11 Tips for Rookies – How to Nail Your First Job Interview

This article is targeted to young adults post-high school, although younger individuals will benefit as well.  It is important to make a good first impression if you want the job.  Let’s face it – interviews take time (your time and the interviewer’s time) and money.

To ensure you make the right first impression, follow the 11 tips, below:

Before you apply:

  1. Study the job post/description (job functions, compensation, work hours, benefits, etc.) and prepare examples of how you meet the essential functions of the job.
  2. Study the employer. Research the organization’s reputation, geographic location, number of employees, etc.  If you like what you find, apply for the position.

After you are contacted and are offered the first interview:

  1. Arrive 10-15 minutes early for the interview. Drive to the location of the interview near its actual day and time (a practice run).  Then, you can ensure that on the day of the actual interview, you will arrive early and are prepared for parking, etc.
  2. Create and memorize your “elevator pitch.” Why are you the most valuable applicant and what differentiates you from others? What will you bring to the job that no one else can?  Make sure you state your elevator pitch during the interview.
  3. Research the interviewer(s) and be prepared to ask specific questions about that person(s) and the position you are applying for. If the interviewer recently wrote an article/blog, etc., read it and ask follow-up questions. Regarding the job, gather as much information as possible to determine whether you desire to work there.  Develop questions regarding diversity, opportunities for growth and development, workplace culture, healthcare benefits, remote work options (unless the job post forbids remote work), other benefits (bereavement leave), etc.
  4. Prepare to answer behavioral questions. Behavioral questions are asked to determine how you act in a specific situation.  For example, be prepared to answer how you worked with a less than pleasant coworker; a time when you failed to meet a goal and what you learned; and when and how you solved a challenging problem.

During the First Interview:

  1. Do NOT mention compensation unless (1) the job post/ad did not mention compensation or a range, or (2) the interviewer mentions it. Typically, compensation is not discussed in a first interview.  If you are not comfortable with the stated compensation in the job post, you likely should not have applied for the position in the first place.
  2. Do NOT disclose pregnancy status, children, marriage information, religious information, etc. If you are asked about these topics (1) do NOT answer them, and (2) seriously reconsider working for an employer that is asking illegal questions.  In addition to not responding to these questions, do NOT ask the interviewer(s) any questions on these topics, either.
  3. Be the whole package.  In other words, dress the part.  If you are applying for a professional or para-professional position, wear a blue, black, or grey suit with the jacket.  If you are applying for a non-professional position, feel free to wear something more casual, but do not wear jeans.  At the least, wear dark blue or black khakis/dress pants and a nice dress shirt/blouse.
  4. Bring your resume/portfolio/CV printed on nice paper and ready to distribute.

After the First Interview:

  1. Promptly follow-up with either a handwritten thank you note or an email. If handwritten, aim to put it in the mail the same day. If an email, send the email before the close of business on the same day.  You can determine which is best from the vibe you receive during the interview.  If the vibe is more traditional, write a thank you card.  If more modern/contemporary, then an email may be preferable.  Finally, personalize the message – if there was a special conversation during the interview, mention it.

If you spend a considerable amount of time upfront preparing for the interviews you desire, you will not have to spend time applying for more jobs that you are not interested in later.

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