Interviews: “Take a deep breath and relax”


True story: When I was in my late teens, the local bank advertised a junior entry-level position and it was my parents’ belief that if I could secure a job with a bank I would “have a job for life.”   Eager to have their daughter on the road to self-sufficiency, they encouraged me to apply for the position and I was invited to attend my first formal job interview the following week.

With little experience on how to prepare for an interview, I reached for a copy of the latest teen magazine that had published an article on ‘How to answer job interview questions.’ Gen Z are probably asking “why didn’t she just Google it?” The pre-internet magazine had provided sample answers and I decided to adopt them as my own. Not only did I read the article, I memorised the answers to each interview question.

Arriving at the bank for the interview, I was escorted into the Bank Manager’s office and, feeling slightly intimated, I sat down and waited for my first question. “So Helen, tell me a little about yourself.”  Without hesitation, I launched into my spiel verbatim, not pausing until I had reached the end of my monologue.   Taking pity, on the ill prepared girl in front of him, the sympathetic Bank Manager leaned back in his chair and said, “Now, take a deep breath and relax.” Not surprisingly, he had seen straight through my tactic. What happened next is now a vague memory, but I do recall the interview ended very quickly and, as you would expect, I did not get the job.

Can we all agree that developing the confidence needed at an interview comes with time, experience and yes, learning from our mistakes?

Preparing for a job interview starts from the moment you read the selection criteria in the job advertisement. Think of the selection criteria as the employer’s wish list.  Statements that describe the qualifications, knowledge, skills, abilities and experience required in the job – in other words, their ideal candidate. When asked to address the selection criteria, you are being asked to describe how you meet the requirements of the job, providing examples and evidence. At interview, the questions prepared by the employer will be based on the selection criteria that you have already addressed in your application. So, if you have done your homework prior to the interview, you will be more confident navigating your way through this process.

Today I remind my clients that as the candidate, it is their responsibility to communicate relevant information about themselves, give evidence of their knowledge and skills, relate their achievements, motivations and career goals.

Of course, my strategy of using someone else’s words to describe myself was never going to work because it didn’t reflect my interests, motivations or ability. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I had the ability to travel in time, I would tell my younger self that preparing for interview is a process and that among other things, requires effort, research and self-awareness, but it does yield results.

Life is an evolution…

Featured image courtesy of Juliet Meeks

By Helen McNairney

By Helen McNairney

Career Consultant

Helen McNairney is a qualified Careers Consultant, and provides professional careers education to UTS students and graduates on Career Development; career direction, job search strategies, interview techniques and career transition.