The 3 Stages to Master a Job Interview

Posted: 4th Nov

While you may be feeling excited about your interview and the opportunities it offers, you may also be feeling quite scared that you could “muck it up” and lose the opportunity that this job offers you.

For many people a job interview can hold the same level of fear as public speaking.  Stop stressing – there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you succeed.

An outstanding interview is based upon careful preparation. The less familiar you are with interviews, the more practice you will need.  Remember, the person who is selected will not always be the best person for the role, but they will have been the best person in the interview (in the interviewers opinion).

Hence, learning how to present yourself effectively in an interview cannot be left to chance and is a critical employ-ability skill.

The following interview guidelines are divided into three broad areas to assist you to adequately prepare for each stage of your interview.

These include:

Before your interview
During your interview
After your interview


Before your interview
1. Overcoming Stress

Interview stress is a conversation you have with yourself about the likelihood of experiencing a painful outcome. You can tell yourself to be confident at a conscious level – however, performance anxiety can rarely be overcome this way for it is the unconscious level that you really need to work to build confidence.

Consider – if your performance challenge was to tie your shoelaces – would you have the same anxiety pattern?  For the majority of people – the answer would be “No”.  This is because you have tied your shoelaces millions of times – you do not doubt your ability to succeed at this task.

So – how many times have you gone for an interview?  On that note, how many times have you given a public speech successfully where you left the stage feeling powerful?

Thus, the most assured method to build your confidence is to practice, practice, practice. The more successful experiences you have doing the task the more your unconscious mind stops perceiving it as a threat.

This is how you develop confidence.  So if you really want to overcome the fear of interviews and public speaking – you have to do the things you know you need to do but don’t want to do – that is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

2. Become an expert

Becoming an expert means you need to learn as much as you can about the role, the employer, and the industry.

Hint: do a search on the web or use a company brochure and/or annual report.

How big is the organisation? How many employees do they have? Where are their offices / sites located? Who are their main suppliers? Who are their main customers? What are the challenges and opportunities they have faced or might be in the future.

Consider carefully why you want to work for this organisation / employer. What specific aspects about the employer / industry do you like and why? For instance, is the work creative? Why do you like creative work? Is the work customer service? Why do you like customer service?

Being well researched and knowledgeable shows the employer that you are interested in the industry and their company.

3. Understand your product

Know how you demonstrate all your skills. In interviews, everyone says they have excellent customer service and outstanding communication skills. However, what will put you in front of the other contenders is your ability to show how you’ve used your skills in the past.

There is an easy three step process you can use to prepare this information that will dramatically increase your chances of success in interviews.

The acronym you need to remember is CAR – Context + Action + Result.

First, start with a blank page and list all your key skills on the left side. Now think of where you have used each skill in a work or school or volunteer context.

Second, give a short example of exactly what you did when you communicated or provided customer service at the school fete.

Third, talk about the outcome you achieved as a result of your action. It is important you choose an outcome which is equivalent of the level of responsibility you will be expected to perform at in the role.


During Your Interview
1. Questions to Think About

Following are a few questions you might think about prior to the interview.

Why do you want to work for this employer / company?
What are your key strengths?
What weaknesses do you have and how might you talk about these positively?
How are you skills aligned with the position and what the company needs?
What examples of successful projects do you have that align with the position requirements?
What are the key performance indicators in this role and how have you succeeded in these areas before?
Is this company the type of company you want to work for?
How does the management style in this company suit your own work style?
Does this role offer you future career opportunities?

2. The Hard Questions – “What is Your Greatest Weakness?”

Most people struggle with this question because they are anxious about presenting themselves in the best possible light. This is natural and is exactly why you should prepare good responses in advance for these harder questions. Also important to make sure you’re prepared for follow up questions.

For more help with this check out our article: 6 Essential Tips on Answering the Dreaded “What is Your Greatest Weakness” Question.

3. Questions to ask

The interviewer will often give you the opportunity to ask some questions towards the end of the interview. It is a good idea to have some relevant questions prepared in advance so that you demonstrate your careful consideration of the role.  Some questions might include:

- After the first three months in this role, what ideally would you want the new person to have achieved?

- How does this company support good teamwork and leadership among employees?

- When would you want the successful candidate to start?

- What are the next steps in the selection process?

- Based upon my interview today, how might I improve?

4. Closing the interview

Thank all attendees and ask when you will receive feedback.  Don’t forget to send the interviewer a Thank you email after the interview.


After Your Interview

Following the interview send the interviewer a Thank you letter that reinforces your skills and attributes and thanks them for the opportunity.  End with you look forward to a favorable outcome.

Even if you are rejected, what’s important to remember is that even unsuccessful applications are valuable to you if you allow yourself to learn and build. Send the employer a rejection letter where you state you understand you were not successful on this occasion but really valued the opportunity.  Ask them to keep your resume on file and if a position should arise in the near future, to keep you in mind for an interview. Often the new candidate leaves within 3 months and the employer is back to recruiting again.  This gives you an opportunity.

Following rejection, also try to find out from the employer the exact reasons you weren’t successful, if they have time most are willing to provide a little feedback and advice for the future.

The rest of this article will concentrate on three simple rules that if followed will assist you to address any interview question with a bit of something extra.

Rule No. 1 – Decide to be confident

Easy to say – hard to do!

As above confidence comes from preparation and practice – pure and simple. Skip these two steps and you will always feel unprepared and lack confidence. Put in the time preparing for your interview. Do not skip anything or take it for granted that you will manage on the day.

As mundane or silly as it seems, practice answering questions looking into a mirror. Your unconscious mind will be so much more at ease if it knows it has successfully performed the task you set it before.

This is the purpose of practice – so do it. Skipping this step leaves your performance up to chance.

Rule No. 2 – Believe in your strengths

“Tell me about your key skills?”

Yes, everyone tells you to make a list of your key skills so that you can talk about them. But many times candidates simple recite their skills like they are reading from a list. Believe in yourself and your skills – and you will set yourself apart.

The key to believing in your strengths is to list all your best skills and then to give specific examples of how you have demonstrated those skills in work, school or as a volunteer.


Example: “Tell me about your key skills?”

Most people list between three and five general skills such as I’m a good communicator, using computers and I’m very organised.

At an interview everyone says they are great, the key to setting yourself apart is to demonstrate how you are outstanding.

Answer: “I’d like to mention three of my key skills including my ability to communicate, use technology and to organise. Firstly, one of my key skills is communication. However, I am very good at one particular area of communication (say you are going for a customer service role) and that is handling customer complaints. In my role as Service Assistant at Fosseys I have sometimes had to deal with customer complaints about purchases. In all instances, I have always been able to listen to the customers issue and find a solution that met their needs and the needs of the business.”

Do this for each of your skills.


Rule No. 3 – Give examples

When it comes to providing examples of what you’ve achieved many people feel that they have nothing to talk about. This is because many of us are so self-critical. To get beyond this, think of your best skill and follow the following CAR format.

Context – what skill are you discussing and where did you use it?

Action – what specifically did you do?

Result – explain in as much detail as possible what they achieved. This is the step many people don’t do but if they did would almost certainly get them the job.


Example: This role requires you to work at the front desk with customers. Have you got experience in customer service?

Answer: “I’d like to answer this question by giving you an example (Context) of one experience I had while working at Fosseys as customer service assistant. On one occasion a customer purchased a product that was missing one piece that they only discovered when they arrived home. When they brought it back to the store they were quite upset about the inconvenience.

(Action) My approach was to listen very carefully to the customer and their complaint. I then asked specific questions to clarify my understanding of their experience. From this I determined that the store had been at fault and I apologised to the customer on the stores behalf. I then obtained a new product from the shelves and after checking it was complete, delivered it to the customer along with a 10% discount to cover any customer inconvenience.

(Result) The customer was very happy with the outcome and my approach had turned an irate customer to a happy one. Happy customers are return customers. Remember, it doesn’t matter what your experience has been – you can always develop good responses to questions when you adequately prepare and practice.”


The fact is that these broad guidelines provide some very profound lessons if you are able to apply them. This may be the first, but it will certainly not be the last interview you will attend over your career-life. Learning the discipline of careful interview preparation will be pivotal to your career-life interview success.

Nigel Phillips - October 11th, 2013