HOW TO NAIL INTERVIEWS
Interviews can be daunting whatever stage of your career you’re at, especially so if it’s your first job. As part of our Student Life campaign to help grads this summer, we’ve all been thinking about how to nail interviews, our own experiences and our top tips..
If you’re going for a grad position a lot of employers are looking for enthusiasm, passion, knowledge about their company, someone who’ll fit into their culture as well as the practical skills/ qualifications that might be needed.
A lot of this can be nailed easily if you know what you want to do and where you want to work. It becomes very clear very quickly that someone has no knowledge of the industry they’re trying to get into or even if they want to do the job at all.
Grace Thornett, account executive said: “Unlike a lot of my friends, I was really picky and selective when it came to jobs. I just applied to what fitted me. A lot of people don’t read the person spec. in a job description, they just read the job spec. But the person spec. can give you a good idea of what the company is like too.”
I recently interviewed someone for a position as a videographer and she claimed she could do the job because she’d watched other people do it. I’ve watched Olympic gymnastics, but that doesn’t mean I can do a quadruple back flip overhead somersault! Fair play to them for trying though!
I actually wanted to be a solicitor originally and studied law at uni, but it soon became clear when I was studying and I’d either get a first or I’d fail each module that I wasn’t a natural lawyer. This didn’t put me off however, and I persevered at getting legal work experience and placements during the holidays. I managed to get two at two of the top firms in the UK, one within the golden circle (god knows how!).
However, it became apparent to me quite quickly and the poor people who were supervising me on the placements that I had no passion for law, just didn’t really get it and was never going to be the right fit for their organisations.
So, why am I telling you this?
It comes back to working out what you want to do and going after that whole heartedly and that way your passion and enthusiasm will come across in bounds.
Then you need to do a lot of googling and research about the company you’ve got an interview with to show that you really want a job with them and not just any old company. This make you come across as a serious contender.
What about if you’re not sure what you want to do – my best advice is to get as much work experience as possible, it’s only by trying different careers and different working environments that it’ll help you learn what you want to do. Plus you will pick up loads of transferrable skills along the way, winner winner!
Top interview tips:
What to wear
Something you feel comfortable in, shows you at your best and is the right style for the industry. A trouser suit is perfect for a corporate job, but if you’re going to a social media firm then some smart jeans, nice dress and shoes will do the trick better. Don’t try a new make up look for an interview – you want to feel comfortable and like yourself
What to research
Read their website thoroughly! Also search in Google news for name checks of the company, search for news about their clients, search for their team in the news – especially those who are interviewing you, read industry news websites and you should get a more rounded picture.
How to greet the interviewer
With a big smile and a handshake! You can only make a first impression once, so meet their eyes, smile warmly and genuinely and act like you’re pleased to see them, no matter how nervous you are inside.
What questions to ask
This is always a dreaded question – when the interviewer asks you what you’d like to know. A great tip here is to ask them something about themselves (that they haven’t already told you!). This could be how long have you worked here, what do you enjoy most about being here, what position did you start off here, what is the best project they’ve worked on recently. It’ll help you create a personal connection with the interviewer and could make the difference between you and the next person who just asks what the salary is and how much holiday you’ll get (answers any good interviewer should have given you already).
Be conscious of how you’re sitting and looking at the interviewer, sit upright, lean forward and meet their eye contact. This is something you’ll probably need to practice with a friend as you don’t want to come across as though you’re eyeballing someone and too cocky, but you do want to seem confident. This is one of the key things we’ll be able to help coach you with if you enter our competition and win the interview training.
Why not enter our Student Life competition to win your CV written, interview training or even a video CV produced by Brazen Live.
Our team’s experiences of their first interviews:
Rachel Bainbridge, office manager:
“My first job interview in my chosen career as a PR admin/Secretary at Stewart Lawrence PR started off interestingly when they asked what I knew about PR. My response was “I watch Absolutely Fabulous” which was met with raucous laughter and I honestly had no idea why! Needless to say, I got the job and 18 years later I serve the Brazen team as the best PR Office Manager/Executive Board PA/HR Assistant/Receptionist in the North West.”
Sasha Marks, board director:
“My first proper interview was at Brazen, fresh out of uni. I loved Brazen’s website at the time, especially the bit where it directed prospective new clients who weren’t feeling Brazen today to try the competitors instead! I wore florescent pink socks and stilettos – figured I needed to stand out in what was likely to be a hotly contested interview process. It worked. Although it took a while to shake the title of ‘the girl with the pink socks’.
“Better to be remembered and talked about than not at all, IMHO 😉”
Sarah Hodgetts, Senior Creative Producer:
“My first interview at the BBC was the day after I had my wisdom teeth out. My cheeks had swollen so much I looked like a very fat hamster. I thought I’d be able to make a joke out of it, but it wasn’t that kind of interview. I did get the job, but I’ve always wondered if they were disappointed when I turned up with normal face and not hamster face.”
Emma Trimble, Group director:
“I had a few strange interviews as I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do till a while after uni. One that stands out though was for Accenture, one of the top management consultancy firms in the UK. I thought it sounded creative and quite fun to help other companies perform better. But I didn’t realise that a lot of it was financially based and not having done maths since GCSE and no interest in doing anything to do with accountancy, I didn’t know who I felt sorriest for; myself or the poor HR person trying to work out how I’d slipped through the net.”
Neil Carr, account director:
“My first proper job was teaching, which I got by reading a story to a year 4 class, an unusual type of interview.
“I told the kids I’d read them a story and made out that they probably wouldn’t know the author or the book. When I pulled out a copy of Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon they all went a bit mental – every 8/9-year-old loves Horrid Henry.
“In the end I let them pick which story, after some very emphatic hints on which one I liked – the kids did well and chose ‘Horrid Henry’s Sick Day’. After a very characterful reading the kids were loving it. I ended the session by asking if they’d ever faked at being ill not to go to school, to which the entire class put their hands up – this was in front of the Head and Deputy Head who were both chuckling but bemused by the sight.”
Nina Webb, CEO:
“As a brand-new graduate trying to get my first job in PR, I claimed to have exceptional Apple Mac skills (well I’d used one a couple of times at Uni) and promised I’d work harder than anyone else (always a winner). Happily, I got the job (no-one back then had heard of a Mac, never mind used one) and the rest is history.”
Sophie Dunne, account executive:
“My tip for interviews is to be as prepared as possible. For a group interview at Selfridges, I went to the store before my interview and took pictures of the clothes I liked and prepared a presentation following their brief (which they advised to do). Everyone else prepared a presentation about themselves rather than answering Selfridges specific questions and nobody else went to the store beforehand and I ended up getting the job.
“For my job at Brazen I prepared a physical portfolio of my previous work which made me look experienced and gave us something to talk through which I knew inside out and I think this helped get me the job.”
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