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How to prepare for your first job interview

You’re almost there. After sending your CV around to quite a few places, finally you got a call back and you’ve been invited to go for an interview. Yes! Then you realise… this will be your

first job interview

You’re almost there. After sending your CV around to quite a few places, finally you got a call back and you’ve been invited to go for an interview. Yes! Then you realise… this will be your first job interview – you’ve never had one before. Ah. Now what?

Thankfully, The Llama has your back. We spoke to two experts in the field for their best advice on how to smash your interview and get that job.

Before your first job interview

Interview coach Chista Kermani, who works for the Interview Skills Clinic, said in preparation it’s a good idea to think about how you would answer common questions you might be asked.

“There are lots of websites that list practice questions that you can look at, just don’t get overwhelmed,” she said.

Examples could include subjects you enjoy at school, what you want to do when you leave school and why, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what you think you could bring to the role.

She added not to be worried if you don’t have much experience as you won’t be expected to have lots at this stage – just draw from what you’ve already done, like playing sport, being part of a club or doing some volunteering. Even writing for The Llama is a good example.

Careers consultant Sarah Robinson said when you’re thinking about how you would answer, you should use every question as a chance to provide specific examples of what you’ve done well and what worked. She explained:

“Avoid generic and clichéd statements, for example, ‘I have great communication skills.’

“On its own this doesn’t mean very much unless you back it up with how and when you’ve used your great communication skills.”

Both Sarah and Chista agreed researching the organisation is key before an interview as it really shows you want to get the job.

“Get to know them really well, and in particular, try and find positive information about them that you can mention in the interview,” Chista said.

“Everyone likes to hear nice things about themselves or their organisation!”

Sarah added: “Being prepared shows that you are interested in the job, you took the time to plan ahead, and you care about the result.

“If you’re not really bothered whether you get the job or not, believe me, it will always show up in some way – your body language, your answers, the tone of voice…”

A great way of showing you’re interested in the job is also to prepare a couple of questions to ask your interviewers.

“Go prepared with a couple of questions that you can ask the interview panel that show your genuine curiosity and interest in the role and company,” she said.

During the interview

It’s interview day, you’ve done your preparation and you’re ready. But you’re incredibly nervous. How is best to handle it?

“Unfortunately, there’s no magic way of solving interview nerves,” said Chista.

“The best thing to do is to practise so that you become confident speaking about yourself, something which most of us don’t like doing.

“As you become more confident answering questions, you will hopefully become less nervous.”

She said though not to learn your answers word by word as it will just sound automated – instead remember your general point so you tell it slightly differently each time.

“Treat an interview like a conversation, rather than a series of questions that you need to answer correctly to ‘pass’,” Sarah added.

“Remember to breathe, speak more slowly and smile.”

She said your body language – such as twitching, fiddling with your fingers or hair and fidgeting – can give away your nerves, but your interviewers will expect you to be nervous as it’s only natural.

Trying to reframe your nerves as excitement can help, as it uses the same kind of adrenaline.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated or clarified if you’re unsure of what they’re asking you or you’re not sure what to say,” Sarah advised.

“Give yourself time to think about your response rather than dive straight into an answer when you’re not sure what words are going come out!

“A few seconds of pause and silence can be invaluable for taking a breath, calming your nerves and composing yourself.”

Chista also pointed out that even during the pandemic where interviews are currently mostly online, you should prepare for a video call in a similar way.

“Think carefully about what to wear for the interview, and set up your interview screen beforehand to make sure that you have a good connection and the lighting, sound etc are suitable,” she said.

“It’s still important to engage with the interviewers so make sure that you have good eye contact with them.

“Be friendly, and smile when appropriate, and be enthusiastic in your answers.”

And any final tips?

Sarah warned: “Don’t assume that they will have read your CV beforehand, or assume that they know everything about you.

“On paper, yes you have potential, but remember to share examples, enthusiasm and be positive about yourself and the prospects this opportunity could give you.”

Now, it’s time to go out there and get that job. We believe in you!

Sian Elvin is the editor of The Llama. She enjoys drinking gin, hanging upside down and stroking llamas.

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