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Professionalism 101: tips before your first job interview

Are you graduating soon? Perhaps, you've finally decided to find a job in connection with your studies. Gathering experience is hard when you’ve never worked something in your field: you lack confidence, you are indecisive and you might feel a bit confused. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for it, you just have to polish your performance once you’re invited for an interview. That’s why we have prepared this article for the time you must show your best qualities for the sake of your professional growth. So what is the key to a successful job interview?

Before the interview

Do your homework – know the company in depth

You saw that really cool internship offer online, you loved the description, it sounded decent and relatively close to what you’ve been studying so far and so you sent your CV. You know that the company deals mainly with marketing researches but you’re not entirely informed. However, you won’t sound professional enough in front of the interviewer if you barely know the details around the company, it simply shows that you do not care as much as you should. That is why you MUST spend some hours on getting to know the company – its values, its goals, its prospects. After all, if your interests don’t match with what you’ve read, there isn’t much point in starting off your professional life at this exact workplace.

Do you know who’ll conduct the interview?

Will you talk with the “big boss”? Is it an agent from an HR agency, or perhaps your potential future mentor? If you know his or her name, search that person up on LinkedIn. It is absolutely great to be prepared by knowing some essential information about your interviewer and his or her tasks related to the establishment. Also, seeing a photo of that person beforehand kind of calms you down as the face you’ll see later at the interview won’t be unfamiliar. Even more, some people have such warm and smiley profile pictures that you just say to yourself “okay, that guy/lady seems pretty chill, I can do it, this person doesn’t make me stressed at all.”

Rehearse a bit

No, you don’t have to go through a whole bunch of questions, answering each of them on a sheet of paper and learning them like a parrot. However, trying to grasp and answer essential questions like your career plans for the next 5 years is pretty helpful. Sure, you do know what you want to do – finish your studies, get a degree and work, but that is not a clear and satisfying answer. Your head needs time to formulate smart-sounding and entirely relevant sentences, (especially if you’re stressed) so a rehearsal will help you structure your thoughts and become clear about your actual plans and intentions.

Looks might play a role

We are all beautiful, fabulous and we slay on a daily basis, even in pajamas. But if your chosen company insists on smart/formal clothing you shall respect that and get dressed properly. Actually, on interviews people wear semi-formal or formal clothes most of the time, so being classy is the safer choice. Yet again, you must remember – know the company’s values! If it seems like an artsy place where colors and diversity are much appreciated and employees seem mainly chill about clothing, you could pull off something less formal, expressing your character.

At the interview

Posture, gestures, speech – it all matters

So you enter and you shake hands with your interviewer: his/her grip is strong and confident, and yours is… Well, as if your hand is made of clay, shaky and soft, almost vulnerable. There is another option: you, being overly aggressive, shaking the person’s hand as if your life depends on it. Chill! Everything will be alright, just do it with confidence, find the golden middle. Keep the eye contact as much as possible, without making your interviewer feeling almost uncomfortable. This is the time when you make a first impression – with your appearance, your facial expressions and short introduction. Try delivering all this in the best way possible.

You sit down and you start slouching, your arms are in a crossed position in front of your body and your eyes are all around the place (but not making human to human eye contact). We bet the interviewer will be able to smell the fear. Stand proudly, chin up, relax those hands, get comfortable with the space you have, no one wants to hire someone scared to death by a simple interview. We’ve all gone through this, it is hard to hold yourself together sometimes, but that’s how you build confidence and character.

Also, try to talk as much as needed, don’t answer with 2-3 words every time. Your speech shall be consistent, without many pauses.

Show your brightest sides

You speak 3 languages? Great! You have a double degree? Amazing! You have previous experience? Wow, you rock! Talk about those things, show the company who you are, reveal yourself and your best qualities, use all the positive sides you have as a weapon. After all, when the time for making the final decision comes, those small details might have a big impact. Never underestimate your professional skills, mention all of them and see what happens.

Keep calm and be confident… or fake it till you make it

Feeling shy and nervous? We all felt something similar on our very first interviews. And just as we mentioned in one of the previous paragraphs, you must appear confident enough in order to manage the situation. Panicking will never help you, just go with the flow of calmness and professionalism. By the time you hit your 3rd job interview you’d be slaying it. No one is born with confidence - it is something, built by a consistent effort over time.

Be aware of things that might be a disadvantage

You don’t speak one of the preferred languages well? You haven’t exactly studied something which turns out to be necessary? You’ve performed poorly in a field which the interviewer is interested in? You start sweating and your stomach turns upside-down instantly. Stay sane and aware, filter your words a bit and try saying something like “This field is not one of my strengths yet, but I have already looked into it and I am slowly improving in order to have the desired level of qualification.” Even if you haven’t “looked into it”, even if you have no improvement yet, if it is something that could be developed as a skill over a short period of time (or if it’s not a skill which you’ll be using immediately after stepping into the office) just shoot it, make sure they understand that you’d level up your professional capacities for the sake of this job.

After the interview

Be morally prepared – rejected or accepted, life goes on

So you got rejected and this kind of crushed you. You feel incapable, stupid, probably disappointed. This is not the right direction to follow, life goes on. Everything happens for a reason – this was not your place to be, perhaps. Maybe another workplace can give you way more, you just don’t know it yet. Stay positive and try finding another suitable job offer online – maybe that’s your place to grow and start a successful career. Many famous people were rejected at first, but then became well-known stars. Your time to shine will come, you just have to wait a bit.

Be patient

The interview was last week and no one has called yet? Not even to reject you? No emails, nothing? Wait a second! Patience is key, don’t overthink it. Imagine if they have 200 candidates and they’ve interviewed 50 of them. Evaluating 50 individuals and comparing their qualities & strengths isn’t easy and it’s pretty time-consuming. Good things come to those who wait.

You got an offer but the salary doesn’t match your expectations

Unless you can justify the desire of a bigger salary, you’d better accept the facts, especially if that’s your very first job offer. Often, fresh graduates don’t get the best salary, even if they graduated with straight fives and they are skillful enough. The lack of experience plays a huge role; therefore, you might have to accept the offer. After all, if you show how valuable you are your boss will surely reward you somehow.

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  - Emily Brontë


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