You put in countless hours of writing papers, studying for exams, and setting yourself up to graduate. You earned your degree and started applying to jobs. Once you get your first job interview, you may realize that this is the one aspect of your career journey for which you haven't fully prepared. Maybe you fear that you have no idea what you're doing. Here are some things you need to know going into it, along with some tips that will help you stand out over the other candidates.
The first thing you want to do to prepare for your interview is to learn everything you can about the company and the position for which you are applying. Go on their website and read everything you can, especially the "About" section. This is a great way to find out what their values and goals are. Develop a sense for the direction in which they are taking the company, their culture, their core principles, and what they prioritize. Find out how long they've been in business, and you might come across a directory of the people who founded and run it. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be. You can also take a look at any social media they have. If you are given the names of the people who will be interviewing you, remember them. Write them down if you have to.
First of all, bring a pen and something to write on. Preferably, bring a professional-looking binder with a built in notepad. This is where you can write down important names and any questions you might have. Next, it is vital that you bring copies of your resume. You may not be asked for one, as your interviewer may already have a copy handy, but it's better to be prepared just in case. A breath mint can go a long way as well. Apart from these, bring your smile and a positive attitude.
It should go without saying that you should dress professionally for your job interview. Even if the job doesn't take place in an office or corporate setting, and you know that employees wear jeans to work every day, you still want to look your best. Jeans, sweatpants, and sneakers are off the table. Men should wear a suit or dress pants with a button-down shirt and tie. Women have more options, but it should be noted not to wear anything too revealing. Dress pants with a blazer or sweater is probably your safest ensemble. A dress or skirt with a blouse will work too. You want to be well-groomed, and ladies, don't wear excessive make-up. As for body language, don't slouch. Think about keeping your shoulders back and head held high. Don't cross your arms as it makes you seem disinterested.
You've certainly heard that first impressions are extremely important. Here is your chance to make a good one. Your punctuality is the first thing they will notice. Do whatever you have to do to be on time, even if that means leaving an hour before you have to be at the interview when you know it will only take twenty minutes to get there. Even if you're already familiar with the location, put the address into your GPS a few days before, around the same time you would be going there for your interview. This will give you a better idea as to how long it will take during that hour's traffic. You could even do a test-drive to see how long it actually takes. You should also consider the weather because snow or rain could affect your commute. Arrive fifteen minutes before your scheduled interview. Greet anyone you meet with a smile and a firm handshake.
You've probably been thinking about the types of questions they will ask, like, "Why do you want to work for us?" and "How does your experience qualify you for this position?" but it is just as important to ask questions of your own to convey that you are serious about the job.
Here are some suggestions:
You can write these questions down and bring them with you, but try not to read them directly from your notes. Memorize several of the most important ones.
The interview is coming to a close. You're probably sweating, a little shaky, and mentally exhausted from all that pressure and talking about yourself, but this is your chance to leave a lasting impression on your interviewer. Tell them you are excited about this opportunity and are looking forward to hearing from them. (Odds are you will not get a job offer on the spot, as there may be other candidates, and they probably still have to call your references.) Thank them for taking the time to speak with you. A thank-you email can go a long way, too. If you haven't heard from them after a couple of weeks, it is okay to reach out and ask how the process is going.
Remember: the most difficult part is being called in for the interview. Depending on how competitive the position is, the person in charge of the hiring might have filtered through hundreds of applications, and you've made it through the first round of cuts. That's the part that you have little control over. The interview is the easier part. Just be yourself and be prepared. Take some deep breaths. The worst thing that happens is they choose someone else for the position, and you go back to the drawing board. If you get the job after your first interview, congratulations! If you don't, don't beat yourself up. It just means there's a better opportunity coming your way later.
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