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50 First Interviews

Do you remember that spark you felt at the prospect of your first ever interview?  

Hours spent pouring over the cover letter, googling ‘synonyms for passionate’, and refreshing your inbox every three minutes throughout the day. Then finally, *ping*, that long-awaited response of congratulations, inviting you to schedule a face to face interview with your potential future employer.  

In many ways, interviewing for jobs is like dating. And, as any wise woman will know, the key to success in both fields is to be confident and selective (and always come equipped with a list of questions and talking points). And, of course, remind yourself to not get too excited.  

After all, it’s just the first interview.    

Well, this was fine when interviews were indeed face to face, and required an awful lot of time and effort to schedule. Before the era of WFH, when you could barely find the time to leave a face mask on for the recommended duration, applying to jobs was something few of us had time for.  

Needless to say, when the pandemic hit and I began remote working, I became a complete interview fanatic. All of my mantras went out the window, and I threw myself at every role and position I encountered. After all, when you can steam through two interviews before your morning coffee, why wait? No surprise to anyone, this brief period of my life resulted in a lot of tears, disappointment, and frustration. Until eventually (cue the cliche) just when I had decided to stop applying for jobs, the perfect one came and found me instead.  

I felt very lucky to have entered the New Year in a job that I find fun and fulfilling, but it definitely wasn’t through lack of effort or endurance. So here are some of the best lessons I learned through my (gazillion) first interviews.  

Refresh your vocabulary

I wasn’t joking about googling synonyms for words I use too much. In fact, I do it quite a lot. According to top recruiters, job applications and interviews are saturated with phrases such as ‘passionate’, ‘work-ethic’, and ‘skilled”. Try to write down a list of your most commonly used terms in cover letters, and write alternatives next to them so you can teach yourself to be more varied when responding to a question about your abilities and character.  

Pin-point what motivates your employer

They might be the one in the driver’s seat, but the person who is interviewing you is also a human being. And chances are, they work at this company because they care about its core values. Research what the fundamental pillars of the business are, and you’ll understand what it is that motivates the people that work there. If it’s money, explain how you’re driven by profit margins and graphs. If it’s charity, draw upon your desire to give back to the community.  

Whatever it is, engage with the interviewer and establish common ground; I promise, it’s in there somewhere! 

'91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement'

Laugh

Take this one with a pinch of salt. Bringing us back to the first date analogy, this tactic should be used little and often to ease the atmosphere and break the ice. A study by the Robert Half International Institute found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement. While you should definitely pick your moments (laughing in response to ‘please explain your relevant skills for this position’ is not ideal), injecting some gentle humor and offering a smile will always have a positive outcome.  

Don’t Fall too Quickly

And finally, although I know this advice will probably fall upon deaf ears (my own included), try your best not to fall in love with the role too quickly. It might seem perfect for you at the time, but if you weren’t the final candidate for the position, then it’s probably for a reason. Employers know what they are looking for, and while it might feel like a personal offence at the time, the employer probably has their reasons. And when you eventually are chosen as the best person for the job, it will be because you actually are. 

Don’t fake it – wait for the right one to come along, and everything will fall into place.  

WRITTEN BY

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