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Relocating to work in Australia, or in any other country, can be challenging and exciting. Use your Career Tools to make your move a success and to find the right job.

Answering job interview questions in Australia if you are a newcomer, migrant or expatriate

I recently read a blog post by Robyn Greenspan from Execunet about comments made in job interviews. I found her list very insightful and so I am repeating it here:

Candidate to Interviewer:

What was said: I'm a very fast learner.
What was heard: I don't have the experience you're looking for.

What was said: I would change positions for the right opportunity.
What was heard: Make me an offer.

What was said: I've been an independent business consultant for the past two years.
What was heard: I've been out of work for two years.

What was said: I'd rather not talk about salary yet.
What was heard: I'm hoping you make me an offer before I have to disclose my low salary.

What was said: I left my last position, because I wasn't being challenged enough.
What was heard: My last company didn't trust me with the higher level responsibilities.

What was said: I'll get back to you with names and contact information for my references.
What was heard: I have to call around first and tell people what I want them to say.

What was said: My leadership style is very honest and very direct.
What was heard: I'm abrasive, have no tact and don't get along well with people.

What was said: I'm a perfectionist and very detail-oriented.
What was heard: I'm a micromanager and don't trust anyone on my team.

Interviewer to Candidate:

What was said: This is a very hands-on position.
What was heard: You'll have limited resources and be expected to do things that are beneath you.

What was said: You have an extensive work history and are highly overqualified.
What was heard: We're looking for someone younger and less expensive.

What was said: Thank you for coming in today; we have a few more people to see, and then we'll get back to you.
What was heard: You won't hear from us again.

Robyn's blog received some additional posts that are also interesting to read, so if you would like to see some more examples, visit:-

I would like to give you some interview question examples that may occur in the Australian context and give you some suggestions on how you could answer the questions (assuming that the answers apply to you – hint – I am giving you suggestions on how to prepare in advance for the questions and giving you some action steps you can take right now so that you can be ready when you are asked these questions).

Please remember that these answers are only guidelines, you can only provide true and correct information in an interview – substitute the right details where necessary or leave out information if it does not apply to you.

Interviewer: Do you have any Australian experience?

Since arriving in Australia, I have been completing a variety of research about this industry and have volunteered my services to some local organizations so that I can learn more about Australian workplace culture.  I have learnt a lot about the Australian work ethic and I am also willing to undertake further training in my own time.  I also realize that I may need to start at a lower level position than my previous position, but I plan to be in an equivalent or higher level position within the next two years.

Interviewer: Do you have any contacts here in Australia? (this question is particularly relevant for sales or business development roles).

In my previous roles, I utilized several techniques to build up an effective network of contacts.  You will see on my LinkedIn profile that I have received many recommendations and I secured most of the new relationships in my previous role during my first three months on the job through a combination of networking techniques (can elaborate in need).  I have already found a mentor here in Australia to help me develop new networks and I have started asking my previous connections for contacts in the Asia Pacific region.  Would you like any further examples about my networking ability?

Interviewer: Have you prepared any reports for senior management in English?

English is one of several languages that I read, write and speak.  To ensure that my English is at a professional business level for Australia, I am currently completing the Business of English online course and am receiving additional training through a professional language coach  I am also willing to have my writing professionally checked before publication for any final edits.  My current English level has been assessed at IELTS level 7 (hopefully higher) and I am willing to complete further training if needed.

Interviewer: Why are you interested in this position?

I am looking for the right role for the next step in my career.  It is important to me that the job is right and the company is right and we are a good fit for each other.  (At this point, it is a good idea to ask some relevant questions about the company based on your research so that they know you have done some research beforehand.  This also proves that you are not ‘desperate’ for ‘any’ job and that you have some ‘choices.’)

Interviewer: Do you have any Australian referees?

Since arriving in Australia, I have met a variety of people socially and through my voluntary and temporary work.  Would you be interested in speaking to any of those people?  Alternatively, I am more than happy to speak to my English speaking referees from overseas and organize a time for them to contact you that is convenient.

Interviewer: What are your salary expectations?

My research has shown that for other roles of a similar nature, the average salary is around $X thousand per year. Do you have a set amount in mind? I do understand that the annual salary maybe slightly lower than my previous role in another country however I would be seeking the current Australian market rate for the role.

Some other good examples of questions and answers for job interview questions in Australia can be found at:

These resources reflect on the importance of planning and preparing before your job interview.  Make sure you have some idea how you will answer the most typical questions – and that you have done a reasonable amount of research about the type of job and the company or industry where the job is located. 

You will also find that in an interview the discussion will probably go off topic onto the weather, sport or some other general interest.  Go with the flow – do not be insistent on bringing the discussion back to your skills and abilities.  These general questions are used to assess your cultural fit with the organization – how you will get along with the other staff. 

Many Australian workplaces have football tipping competitions, drinks after work etc and these activities are part of the Aussie workplace culture – so you need to choose a team and attend the drinks/social activities (you do not need to drink alcohol).

If you are securing job interviews, you are getting close to securing a new job.  In the meantime, get as much Australian experience as you can (voluntary or paid work in your profession or industry) and use a variety of strategies for finding work (networking, mentors, LinkedIn, job websites etc).

All the best for your upcoming interviews!

Sue's photo

Sue is the Founder and Director, Newcomers Network and the Convenor of Victoria International Human Resources Management Network, Australian Human Resources Institute. Sue is passionate about helping newcomers to Australia make the most of their new work life in their new country.
Sue has published websites, e-books, and articles in various forums worldwide and is also a proactive networker, hosting a variety of events, seminars and workshops and continually participating in innovative projects with multiple stakeholder groups.

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