From the HR Files: Interview Insights

What to wear for that first in-person encounter? How long should you wait before following up so you don’t look desperate? How do you talk about your work experience when you don’t have much to show.

Interview prep and etiquette can get a little awkward at times.

Data61’s former HR Advisor, Callum Johnston, shares his insights into some of those uncomfortable interview questions.

When is it okay to ask about the salary?

This is a fairly common question. If the role is within a government agency, the rate/salary will generally be listed up front. Some employers in the private sector will advertise up front but this is completely dependent on that companies policy.

If the salary bracket or figure isn’t already included, then it is acceptable to ask about remuneration in your first face-to-face interview, preferably towards the end of your time, rather than upfront.

Also, if the salary isn’t advertised, be prepared because you’ll likely be asked about your salary expectations in the interview so do your research! I usually look at similar roles on Seek and industry bench marking reports.

Finally, it’s important to be aware that some companies advertise salary including super, some are salary plus super. It’s pretty helpful to keep this in mind when calculating if the salary is fair for the role (as a minimum, the super contribution is 9.5% of your salary).

Do I still have a chance if my grades aren’t ‘top of the class’? What else does a recruiter consider?

Good grades can help get you in the door, but most recruiters hire the person who is the ‘right fit’ for the organisation. Industry experience is a major selling point. If you can demonstrate tangible experience in your chosen field, your grades willhave less significance.

Also don’t discount the value of transferable skills! Many graduates have experience working in hospitality or retail while studying. Working in these sectors means you probably have skills in including time management, customer service, logistics, team work and even budgeting, to name just a few!

Within technical fields (e.g. engineering, IT, analytics), your grades may have more influence.  However you can  look at ways you can play to your other strengths in terms of experience, or demonstrate that you have the capacity to learn these skills quickly.

What should I wear to the interview? 

Keep in mind when picking your outfit, it’s better to err on the side of caution and risk dressing up too much than coming across as too casual or informal. You can also look at the company’s website to get a sense of the dress code.

Should I follow up with the recruiter?

Yes, yes, yes! While not essential, a brief, polite follow up/thank you email can help you to stand out from the crowd and make a memorable impression.

If I don’t hear back from the recruiter, when should I get in touch?

In most cases, the recruiter will discuss a time frame within which you can expect to hear back from them, regardless of whether it’s a yay or nay. If that time has elapsed, then it’s fine to touch base.

How do I go about requesting interview feedback?

You will often receive feedback upon being notified of the outcome of your interview. If this it not automatically provided, it’s reasonable to request feedback, particularly if you couch in terms of wanting to know how you can improve for future interviews.

During the preliminary recruitment stages such as aptitude testing, automated video interviews etc, feedback is often not available due to the sheer magnitude of applicants.

As each company varies with how they offer feedback, it’s acceptable to ask in advance if feedback will be provided as part of the in-person interview process.

How do I respond to questions about previous employment? 

There’s the (sometimes curly) query about your previous employers.  Even if you didn’t have a great experience, never get personal about another company or employer – this is not a time to be negative.  Instead, focus on the positives of what you gained through your previous experience/s, and how the new job will align with your skills, interests and career development.