Tips for Having a Successful First Job Interview

So you’ve scheduled a job interview. It’s a cool company. It’s in the perfect location. It’s exactly where you want to be and what you want to do. Congratulations! You did it!

Well, not quite. Now you actually have to have the interview. It can be intimidating, especially if it is your first serious job interview. But my advice to you is to not let yourself be intimidated. You will be nervous, but that’s normal. Most people are nervous when they are put on display and asked questions about themselves. It’s human nature.

The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the company and the job for which you will be interviewing. A good way to achieve this is to check out the website and learn a little about the company’s history. Use a search engine to look for articles that are about the company or other companies that are in the same industry. The point is to be able to speak freely and competently with the interviewer about the company and what it does. If you do some research – and you don’t have to do that much, don’t spend more than an hour and don’t try to memorize any statistics or anything like that – you will be well-prepared and more able to have a good conversation with the interviewer.

You should be able to clearly explain to the interviewer why you want the job and why you think you deserve the job. This is easier said than done. In the interview setting, you will be a little nervous and you may be uncomfortable, and as a result, you may have difficulty finding the right words to say. A good way to prepare yourself is to take a few minutes the night before the interview to jot down three or four bullet points on why you want the job. These can be things like, “I really like the product the company makes and I would love to be a part of the team that creates it,” or “I have been looking for this type of position and your company impressed me, etc.” Basically, what you want to do is think about the actual reasons that you would want to work for the company so you are prepared to talk about them. If you can’t think of any reasons, then maybe the job is not what you are looking for.

Next, you should think about why you think you are qualified for the job and what you can bring to the company. Jot down three or four sentences about why you would be a good asset to the company. Think of a time when you worked really well under pressure, or think about a time you were a great team player. Talk about a project you worked on at school or any volunteering activities you participate in. You should be prepared to talk about any previous job experience you have had. Many of your previous experiences have given you valuable skills that may help you in a future job. Writing some ideas on paper the night before the interview will keep them fresh in your mind and make it easier for you to talk about them the next day.

One question an interviewer may hit you with is the following: “Explain to me one of your weaknesses.” This one is tough and trips most people up because nobody wants to talk about their weaknesses and most people don’t even know their weaknesses. Furthermore, in a job interview you want to talk about all your positive qualities and why you deserve the job. What the interviewer wants to hear is that you understand that everyone has weaknesses and that you know there are things you can improve in. Your interviewer wants to see if you are someone who is capable of learning on the job and capable of improving your skills. Take a few minutes to think about how to respond to this question.

In the professional environment, much like in everyday life, appearance is important. You want to let the interviewer know that you are professional and that you are taking the interview seriously. So dress professionally, which does not necessarily mean dress expensively. You can find good deals on professional clothing at discount stores like Nordstrom’s Rack and Marshall’s. Neatly comb your hair and shine your shoes. Every detail helps. But most importantly, you want to be comfortable, so make sure your outfit fits you well.

Shake your interviewer’s hand and be sure to smile. Maintain eye contact when you are speaking and listening, but don’t be afraid to look away. Just don’t focus on the ground. Nod your head and don’t forget to smile. Most likely you will get into a rhythm with the interviewer and you will get into a comfort zone. Relax. Be confident and try to have a natural conversation.
You definitely do not want to be late to your interview. Find directions to the interview location on www.maps.yahoo.com or on www.maps.google.com. Maybe even scout the location a few days before to make sure you know right where to go. Know where to park. If you arrive to the interview early, take a walk around the block to kill a few minutes. This will get the blood flowing and ease any jitters. Make sure to be at the location the interview will take place about ten minutes before it is scheduled.

Once again, don’t be intimidated. The person on the other side of the desk may be just as nervous as you. Good luck!

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