With many graduates competing for the same, limited amount of jobs, particularly in the creative industries, it's important more than ever before to stand out from the crowd and secure that initial step onto the career ladder.
From the minute you walk into any job interview, the product you are selling is you. So you have to act professionally throughout the interview process and leave a good impression. The more you impress the interviewer, the better chance you'll have of securing the position. But how do you win them over? The following tips will help you get there...
1. Tailor your CV to the position
It might be time-consuming to adapt your CV for every job you apply for but it will be well worth your efforts. Consider the bullet points in every job description and tailor your resume to adhere to those requirements.
2. Prepare for the interview
Do some research about the company you'll be meeting and prepare some decent questions to ask during the interview. It always impresses people if you ask things like: "I noticed you recently won the so-and-so account, what will you be doing there?". By asking the right questions, you'll show that you care and that will only impress the interviewer.
3. Practise, practise, practise
If you practise ahead of any interview, you'll be better prepared and confident, something that will impress your interviewer. Get your family and friends to carry out mock interviews and prepare for typical interview questions such as:
Tell me about yourself: This is your chance to talk briefly about your skills, experience and background, so read through your CV and be prepared to talk about yourself for five minutes. Don't waffle, don't get nervous. This is all straightforward stuff and a chance for you to get across your key points.
Why do you want to work for this firm?: Do some research about the company to prepare for this question. Mention the attractive qualities of the business as reasons why you'd like to join them, i.e. solid reputation, interesting clients, etc. The client will be flattered and impressed that you have singled them out.
What do you consider to be your flaws?: If you're going to reveal a flaw, give it a positive spin. Everyone always recommends using the 'perfectionist' answer for this classic question, where you say how all your work ends up being thorough and of high quality. Whilst that's perfectly fine, you could also consider other flaws that have a silver lining. For example, why not reveal that you get frustrated that you're not as good as you possibly can be, but how that's a positive thing because it pushes you to improve your skills and do your very best.
4. Consider holes in your CV
If there's something that stands out as potentially negative on your CV, rest assured you'll be asked about it during the interview. For example, if you've moved around a lot and only worked for less than 12 months at different places, you'll be asked why. Or if there's a big gap on your CV when you weren't studying or working, that will stand out. Be fully prepared to answer any awkward questions about your CV and any of its potential shortcomings.
5. Dress smart
It goes without saying, dressing professionally and appropriately is a must for any job interview. Even if the company you're visiting has a relaxed dress code, put on your suit or smart attire to give the right impression. The old saying 'dress for success' is irritating but true.
6. Arrive early
Try to get to the interview at least 15 minutes beforehand. It shows how eager you are to get the job and also demonstrates that you're reliable and professional. Just make sure you leave plenty of time to get there, so you don't arrive late, flustered and stressed.
7. Firm handshake
When you greet the interviewer for the first time, give them a firm handshake, look them in the eye and give a genuine smile. You need your first impression to be a good one, so get this right.
8. Watch your body language
Throughout the interview process, try to keep open and friendly body language. Avoid crossing arms or legs, sit up straight and slightly lean towards the interviewer. Smile and enjoy the interview as much as possible. Remember, it's just a chance to discuss a potential job.
9. Make eye contact
Don't be afraid to make solid eye contact with the interviewer. It demonstrates trust and confidence, something every employer will be looking for.
10. Show enthusiasm
Employers want to hire people who are keen and eager to work hard and become a solid member of their team. If you show enthusiasm throughout the interview, this will leave a positive, lasting impression.
11. Don't be desperate
If there's one nugget of wisdom that has always worked well for me it's this – don't worry about whether you'll get the job or not because there'll always be plenty more opportunities. Of course, you don't want to have an indifferent attitude, you want to be keen and enthusiastic. It's just that if you're feeling nervous, repeating this sentiment will calm you down and you'll avoid looking desperate.
12. Ask the right questions
During most interviews, you'll be given the chance to ask your own questions. This is a fantastic opportunity to find out exactly what the interviewer is looking for. Ask them what they see as the biggest challenge for the position and also what qualities they see as most important. You can then adapt your answers to meet their needs and become the ideal candidate.
13. After the interview
Once the interview is over stand up straight, thank the interviewer for their time, give a firm handshake, make direct eye contact and smile. Say that you'll look forward to hearing from them. Then follow up with a thank you email or letter.