The Interview

First impressions

Right or wrong, first impressions are generally made in less than 10 seconds. Aside from dressing appropriately for the interview, here are some tips on making a great first impression:

Arrive early

Being late can send the message that you are unreliable or have poor time management. Make sure you know where you are going and how you will get there; this will also give you time to calm any nerves. Be conscious of your behaviour and body language in the reception when you arrive and while you are waiting. The receptionist could be your future colleague and may give feedback on their encounter with you.

Switch off your phone

Don’t be tempted to scroll through your phone whilst in the waiting area, you don’t want to look surprised or startled when the interviewer walks in. Switch off your phone, or at least have it on airplane mode. A phone on silent may vibrate and this is equally as distracting as a ringing phone.

Smile, be enthusiastic and positive

Being happy, upbeat and enthusiastic can help you engage the employer and show your interest in the role.

Be aware of your body language

Be conscious of the way you hold yourself, how you are sitting and your hand gestures. Make sure you have good eye contact with each panel member.

Speak clearly, concisely and at a steady pace

It’s easy to speak too quickly when nervous! Lots of practice will help you improve your techniques. Using Big Interview to record your responses is a great way to check.

Interview question types

Background questions are asked to find about more about you and get some insight into who you are, your achievements, what you’re passionate about, and your goals. These can include:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why do you think you would be the ideal candidate for this role?
  • Why did you choose to study …?
  • How do you balance your work and personal life?

Tell me about yourself

To answer this you don’t need to cover every job listed in your resume, nor do you need to talk about your personal/family life. What the interviewer really wants to know is how your qualifications, skills and experience that are relevant to the job you are applying for. This question is usually the first question asked in an interview, so answering this question well will set the tone for the rest of the interview and give a great first impression.  You can try breaking your answer down like this:

Step 1: Who you are professionally

Mention past experiences and proven successes as they relate to the position. Consider how your current job/degree relates to the job you’re applying for. For example: My Bachelor of Business Majoring in Tourism sparked my interest in eco-tourism and sustainable development.

Step 2: Your biggest selling points

Discuss key accomplishments, strengths and experiences – they must be relevant to the role and provide proof of performance. What are your achievements from university? What did you study and what relevant skills did you develop through university/placements/work history?

Step 3: Why you want the job

Show your enthusiasm for the position; be concise. Consider why you genuinely want this job/want to work for this organisation. For example: Your organisation is leading the way locally with tourism projects that combine education and sustainability; this matches with my own beliefs and skills…

Behavioural questions

Behavioural questions are based on the assumption that past behaviour is the best indication of future behaviour. In asking questions about specific tasks you undertook or experiences you had in previous roles, the employer can determine how you may react in similar situations in the role you are interviewing for.

Make sure you talk about a specific instance/event where you deployed the skill or task in question. Avoid talking about what you ‘normally do’ as this may be interpreted that you did not actually have that experience. Whatever examples you select, make sure they are as closely related to the job you’re interviewing for as possible. Once you have come up with some examples it is a good idea to practice them but not memorise them. You want your story to seem effortless, but not so rehearsed that it sounds robotic.

Listen carefully to behavioural questions in interviews as sometimes there are several parts to the question, all of which need to be answered. These questions can assess your transferable and technical skills. Examples of behavioural questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to manage a project? What was your role? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? What was the outcome/s?
  • Describe a time when you have taken on a role that involved leading or coordinating the activities of a group
  • Tell me about a time when you were under pressure and how did you manage the situation
  • Give an example of work which displays your ability to work well in a team
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it
  • Give an example of a time during one of your placements when you did work which you felt was above the normal standard required


Use the STARL model below to help you give concise and specific examples for your answers. This model is also used to address selection criteria and other written responses.

SITUATION – Where these experiences occurred and what was the context.

TASK – What was required of you? This could be a technical performance, project, dealing with a problem.

ACTION – What action did you take to deliver the task, resolve a problem, or present a case?

RESULT – What was the outcome and how did your actions affect this positive result?

LEARNING – What did you learn from this process and how could you apply this to other tasks?

Give me an example of a goal you’ve met.


Situation (S): Advertising revenue was falling off for my university newspaper, The Review, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.

Task (T): My goal was to generate new ideas, materials and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before.

Action (A): I designed a new promotional package to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of The Review circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the Account Executives with a School of Business lecturer who discussed competitive selling strategies.

Result (R): We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20 percent over the same period last year.

Learning (L): This experience taught me the importance of understanding our competitors and target audience. Through my research I was able to determine what unique marketing initiatives we could offer at the most competitive price. Also, ensuring that our Account Executives were included in the process greatly aided the success of the campaign.

Adapted from: Behavioural-Based Interview Questions: The S.T.A.R. Method by Joe Malczyn

Skills based questions

Sometimes called competency based questions, these questions are used to assess the technical components of the position. Consider the technical/clinical skills you have learned in your degree. The STAR(L) method can sometimes be useful in responding to these questions. Some examples include:

  • What would you do to ensure you provided accurate project estimates?
  • Tell me about a standardised assessment you have used.
  • What is an effective method you have used to determine realistic rehabilitation goals for patients?
  • Tell me about an effective health promotion program you developed and/or participated in.
  • Tell me about your greatest success in using logic to solve an engineering problem.
  • What checks and balances do you use to make sure that you don’t make mistakes?
  • Which software packages are you familiar with? What is the most interesting thing you can do with one of these software packages?
  • Weaknesses questions subtopic – first bullet point – final word should be weakness and not weaknesses
  • Future questions subtopic – amend text to under ‘Questions you shouldn’t be asked’

For more information on what you can’t be asked during a job interview, please see the Fair Work Claims website.

Hypothetical questions

Sometimes called situational questions, hypothetical questions ask you to assess imaginary/future-focussed questions and describe how you would respond to them. These questions usually start with “What would you do if…” which are future-orientated rather than behavioural questions which focus on your past experiences. Examples of hypothetical questions:

  • How would you respond if your team resisted a new idea you introduced?
  • What would you do if you had almost finished a project on a tight deadline, but realise you made a mistake in the beginning that required you to start over?
  • What would you do if you were assigned to work closely with a colleague on a project, but you both couldn’t see eye-to-eye?
  • How would you deal with someone who is not satisfied with his or her patient care?

Hypothetical interview questions deal with how you think, including how you structure problems, assumptions you make, and how curious you are about exploring the problem. This is why it is significantly more important to show how you work through the question rather than what your answer is. Taking the time to walk the interviewer through your thinking gives them a glimpse of what it would be like to collaborate with you.

Strengths questions

These questions allow you to demonstrate your most relevant assets for the role. Describe each strength, why it is important to the role, and how you have developed it – be specific and provide detail on what you have done that has developed this skill/strength. Narrow it down to five strengths, even if you don’t mention all of them in the interview.  Strengths questions are often asked at the start of an interview and can include:

  • What are your three major strengths?
  • Why should we employ you?
  • What qualities make you the best candidate for this position?

Form your answer like this: Strength + Context + Story (State your strength, the context in which you developed the strength and a story to back it up). Watch the following video to hear example answers for “Tell me about your strengths”?

Weaknesses questions

If asked about your weaknesses, think of a weakness that you have already taken steps to overcome – this shows the employer you have self-awareness, and the drive to continually improve. Highlight the positive aspects of the weakness that you have identified and indicate what strategies you are employing to overcome it. Common weakness questions:

  • What is your one major weaknesses?
  • What aspects of study did you find most difficult/challenging, and why?
  • What additional professional development would you need to successfully fulfil this role?

For example: I had poor time management during my first semester at university, but after losing marks due to the lateness of my assignment, I became conscious of prioritising and making deadlines. I have completed a time management course with LinkedIn Learning, which gave me some tips and helped me to identify some things I could improve. I now use an electronic planner to keep track of my to-do list and set reminders. I prioritise my workload and adjust my daily plan when more urgent tasks arise, and I review my progress weekly to ensure I stay on track.

Watch the following video to hear example answers for “What are your weaknesses”?

woman shaking hands at interview

Future questions

You may be asked questions about your plans for the future. The employer is trying to find out if you have given thought to what your future might look like within their company. You will need to have researched the organisation well to be able to answer this question thoughtfully. Your answer will also help the interviewer gain insight into your personality/interests, and gauge whether your career goals are a good fit for their company. Example of future questions:

  • What are your short-term goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Questions you can’t be asked

Questions that are related to your age, ethnic background, religion, marital/family/pregnancy status, sexuality, politics, or physical or mental disabilities are illegal for employers to ask. If asked a question that you believe is illegal, you have the right to ask why it is important/relevant to the role, or you may choose to politely decline to answer the question on the basis that the answer is not relevant to your ability to perform the role.


It is important to finish on a positive note and leave the interview with a good lasting impression. By asking thoughtful questions you have the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate your interest/knowledge/cultural fit in the organisation
  • Find out any more information about the job that may help you make an informed decision

You should also:

  • Enquire about the next stage of the recruitment process and any timeframes
  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration, using their names if possible

You may often be asked at the end of the interview if there is anything you would like to add. Even if you are not asked this specifically, try and find a way to add a final comment/pitch to reinforce your strengths for the role and why you would be a great candidate.

Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 1 and 2

Additional Resources

Instructions - Log into Big Interview and  go to Interviews > Interview  Curriculum > Mastery Track >  to find the videos)

  • Watch the video: Tell Me About Yourself, Part 1 (8:14 mins)
  • Watch the video: Watch Behavioural Questions (9.43 mins)
  • Watch the video: Watch Interview Best Practices (5:29 mins)