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Rocking your first job interview in 7 steps

Your mouth is dry, your hands are shaking, and – let’s face it – you don’t fulfil half of the requirements on the job application form you completed.
Interviews are nerve-wracking, unnatural experiences. Sitting in a room facing a group of strangers as they proceed to grill you on your experience, skills, and where you see yourself in five years – is no fun at all.
But you’re there and you have the chance to work at a great company and get some real work experience under your belt. Plus, you’ll be able put all those skills you learnt on your degree to good use.

So how exactly do you rock your first job interview? Here are seven tips from the ESEI experts.

1. Walk in prepared and confident

Research the company you are applying for ahead of time. Start with the company’s About Page, note down the key people’s names, what they do, and look at the team you would be joining. Using names and talking about company dynamics in the interview, will make you look like a pro.

Next research the company’s products and services and investigate how they operate. It’s also a good idea to look at key clients and even their competitors. You’ll appear more knowledgeable in the interview if you can ask questions about current work.
Then check out what the company is doing on social media. You’ll be able to see current advertising campaigns, which will give you an idea of what the company is prioritising.

Finally, research the company in the media – have they had any recent coverage in the news?
Remember that informed, prepared candidates really stand out during the interview process.

2. Look into the role you are applying for in detail

Run through each of the job description requirements and note down how you fulfil them or why you’ll be able to learn the skills quickly.
Think about previous experience (at work, during an internship, through volunteering, or at university) that demonstrates your abilities in each area.

3. Get a friend to help you

Write down questions that you think an interviewer might ask. Include some generic questions – like “What are your greatest strengths?” and some more role-specific questions like “Have you ever operated a social media account for a company before?”. Sit down with a friend and do your best to answer them – and then get feedback.

– What could you have answered better?
– Where did you struggle?
– Which answers were excellent?

Ask your friend to improvise questions too. It’s important that you are used to thinking on your feet.

4. Focus on your strengths

It’s extremely important to be positive during the interview process. While it’s fine to admit you don’t have much experience in a particular area, show them what you can do and provide examples of how you learned new skills and progressed in the past.
If they ask about your weaknesses, always turn it into something positive. A great example would be telling them that you sometimes find it hard to switch off as you are such a perfectionist. Alternatively, you could tell them about a past weakness and how you managed to overcome it.

5. Be transparent and open

This is perhaps the golden rule. Lying on your résumé or during an interview will only lead to trouble later on down the road. People get fired for misleading their managers, so stay honest – even if you feel it means you won’t get the position.
If you’re not familiar with certain software or haven’t got experience in a certain area, don’t panic. Employers value integrity, so be frank: explain that while you have little or no experience in that area, you are a fast learner and are excited about the opportunity to expand your skill set and knowledge.

6. Ask strong questions

At the end of most interviews, you are given the chance to ask your own questions. Don’t miss this great opportunity to show how intelligent and insightful you are.
Rather than asking about vacation time, use all that research and preparation you’ve done to your advantage.
Prepare some insightful questions that relate both to the company in general and the job you are applying for. For example, you could ask about:

– How people at the company stand out and do well
– How the company direction changed when the new CEO came on board
– What it’s like to work with X client or on X project
– How the recent media coverage has affected sales
– What are the company objectives for the coming year and how you would be contributing

7. Follow up

Follow up with the interviewers a day or two after the interview and thank them for their time. Don’t be tempted to ask about your performance in the interview (yet). If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, feel free to check whether your application was successful or not.

Good luck with your job hunt and for more post-degree tips read our latest post – So you’ve just graduated? Here are 5 things you need to do now.

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