So, whether you’ve just finished university and have started your search for a graduate position, or you’re a student looking for a part-time job, interviews are your worst nightmare.
But they don’t have to be. Although the working world can be an intimidating place for newbies and taking that first step into an interview scenario is especially daunting, it’s also an exciting journey to embark on – a new experience.
Let’s start on a positive note – if you have secured an interview, give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far; it means you’ve already impressed the employer with your CV or application – so a big kudos to you!
Now is the hard part: it’s time to show them how you stand out from the other candidates waiting in line. But how?! Follow our 8 tips to ace your first job interview and we promise you’ll get your foot in the door:
1) Preparation is key
Preparation for the big day is essential. Before the interview, take the time to read over your application and CV and cross-reference with the job description to identify your key strengths and skills – and highlight these during the interview. Think about what makes you a great potential employee and how you can convince the interviewer that you are the perfect match for their company.
Next, plan your route to the interview location well in advance. With handy travel apps such as TfL, CityMapper, Google Maps and National Rail, it’s pretty much impossible to be late any more. It goes without saying that being late is definitely not a good idea; you should aim to arrive half an hour early so that you have time to go over your notes and prepare for the interview ahead.
2) Do thorough research
One of the most frustrating things for interviewers is when candidates clearly haven’t done much research into the company and role on offer. It’s important to demonstrate an understanding of the company and their mission, so that you can work out what it means for you as a prospective employee and what skills and attributes are needed to make a positive contribution to the organisation.
Be sure to memorise as many of the little details as you can. It shows a commitment to the role and good research skills if you can weave facts about the job and the business into interview conversation. These could include:
- The culture, mission, vision, values of the business
- Information shared on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and the company social media channels to get the lowdown on what the company is really about
- The person interviewing you. See if you can get a sense of their background and what they look for in employees
- Read what’s been written about the position you’re going for, whether there are pitfalls you should avoid and if there are any ways you can do it better
3) Practice makes perfect
Think of your interview as a performance; practice makes perfect. You should make time to rehearse beforehand by asking a family member, close friend, or even your university careers officer to go through your answers to various questions that may come up.
This will naturally require you to write down a list of questions you expect may be asked during the interview and a good answer for each one. It shouldn’t be like learning a script and knowing the answers word-for-word, but having a rough outline in your head will help you to answer these questions confidently.
You will also need to consider how you sound and come across on the day. Interview yourself in the mirror a few times using the written materials you’ve prepared. Try to be aware of smaller things, such as maintaining good posture, your use of hand gestures and body language, and your tone of voice.
4) Make a good first impression
First impressions are very important. Research shows that three-quarters of interviews are failed within three minutes of entering the room. Interviewers are put off by a lack of eye contact, a weak handshake, standoffish body language and poor posture. Ensure you are polite, friendly and have a positive attitude before, during and after the interview. Like actors do before a performance, get yourself in the right mindset before stepping into the spotlight.
Many interviewers make early judgements about whether or not you’re the right fit for their company. You need to show off positive qualities such as professionalism and likeability within the first few minutes of the interview to make a good impression.
5) Be confident and sell your skills
It’s natural to be nervous about interviews and worry about what might happen. Nerves can be good in some situations, but try not to show them too much; employers want candidates to be confident and well-informed.
The aim of the interview is for the recruiter to find out whether you’re the right fit for the company and the role on offer, along with ticking other suitable boxes such as your commitment, motivation, skills and abilities. Usually, they will assess these attributes by asking challenging questions or asking you to talk through examples of your experience.
When heading into the interview, remember these things to help boost your confidence:
- The interviewer once sat where you are
- The interviewer wants you to do well
- Your CV has already got you 50% of the way there
- The 60 minutes will be over before you know it
- The interviewer is taking time to speak with you for a reason
6) Show your passion
As well as preparing for any questions the interviewer might ask you, you need to remember this interview is about you, too – so demonstrate your passion and bring your own questions for the interviewer. These should include things such as development and training opportunities provided by the company and potential career progression.
You could also ask about the team, office culture, structure of the company and what is expected as part of your job role. This shows interest and ambition, which are attractive traits to most employers. However, maybe avoid asking about holiday and pay straight away…!
7) Dress for the occasion
Whatever the job, you want the employer to remember you for your personality and performance; not for dressing inappropriately. Use your research on the company culture to pick out an appropriate outfit for the occasion.
The most common form of interview dress code is ‘smart casual’. According to research by Debut, 72% of 18-23-year olds are confused about what ‘casual business attire’ means. If you’re struggling with the ‘smart casual’ dress code, just make sure you’re comfortable, well-groomed and not too dressy. The best look to go for is subtle and sophisticated.
8) Keep connected post-interview
When you get out of the interview, congratulate yourself – the hardest part is behind you now. But there are still a few things you need to do to tie up the loose ends.
Firstly, ensure that you thank the interviewer for their time, and follow-up with an email to thank them again. This move will immediately make you stand out, and shows you are enthusiastic.
When you get your result either graciously accept, or if you do get rejected, remember: there are plenty of reasons an interviewer might reject a candidate, and not all of them are to do with you not being good enough for the role. If you don’t get any feedback from the employer, chase them for it. For the time you spent preparing for the interview, they owe it to you to tell you how to improve in future. And whatever the feedback, take it on the chin and apply what you’ve learnt next for time.
If you do get the job, however, give yourself an even bigger pat on the back! You’ve earned your place at the top of the candidate-pile and are about to enter the world of work. As we said, the this can be scary for newbies, but trust us – making it over the first-interview hurdle is the hardest part, and you’ve already breezed through.