Saturday, 28 July 2012

My Graduate Success: First Interview Tips

Many of you will or already have experienced a ‘first’ interview. Essentially this is an interview that if successful, will lead on to a second interview and possibly more. The first interview is really about getting a flavour of the candidate, what their personality is like, how they cope in a professional environment, how well researched they are and so on. It’s a big giveaway when your interview hasn’t gone too well as they can’t get you out of the door fast enough. Quick interviews generally haven’t been good ones. My first interview lasted about 30 minutes and that went well. To strive for a similar success have a read of the following tips.  

1)Be yourself but be ready to hold back
Normally the first interview question is something along the lines of ‘tell me about yourself’. This doesn’t mean that you should tell the interviewer everything about yourself for ten minutes, nor to talk about personal interests for 10 seconds. Generally I would stay clear of personal interests unless directly asked. Instead, approach this question concisely (keeping your answer down to 1 or 2 minutes), with relevancy (talk about your experiences based on your CV) and honestly (but not too honestly). I don’t condone telling fibs in your interview about what you have or haven’t done or what you are or what you aren’t. There’s a fine line between lying and deception. Take my next tip as an example.

This is a very popular interview question. You need to choose answers wisely. For instance, if you’re going for a sales position and one of the requirements is to hit sales targets every month. Don’t flag this up as a potential weakness in your performance. Your weakness should be something not related to the role e.g. public speaking. You may honestly find the sales targets a weakness but this shouldn’t be said in your interview.

3)Find excuses to show off
It’s very good to build up a repartee with your interviewer and one of ways of enhancing your ability to do so, is to research. This is what you and your interviewer will have in common – the company. So relate your answers to the research you’ve done. This is very difficult if your unprepared but if you already have the research under your belt you’re pretty much set. Take a standard question such as ‘Tell me about yourself?’ now take your standard answer (talking about your relevant experience on your CV), then add on the fact that “I’ve been working for many companies as a editorial intern for the last year, it’s been enjoyable and I really think I’ve gained all the key ingredients to start an assistant role here, and to be as successful as the UK’s number one publisher. I saw the other day that sales figures had risen..…’ this kind of sentence will then allow you to lead into some figures regarding sales etc. At any opportunity show off the research and preparation that you have done because this may be your only time to do so.

4)Ask for advice
Don’t forget that there are always people around you that are willing to look over your questions and answers. Perhaps someone who is older or with more experience can give you tips into better answering a question – especially if they are an interviewer themselves. I would particularly recommend this if you have had more than three first interviews. Perhaps your interview style and answers need more work towards being successful.

Lastly, I’ve frequently endorsed the Rowan Manahan podcast on The Guardian Careers website, It’s a very good podcast to listen too, and in particular he talks about the ‘Talk to me about yourself’ question.

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