Here are some useful tips and advice on how to prepare for that all-important first interview.
So, you have spell checked and formatted your CV. Applied for various roles, been knocked back a few times, but finally, have been called to interview for a job you really want.
Your first interview can be really daunting, but as with all things work-related, preparation is crucial, not only to ease your nerves but so that you have are able to give the right impression to the interviewer/decision-maker.
Limited work experience?
You may think that you have limited work experience, and as such have very little to talk about. The interviewer will have read your CV, and called you for an interview, so there is likely something within the content that is of interest to them as a hiring organisation.
The interviewer is looking for evidence that you can perform in the role. They will be likely be looking for evidence of how you work and what you did previously, your behaviours demonstrated in previous activities will likely indicate how you would work in the future. They will want you to give them examples so best to prepare beforehand.
Perhaps use your CV as a crib sheet, identify your successes and perhaps, more importantly, identify some of the things that did not go according to plan. And really think about how you dealt with these scenarios, what did you do to put it right? This will help you to demonstrate how you resolve problems.
If you had a role at University or school that gave you specific skills, have a think about what these skills were? Developing rotas, organising yourself when doing coursework or exam revision, how you dealt with any conflict situations? Any or all of these scenarios give an indication of how you might behave in the workplace.
- Think about what sort of evidence your interviewer is going to be looking for – think about if you were in their shoes, what questions you might ask?
- Identify which skills and behaviours are mentioned in the role profile or job specification. If there isn’t a job description, then perhaps look for a similar one online and use that to prepare.
- Use your contacts and network – do you know anyone else who has been for an interview or who works there, can they help give you the inside track? Glassdoor is a great resource to see what candidates and current and past employees thought about the working environment. Check out their website. www.glassdoor.com
- Have some examples of some key achievements ready to talk about …. Duke of Edinburgh, work experience, Saturday or Summer job – what skills did you develop? Time management, team working, customer service focused roles will have given you a great skill set. Think about what the interviewer would be interested in hearing about and think about what you learnt from these activities.
- Make sure you have done your research on the company – what are their plans for the future? Have they been in the press recently? Perhaps use this research as a basis for questions you could ask…
It might be that you discovered that you have identified an activity that you don’t like, or are not good at. Self-awareness is a powerful trait and will set you apart from other candidates. Be confident and clear about what you liked and disliked about a situation. How you articulate this will indicate how confident you are and will showcase your communication skills.
- Practise being interviewed so you feel confident. If you are asked a question you can’t answer, don’t panic – give an example of what you can do instead e.g. I don’t have experience of X – what I do have experience in is YZ.
- Have a question ready to ask at the end of the interview – interviewers nearly always ask if you have any questions, so have one ready. Ideally, your question should be something that will showcase the research you have carried out on the company, or if you are feeling really brave, ask them if they have any reservations about you as a candidate – this gives you the opportunity to address their concerns about the gaps in your knowledge, instead of them making assumptions.
You’re naturally going to be nervous but remember that you are interviewing them too, and they are not there to catch you out. It has to be the right opportunity for you, so use the interview to assess whether this would be the right role and the right culture fit for your first job.
Lastly – be on time! Shine those shoes, and check the location of the interview beforehand. If you are unsure of the dress code, phone and ask. It shows initiative.
Shake hands, look the interviewer in the eye when talking, and thank them for their time.
Let us know if this was helpful and if you got the job.
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