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Preparing for the interview

Interview Tips for Applicants

Be prepared
Do your homework before the interview. Ensure you have a copy of the job description and that you have spoken to the contact person so you have a better understanding of the role and its requirements. This ensures that you have already introduced yourself and hopefully have already made a good impression prior to the interview. At the very least, check the company’s web site so you have familiarised yourself with the basics of the company.

Why is preparation important?
Being well prepared demonstrates to the interviewer that you are organised, that you research and prepare in advance for situations and that you are enthusiastic about the job. It enables you to have a better understanding of the role which in turn enables you to better demonstrate to the interviewers why you are the best person for the job.

Research the location
If you are not familiar with the location of the job, it is recommended that you research the area and have thought through why this would be a suitable location for you and your family. The Local Government Authority (LGA) (local council) websites are a great place to begin your research. Employers usually want someone to stay long term and who will be suited to that particular community. You can search for the suburb/town of interest and its LGA at http://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/

Before the interview
It is understandable to be nervous before an interview. Have a good night’s sleep the night before and have a good breakfast. Avoid drinking too much coffee and try to take some deep breaths to calm your nerves or use whatever relaxation techniques work for you.

Be confident about your skills and try to reflect on your work history – particularly the positives that you wish to convey to the employer and why you think you’re a good match for this job. Good preparation should help with the nerves. Interviewers understand that applicants will be nervous and most will try to put you at your ease.

Personal presentation
It goes without saying that you dress professionally, polish your shoes and have neat and tidy hair. If in doubt, err on the conservative side. It is always best to turn up early rather than have an unexpected delay that makes you late. Firm handshakes give a better impression than limp ones and do make eye contact with the interviewer(s). Be pleasant, polite and positive.

Phone interviews
It is widely acknowledged that a phone interview is more difficult for both parties when you are unable to study facial expressions or read body language. Let the interviewer know if you have not heard a question correctly or wish to have a question clarified – they will understand the difficulties, especially those in rural locations who often rely on phone interviews. Be sure you speak loudly and clearly.

With the increase in the use of telehealth facilities, some employers now prefer a videoconference or Skype interview to a phone interview. This gets around the problems of identification. It also allows for both parties to read each other’s facial expressions and body language.

Behavioural interviewing
Many employers use a Behavioural Interviewing style of questioning. This technique seeks you to talk through a specific example in your work history to address the particular criterion being considered in the question (e.g. teamwork, challenging clinical scenario, occupational safety etc). It is based on the theory that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.

Reflect on any conflicts you have had to deal with because how you fit in a team is an important consideration, thus questions about how you deal with conflict are common. Conflict does not necessarily mean a stand up row you have had, but more commonly is a professional disagreement, or perhaps a difficult team member you’ve had to deal with. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you dealt with that situation in a professional (and definitely not personal) manner and that it was resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.

Other useful items to reflect on are: the most challenging situation you have encountered; the accomplishment of which you are most proud; the most difficult patient’s family you have had to deal with etc. The employer will also seek to understand how you may have reflected on the situation and whether you have learned something from it. They also want to know that you can seek help and escalate issues appropriately.

Your interviewers may be unprepared and/or disorganised and/or inexperienced at interviewing (understandably, it’s not their core business) but it is still useful for you to answer questions by providing solid examples that are your ‘evidence based approach’ to interviews. With this form of interviewing it’s best to avoid talking in the hypothetical (e.g. “in that situation we would normally”, “when that happens you would follow the protocol” …..).  Keep to one specific example that you fully talk through. Make sure you highlight what your own input was to the final outcome.

Interview Don’ts

  • It is always best to answer honestly and be yourself. Don’t try to anticipate what you think the interviewer is looking for or think that they are trying to trick you.
  • Don’t over embellish your answers because if you are caught out, it brings your integrity and honesty in to question.
  • Don’t be over-confident as it may come across as arrogance.
  • Avoid being negative. Don’t deride other people and ‘bag out’ your old team or your old boss – remember past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour!

A two-way process
The interview is a chance for both parties to learn more about each other and it is perfectly acceptable and even advisable to ask some questions at the end (it shows you’re interested and have thought about it). It’s best not to ask about leave and salary at this point as it can convey the wrong impression about what’s important to you (that’s not to say that these things are not important but you can ask about this later). You might ask about access to continuing professional development and possible career development opportunities or ask about your prospective team.  It’s also useful to ask about key challenges within the role and you might have a clinical question or want to know more about the location.

At this point the interviewer may ask if they can check your referees. Ideally you should have briefed your referees beforehand and have got their consent to be your referee. If you have not already provided the details, have them ready to go. If you are successful, you don’t want any obstacles or delays at this point.

Ask when they are likely to make a decision about the interview and ask if you can ring for feedback about your interview if unsuccessful.

When most people reflect on the interview afterwards, they think how they could have better answered a question or have provided a more suitable example – it is rare that someone doesn’t think this (and if they don’t, it might mean they don’t self reflect very well!). Remember, you did your best in a fairly artificial situation and you most likely performed better than you thought you did. Good preparation will ensure that you have done your best and hopefully you will learn something useful for your next interview.

Additional resources
Further tips on interview preparation are available through Australian job search websites, such as: