guide will show you how to prepare for a job interview and make a good impression on your future boss.

1. Find out about the company

Do your research on the company before you arrive at the interview, says Megan Fowlie from Skills.

“Knowing something about the company shows the interviewer you have done some homework and you’re genuinely interested in who they are and what they do.”

She suggests taking these steps to get yourself up to speed:
  • Ask your friends and whānau if they know anyone who works for the company.
    “If so, ask them what they like about it and what they find challenging,” says Megan.
  • Check out the company website. “What does it say about its values, the people who work for it, the type of work it does, how big it is and where it operates? Who is the boss? What photos are on the website and what do they show?”
  • Do a Google search on the company. “Check out the history of the company and find out what other people say about it,” says Megan.
  • Do a Google search on your interviewer. Knowing a bit about them and seeing what they look like can help put you at ease – and might give you a few things to ask them about at the interview.
2. Be ready to ask questions
Tony Laulu from Skills
Tony Laulu from Skills

Asking an interviewer questions doesn’t come naturally to some Māori and Pasifika, says Tony Laulu from Skills. “In some Māori or Pasifika settings, being too outspoken and asking too many questions can be seen as being fie poko/fia poto – a know-it-all who is disrespectful, especially to someone in authority such as an employer.”

But Tony says asking questions is an important part of the interview process and comes across as mature and enthusiastic.

“Asking critical questions in an interview shows you’ve got initiative, you’re well prepared and you’re motivated to get the job.”

So it’s important to have a think about what questions you want to ask, says Megan.

“Asking questions shows the employer you have thought about how you will fit into the company.”

Plus, it can help you feel more comfortable and takes the focus off you for a while.

But what should you ask about? Here are some good questions to keep in mind.
  • Ask about where and when work happens, says Megan. “Sometimes workplaces might send you to worksites in different locations, so ask where you would most likely be working, and whether the company arranges travel to worksites. You can also ask about usual start times and finish times, and whether you would be working on a wide variety of jobs.”
  • Ask about the team – who you’ll be working with and who you’ll report to.
  • If you’re looking to be hired as an apprentice, you can ask the employer how they manage workplace training. You can also ask how many other apprentices are working for them.
  • Ask about the interviewer’s professional background and how they got started with the company. This helps show you’re interested in others, and makes your interview more of a relaxed, two-way conversation.
3. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself.

Answering questions about yourself lets future employers know more about your experience and how you communicate with other people. It also helps them find out how you will fit into the company.

“Even if you have sent through a CV, the interviewer might ask you about what experiences you have had or what you have achieved,” says Megan.

Before the interview think about how you might answer the employer’s questions. For each answer, think of examples where you’ve shown qualities the employer is looking for. Even if you haven’t had a formal job before, there are other ways to show skills that are relevant. For example, turning up to your polytech classes on time shows you’re punctual; being part of a sports team shows you can work well with others; pitching in with family commitments shows you’re responsible.

Common interview questions that you should be prepared to answer include:

Why do you want the job?

Talk about why you’re a good fit for the role, and give examples. Make sure you talk about why you want to work for this specific company, to avoid seeming like you just want any job that comes along.

What are your strengths?

Choose the things you’re good at that are most relevant to the job. Make sure you give examples of where you’ve shown these strengths.

What is your biggest weakness?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer. The key is to answer honestly, but say how you’re working to improve in that area.

Why should we hire you?

This question is a chance to talk about any strengths you haven’t mentioned yet, and to show you’re enthusiastic about this job.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Employers ask this question to get an idea of your career goals and your passion for the job. Now is not the time to mention you might want to be an actor or accountant one day – talk about how the job you’re applying for will help you work towards a long-term career in your trade.

Why did you leave your last job?

If you’ve been employed before, think about how you’ll answer this question. Avoid criticising your previous boss or company. Instead, talk about the positive reasons you wanted to make a change.

It’s important to practice saying your answers out loud.

Practice answering questions about yourself with a family member or friend, or in front of a mirror, says Megan. “This helps you get used to talking about yourself and being proud of what you have achieved so far and what you want to do in the future.”

4. Show up early

Turn up to the place where the interview is being held 15 minutes before you’re due to arrive, says Megan.

“This will show the future employer that you’re punctual. It will also give you some time to become familiar with where you are and reflect on what you want to say during your interview.”

Remember, your interview starts the moment you arrive, so be polite to everyone rather than just the person who interviews you.

“Always greet the receptionist,” says Megan. “Let them know you have arrived for the interview and the name of the person you have come to see.”

Some Māori and Pasifika trainees might prefer to bring a member of their whānau along to their job interview. Some employers may be open to this, but because it’s not standard practice, talk to your navigator about whether it could be an option. They might know the employer, and can give you advice on how to proceed.

5. Think about your appearance

Remember, your interviewer’s first impression of you doesn’t start when you begin talking; it starts when they first see you. These tips will help you look the part.

  • Dressing in smart, tidy clothes for the interview helps show you’re professional and that you take the opportunity seriously, says Megan. “Even though you might be applying for a job on a worksite you need to wear clean, smart clothes to meet the person who will be interviewing you. Also check you have clean shoes and tidy hair.”
  • When you’re waiting for the interviewer, don’t sit in the corner, pull out your phone and hunch over it as you check Facebook. Instead, keep your phone out of sight (and on silent) and look around the waiting area or talk to the receptionist. That way, when the interviewer first sees you you’ll have a more confident-looking, upright posture.
  • Greet your employer with a firm handshake, and shake their hand again when you say goodbye.
  • Don’t be afraid to look the employer directly in the eye, says Tony. “In some Māori and Pasifika settings, it can be considered rude or disrespectful when you look someone directly in the eye, and looking down or away shows you are lowering yourself and showing humility. But in other cultures, looking people in the eye means that you are ‘true to your word’ and looking away or down means you have something to hide or that you’re showing weakness.”
  • Try to keep your hands where the interviewer can see them, rather than in your pockets or under the table. This helps show you’re trustworthy and looks more confident than if you hide your hands.

Find out more about preparing for an interview on the Careers NZ website.

Don’t have any interviews lined up yet? Why not check out our blog about how to write a great cv and cover letter to help you get your foot in the door.