9 pointers to succeeding at the first interview

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
April 20, 2021

November 29, 2023

0 min read

A first interview can often daunt people, but it is an excellent opportunity and a step in the right direction towards the job you applied for.

After reviewing your resume, your interviewer will have identified the compatibility of your skills with the job description. That first interview is your chance to demonstrate your suitability for the role.

For each open job advertised, there are, on average, four interviews done per role. With this in mind, it’s essential that you stand out. 

1. Do your homework

You must review your resume, research the role and learn about the company before your first interview. You want to confidently show how your skills and experience align with the position you’ve applied for.

This preparation will help demonstrate that you thoroughly understand the company and show you’re interested and enthusiastic about the role.

2. Be on time

This should go without saying, but don’t hinder your chances by arriving late to your first interview. This leaves a bad impression and is something that will be remembered well above your responses to questions.

There are very few acceptable excuses here. Plan your journey in advance, leave earlier than expected and sit in a local coffee shop if need be.

Do not be late!

3. Overcome your nerves

It’s normal to feel anxious about a first interview. You’re in unfamiliar surroundings with people you’ve never met asking you a series of probing questions.

Therefore, it’s vital that you try to overcome these nerves and don’t break under pressure. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your passion and prove that you are the right candidate for the role.

Take deep breaths, try to remember all your research and stay calm.

4. Be prepared to answer common interview questions

It would be amazing if you could know exactly what first interview questions a hiring manager was going to ask you in advance.

While you can’t read minds, fortunately, certain interview questions come up over and over again. You’ve probably experienced them all in one shape or another. Yet, these interview questions often trip us up if we aren’t prepared for them.

While over-canned answers aren’t recommended, do practise answering common interview questions. Get comfortable with your replies. Hiring managers are interested in your responses.

These interview questions are always logical, but they can be quite revealing about your experience and personality.

5. Have your questions ready

At the end of your first interview, when you are asked if you have any questions, your answer should never be “No.”

Having questions shows your interest in the job and working for that company. It shows you did your homework before your first interview and should be taken seriously.

Prepare a list of questions in advance. Write them down. Know that it doesn’t make you look incompetent to refer to your list of questions during the interview. It makes you look prepared.

6. Dress for success

Whether it’s your first interview or fifth, dress to impress. Do your research and plan your outfit according to the company dress code.

Several recent studies found that dressing up raises your confidence level, affects how others perceive you and can boost your attention span. Another study shows that casual dressers sweat the small stuff more than those dressed more formally, and affects how they view their job.

What you wear matters. It can actually help you excel in a first interview.

7. Get insider information

Contact people already working with the company before your first interview to get the inside scope of the work environment, company culture, and even why the role is open in the first place.

Learning all these details before you meet with an interviewer can help you ask more informed questions.

8. Follow up and impress

Considering your time and effort before the first interview, doing nothing afterwards is unwise.

How you follow up after your interview may, in fact, increase your chances of getting a second interview, if not the job itself. It can even get you considered for a different role that may not be posted yet.

Even if you aren’t the right candidate for this role, adding that wow factor can be incredibly valuable down the line and following up is one way you can stand out from the pack.

9. Work with your recruiter to be as prepared as possible

When your recruiter gives you advice – trust them.

Don’t argue and antagonise your recruiters. They are doing everything they can to give you a competitive advantage for your desired roles. Remember, it’s in their best interest to help you succeed in your first interview.

If a recruiter asks you to prepare in a specific way, it is because they know exactly what their client is looking for. They know more about the people who will be interviewing you and can prepare you for what to expect. They also often have more information about the role than the advertised job description.

Don’t underestimate their insider information: recruiters have knowledge that you simply don’t have access to.

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