When you are called for an interview, your chances of nailing the job is now down to usually 3 people, instead of the common 200 to 1 odds of being shortlisted.
Preparation is utmost importance, as it is a make-or-break situation, where you can showcase your communication skills and other qualities that make you the “right fit” for the role. Being on both sides of the hiring fence (interviewer and interviewee) in the past, here are my tips to ace an interview in a New Zealand context:
- Come to the interview fresh by scouting the location a day or two beforehand as you don’t want to be rushing to the company’s office the last minute. Instead, arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow you to relax and settle.
- It is usually advised to come in “smart casual” attire but this entirely depends on the type of role you are applying. I would say it is better to be overdressed than underdressed for an interview. Personally, I’ve always wore business attire in all my interviews.
- Most Kiwi interviews begin with usual pleasantries to break the ice. Common starter questions would be to ask you how your weekend was, the weather, etc. This would be a good opportunity to discuss your knowledge of Kiwi culture – try to steer the conversation to the last All Blacks game or current New Zealand events. Remember it is important to give an image that you are one of them, rather than be seen as a foreigner or outsider.
- Kiwi employers are known to structure their interviews by asking behavioural questions, as most HR people believe that past action is the best predictor of future action. In answering a question let’s say “Name one moment in your professional career that you faced adversity and tell us how you responded to it” – the way you frame your answer would be using the so-called STAR response technique. First, give a specific Situation, then narrate the Task you set out to do, the Action you did, and finally the give the Result of that action. An example response could be: “Our retail store used to have a difficult customer that wanted to return an expensive purchase. Of course, nobody wants to have an angry customer walk out, more so lose a big sale. I started to ask a series of questions to find out the reasons why he was angry. As it turned out, he actually purchased the wrong product for his specific needs. After recommending a different product, he was happy to shell out a hundred more dollars to get a better product. It was a win-win situation for both parties – a customer walking out happy and a higher sale for the company.”
- After the interview, you will then be given an opportunity to ask questions to your potential employer. Use this time to get to know the company beyond what the advertisement says, and also by asking questions you express your genuine interest for the role you are applying for. Example questions could be – how would my performance be measured in this role? If hired, what can I learn from the company? How would you describe the culture of this organisation?
If in the end, you don’t get the job, always extend a thank you note perhaps by email or postal letter for giving you a chance to be interviewed. This kind gesture keeps the door open for future opportunities. There was one occasion wherein I didn’t get the role but because I kept in touch and showed my eagerness, I was considered for a different role in the organisation later on.