If you are formally invited to interview with an Australian company, it means there is a good chance of a job offer resulting. Australians take their job interviews seriously. So, seriously, in fact, that laws have been enacted that protect the rights of job candidates. Fair Work Australia is the government department that oversees strict regulations relating to workplace discrimination, and these rules also apply to job interviews. There almost always will be records kept of an interview, so most interviewers are very careful not to ask questions that could be deemed discriminatory.
After applying for a job, there may be a considerable wait to hear whether you have been selected for an interview. Depending on the industry, there could be other stages between submitting the application and being invited for an interview. For example, large corporations and financial industry firms often will ask job candidates to undergo psychometric or skills testing before extending an invitation to interview.
More senior or technical roles in Australia are being filled often through recruiters, and therefore you may have one or two interviews with a recruiter before meeting the staff at the company where the job is. Commonly, this may start with a phone ‘screening,’ where the recruiter talks to you on the phone before inviting you for a face-to-face. The recruiter will then put your details forward to the company that has the job opening, and you may be invited to one or more interviews with them.
Interviews typically will last from 30 to 60 minutes. An interview for an executive position or one involving tests or different stages usually may take much longer, while an interview with a recruitment agency may be much shorter. In general, you should allow at least one hour for the interview. It is not that uncommon for interviews to be a little late in starting, but you should always arrive early.
Interview formats in Australia can vary greatly in terms of formality of the process. There occasionally are set structures, but these are rarely described before an interview. The most information you are likely to be given regards the number of people who will be participating in the interview, but it is acceptable to politely inquire about what structure the interview will take. You should be prepared for anything from an informal chat to a semi-formal interview with two or more interviewers, or even a formal interview with a panel of interviewers. There may be only one interview, or there may be a series of individual interviews with different staff from the organization — possibly on different days. It is becoming more common for there to be at least two interviews for permanent, continuing jobs, and these may be followed by an informal session where the candidate will meet the team.
What to wear to interviews
It is better for you to be slightly overdressed for a job interview in Australia, and usually more formally dressed than people in the organization are on a day-to-day basis, especially if the workplace has a relaxed dress code. Formal business attire is best for nearly every interview situation. For men, proper attire would be a suit with a tie, usually a light-colored shirt, and dark shoes and socks. Women should wear appropriate executive dress, with understated jewelry of good quality. The attire should display appropriate modesty; i.e., no short skirts or low tops. Skirts are more common than trousers, but either is acceptable. Stockings (known as ‘tights’ or ‘pantyhose’) should be worn with shoes (no bare legs), and hairstyles should be simple and neat; natural-style makeup is recommended.
What to take for interviews
It is customary to bring a copy of the resumé you submitted for the position, carried in a presentation folder that also holds written references (if available), a portfolio of work and an academic transcript, if applicable — that is, if the job requires a specific degree that recently has been completed. For more senior appointments, an academic transcript usually is not necessary, but depending on the requirements, you may be required to bring a passport or visa copy indicating you have the right to work in Australia.
You should bring extra copies of any documents that support your candidacy, such as completed projects or testimonials, in case one or more interviewers requests one to keep. You should not press any documents on the interviewer, but it is acceptable to offer them at the end of the interview.
In Australia, the current accepted good practice in recruitment is to use behavioral interviewing techniques. These techniques are based on the theory that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and involve questions that seek specific examples of times you demonstrated skills in previous employment or educational situations.
To prepare for this style of interview, you should take inventory of your skills, strengths, and weaknesses, and be prepared to discuss these. As you create your inventory, refer to the skills identified by the Australian government: communication, teamwork, problem-solving, planning and organizing, initiative, self-management, learning, and technology.
Questions from the interviewee
Almost all interviews end with an offer for the interviewee to ask questions; in fact, this usually is an important stage in interviews with Australian companies, so it is very beneficial for you to prepare questions, preferably stemming from your research into the company. You should not ask questions that can be readily answered on the organization’s website or in the job advertisement. Ideal questions relate to future industry trends and relevant news items, and how they may relate to the organization’s future endeavors. Questions about the availability of professional development or about other staffers’ career trajectories after similar roles might be appropriate, as well.
What happens next?
You should expect to be notified of the outcome of an interview within a week of the event, even if you are unsuccessful. Usually, referees are contacted after the candidate has been notified, but it is not uncommon for references to be taken up (i.e., referees contacted) before the successful candidate is alerted. The interview process in Australia can be extensive, especially for higher-level jobs. You should be prepared to undergo two or three interviews for a given position. The first interview usually will be with a manager and/or an HR representative. The second interview often will include a more-senior executive. If you are called back for a third interview, this usually is a sign you are very close to securing the job. It often is an informal opportunity for the CEO or unit executive to meet you and give final approval to the selection decision. Positions sometimes can, however, be filled on the first interview, so it is important to be prepared from the start of the process.
Frequently between initial and subsequent interviews, you may be required to undergo online psychometric, mathematics or verbal reasoning tests. Also, there may be a mixture of one-on-one interviews, group interviews with other candidates, or group tasks as part of the interview and selection process.
A follow-up message thanking the interviewer — and the person who arranged the interview — may be appropriate; if you do send one, use the means of communication through which you were contacted to arrange the interview. An electronic communication, such as an email or LinkedIn message, is much more relevant than a paper note, as it now seems a little anachronistic to send a thank you card, although some people still do so. Regardless of the form your follow-up takes, sending one not only is polite but also helps keep you and your qualifications in mind.
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