In part three of our Ready for Work Programme launch series, we look into applying skills and how-how for students and graduates to present themselves in the best possible way when seeking employment from prospective employers during the interview process.

It is a really exciting time when you are close to finishing your degree and you have just landed a job interview at a company where you would love to work. You have put in the effort, applied for the job and now it has opened a door for you. Despite the initial excitement, however, the job interview is still a nerve-racking experience for most. The best way to overcome this: adequate preparation.

Putting your best foot forward

In reality, we will be competing with other strong candidates for the same position and we have to ensure that we stand out amongst them. “On the one hand you should present yourself in the best possible way, on the other hand you should also shift the spotlight from yourself towards the company and the job that you are keen to get,” Dr Jana Slippers from the Communication Management Division at the University of Pretoria explains.

“Employers are looking for employees with a specific skills set. There is a lot to learn from companies like Google – one of the most desirable employers to work for. A smart company will only be interested to employ the smartest people,” Dr Slippers adds.

According to Google South Africa, interviewers will look for evidence that potential employees can take the lead, are self-motivated and can get things done. The ability to work well in a team might also be tested, as teamwork forms an important part of the corporate environment.

The job interview

A job interview offers a company the opportunity to determine if we are good fit for the position and which skills and benefits we can bring on board. Employers’ required skills for employees also change constantly, and we should be aware of what might be expected of us.

The other side of the coin is that this offers us an opportunity to establish whether we can associate with the potential employer. It is therefore essential that you also prepare questions that you would like to ask the interviewer. You might find that you have lost interest in the position after posing your questions, so finding a good fit is key in the interview process.

This puts the focus on other key abilities that will make us more sought-after in the workplace: making decisions and solving problems; communicating well verbally and in writing; planning, organising and prioritising work; obtaining and processing information; technical knowledge related to the job; and interpersonal effectiveness.

Dr Slippers gives the following advice to assist before, during and after the interview:

Before the interview

  • Research the company to help you understand its history and also what the company stands for – their vision and mission, products, services, financial situation and culture. This will also help you decide on the appropriate level of formality during the interview.
  • Get information about the job to understand the skills, experience and knowledge required. (You can expect to be tested on some of these skills.)
  • Why do you want to work for this company and will you fit into the corporate culture?
  • List possible questions and prepare answers (but present your answers in a natural speaking style), including: accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses; personal goals; ideal careers paths; problem-solving examples or situations; and (realistic) salary expectations.
  • Know your CV, as it might be used during the interview to ask you about specific details in your document.
  • Give yourself enough time to find the address and offices where the interview will take place – arriving late is not an option.

During the interview

  • First impressions matter – approach the interviewer (or panel) energetically, be friendly and follow the interviewer’s lead.
  • Sit upright in your chair to indicate interest and maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s), but also include other panel members. Your body language is as important (if not more) than the words that you use.
  • Avoid yes/no answers. Back up answers with examples from experience, but be concise and keep to the point.
  • Listen to the questions and make sure you answer them thoroughly – if necessary ask to repeat or rephrase a question.
  • Do not lie or pretend – you can be honest about things that you still need to learn.
  • Initiate questions when given the opportunity. This is also your chance to determine whether this is a right fit for you. Pose questions in such a way that the interviewer sees you as being interested and confident.

 After the interview

  • Thank the interviewer or panel for the invitation and their time.
  • Enquire about the next step – when and from whom will you hear again?
  • Follow up with a thank you letter or email; reiterating your interest in the position.
  • Let them know if you changed your mind or decided to take another job offer.
  • Be patient – it is unlikely that you will be hired immediately, but do not be overbearing by following up on the outcome of the interview too frequently.

Boost your communication and presentation skills today with the Professional Communication at Work workshop presented by Enterprises University of Pretoria. Or for more information on the Ready for Work Programme, go to

Read more: Ready for Work Programme launched for UP students and graduates (Part 1)
Read more: Ready for Work Programme launched for UP students and graduates (Part 2)