Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I had a job interview earlier this week. What you won’t know, however, is that interview was my first ever proper job interview! I won’t count the 10 minute interview I had for a shop sales assistant position back in 2012, because my friend and her mum both worked at the shop so I was basically guaranteed to get hired.
It’s safe to say that I was absolutely terrified. I do get nervous speaking to new people for the first time, and I wasn’t completely sure that I’d done enough preparation. Plus, the interview was conducted via video online, so a little different to the simulated face-to-face interviews I’d taken part in at university. Today I thought I’d go over my expectations of the interview vs. the reality.
1 – have some notes in eye view
I think the main advantage of being interviewed over the internet is that you can keep notes of some of the main points you want to cover for reference. I imagine it’s probably frowned upon to take notes into a face-to-face interview, but you can get away with it if the interview is online! At the end of the interview I got the dreaded “do you have any questions for me?” question, but thankfully I wrote down what I wanted to ask, just in case nerves caused them to slip my mind.
2 – have examples which could work for a variety of questions
Often in interviews, the interviewer will ask you to describe a scenario in which you worked well as a team, worked well on your own, or demonstrated a particular skill. I’d already prepared answers for those first two questions, and was completely ready for them – that is, until my interviewer didn’t ask those, and instead asked me to give an example of a time as a journalist where I didn’t take no for an answer. Thankfully, I was able to take the example I had prepared for a different answer and focus on a different aspect of it, to make the answer fit the question. Phew!
3 – be honest
I would expect that this is an obvious answer, but I thought I’d touch on it just in case. As part of the interview I had to complete an exercise which required five steps for the answer. As my interviewer was going over my response, he asked me whether I thought, in hindsight, there was anything I’d missed off of the list. Frantically I looked over my response, trying to work out what the interviewer was alluding to, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I admitted as much to the interviewer, asking him to clarify, and as it turns out he looked over my response again he realised that I had actually covered everything he wanted – just out of the ideal order.
If I’d tried to invent something else that could have fit into the answer, I think it would have been blatantly obvious, and would have shown me up for being unsure of myself. Plus, I could have ended up saying something completely incorrect in the heat of the moment. I stood by the answers I originally gave, and in the end, it worked out for me.
4 – get into the zone
Even though I was sat in my bedroom whilst being interviewed, I wanted the atmosphere to feel as professional as possible. I wore office smart clothes (obviously), made my bed, cleared the background of my dirty laundry hamper, and generally tidied up. I immediately felt like I was in a more productive working environment, and hopefully that came across in the interview.
5 – don’t be afraid to ask for time to think
At one point, I was asked a question which came completely out of the blue – I had no idea that this sort of question would come up! In order to organise my thoughts, I asked my interviewer if he didn’t mind me taking a minute to think, and he said yes. This gave me time to properly structure my response, rather than potentially ending up rambling about topics not totally related to the question. I was taught this trick by my career’s adviser back at university, and they believe asking for a minute to think about your response makes you look considered, rational, and able to handle pressure.