8 Tips to Ace Your First Job Interview.

Preparation. First impression. Follow up.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, hiring and mentoring many eager college interns and graduates, specifically in the field of marketing. Much of what I enjoyed learning from these students was during the interview process. And, the ability to leverage things I learned from my own interviewing experiences.

I recently completed teaching a college marketing course. The students in this class were juniors and seniors.

Many of them had completed a few co-ops. Few of them had job offers. Too many of them had yet to go on an interview.

Part of the class that I teach focuses on guidance for careers in marketing. Some of the course content around interviewing speaks to following your passions. Being yourself. Going above and beyond. Intangibles.

It was also a good time to share a recent University of British Columbia study suggested that narcissists actually do better in job interviews. Being your true self may not always prove to be wise, but there is value in bringing some energy and well thought out questions.

Also keep in mind, another study found that 33 percent of all bosses that conduct the interview will have their mind made up in 90 seconds of meeting you. So, first impressions definitely matter.

It is about more than just the interview itself. You can significantly increase your chances for success by how you prepare and how you follow up on that interview conversation.

Interviews break down into three phases; Pre, During and Post. Many students only focus on the During…and maybe some time on the Pre.

Pre Interview

Often, the more research you do beyond the job description will indicate if this role is just a job, or a career move.

1.Know the company. Get a sense of when they started, the ownership, board, funding situation and who they serve as clients or as partners. Also understand competition, target audiences and other publicly available news. Check out Crunchbase.

2.Know the business. Know the status of the company’s industry. Who are their competitors? What are common best practices and relevant topics for their space? Who is their target audience? Use sites like SimilarWeb to research their website.

3.Research your interviewer panel. If you’re able, get a list in advance of who you will be interviewing you. Check out their LinkedIn profile. Get a sense for where they worked, their network and public accomplishments. You’d be amazed at what a Google search will retrieve.

During the Interview

It is true that first impressions matter. Decisions about a candidate are made within five minutes. Dress for the role you want.

4. Ask Questions…please. This is the most overlooked by interview candidates, and the most expected by the interviewer. Not only does it show that you’re prepared, but genuinely interested in the role. Try asking what they’re passionate about or a success story about someone they’ve hired. You’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

5 .Connect the dots for them. Short on job experience? Relate your everyday experiences to relevant industry situations or challenges that you may face in that role. When have you negotiated something before? What’s an example of a business relationship you’ve built? What are you passionate about? Often times for entry-level job seekers, showcasing your drive, passion and resourcefulness will trump hands-on experience.

When meeting with more than one person, pick one or two questions that you ask each person. Choose a question that may identify any red flags on working there. What’s the one thing you would change? What is your company’s mission? This will help determine if everyone (especially if you’re meeting a team) is on the same page.

Post Interview

If you’re still interested in the role, what you do after the interview can significantly increase your chances for getting hired.

6.Leave them wanting more. If you get a sense that it is a place you want to build a career, then prepare to end on a high note. Prepare an answer to the question of “Why should we hire you?” and “What will you accomplish in the first 90 days?” Even if it is not asked, you should arrange examples that align with expectations for the role and reiterate your passion for the role.

7.Show that you’re interested. Ask for business cards. Ask for an email address. 

8. Actually send an email.  Make it brief.  Highlight a topic you discussed. Anyone can send a basic “thank you for your time today” note.  Do more. Send follow up questions or suggestions based on a topic you discussed.

It is hard to ignore follow ups that show you’re ready to solve challenges for the role, before you even have the role. “After digesting our discussion, I thought it may make sense to incorporate ‘xyz’ into your marketing mix. Have you considered doing ‘abc.” Questions or suggestions should be easy to address if you’ve followed these basics steps.

These tips are intended to help recent college graduates and entry level candidates. However, these can apply to any meeting situation where a focus on your first impression, preparation and follow up can give you an edge.

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