I love getting questions from job seekers, because I know that when one person asks about something, there are MANY more people who have the same question.  Luckily, I now have a regular source of questions, a new application called Cinch (from Klout), I periodically get asked for my advice on career issues.  Here’s the one I answered today:

What is the best advice you can share with someone on a first job interview?

Here’s my response:

Remember that a job interview is an opportunity for both the employer and the job applicant to get to know one another. Your conversation began when you responded to the job posting and applied. You were saying “hey, this job looks interesting and so does this company. I’d like to know more!” When the company contacted you to set up the interview, they were saying “you look interesting. We’d like to get to know you more.” So just lower the pressure on yourself – because you may not like them or you may really like them. This is a chance for you to get to know them, at the same time they are getting to know you.

Next, a few concrete suggestions:

Come up with some questions for them, based on what’s important to you.

  • Ask informed questions about the company, its vision, and how your proposed role would support the company’s vision and purpose (shows you visited the website and paid attention to what the company does).
  • Ask about the company’s culture (the answer tells you if their people are important to them).
  • Ask how you would know you’d been successful at the end of your first year (shows you are interested in performance/results, and being there for a long time).

Come up with answers to the usual interview questions. Here are some:

  • Why do you want to work here? (Your answer should have way more to do with the company and the role than with your personal needs – flattery of a company really works well here, as long as it’s sincere. If you applied, there MUST be some sincere thing you admire about the company.  The people interviewing you want to know you want them).
  • Why should we hire you? (Your response needs to focus on your skills and talents and how you approach work, and link it to how you would use those skills to further the company’s purpose.)
  • What is a weakness of yours? (This is a chance to say “I’ve learned about myself that I tend to do x and I’ve been able to compensate for it in this way.”)
  • And you may be asked to describe a time when you failed or had a difficult experience, or when you were frustrated. (This is a chance to talk about how you cope with difficulty, recover from mistakes, etc.)
  • You may also be asked to think through a hypothetical situation, to show your problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Other variations are “what is your career goal?” and “is this the kind of field you want to work in?” (Be honest, yet remember that if you tell an interviewer that you intend to go back to school in a year or two, they may understandably be reluctant to hire you. Your best answer will be somehow relating the job you apply for to your career goals.)
  • Expect to be asked a question which surprises you, that you totally didn’t expect. Take your time in answering. Trust that you know the answer.

Finally, think about this interview as practice.  It’s rare for people to do well on a first interview.  The more interviews you get, the better you’ll get at interviewing.

These are just my top tips.  There are many blogs and books that contain more information about doing well on interviews. Simply search for “job interview tips” and you’ll find a treasure trove.

Good luck!