Australia offers plenty of opportunities for students to work while studying or after graduation. However, job interviews here can be challenging, especially if there are cultural differences involved.
If you want to make a good impression during your interview, there are several things about Australian work culture that you need to know. To help you prepare, here are our top five tips to keep in mind.
1. Make eye contact
Although making eye contact can be seen as rude or poor behaviour in many cultures, Australians generally see it as a sign of confidence, trustworthiness and interest in the person you’re speaking to.
Eye contact is valued by almost everyone, regardless of gender, age, status and experience, and is particularly important when you first meet someone. Even if you are nervous during your interview, you should try to make eye contact for at least four seconds every so often. Just don’t forget to blink, as a fixed stare can come across as a little too intense!
2. A firm handshake is a good handshake
Many Asian cultures prefer gentle, soft-grip handshakes and to shake in descending order of seniority. Instead, Australians prefer firm handshakes and are generally not picky about whose hand you shake first. In fact, you can be the first one to extend your hand instead of waiting to accept handshakes. This is particularly true if you are a female intending to shake a man’s hand, as it indicates that you are comfortable in the situation.
A single handshake is common practice when you first meet someone, so you will not need to cup the other person’s hand or grip their arm with your remaining hand. Bowing is also not required, but remember to smile to show that your firm handshake is an amicable one.
If you are of Muslim faith and do not wish to shake hands with someone from the opposite gender, you can let potential employers know before the interview via email or phone, and provide the usual greeting of hand over chest when you meet your interviewer. Australia encourages cultural diversity in the workplace and there are anti-discrimination laws in place to ensure your religious rights and freedoms are protected, so this should not be an issue.
3. Be confident
Confidence is something Australian employers value in young graduates. It makes them think that you are not only capable in your role, but also ready to take on new challenges. Along with making eye contact and a good firm handshake, being confident in your mannerisms and your responses is key when making a good first impression.
Sometimes, people from different backgrounds worry that confidence may come off as arrogance, but in Australia confidence is not necessarily seen as cockiness. Confidence can be conveyed by speaking clearly and calmly and not shying away from discussing what you have achieved.
Try not to ‘um’ or ‘ah’ with each new sentence, and be firm in your answers to your interviewer. If you need more time to think before answering, it is OK to let the interviewer know and pause for a few seconds. Most importantly, do not fidget, and be sure to direct your answers towards the interviewer rather than the floor.
4. Use the STAR formula
The STAR formula is most commonly used for government positions, but it is also a handy approach for general interview questions that you need to answer with specific examples. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. This is a simple way to formulate your answers to any interview question.
- Situation: Give your interviewers context by telling them the situation you were in. This could be an issue at an old workplace, or a challenge you faced in your studies.
- Task: What was your role or task? What were you expected to do?
- Action: How did you respond? What did you do?
- Result: What was the outcome of your task? If it was a great result, what caused that and who else contributed? If it wasn’t a good result, what lessons did you take away from it and what would you have done differently?
This is a formula you can also use when answering selection criteria to accompany your resume for any job application. The STAR technique allows you to highlight your achievements and lessons learned, not just your everyday work responsibilities.
5. Be the one to ask questions, too!
An interview isn’t just a chance to talk about yourself and what you can do for the company or organisation. It’s an opportunity for you to understand your employer, their goals, and just as importantly, their challenges.
Prepare a few questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the interview, and don’t be afraid to include hard-hitting questions such as major challenges not only in the role, but in the company as a whole. How much professional development can you expect as a new employee? Who will you be working most closely with, and what do they enjoy most about their workplace?
Questions like these show you have foresight and that you are genuinely interested in working with them. Your last question should aim to find out what it is about your resume and application that made them consider you for the role. This is your final chance to address any concerns the interviewer may have and leave a great impression overall.