It’s been a week since I graduated from university (well, finished university – I don’t ‘graduate’ officially until November), but in that time I’ve had six job interviews and would you believe it but on Wednesday, I got offered an amazing graduate job, which I’m going to be starting on Monday!
And since I’m not an expert at job interviews as most of the jobs I’ve had I haven’t really needed official interviews for, I had to do a lot of research before I went to these interviews. And it would be such a waste for all that information I learnt to be forgotten about so I thought I’d compile them on in a blog post so you guys can gain tips and help on how to survive a job interview and learn the things that I did that I think got me my first ‘adult’ job.
I think confidence is probably one of two of the most important things you can have in a job interview. And even if you’re not a confident person, pretend like you are. At least if the interviewer can see you’re trying, this shows your potential and that you’re dedicated to the interview, thus dedicated to the job. But remember, there is a fine line between confidence and cocky so find the balance between selling yourself whilst remaining humble.
With finding a graduate job, I had to enlist the help of an agent (shoutout to Katie who has been absolutely phenomenal throughout the whole process) and the key thing she said when it comes to interviews is to make sure your personality shines through and you don’t become somebody you’re not. At the end of the day, the company want to hire a human being, not a robot so make sure you show them your personality. A good business can teach you any required skills for the job, but they can’t teach you how to have a personality. And no matter how big or small the company is that you’re going to be potentially working for is, you’re going to be working alongside colleagues so the recruiter is going to want to see that you’ll fit in with the team.
One of the trickiest questions I had to answer this week was ‘what do you think is your biggest weakness?’. I have to admit, I did have to think this through on the spot as I’ve never really considered a weakness of mine when it comes to working. I couldn’t exactly say ‘cake’ in a professional setting. But I decided that instead of saying something that would put the company off hiring me, I’d turn a weakness into a potential strength. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I get too passionate about things – I tend to get so determined to see something through that when it doesn’t happen because of circumstances beyond my control, I get disappointed. Always try to turn a weakness into a strength.
Another tricky part of interviews that I struggled with this week was giving examples of situations, whether it was at work or at university, that showed when I worked as a team, worked independently, worked to deadlines or faced a challenge etc. There are tonnes of examples online of already thought out situations, but there is really no point in lying to the interviewer as the chances are that they have heard those generic examples hundreds of times before and probably know you’re fibbing. Instead, think about it before hand.
My agent gave me the advice of using one situation to cover as many of the examples as possible. For example, a challenging time when you used your initiative to handle it or when you worked as a team to reach a deadline. If you have a couple of examples already mapped out in your head, you’ll feel so much more confident and relaxed in the interview when these questions arise.
Also, make sure you walk the interviewer through the situations like a story. Explain where you were (i.e. what job or what class), explain what happened before the situation, explain what happened during the situation, explain what you did directly and explain what happened after the situation. Be as thorough and detailed as possible and make sure you use a lot of emotions – i.e. showing a customer’s anger turning into a customer’s content.
Another tip my agent gave me was to research the company I was being interviewed for. This didn’t have to be a huge lot of research. The company definitely don’t expect you to turn up first thing on the morning of your interview with a 5,000 word essay on the history of the company and then being able to recite the life stories of the past five CEOs. They’d probably not hire you if you did that because, let’s face it, it’s pretty creepy. Just take a good half an hour to look through the company’s website and even just do a brief Google search of them. The most important thing is know what they do so you can tailor your interview answers around their business rather than just giving standard answers.
This pretty much goes without saying, but make sure you put effort into your appearance. You don’t even have to go out and buy a new full-blown suit, just make sure you put your clothes through the wash the day before and iron your shirt and trousers. If you’re a girl, I found that going on YouTube and watching professional hair tutorials also helped me decide how I was going to have my hair. There’s some amazing tutorials out there – so simple and take next to no time as well. If you’re stuck on what clothing to wear, I also found that going on clothing websites, such as New Look or Topshop and looking under their ‘workwear’ collections really helped. It’s always best in a job interview to use the dress code of ‘smart professional’ (dressing up) rather than ‘casual professional’ (dressing down) as you can always look at what the other workers wear to work whilst at the interview for a better idea of what to wear should you get the job.
7. Morning preparation
The morning of your interview is equally as important as the interview itself. Wake up at a suitable time, leaving yourself with plenty of time to get ready and get to the interview. Make sure you have breakfast and are fully awake, ready to tackle the day ahead of you full on. Leave the house with plenty of time and make sure you have a rough idea of where you are going. Also make sure you have the company’s phone number on you too. This way, if you end up getting lost or delayed for some reason, you can ring them for help or to let them know.
It is so, so, so important that you are polite within the interview. Obviously every respectable human should have a certain standard of manners at all times anyway, but it’s so important to be polite in the interview. It’s the simplest things that can make a lasting, great first impression on the interviewer. When you meet them, say ‘good morning’ and shake their hand. If they ask you how you are, return the favour and ask them how they are. If they hold the door open for you, thank them. If they offer you a drink and you accept, say your ‘Ps and Qs’ (please and thank-you). Once the interview is over with, thank them for their time, thank them for considering you as a candidate and wish them a good time. This is so important!
Make it look like you want to be there. Make it look like you’re a positive individual. Even if you’re really nervous, a smile can make you come across as confident. A smile also gives the impression to the interviewer that you’re relaxed – again, making them think you’d fit perfectly into their business.
I found that my interview wasn’t actually like an interview at all. Obviously the interviewer had set questions to ask me, but I treated the interview more like a conversation than an interview. I guess I was lucky in the fact that my interviewer was really sociable and friendly so I was relaxed around him and could converse, but it’s so important to try and make it into a conversation rather than just giving answers to questions without any elaboration to your answers and without any emotion.
Following on with the conversation theme, make sure you have a few questions prepared in case the interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them. Use these questions as your weapon to gain knowledge about the business or what your role will be. Don’t mention anything about the working hours or the pay though. If the interviewer hasn’t mentioned your work times already, maybe ask what the average day would be like in the job – that way the interviewer might mention a start time and an end time and you get a feel for the day-to-day job. I found that the best question to ask in my interviews was ‘what characteristics do you think the ideal candidate needs to possess for this job?’. The questions opportunity is usually right near the end of the interview, meaning the interviewer has a chance to reflect on what you’ve said and can add characteristics you might have missed out, giving you the chance to then show you possess these characteristics. Clever, eh?!
An interview can really go one of two ways: you get the job or you don’t get the job. If you get the job, great – welcome to the world of employment! But if you don’t get the job, don’t worry. It can be a little disheartening to get a rejection but try to look at the positives and see how you can do better in your next job interview. Ask the interviewer for feedback. Most interviewers will be happy to give you some feedback on how to improve your interviewing skills. And just take it all down as experience. You might not have got that job, but that just means you can get better and go to your next interview and kick ass!
Do you have any interviewing tips you swear by at job interviews? Write them in the comments section below!