4 Need-To-Know Tips For Nailing Your First Job Interview

young woman smiling on an interview

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July 19, 2024 at 11:26AM UTC
If you're reading this article, it's probably because you've just landed your first interview ever — congrats! Now, it's time to prepare, and this article's got everything you need to know about the job interview process from prepping it, to nailing it, to making your best impression. Read on to find out everything you need to know before the big day!

What is a first interview?

A first interview is the first step in the hiring process, and usually indicates that there are more to come if hiring managers plan to move forward with you. Some first interviews are done via phone or video chat before interviewees are asked to come in for a follow-up.

How can a teenager prepare for a first job interview?

1. Research the company.

Before you go on your first interview, make sure you've read up on the company. Get familiar with the company basics like its mission, the services it offers and its main audience. It also helps to do a quick internet search on the company to find out any recent news, like whether they raised money for a cause or held a big event.
Engage with the company's site and social media accounts, too. Sometimes, employers will ask what your favorite features of the company are, so getting a feel of the company's brand and public image will come handy in this instance. 

2. Learn about the role.

This sounds obvious but, seriously, reread the job description before you go on your first interview and pay extra close attention to those main responsibilities. Know which of the bullet points you're confident completing and why. Also, think about what you've done in the past even if it isn't directly job-related (church and summer camp volunteering go a long way here!) Did you complete similar responsibilities in an internship? Have you shadowed anyone who you've seen complete these tasks? 

An eagerness to learn is crucial here since it's your first job and you probably haven't completed a lot of these job duties before. Sift through the bullet points and highlight which of them you'll need support with. Then, brainstorm ideas for filling that gap. A good solution is telling your interviewer that you'll spend the first few weeks asking your manager to walk you through a task or observing a team member complete a task so you can do it on your own. Owning your professional development tells managers you're self-evaluative and proactive — two very good qualities to have at any stage of your career.

3. Practice interviewing.

Don't wait until your first interview to have your first interview. Sit down with a friend or family member and have them ask you some common interview questions. One you might definitely hear is, "Tell me about yourself." This is when you give a 30-second elevator pitch about who you are, your professional experiences and why you're applying for the role. There's no need to write a script for this part; simply knowing the answers to these questions is enough. (The next section will give you tips for nailing your first interview which you can refer to while you practice!)

4. Pick an appropriate outfit to wear.

Remember when you did your research on the company? Your interview outfit is your chance to prove you understand the company's culture.  If you're interviewing for a corporate position, a blazer is probably the right way to go. For startups, a color-blocked work dress could work. Whatever you decide, make sure it's a degree above the company's dress code.

5. Have your resume ready.

Print out three or more copies for your interview. Also, have a few copies of your cover letter handy in case anyone else in the office wants to read through them come interview time.

6. Have a plan for traveling to the interview location.

Do a quick map search so you know how long it'll take to get to your interview location and different routes to get there. Plan to arrive 10 minutes before your interview time, then, give yourself another 15 in case you run late or experience mishaps along the way. The last thing you want to worry about on your interview day is how you're going to get to where you're going — and you definitely don't want to show up late!

4 tips for nailing your first interview

1. Take notes during the interview: Not only is this a good sign of interview etiquette, but it also demonstrates your eagerness to listen and learn. Don't write everything down, though! Just the major things like who does what or any responsibilities that weren't highlighted in the job description.
2. Maintain eye contact: The best way to stay in the moment and exude true confidence is through eye contact. A staring contest isn't necessary here, but looking at your interviewer while they ask questions lets them know you care about what they're saying and actually want to be in the conversation you're having.
3. Take your time before answering questions: You don't need to have your answers ready for every question right away. If they asked you to describe your work style as a bicycle part, you probably wouldn't know if you're a handlebar or front-wheel right away. Take a few seconds to think about the question and share your best answer for it. Good answers are better than quick ones!
4. And breathe! Sounds silly, we know, but when we panic, we hold our breath or lose it altogether, so take deliberate breaths wherever you can. Take longer breaths as the interviewer's talking, as you're taking notes or right before you answer a question. 

3 questions you might be asked during your first interview.

How does your academic experience relate to this particular role?

Especially because you've never had an official job, interviewers might ask you to draw from your academic experience instead. Learning about the role in advance will come handy here, but also think back to any on-campus jobs you've had or classes you've taken that relate to the position you're applying for. Were you a teaching fellow or writing colleague? Did you join a club on campus or study abroad? Get creative about your previous experience and draw those connections with the responsibilities of your potential new role.

Talk about a time you failed and what you learned from it.

None of us are perfect — all of us fail — and hiring managers know this. But what you learned from your failures is really going to stand out here. Did you practice patience after a failed event, learn how to be more organized, or quit an unproductive work habit? Take this as your chance to prove your resilience.

Tell me about a time you worked on a project that a team member wasn’t helping you with. How did you respond?

This actually happens in the real world; you may end up on a team and need to rely on other members to complete tasks before you can start yours. Or, you may need to present something as part of a group that other group members may not prioritize as much as you are. Hiring managers want to know how you take the lead and respond to colleagues who aren't pulling their weight in a joint effort, so drawing from your school experience could be great for this one.

Wrapping up your first interview. 

Send a thank you note: 

It's a good practice to send a brief email to the hiring manager after your interview's over but on the day of. Address it to everyone you met with (if you can) and thank them for taking the time to interview. 

Wait a few weeks, then send them a follow-up email.

If you haven't heard from your hiring manager with a few weeks of your interview, shoot them a quick email re-expressing your interest in the position and let them know you're willing to provide additional information if necessary.

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Stephanie Nieves is the SEO & Editorial Associate on the Fairygodboss team. Her words can also be found on MediumPayScale and The Muse.

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