Going into your very first professional interview can be daunting, but there are many ways that you can prepare yourself to maximize your potential for success. By the time you shake hands with whomever is conducting the interview, you should already know what you are going to say, how you are going to carry yourself, and how you want to feel at the end: confident. This is the time to sell yourself as the best candidate for the role.
Here are 4 great ways to get ready for your big interview:
1. Dress For Success
First and foremost, it is important to dress appropriately. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” These are words that many job hunters and employers live by. Say you work in a more casual environment that allows you to dress down, but you are vying for a promotion. Well, you should dress for the role that you think you deserve, rather than settling and taking the casual route. The same goes for interviews. You are applying for a job that is not yet yours, so don’t show up for your interview in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt. Wear a proper button-up, slacks and dress shoes. If you don’t have any, ask a friend or family member to lend you something proper. First impressions go a long way.
If you aren’t sure what kind of business attire is appropriate, be conservative. It is better to dress up than to dress down.
2. Do Your Research
There is nothing recruiters love more than an interviewee that is well-prepared. Before going into your meeting, dedicate some time to learning about the company, particularly the area or department you are applying to. Going in blind will not only be obvious but off-putting to anyone conducting the interview.
You will absolutely be asked, “Why do you think you are the best candidate for this role?” or “Why do you want to work for our company?” Generic answers with little substance will not get you very far. Alternatively, explaining your skills as they pertain to your potential role, and giving specific details about the company that is of interest to you will work in your favour. Remember, you are one of many people applying for this job. Use your time wisely, and don’t make them feel like they’ve wasted theirs.
3. Interview Your Interviewer
Yes, you read that right. You should spend just as much time interviewing the person or people you are meeting with as they spend interviewing you. Sounds convoluted, but it is a key element in the interviewing process. Not only do recruiters appreciate when you come prepared, but they love being asked questions. It shows initiative, interest, and potential in their candidate.
Intuitive candidates set themselves apart from the rest by creating a knowledge-based interview; they understand the job they are applying for, but know that there is more to learn. They take the time to ask questions that not only help them fully grasp the company’s mission, but also show the interviewer that they are insightful. Being able to take a small bit of information (the job description), do research, and deduce certain conclusions about the company’s goals and future exhibits a candidate’s potential in the actual job sphere. Asking unanswered questions about the actual position will also show that you’re really interested.
Examples of questions you may ask (customize to job/company type):
- I know that [COMPANY] has set a profit goal of $X for the year of [YEAR]. What is the team doing differently this year as compared to [YEAR] to reach that number?
- Who are your competitors and what are your key strategies for standing apart from the pack?
- I noticed that you are utilizing [METHOD] as a marketing strategy. How is that going? Do you think [ALTERNATIVE METHOD] could work?
- I read about [TOPIC] in [MEDIUM]. Can you give me a little more insight into this?
- Is there anything about my experience and skills that are not directly related to this position that you think the company could benefit from?
- Who would I report to?
- How has this position grown over time?
- Where do you see [COMPANY] in 3-5 years, and how does this role contribute to achieving that goal?
- What challenges come with this role?
- Are there any job placement opportunities upon completion of the learnership?
- What do you personally like most about working for [COMPANY]?
- What is the timeline for filling this role? When can I expect to hear from you?
As you can see, there are many routes you may take in terms of interviewing the person you are meeting with. Pay attention to their answers, TAKE NOTES, come up with follow-up questions if necessary, and remain engaged. Creating a conversation rather than a drill-down will work to your benefit and be more comfortable across the board.
4. Be the Best Version of Yourself
A person’s confidence, or lack thereof, is entirely evident during an interview. Do your best to enjoy the experience, feel good about yourself, and absorb the atmosphere. Your interviewer’s vibe will often be a direct reflection of how you present yourself as an individual. If you are visibly uncomfortable, unenthusiastic, and frankly bland, it will be quite difficult to steer the conversation in a positive and promising direction. Smile, maintain eye contact, sit up straight, be energetic and don’t fidget.
At the end of the day, you are one of many. There could be 5 other people hoping for the job, or there could be 100. While there are many elements to a successful interview, it is important to remember that you gave your all and to not get yourself down if the company decides to grant the learnership to another individual. Take the process as a learning experience; remember what went right, what went wrong, how you felt and what you learned, and use that as fuel for your next interview.
Best of luck on your endeavors!