Creating a good impression : Jobs at UWA : The University of Western Australia
 
 

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Creating a good impression

There are several ways you can prepare yourself to create a good impression at the interview.

  1. First impressions
  2. Body language
  3. Answering questions
  4. Handling difficult or inappropriate questions
  5. Asking questions
  6. Positive attitude
  7. Last impressions

First impressions

First impressions are very important.

  • How you come across in the first few minutes of the interview will have a big impact on the panel's decision. Even though the panel assesses you against each of the selection criteria, its judgement may be influenced by what you said and did early on in the interview.
  • Arrive at the interview a few minutes early. This gives you a chance to get your thoughts together before the interview starts, and also to get a feel for the place where you may be working. Arriving late is not only bad manners, but may give the panel the impression that you are unable to organise yourself well. If for some unavoidable reason you are going to be late, contact the panel to let them know.
  • Dress appropriately. There are various ideas on what this means and on how formally you should dress for an interview. It depends a bit on the kind of job you'll be doing and where you'll be working, The best idea is to try to find out what others in the department normally wear and dress accordingly. Make sure you choose something you feel comfortable in. If in doubt, it's probably best to dress fairly conservatively.
  • When called in for the interview, greet each panel member in turn, using their names if possible. Smile. If you are comfortable doing so, shake hands with each person - this helps to establish contact and build rapport.
  • Be yourself/behave naturally. 'Put your best foot forward', without pretending to be something or someone you're not.

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Body language

Your body language can speak volumes. Use it well.

  • Use positive eye contact: look at the selection panel. When one panel member asks you a question, don't respond to that person exclusively; glance occasionally at the others on the panel as well rather than focussing only on one person.
  • Use positive facial gestures, such as smiling and nodding.
  • Sit comfortably, but reasonably upright, rather than slouching.
  • Lean forward a little.
  • Use open gestures, for example, arms by sides rather than folded across you.
  • Avoid fidgeting, tapping fingers, etc. as these can be distracting to the panel.

Check the body language of those on the selection panel to make sure they're not looking confused, frustrated, overwhelmed by details.

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Answering questions

  • Listen carefully to the questions, and allow yourself time (but not too long) to think rather than rushing in with your answer.
  • Answer questions clearly and concisely. Don't 'waffle on' for too long, and make sure you can be heard and understood.
  • Avoid talking too generally about your experiences. Focus on what you have done rather than what you would do and use 'I' statements rather than 'we'. The panel wants to know what your role was.
  • Wherever possible, try to talk about how successful things were, e.g. something you initiated that is still being used; a difficult interaction that you handled well and where the client went away happy.
  • Volunteer useful information when opportunities arise, don't just wait to be asked.
  • When answering questions, it's a good idea to give a brief overall picture before getting down to a specific example. This lets the panel know that you have a wide range of experience rather than a limited amount. For example, if you're asked about when you've had to use your organisational skills, very briefly list the range of things you've had to organise and then focus on one situation that is a particularly good example of it.

For instance, you could say something like:

'I'm responsible for organising several events each year, including .... . Probably the one that bests demonstrates my good organisational skills is ....'.

  • Don't respond by saying 'That's in my résumé or selection criteria statement'! It may well be the case, but the panel cannot remember isolated details from the number of applications it reads. Think of it as an opportunity to further expand and elaborate on your abilities.
  • Don't criticise former employers or current colleagues during the interview. This will give the impression that you are disloyal or have a tendency to blame others.

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Handling difficult or inappropriate questions

You may be asked questions that you consider to be inappropriate, for example, about your personal life. How you handle these is important.

  • Try to avoid a confrontational approach such as saying 'I'm not prepared to answer that'. Ask for clarification on why the panel needs that information by relating it back to the position. For example, you could say something like 'I'm not clear about how this relates to the job.'.
  • Alternatively, try to see what's behind the question. 'What does your husband/wife think of your working overtime?' could be answered in the same way as 'Would you be available to work overtime?', or'Overtime would generally not be a problem for me'.

You may, of course, decide that you don't want to work for someone who asks inappropriate questions!

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Asking questions

  • If you're unclear what the panel means by a particular question, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. It's better to say something like 'I'm not sure I understand the question.', or 'Would you mind repeating that?', or 'Do you mean ....?' than to assume you know what they mean and not answer the question appropriately.
  • If you think the panel may be confused by something you've said, check that you're giving them the information they want by saying something like 'Does that answer your question?', or 'Have I given you enough information or would you like some more examples?'.
  • If asked to give examples of things that haven't gone well, e.g. the way you've handled people in past, etc., talk about what you've learned from your mistakes and how you do things differently now.

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Positive attitude

  • Show enthusiasm for the job in your tone of voice, the things you say, and your body language.
  • Focus on the positive things. Just as with your written application, avoid negative words and phrases like 'limited' 'only', 'very little', 'I don't have ....', 'All I did was .....'
  • Focus on what you can do instead. You need to be honest with the panel, but instead of saying something like 'No, I haven't used Microsoft Excel', talk about relevant things you have done, such as 'I haven't used Microsoft Excel, but I have used a number of other spreadsheet packages, including ....'.
  • If you have things to say about yourself that you think are particularly relevant to the job and you haven't been asked them, you can raise these at the end of the interview.
  • It could be about issues which haven't been discussed but which you think are particularly important to the job, such as initiative, working well in a team. Alternatively, you may want to mention personal strengths which you think are important to the job, such as conscientiousness, loyalty, adaptability.

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Last impressions

Just as first impressions are very important, so are last impressions.

Finish by thanking the panel for taking the time to see you and by confirming your interest and enthusiasm for the position.

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