You’ve completed your studies, or maybe you’ve just completed high school, and now the job searching begins. Unless you know of someone who knows someone that can help with a job, you’ve probably spent countless hours on job portals searching for that dream job. Search, apply, search and apply.
Thereafter, you have to go through the interview process. As daunting as it may seem, the last think you need to do is overthink the entire process. Take it from someone who has taken part in too many interviews to count, overthinking anything will only make it harder.
Here are my five top tips on how to ace that first ever job interview:
1. BE PREPARED: DO YOUR RESEARCH
I know sometimes if you’re working through an agency, you don’t get the opportunity to find out prior to the interview what the company is. (I have no idea why they do this. Maybe they think we will cut them out of the picture and approach the company directly.) I have been in this position twice. Hopefully you know who you will be having an interview with, with this knowledge you need to take some time and go research as much as you possibly can about the company, learn the corporate colours, the history, the office culture, etc. Not only will this give you an advantage when in the interview, but it will also give you a clearer indication if you would enjoy working for this company. For example, I absolutely love company cultures with deeply rooted traditions and histories that tell valuable stories. With this information, make sure it’s the kind of company you want to work for. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot time at work, in that environment and around those people. You have to be happy there!
2. TAKE DEEP BREATHS
You are dressed for the job you want, you’ve found parking, and now you sit in the reception area, waiting to be called into the boss’s office or boardroom. Now is not the time to start overthinking answers, etc. You need to take the time to observe the office while practicing a healthy and calming deep breathing routine. Breathe in, now, slowly out. In through the nose, out through the mouth (subtly, of course 😉). Don’t fiddle with your car or house keys; put them away and submerge yourself into the experience, because that is all it is at the end of the day: an experience. If you don’t get the job, you can learn from the experience and see how to make the next one better.
3. DON’T (OVER)THINK
If you have ever watched Judge Judy, at some stage of the show you would have heard her say the words ‘Don’t think, just tell me what happened,’ and the reason for that is so that the person cannot babble on to add any ends to the story. The same should apply when you are in the interview. If you overthink the questions being asked by the interviewer, you’ll end up trailing off subject, not answering the question properly or making up stories that are not completely true. Keep your answers short and sweet, and, when you get the opportunity to elaborate, do it in a sensible manner. List the facts and only the facts.
4. REMEMBER THAT HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
This has been true for many years, and it will remain that way for many years to come. If you do not know an answer to a question the interviewer is asking you, tell them so. Don’t try to babble on about technical jargon and what you assume it means – you’ll probably just end up making a fool of yourself. Interviewers have probably done a 100 interviews before you and they usually have a pretty good bullsh*t radar, so don’t risk it. Fake it till you make it does not apply here.
5. BE YOURSELF
This is my most important tip: just be yourself. Like a wise old folk once said, “Everyone else is taken, so just be yourself.” The interviewer saw something on your curriculum vitae or resume that they liked; they didn’t phone you because they like your friend’s resume. Go in there and show them the best professional version of yourself!
To end off my tips, I would like to share a personal experience that I had. For about a year, I struggled to find a job. Our community’s job spectrum was just getting smaller and smaller, and there were a bunch of bylaws brought in that made it harder to find a job. My choice of career is a tough nut to crack, so when my husband and I relocated to Cape Town, it was the perfect opportunity to start over.
When we initially moved down, finding myself a job was not the number one priority, so when I lined up several job interviews, I decided to take the ‘desperate’ approach out of my plan of action. My aim was to make the interviewers want me, not make it seem like I wanted them. It was a risky move, but today I can say it paid off for me.
There were two main interviews I was most excited about: one with a marketing agency and the other with a motorcycle gear brand, and both were right up my alley of interests. That Monday, I had the interview with the agency. It went well, and I felt really confident about it. That Wednesday, my mother was in town, and I stayed over with her at her hotel and the Thursday morning I had my interview with the gear brand.
I walked out of the interview and felt that my plan completely blew up in my face. My interviewer–the founder of the company–made me feel like I knew nothing, but I stuck to my 5 tips and my approach all the way through. I immediately phoned my mom and told her that the interview was a flop.
An hour later I received a call from the motorcycle gear brand to tell me that I had the job if I wanted it. I asked the lady, “Are you sure you have the right person?” A week later I started my new position, and that company has become a part of who I am today, plus my interview has become an inside joke between my boss and I. He says he was “just testing me” to see if I would carry through with my approach to the end, I did, and that’s what he liked!
So take it from me: sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. I have probably taken part in over 30 interviews, and the last one I did was finally the one I’d been looking for all this time! Best of luck!
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