April 21, 2021

How to Prepare for Your First Interview

After you’ve developed your technical skills and written your resume, the next step on the path to obtaining a skilled job is to polish up your interview skills so that you can demonstrate to your future employer that you are the right person for the job. The more work you put into preparing for an interview, the more likely you are to land the job you want.

Why? For several reasons. Foremost, you will be confident and relaxed during the interview. These are attractive qualities employers look for in future employees. Next, you will come across as genuine and knowledgeable in your responses. And finally, you will make a lasting impression as someone who comes prepared, takes professional opportunities seriously, and who will be a strong member of the team. 

If you want to know how to prepare for your first interview, particularly for a skilled job such as one in IT, digital marketing or project management, keep reading for essential tips you can use to make a positive first impression. 

Do your research in advance.

In order to put your best foot forward in an interview, you need to be knowledgeable about the business and the position. What services do they provide? What are the essential skills needed for your position? Start by exploring their website and anything else you can find online. Be sure to also carefully read the job description which will tell you a lot about the business and who they are looking to hire.

Pay attention to how you present yourself.

First impressions are lasting. How do you want to be remembered? People who are most often hired are the ones to arrive at the job interview early, or at least on time, wearing appropriate attire for the type of job for which they are applying, and are friendly, courteous, and professional. How you present yourself includes your outward appearance, non-verbal gestures, and how well you communicate. Take all of these into consideration as you prepare for your first job interview.

Prepare for the tough questions.

Interviews commonly include “tough” questions that can be hard to answer because really there is no correct answer. Your potential employer hopes to get to know more about you by asking questions like “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “What is your biggest weakness?” These are hard because where you see yourself in 5 years is constantly evolving, and what if it’s truthfully not in the position for which you are applying? Naming your biggest weakness to someone you just met, much less a potential employer, is intimidating. 

So how can you prepare to nail these questions in your job interview? Plan your answers and rehearse them. You still want to sound conversational and natural, but at least having an idea of how you might answer these “hot seat” questions will allow you a head start for delivering a great answer on your feet. 

Know how to highlight your top skills.

An interview is an opportunity to shine a focus on your top skills and qualities that will make you a desirable candidate. But how do you do this without coming across like you are bragging? There’s a fine line between being confident and overly prideful. Rather than rattling off all of your skills and talents in one long list, allow the interviewer to ask you questions where you can naturally weave your top skills into the answer. Look for relevant opportunities to provide real-life examples of how you applied your skills to solve a problem or implement a new idea. Short stories are memorable and demonstrate that these are skills you possess and know how to use.

Learn how to frame weaknesses.

Similar to highlighting your top skills in a favorable light, you should think through how you will respond to perceived weaknesses. For example, maybe this is your first job, so you’re lacking experience. Know how you’ll answer the question that addresses this. Or was there a skill they specified on the application that doesn’t appear on your resume? Prepare a confident answer that explains how you plan to obtain this skill through training or education either formally or on-site. You may also want to reference your ability to pick up on new skills quickly, or your desire to learn. All of these tactics can turn weaknesses into strengths.

Come ready to ask your own questions.

And finally, don’t be a deer caught in headlights when asked the common closing question of “What questions do you have for me?” Your interviewer truly wants to know what questions you have. This is why doing your initial research is so important. Dive deeper than something off the cuff like “When will I hear back on your decision?” or worse yet “I don’t have any questions I can think of.” Impress them with a higher level of thinking and asking a question like “What quality in an employee do you most value?” or “What is the leadership style of the business?” Both of these types of questions show you’re envisioning yourself as part of the team and someone who will be impacted by the answers they provide. And pay attention to their answers, because this could stand to impact how you feel about accepting the position, should it be offered to you!

In following this advice when preparing for your first job interview, you will have the foundational tools you need to set yourself up for success. NuPaths students have the benefit of full access to career services support which exists to help students and graduates with job search, resume creation, and interview preparation. Learn more about how NuPaths’ integrated career services support can help you from the beginning of orientation to ongoing resources as an alum. 

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