Career

How to land your first job – step 3; prepping for your interview

The Growing Up Guide

This article is dedicated to all of you who have an interview coming up soon. Whether it’s happening tomorrow or in five days’ time, it’s never too late to prep.

Wing it till you make it? Advised by no interviewers ever before.

If you don’t know about this series already, check out my other two articles for tips on step 1 and step 2 of the job hunting process, written specifically for graduates.

Now, let’s get you interview-ready…

More research: You can never do too much

In my first article on how to make your CV bullet-proof, I’ve already talked about the importance of research. But now I need you to take it up a notch.

Firstly, you should at least know the company you’re interviewing with – it’s the bottom line. “What makes you want to work here?” is one of the most common questions an interviewer can ask.

Not having a decent answer to this question will get you a one-way ticket out of the door.

Make sure you refresh your memory by reading through the company website again before your interview, make a note of the things that attract you – be it their portfolio, workplace culture or leadership.

Scroll through their social media channels as well, as that’s usually where a company’s personality really shines.

Secondly, know the industry.

On top of what you already know and learned from university, search for the top 5 news that happened in your industry in the past few weeks, and be prepared to talk about them and give your opinions. Pull out the key takeaways and lessons, and have a think about things like how they’re going to impact the company you’re interviewing with, and your role in particular.

Last but not least, if you know who your interviewer is, take a look at his/her LinkedIn and social media profiles. Identify what you have in common, or if there is none, familiarise yourself with his/her interests.

For instance, if you both went to the same university, you can establish a connection by talking about the union bar everyone used to go to. If your interviewer is into football, watch the highlights of last night’s match so you’re ready to chit-chat about it.

Never underestimate the power of small talks – they help people remember you, which means they’re more likely to ask you back for a second interview.

Arm yourself with a list of questions

An interview usually ends with “Do you have any questions?” and “no” is never a good answer. You want to show your potential boss that you are genuinely interested – and asking questions is a great way to demonstrate it.

While you’re doing your research (see above), it usually brings up a few questions. Write them down as you go along, and select at least 5 to bring with you into the interview.

However, avoid questions that you can easily find the answers to. For instance, asking questions like “What are the main responsibilities of this role?” just makes you look like you haven’t read the job spec properly.

Rephrase instead and say, “Can you describe what a typical day would look like for me?” Or stick to questions that are more personal, such as “What do you like the most about working here?” or “What attracted you to this company in the first place?”

Also, unless being asked, avoid bringing up salaries, bonuses, or benefits during your first interview. You will have a chance to sort this out later if you have been successful.

Supplement your CV: Prepare examples

Since you wrote your CV, clearly you’d know it inside out, right? It might sound obvious, but it’s not that simple.

Most people put down core competencies in their CVs – “excellent communication skills”, “team player”, “highly organised and analytical”… just to name a few.

If you’re like most people and have a “core competencies” section in your CV, be prepared to have at least one good story behind each to demonstrate these competencies (and be sure that they’re measurable too; see “Provide measurable examples” in my first article).

And one quick tip – have a variety of examples from different settings; a couple from university, a couple from a professional environment (such as a previous internship), and a couple from your personal life. It shows that your qualities are natural if you’re able to carry them through both inside and outside of work.

Leave pieces: Get them ready   

“Out of mind, out of sight.” If this saying is ever accurate, the opposite should be too. That’s why leaving something behind usually trigger (hopefully) good memory and help prompt your interviewer to ask you back for a second interview.

A leave piece can be your business card, a print-out of your portfolio (containing your CV, certificates, awards, testimonials), or a physical product that you made (especially useful for design graduates).

If you’re feeling creative, it can also be a custom creation. Inspirations are just one Google click away, check out articles like this or Pinterest.

Dress to impress: Pick your outfit the night before

This sounds so basic but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t do it, and worse, do it wrong!

The last thing you want on the day of your interview would be having to rush because you can’t find your lucky shirt or your iron is giving up on you.

Start putting together your outfit the night before at around 9pm the latest, so if you need to run a last-minute load of laundry, you still can without having to scarify precious sleep. Get all your ironing done and hang everything up nice and tidy, ready to go the next morning.

Then when it comes to what kind of outfit to pick, it’s a finer art. Most people already know not to under-dress, so I’m not going to talk about that. You can find more information in other articles like this.

The point I want to make here instead is that over-dressing is just as bad as under-dressing.

My friend once interviewed a graduate who showed up in a £300 suit wearing a Rolex. There’s nothing wrong with having a rich family – but by showing off money he didn’t make, this candidate gave an impression that he’s incapable of understanding the relationship between hard work and achievements. Coupled with other factors, he wasn’t invited back for a second interview.

So, just be modest, clean and neat. Pick something that’s comfortable as well, so it doesn’t become a distraction during your interview.

As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” By taking the time to prep, you’re already half way through success. But what about the rest and how are you going to seal the deal? Watch out for my next article on what to do (and not to do) during your interview.

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