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A Guide to Successful Job Interviews in NZ

1. General Tips to help you prepare!

Being interviewed for a new job, especially in a new country can be a daunting experience. Preparing for it as best as possible will give you confidence and ensure that you can present yourself in your best light.

You are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to hire somebody – not because he/she wants to trip you up or embarrass you. Through the interaction which will take place during the interview, he/she will be searching out your strong and weak points, evaluating you on your qualifications, skills and intellectual qualities and he/she will probably try to determine your attitudes, aptitudes, stability, motivation and maturity.

Phone Interview

Employers may “phone screen” a number of applicants before deciding who to interview face to face. 

If the employer rings you it means they are interested, which is good news. 

You may have no warning the call is coming – so prepare your answers when you create your application. 

Stay calm and speak clearly and slowly. 

Refer to your CV and the advertisement so you know the skills the job requires and the skills and experience you have that match what the employer wants.  

Listen carefully to what the employer asks you.  Answer the question and do not provide a whole lot of extra information that has not been asked for. 

Stand confidently and smile, as this will affect the way you sound.  

Before the Interview

Find out the interviewers full name.

Read the CV and cover letter you prepared for the job and take note of your skills and achievements. The employer has chosen to meet you because of your application and they will want to talk to you about what you have written. 

Think about the questions you might be asked and think about how you will answer them. 

Be prepared to give specific examples of each of your stated skills and personal attributes. 

Face-to-Face Interview

Presentation

The manner in which you present and conduct yourself during the interview process has a larger impact on your ability to gain the position you seek than your resume, educational background and experience. 

Keep in mind, that you will be viewed by not only members of the interview team, but by the receptionist, administrative assistants and maintenance personnel you may encounter. Their opinion is very often sought out and given serious consideration. 

You are your own best sales person. Focus on your successes but do not be afraid to discuss some of those situations where you grew when success came from making a mistake.

Dress Code:

While business casual is widely accepted in the everyday workplace environment, dressing more conservatively for the interview is a necessity. 

Courtesy

Be nice to everyone. Everyone has input into the hiring decision when a team-oriented environment is considering a new member. More than one person has lost an excellent opportunity by displaying an aloof or disrespectful attitude to a receptionist, admin assistant or cleaning staff.

Cell Phones:

The prospective employer is going to expect your full attention while you are on-site.  So, turn off your cell phone, including vibrate mode, so that your time on-site is not interrupted. 

Do your Research

Learn about the organization. Use any resources at your disposal to learn about the organization, its history, people, the community and future plans. Visit the organization's web site paying particular attention to the current and past news items. Ask good questions about the organization. 

Timing

Be on time! Even a few minutes early. There is no excuse for being late.

Body Language 

Watch your body language.  Greet each of your hosts warmly and sincerely with a smile and firm handshake.  Throughout your conversations maintain good eye contact.  Use body language that shows you are open to opportunities and challenges. Be yourself during the conversations and remember that all of your statements may be taken into consideration.  This includes any "off-the-cuff" remarks or observations you make during tours or while being escorted between interviews. 

Problem Solving – Behavioral Based Interviews

You may be presented with a number of problem statements to which you are expected to respond. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to analyze problems and make rational and well founded decisions. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Discuss, how you have seen similar issues addressed in the past but keep in mind that every situation is different.

Be Yourself, Be Prepared 

Be enthusiastic and confident.  Relax and enjoy the process - this is exciting! 

Let your words and actions reflect that you want the job. 

Be prepared to talk about things other than work – your family, the traffic, the weather, parking, sports, the office décor, the beach, almost anything that will interest you and the interviewer. 

Humor is a big part of kiwi culture, particularly if you make jokes about yourself. 

Listen carefully to the questions and take your time to answer – don’t feel rushed or you may give vague answers.

What not to do:

Here are a few things to avoid during your time with your prospective employer: 

  • Common sense - chewing gum, smoking, wearing sun glasses indoors, heavy perfume or aftershave 
  • Say anything bad about your previous employer.
  • Be shy about using your English – words are always better than silence. 
  • Do not give “yes” or “no” answers, unless the employer is just checking a piece of information with you. 
  • Do not be repetitive or babble – too much talking may bore the interviewer. 
  • Have your mobile phone on.
  • Not ask questions about the job.
  • Over-emphasize on money.
  • Never lie about your experiences or skills. Be 100% honest!
  • Don’t enquire about salary, holidays, bonuses and retirement on your initial interview. Know however your market rate.

Closing the interview

If you are interested in the opposition, ask for it.

If you wish some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date when you can provide the answer.

Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you.

2. Standard Interview Questions

Job interviews are always stressful - even for job seekers who have gone on countless interviews. The best way to reduce the stress is to be prepared. Take the time to review the "standard" interview questions you will most likely be asked. Also review sample answers to these typical interview questions.

Then take the time to research the company. That way you'll be ready with knowledgeable answers for the job interview questions that specifically relate to the company you are interviewing with.

Interview Questions: Work History

  1. Name of company, position title and description, dates of employment. 
  2. What were your expectations for the job and to what extent were they met? 
  3. What were your starting and final levels of compensation? 
  4. What were your responsibilities? 
  5. What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them? 
  6. What have you learned from your mistakes? 
  7. What did you like or dislike about your previous job? 
  8. Which was most / least rewarding? 
  9. What was the biggest accomplishment / failure in this position? 
  10. Questions about your supervisors and co-workers. 
  11. What was it like working for your supervisor? 
  12. What do you expect from a supervisor? 
  13. What problems have you encountered at work? 
  14. Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager? 
  15. Who was your best boss and who was the worst?  
  16. Why are you leaving your job? 
  17. Why did you resign? 
  18. Why did you quit your job? 
  19. What have you been doing since your last job? 
  20. Why were you fired?

Interview Questions About Yourself

  1. What is your greatest weakness? 
  2. What is your greatest strength? 
  3. How will your greatest strength help you perform? 
  4. How would you describe yourself? 
  5. Describe a typical work week. 
  6. Do you take work home with you? 
  7. How many hours do you normally work? 
  8. How would you describe the pace at which you work? 
  9. How do you handle stress and pressure? 
  10. What motivates you? 
  11. Are you a self motivator? 
  12. What are your salary expectations? 
  13. What do you find are the most difficult decisions to make? 
  14. Tell me about yourself. 
  15. What has been the greatest disappointment in your life? 
  16. What are you passionate about? 
  17. What are your pet peeves? 
  18. What do people most often criticize about you? 
  19. When was the last time you were angry? What happened? 
  20. If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you do differently? 
  21. If the people who know you were asked why you should be hired, what would they say? 
  22. Do you prefer to work independently or on a team? 
  23. Give some examples of teamwork. 
  24. More teamwork interview questions. 
  25. What type of work environment do you prefer? 
  26. How do you evaluate success? 
  27. If you know your boss is 100% wrong about something how would you handle it? 
  28. Describe a difficult work situation / project and how you overcame it. 
  29. Describe a time when your workload was heavy and how you handled it. 
  30. More job interview questions about your abilities. 
  31. More job interview questions about you. 

Interview Questions about the new Job and the Company

  1. What interests you about this job? 
  2. Why do you want this job? 
  3. What applicable attributes / experience do you have? 
  4. Are you overqualified for this job? 
  5. What can you do for this company? 
  6. Why should we hire you? 
  7. Why are you the best person for the job? 
  8. What do you know about this company? 
  9. Why do you want to work here? 
  10. What challenges are you looking for in a position? 
  11. What can you contribute to this company? 
  12. Are you willing to travel? 
  13. What is good customer service? 
  14. Is there anything I haven't told you about the job or company that you would like to know?

Interview Questions about your future Aspirations

  1. What are you looking for in your next job? What is important to you? 
  2. What are your goals for the next five years / ten years? 
  3. How do you plan to achieve those goals? 
  4. What are your salary requirements - both short-term and long-term? 
  5. Questions about your career goals. 
  6. What will you do if you don't get this position?

Interview Questions – Behind the Scenes

During the interview process you will encounter questions that will prompt some self-examination.  Some very simple questions may illuminate extremely important issues, for yourself and the employer. Realize that some questions may be asked in a certain way to see how you handle stress. Take a breath and think before you answer.

What is the question behind the question? 

They want to know if you have dealt with the problem before and if you succeeded.  Focus on examples of your past successes in resolving these types of challenges.  Describe your professional accomplishments. 


‘Tell me about yourself. What is not shown on your resume?’

Just talk for 2 minutes.  Be logical.  The interviewer is looking for communication skills, linear thinking.  Provide insight into your management philosophy or personal mission statement. 

"Why are you leaving your current position?" 

This is a very critical question.  Don't "bad mouth" your previous employer. 

"What do you consider your most significant accomplishments?" 

Answers to this question can get you the job  . . . prepare extensively.  We suggest you frame your answer into a two minute story, with specific relevant details and discuss your personal involvement.  Describe how things were when you arrived, what you did to make the change and then describe the measurable results or outcomes. Discuss accomplishments that were worth achieving.  Discuss hard work, long hours, pressure and any important issues at stake. Remember to briefly describe the thought process used as you assessed the changes you implemented. 

"Why do you believe that you are qualified for this position?" 

Be certain you know the specifics of the question - do they need a person to maintain the status quo or make major changes?  Do they want staff development, a hands-on manager, an administrator to facilitate policies with upper administration or someone to develop strategies for growth? Pick two or three main factors about the job and about you that are most relevant.  Provide specific details.  Select a clinical or technical skill or a specific management skill (organizing, staffing, planning), and combine it with a personal success story. 

"Have you ever accomplished something you didn't think you could?" 

The interviewer is trying to determine your goal orientation, work ethic, personal commitment, integrity and your ability to be introspective. Provide a good example where you overcame numerous difficulties to succeed.  Prove you're not a quitter, and that you'll "get going when the going gets tough." 

"What do you like/dislike most about your current position? What will you miss most about your current position?" 

The interviewer is trying to determine compatibility with the open position.  If you have an interest in the position, be careful. Stating that you dislike overtime or detail work can cost you the position.  By being open and flexible you may learn they need extensive overtime for a short period on an essential project. There is nothing wrong with liking challenges, pressure situations, opportunities to grow, or a dislike for bureaucracy or frustrating situations. Again, be positive about your current position. Always find a way to say something good that you gained experience and grew. 

"How do you handle pressure?" 

High achievers tend to perform well in high pressure situations.  These questions also could imply that the position is pressure packed.  If you do perform well under stress, provide an example with details, giving an overview of the stressful situation.  Let the interviewer "feel" the stress by your description. 

"Describe the difference between being a manager and a leader.  ...a leader and a follower." 

Your answer will tell the interviewer about your understanding of hiring, motivating and retaining staff.  Following directions, thinking outside of the box, empowering people or just doing what needs to be done; all of these management approaches have their time and place.  It's OK to be a manager; some situations require a “just do it” in managing those unable to comply. Being a leader implies motivating, inspiring and providing strategic vision for the success of the department and the organization.  This is the next level of managerial development, so convey what is appropriate for you. 

"Describe your gaps in employment, frequent job changes or your being asked to leave your last position." 

Addressing mistakes in choices you made in the past will demonstrate maturity.  Being unable to do so will cost you the job.  From commuting issues to re-engineering there are people who never expected job loss or job changes to be a problem.  Be able to address each issue clearly with solid information.  This is an opportunity to grow with new challenges. Convey why you can and are ready to settle down now and your ability to make a contribution to a new organization. 

If you have taken time off between positions, let them know that you were not looking for another job.  Let the interviewer know with increased responsibility and your broadened experience, you will be an asset to their team. If you had offers and did not accept them, let them know you are looking for the perfect organization - theirs!  Be positive, introspective and honest, but do not dwell on the question. 

"Describe your best boss." 

This is the essence of who you are as an employee.  Different aspects of your next manager may include autonomy, someone to brain-storm with, fairness,  interest in your continued professional development, creativity and supportive of your decisions.  Or, maybe its someone who holds you accountable and keeps you focused. Being aware of which of these characteristics have worked best (or worst) for you is important in being true to who you are as a manager and an individual.  You may want or require structure while not wanting to be micro- managed.  Be aware that your answer will also reveal a great deal about who you are.  We tend to mirror the person we want for a manager. 

"Why do you want to work here?" 

If you have done your homework about this organization, now is the time to use that knowledge.  Remember, even as a recruited candidate, organizations will want to understand why you would select them.  If you are a recruited candidate, remind them that you were not looking when you were contacted, but that the challenge sounded intriguing and that a solid opportunity for career advancement is important to you. Think about what inspires you: a collegial environment, Magnet status (or on the journey to), advancement, cutting edge technology, a leadership team with vision, peers and leaders that provide stimulation and growth.  All are exciting . . . let them know what intrigues and inspires you. Sometimes the reason may be more personal, like a need to return to aging parents or a more desirable lifestyle.  Whatever your motivation, they need to know you want them. 

"Where have you saved money, handled more with less, or found other ways to cut cost or increase productivity?" 

Describe your actions with a positive can-do attitude.  Most organizations face these same issues and your proven success will make a good impression.  Be specific and describe your successes in quantifiable terms.  For example: reduced overtime by 13% within 6 months, or improved employee and customer satisfaction from 81% to 93% within 12 months. Share those achievements where you increased revenue, reduced costs, improved quality of care or otherwise improved the bottom line.  Know the positive impact you have made for your current and past organizations. 

It is in the outcomes that they will understand your potential contribution to their organization. 

Well articulated, these answers can land your next opportunity. 

"How do you mentor your managers and retain your staff?" 

Provide some thoughtful insight into your management style.  Any success involving a departmental turn-around should be shared. Be specific in your successes and short falls, and reflect on what you learned in the process. Having a unit with little turnover sometimes is luck but more often is an art. 

Be able to describe the secrets of your success or the process you took to achieve them.  Have you done any of the following: established shared governess to allow more flexibility or improve morale, implemented six- sigma or leadership development training? Always take credit for your success and demonstrate the creativity in your leadership style.  But give credit to those who helped you and your organization. 

"Describe your typical day." 

The interviewer is looking for your organizational skills and the functions you handle to determine if you can address their problems.  Before the interview, review what you do daily, weekly and monthly.  Being energetic, organized, and able to set goals and willing to be flexible are all important aspects of successfully managing your new responsibilities.  Extensive discussion about putting out fires may signal a problem with your ability to plan or anticipate problems. 

"What's the worst or most embarrassing aspect of your business career?  Now having 20/20 hindsight, how would you have done things differently?"

This is a general question to learn how introspective you are and to see if you can admit to your mistakes and learn from them. This is a critical attribute of high potential individuals. 

Don't be afraid to talk about your failures; we've all been there.  Use humor if appropriate.  Nevertheless, this is a serious opportunity for them to see your professional growth. 

"How have you grown or changed over the past few years?" 

This requires thought.  Maturation, increased technical skills, or increased self- confidence are important aspects of human development.  To discuss this effectively is indicative of a well-balanced, intelligent individual.  Overcoming personal obstacles or recognizing manageable weaknesses can brand you as an approachable and desirable employee. 

"What do you consider your most significant strengths?" 

Be prepared by knowing your four or five key strengths.  Be able to discuss each with a specific example.  Select those attributes that are most compatible with the job opening. Some people say "management" or "good inter-personal skills" in answer to this.  Do not answer this way unless you can describe, with specific examples, the characteristics of management (planning, organizing, results, staffing, etc.) or how your relationship skills have proven critical to your success. 

"What do you consider your most significant weaknesses?" 

Discuss tolerable faults that you are working towards improving.  Show by specific example how this has changed over time.  Better yet, show how a weakness can be turned into a strength.  For example, how a concentration on details results in higher quality work even though it requires extra effort for a period of time. 

"Deadlines, frustrations, difficult people, and silly rules can make a job difficult. How do you handle these types of situations?" 

Unfortunately most companies face these types of problems daily.  If you can't deal with petty frustrations, you'll be seen as a problem. You certainly can state your displeasure at the petty side of these issues, but how you overcome them is important.  Diplomacy, perseverance, humor, and common-sense often prevail even in difficult circumstances. This is part of informing them you do not tolerate a negative workplace and you will strive to improve morale.  Letting staff constructively vent frustrations is positive; allowing negative attitudes to fester is a sign of poor leadership. 

"One of our biggest problems is _____. What has been your experience with this? How would you deal with it?" 

How well do you think on your feet? The situational or behavioral question is the type most frequently asked.  It is paramount to demonstrating that you understand the issues, are able to listen for the facts and provide your experiences and insight to solve their problems. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying or exploratory questions to gain relevant information which helps you analyze the problem.  Be specific in stating how you would go about solving the problem while acknowledging that not all problems have a single solution.  Problem situations often require review and tweaking as conditions change. 

"How do you compare your technical knowledge to your management skills?" 

Most successful managers possess good technical knowledge.  Display your understanding of the technical aspects of your area in order to create confidence and build credibility with your staff. The more administrative roles require less emphasis on technical expertise but a greater demand on your ability to recognize, motivate and develop talent, to provide a vision and manage the bottom line. 

"How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines, low employee morale, and inadequate resources?" 

If you pull this off effectively, it indicates you have strong management skills.  Be creative and use specific examples.  Relate your toughest management situation.  Be able to address your flexibility along with your team building, interpersonal and organizational skills.  This is real-life situation in most facilities today. 

"Are you satisfied with your career to date? What would you change if you could?" 

Be honest.  The interviewer wants to know if they can keep you happy.  It's important to know if you're willing to make some sacrifices to get your career on the right track.  Your degree of motivation is an important selection criteria for you and them. 

"What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself five years from now? Ten years?" 

Most importantly, be realistic! Blue sky stuff brands you as immature.  One or two management jumps in three to five years is a reasonable goal.  If your track indicates you're on line for senior management in ten years, it's okay to mention.  However, if you've had a rocky road, it's better to be introspective. 

"Why should we hire you for this position? What kind of contribution would you make?" 

By now you should know the key challenges faced by this organization.  This is the time to thoughtfully summarize what you have observed and to link your achievements to their key issues.  Now is the time to ask for the position. 

Here are some additional questions to contemplate: 

"What problems have required you to be especially creative?  Walk me through your thought process." 

"What overwhelms you and why?" 

"How would others describe you as a boss? . . .a peer? . . .an employee?" 

"Give an example of your initiative in handling a challenging situation." 

"How do you handle criticism?" 

"How dysfunctional was your last organization?  How about the one before that?" 

"What is the main reason you last failed?  . . . last succeeded?" 

"Are you successful?  How do you define success?" 

"What is your relationship with your employers, your staff etc?" 

“Are you a leader or a follower?”

“Why did you decide to work in New Zealand?”

“How committed are you to stay in New Zealand?”

Interview Questions you may want to ask

The interview is your opportunity to learn about the new organization and have them learn about you.  The way in which you conduct yourself and relate to others, your demonstration of knowledge, and your ability to communicate effectively are all key measurements that will be evaluated during the interview. 

Here are some examples of questions you should ask during the interview process: 

(Please note, these are just ideas/ samples. Not all questions need to be asked.)

    Questions to Avoid 

    Avoid asking questions that would indicate that you are more concerned about yourself than the organization.  Primary among these questions is, "What will be my salary and benefits package?"  This question in particular, creates too much pressure for everyone involved in the interview process and may create an adversarial atmosphere.  More often than not, the person being asked does not have the answer at the time of the question. 

    On the Spot Offers 

    On occasion, an offer is given at the end of the interview.  How exciting!  If you know you want the job and the salary is acceptable then accept the offer as enthusiastically as it was offered. 

    If you need time to consider, if you are uncertain that the compensation is sufficient, thank them with enthusiasm and advise them you need to speak with family/friends first but will have an answer with a specified time period.