First ever job interview
First ever job interview
So, your first ever job interview has been scheduled and your mind is dreaming up all kinds of best and worst case scenarios of what to expect. Will it be a short, breezy and informal chat ending with a firm handshake and a job offer? Or will you be met wiht a panel of stern faces who will spend one hour interrogating you as you break out into cold sweats?
It’s fair to say that your first ever job interview can seem like a mystery, hence why I have decided to give you some clarity:
Interviews are a two way conversation
So, let’s start with why you are being interviewed. The interviewer wants to a) find out whether you are a good fit in terms of skills, potential and personality, and b) leave you with a positive impression of the company and opportunity. They won’t achieve either of these things if you have a negative interview experience and don’t feel comfortable to perform at your best. Therefore, expect and prepare for less of an interrogation, and more of a two way conversation whereby you both assess each other’s suitability.
And as with anything, preparation on both sides is the key to a successful interview. Therefore, ahead of your first ever job interview, I would advise that you prepare for each of the stages outlined below, seeking the support of your recruiter where necessary:
Stage 1: Arriving at reception
Your arrival is your first chance to demonstrate your confidence and professionalism, and even this part of the interview requires forward thinking.
Before the interview, your recruiter will have given you the key information about how many people you will be meeting, their full names and job titles, at what time, and where. Have this information saved both on your phone and printed out for reference. I would also suggest that you:
- Plan your route, arrive at least 15 minutes early and make time for unexpected delays
- Pick your outfit in advance, making sure you have smart interview attire, even if the employee dress code is casual
- Greet the interviewer in a way that exudes confidence; that is, with a broad smile, strong handshake and an upright posture
Whilst waiting in reception, sit up straight, resist the temptation to use your mobile phone and any other personal devices, and be polite to the receptionist and anyone else you come into contact with.
Stage 2: The beginning of your first ever job interview
Now, onto the interview itself. You will be taken to a private and quiet space by your interviewer(s) and they will most likely offer you a drink – I suggest that you ask for water if you don’t have any with you, in case you need to buy some time and take a sip when thinking about your answers.
Once you’re sat in the interview room, your interviewer will introduce themselves, and most likely ask what you already know about the company. They’ll want to check that you are enthusiastic about this job and that you care enough to have done your research.
There’s no excuse for not doing your homework in this digital day and age, so a few days before the interview, prepare to talk about the below in your own words. Make sure you demonstrate a genuine interest, highlighting anything that you found particularly impressive and asking your recruiter to clarify anything you aren’t certain on:
- How the company formed, when, why and by whom. This information should be available on the company history section of the website
- Their specific products and services, plus their values and unique selling points as an organisation
- Any recent successes and campaigns. Take a look at their social media pages to get a better idea
Your interviewer will then go on to speak a little more about the role, and how this fits into the wider business, therefore it would also be a good idea to bring a notepad and pen so you can jot down any questions that you want to ask at the end.
Stage 3: Talking the interviewer through your CV
Next, your interviewer will ask you to talk through your CV. This is because they want you to tell them the story of your career to date, and crucially what’s led to you sitting in front of them today.
With this in mind, bring a copy of your CV with you to the interview for reference, and plan ahead so that you can link this black and white document to the role you are applying for:
- Decide which parts of your CV you want to only provide a headline overview of, and which to go into more detail on. For example you may be applying for a sales role. Therefore you would speak more about your part time job as a retail assistant, than your part time job as a kitchen porter
- Prepare to explain any gaps on your CV. Whether you were travelling, studying or job searching – let the interviewer know that you were doing something
- Choose the areas of your CV to elaborate on by highlighting the hobbies, academic achievements and extracurricular activities which relate to the role, particularly any transferable skills learnt here
- Conclude by explaining how your journey so far has led you here today and why you’re interested in the opportunity
Considering that this is your first ever job interview, you quite likely have limited experience, therefore you may feel worried that you don’t have much of a story to tell. You do. You just need to plan how to tell it.
Stage 4: Answering the interviewer’s questions
Following on from this, your interviewer will have prepared a set of questions to ask you so that they can assess your suitability for the job. These questions will measure your key competencies, your potential to succeed in the role, and whether you would be a good personality fit.
With this in mind, it is in both of your interests that you answer honestly and don’t exaggerate your skills and experience. At the same time, you will have some great strengths to your name – so don’t be afraid to sing your own praises either!
Prepare by researching the most commonly asked interview questions, such as: “Why do you think you are suitable for this job?” Plan the key points to include in your answers beforehand, and remember these dos and don’ts:
- DO: Speak slowly and clearly
- DO: Maintain a good posture, strong eye contact and an open smile
- DO: Back up any claims about your skills with evidence of these skills in action
- DO: Relate your answers back to how they would be beneficial to the role
- DO: Have a structure in your mind for your interview answers to stop you from rambling or going off on a tangent. For instance, in a previous blog, we talk about using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Analysis, Result) when it comes to answering competency based questions. Practice answering some interview questions sticking to this framework
- DON’T: Answer any question with “I don’t know”. Ask the interviewer to repeat the question or phrase it differently if you didn’t understand
- DON’T: Speak negatively about any of your experiences. Certain questions may prompt this, for instance: “Why did you leave your job in retail?” While we encourage transparency, you also need to be professional and positive
- DON’T: Interrupt. Pause for a second after being asked an interview question to check the interviewer has finished talking. This will also give you a second to think about your answers
If you haven’t already, ask a friend, family member or your recruiter to run through some practice interview questions with you beforehand. Your recruiter can give you a better idea of the types of questions to expect, as well as useful feedback on your answers.
Stage 5: Asking the interviewer any questions you have
Next, you will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. Don’t underestimate the importance of this part of the interview. Your interviewer wants to know that you are interested in the job, and took the time to prepare some questions so that you could find out more. Having said that, there are good questions to ask, and bad questions to ask, and it is essential that you understand the difference before you turn up to the interview. For example:
- DO: Ask questions about your role, e.g.-“How has this role evolved?”
- DO: Ask professional questions about the interviewer, e.g.-“What’s your favourite part of working here?”
- DO: Ask questions about the company that couldn’t easily be found online, e.g.-“How would you describe the company culture?”
- DON’T: Ask personal questions about the interviewer, e.g. – “How old are you?”
- DON’T: Ask questions that start with “Would I have to?” This shows reluctance and sounds negative
- DON’T: Ask questions about holiday, benefits and salary. This could sound presumptuous and will be negotiated via your recruiter later down the line anyway
Stage 6: Leaving your first ever job interview
Finally, your interviewer will most likely wrap up the interview by confirming the next stages of the process, and the expected time-frames for feedback. At this point, they are managing your expectations, as they may have a few other candidates to see, and the decision making process can take time. You can also see this as your chance to leave a good last impression, so remember to thank the interviewer for their time, and confirm your interest in the role.
After your interview, call your recruiter to feedback on how you think it went. They may well provide you with some feedback from the interviewer too, so make note of this. I would also advise that you send a follow up email for the recruiter to pass to the interviewer, once again thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest.
Stage 7: Following up after your first ever job interview
Over the next few days you should hear back from your recruiter, so keep your phone close by with the volume turned on, and check your emails regularly. Fingers crossed you get some good news; either that you are through to the next round of interviewing, or even better, you have been offered the job!
If it’s not good news, give yourself a break- after all, this is your first ever job interview! Make sure you find out why you weren’t offered the position, taking on board both the positive and not so positive feedback, so that you can improve your interview technique for next time. Keep in touch with your recruiter, because at this stage, they already know what you are looking for and what you have to offer, and they can put you forward for other suitable roles.
Hopefully I have helped ease some of your nerves ahead of your first ever job interview, and most of your fear was just fear of the unknown. Remember, if you know what to anticipate, and how best to prepare for every stage, you are in with a strong chance of getting to the next stage in the process. If not, however, use the experience as a learning curve and a stepping stone towards future interview success.