Finding and applying for the job might be easy with many job search websites, but when it’s time to face your very first interview, the thought will probably scare the living daylights out of you (or, at the very least, intimidate you). Everyone has to face their very first interview. You will probably approach this with the highest hopes and confidence and possibly be in for a few surprises.
I decided to start working right after graduation, mostly because I needed the money to get a few geeky products I was eyeing. In search of the right job, I went to a string of interviews, flunked a few, and learned a few things. As herein HKDC (hongkiat.com), we are about sharing (and because my editor made me do this), here’s a list of 10 things you should know when facing your first interview.
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Never lie in your resume
Creating a resume is probably the first hurdle I had to overcome during my job search. Like what was said in creating a professional LinkedIn profile, stating skills you do not have is something you should never do in the professional world.
Lying – quickly – backfires on you. How easily? Well, as easily as if the interviewer tested you in the interview room itself. Don’t want to be caught in this kind of situation? Don’t lie.
If you survived that and landed the job and were asked to do the task, again, you’re caught red-handed. Employers would easily have second thoughts about you and about other things you say you can do (even if you can do these well). Don’t lie.
What you can do is to say you know or understand something on a basic level and then express how you have encountered the skill (or software) in the past with school assignments. This shows the employer that you already understand the basics, allowing them to skip the tutorial phase. Always show your interviewer your eagerness to learn.
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Go for what interests you
It’s not easy to display or describe something that is outside of what you know during a job interview. You should consider applying for a job that includes your interests or things you are passionate about (I am saying this from experience).
I enjoy reading about technology from multiple websites so talking, writing, relating, and understanding technology and gadgets is second nature to me.
So you can understand when I say it was easier for me to handle myself in an interview to get a writing job with hongkiat.com than it is to say, sell gadgets or tech products. Plus, it’s more fun.
Applying for a job that interests you allows you to show off your skill for that particular job and gives you courage when talking to the interviewer. Technically, you’ve been training for this in your daily routine, as you are already immersed in it.
Read up about the company, or job scope
One crucial thing you should do is to read up the company’s profile and find out what their goal is as the goals of each company in the same field are slightly different. Some may focus more on certain aspects others don’t look at.
By reading the company profile and understanding their goal, you can better answer questions like “why should we hire you?”
Preparation means you can ‘sell’ yourself better by telling them how your skill can help them achieve their goals. Even when there is a mismatch of your skill and their requirement, showing them that you understand the company profile and their objectives increase your chances of being hired. The last thing you should do is ask, “What do you do here?”
Also, remember to not say you are there to change their goal, you can only help achieve it — there is a difference.
A book judged by its cover
There’s a saying for dress code: “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed”. To add to that, make your dress code decision fit the culture of the company: is their appearance very professional, or are they more relaxed and comfortable with semi-casual clothing?
Bigger companies tend to go for the professional-looking route, while you can get away without a tie in smaller companies. If you’re unsure, then it’s better to play safe and go all out to look like a clean-looking professional. Even before you say anything, they have formed an opinion about you based on how you look.
If you’re unsure of whether to wear a tie or not, keep one with you, just in case. Putting on a wristwatch may also put you in a better light — it makes you look like you don’t take time for granted.
Keep a pen in your pocket, as there might be forms to fill and also a copy of your resume, cover letter, or any related academic documents even if you have sent them copies before, in case they want a second look.
Be ready for everything
This interview is only one step away from you landing the job, and mental preparation is crucial. Tell yourself that you’re going to an interview because they are already interested in your resume. You’ll just have to prove that you’re better than the other candidates.
Also, be there early. Expect Murphy’s Law to visit you to make sure that everything goes wrong on the most important day of your life (so far).
One more thing, it helps to set you apart from the rest of the candidates if you know the right jargon to use. It gives the impression that you know what you’re talking about and are not just trying to wiggle your way through a tough interview. Also, use specific words when explaining your reasoning instead of using ‘like, like, that thing’.
Question everything (intelligently)
Asking questions is highly recommended, and interviewers expect a ton of questions from you as it shows that you are interested in the company. However, don’t jump in and ask about benefits and leave days you can get in a year.
Focus more on questions that would keep them on their toes, making them remember you better than the many other interview candidates vying for the same spot.
While you can try the run-of-the-mill advice to ask and answer ‘safely’ without offending the interviewer or putting any pressure on yourself, note that some employers like risk-takers as they are the ones who can come up with unique ideas. This will help you stand out, be remembered, and possibly get hired.
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Observation starts from the receptionist
A receptionist handles many things for the boss: mail, phone calls, the greeting of clients etc. The receptionist will also be the person to greet you and let the boss know that you’re here. You will probably also be sitting within their field of vision.
While you wait, any bad habits — like a restless leg, a need to constantly powder yourself, or trying to memorize the company profile from your notes — that surface might be picked up by the receptionist, the eyes and ears of her boss (who could also be your new boss).
Come to think of it, treat anyone inside the vicinity of the company building as an observer. The person whom you held the lift door for (or stole parking from) might be your future head of department so treat everyone right.
There might be more than one interview
While in smaller or medium companies, you might be given the job on or right after the very first interview, most large companies have a second (sometimes third) round of interviews for shortlisted candidates.
If you got the invite, congratulations! You should feel more excited than afraid as this means the company is interested in hiring you.
However, in larger companies, the second interview might be accompanied by a second or different interviewer. They could be your future boss, head of department, supervisor, or co-worker. And sometimes they take you around the place.
Take the chance to explore the company and its different departments, meet people who you might be working with, and basically get the vibe of the place. They’re not only choosing you, but you are also choosing them.
At the end of this interview, they might offer you the job on the spot, and you can choose to accept it there and then or take some time to think about it. If there is no offer yet, go home and wait.
Show willingness to learn
If you’re presented with something that might be slightly out of your league, you can express a willingness to learn. This will show the interviewer that you’re up for the challenge and willing to work harder than others to deliver the objective.
Large companies are known for sending their employees for training to improve in a certain aspect. Small companies, on the other hand, are able to give you a face-to-face lesson and the sharing of experiences to help your overall growth. Both require an open mind to learning new things, even though you have graduated from the highest level in the academic world.
The wrap up: You’re hired! (Or maybe not)
Wait? Seriously? No. Send them a thank you email. Get the contact from the name card they handed out to you and email them, telling them clearly who you are, thanking them for the opportunity, and telling them you wish they find the man (or woman) for the job.
It reinforces your position in their mind and decision-making process, especially when they are having a tough time deciding between you and two other candidates. This will give you the edge.
At the end of the day, you may or may not get hired. It’s just how it is. Not all blind dates work out great either, right?
I personally did badly for my first interview because I was seriously not prepared. So learn from me, and don’t mess up! It’s not that hard to prepare for all these things.
Yes, it may be nerve-wracking but putting up a strong yet humble front shows them you’re ready to face challenges and overcome hurdles. There are some instant respect and admiration for you right there. Best of luck!