Last week my sister, who is still a student, walked into an interview room for a summer job – she was completely terrified. She rang me up to say she had got the role. It came as a surprise – I could hear it in her voice, as she said she could not answer some of the questions that had been posed.
I guess we all have moments of self-doubt and perhaps the younger and less experienced we are the more we feel the stress of a job interview. But sometimes we’re good! And we should own it!
Perhaps all job interviews are just as important but the real clincher is the first interview into your future career. The job you dream of doing and becoming exceptionally good at. You want to get that one right, leave an impression and make sure you get the call with an offer.
I have read numerous blog posts claiming that the majority of first interviews are unsuccessful for various reasons. So I was also curious to find out how the first job interviews went for the amazing people I share an office with, and what advice they would give to someone attending their first interview.
‘’ My first job interview was for Bejam, the frozen food retailer (now Iceland), as a management trainee in 1983. The interviewer asked me to sell them the ashtray sitting on the desk (yes you could smoke in the office in those days). I threw it out of the window and said “You haven’t got an ashtray have you?” I got the job! ‘’
‘’ My first proper job interview was for a well-known recruitment firm- they did a standard interview for about 30 mins and then took me onto the sales floor, gave me a bunch of CVs and made me cold-call candidates….while they watched and listened. It was terrifying. ’’
‘’ The most entertaining story I could tell you about would be from one of my first interviews after graduating. I’d applied for a position advertised as a “Content Writer” at a local newspaper. After submitting my CV, a cover letter and a few examples of my work, I was invited for an interview at the office. When I turned up, I realised the office was two rooms above a pub on the high street… not a very encouraging start! When I walked inside, the place was in complete disarray. The walls looked grubby, some of the ceiling tiles were missing, it didn’t smell great and there was stuff everywhere. The staff were all my age and paid me no attention at all when I arrived. When finally someone did notice me I introduced myself and said I was there for an interview. After a few blank looks the girl gave me a scrap of paper (ripped from another person’s CV) to write my mobile number on as the boss wasn’t there. She told me to come back later, not giving a specific time.
‘’ Foolishly, I did go back. I actually met the boss this time. He guided me into his office (a small room with bare walls, a disproportionately large desk, a chair and a small plastic coffee table strewn with books) sat down and proceeded to tell me that I was going to flog ad space over the phone for unheard of local newspapers all around the Midlands. Cold calling for minimum wage, with an unpaid trial period to “test my abilities”. Needless to say I turned down the job offer when it came two weeks later! ''
Stephanie Mullins’ first real interview was similar to mine; we both interviewed for the company we work for now. We both have some good stories to tell but perhaps some other time. For all it’s worth, I would advise you to expect something different in your interview – I sure didn’t and it took me by surprise.
When Adrian Barrett interviewed me, one of the questions was: ‘’what country had lost a war but came out of it wealthier than when it joined?’’ My reaction: straight face. My answer: ‘’In all honesty, warfare is not one of my strongest points.’’ (By this time I was wondering whether I was still being interviewed for a PR role). But I was able to mention some of the ongoing wars and I proved that I had some knowledge of the war related news stories. I understand the role of that question now.
Stephanie says: ‘’ My first job interview wasn’t too scary, but I was nervous – simply because I wanted to do well. It helped me to remember that the person across the table was just another human being. They want the best for their company – and, as the interviewee, I had to show them why ‘the best’ was me.’’
A word to the wise from Belinda Harris:
- Be interested in the job you’re applying for (not regard it as a stepping stone to greater things)
- Research the company & the role thoroughly.
- Be able to demonstrate how well your experience, interests and skills fit the job and the organisation;
- Prepare answers to the ‘difficult’ questions
- Ask the interviewer a couple of questions related to the organisation or the role BUT don’t ask about pay or reimbursement of expenses