Nervous about preparing your first job interview because you have no experience? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make a good first impression, from introducing yourself at the start of the interview right up to the end with well-thought-out follow-up questions.
Additionally, we provide interview sample questions and answers to help you get started.
Here are some essential tips to nail a first interview for a job:
1. Research the company
One of the first steps to acing an interview is to know what to expect before you sit down to talk with the interviewer.
The best way to do this is to take some time to research the company and the position before the interview. This will help you understand what they’re looking for in a candidate and allow you to prepare solid answers in advance.
Not only that, but showing that you’re knowledgeable about a company in the interview demonstrates that you’re genuinely interested in the position and ready to learn.
Going into the interview, be sure to highlight any details that you learned about the company and how you can fit into their organization. For example, if you’re interviewing at a company that holds regular company sports events, highlight your athletic side in the interview to show you’d be a great culture fit.
2. Read the job description carefully
It’s a good idea to thoroughly read a job description to lower the number of job applications you send out and also help you prepare for an interview. Reading the job description carefully ensures you understand what’s expected of you in the role you’re interviewing for and make an informed decision about whether a job is right for you.
When you’re interviewing, think back on what you read in the job description, and be sure to highlight any skills you have that the employer is specifically looking for.
To start, look for the job’s minimum requirements stating a candidate’s desired education, linguistic abilities, work experience, work ethic, and work style, like in the following example:
Make sure you understand a hiring manager’s choice of language and font styles in the job description, like bold text, which show these requirements are critical to fulfilling the position.
Then, determine the strengths and capabilities you’ll want to highlight based on the listed duties, like in the following example:
This candidate has decided which responsibilities they excel at and will communicate these strengths during the interview. For example, they’ll mention their ability to deliver exceptional customer service, their ability to work in a fast-paced environment, to understand each customer’s needs, and to solve customer problems.
If anything’s unclear in the job description, make sure you make a note of it and ask the hiring manager during the interview. Don’t make promises to commit to a role before fully understanding your responsibilities.
Since this is your first job, the hiring manager will expect you to ask questions and show some initiative. After all, you’re starting out in the working world to build experience.
3. Prepare answers to common interview questions
Interviewers ask questions to get a better idea of your skills and your ability to perform the job, as well as get more information about your character and how you work with others.
10 common interview questions to have nailed down
To prepare, you should review some of the most common interview questions and prompts, such as:
- Why are you interested in working for us?
- Tell us about yourself.
- Walk me through your resume.
- Tell me what you know about the organization.
- Why are you suitable for this job?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- What is your proudest accomplishment?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why should I hire you?
After you’ve thought carefully about your answers to these first job interview questions, practice with someone you trust who can provide constructive feedback. This could be a family member, a mentor, or a friend. The more you practice with different people and learn from their feedback, the more confident you’ll be during the actual interview.
Remember, while some interviews are in-person, others may be conducted over a phone call, so you should prepare yourself for both possibilities.
4. Practice using the STAR method
If you don’t have any prior work experience, you might be asked behavioral interview questions. This is when the hiring manager determines how you behave or react in a specific situation. One good way to structure your answers for this kind of interview is by using the STAR method.
For example, if you’re asked the following:
Sample Interview Question
“Describe a scenario where you overcame adversity to reach a goal.”
A good answer to this question would be this:
“I was assigned to a team project in science class with 3 other students. Since this is a subject I’m passionate about and excel at, I thought I should lead the team and assign responsibilities to work on the project together.
We all had busy schedules but my teammates would often skip our lunch meetings or wouldn’t do their tasks. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t putting in the effort for such an important project. We were really falling behind and with only 2 weeks until our presentation, I decided we needed to find a solution together to get them more involved.
After taking the time to listen to each team member, we realized that no one enjoyed the parts I had assigned to them. So we brainstormed together and came up with a solution that worked with everyone’s schedule and interests. Because everyone’s new task played to their strengths and our meetings had become just quick follow-up messages online, we were able to finish the project on time and get an A.”
This candidate shows not only how they overcame a problem, but how they used their communication skills, active listening skills, and critical thinking skills as well.
With the STAR method, they successfully explained the situation, the problem, what action they took to resolve it, and the positive result they achieved.
5. Come up with questions for the interviewer
This is your chance to clarify anything that wasn’t clear about the job description or the interview itself. Additionally, asking good questions during the interview, helps you come off as interested in the job and well-prepared.
It’s a good idea to brainstorm questions ahead of time that cover six aspects of a job:
- The role
- The company
- The company’s employee expectations
- Your future in this job
- Company culture
- The hiring process
To illustrate this, here are sample questions to ask an interviewer:
Questions to ask an interviewer
- What will a typical day at the company look like for me?
- Is there a high or low turnover rate?
- What expectations do you have of me for the next 60 days, 90 days, or year?
- What opportunities for future development or growth are available?
- What is the company culture or work environment like?
- How will I be notified if I get the job?
If anything is unclear during the interview, asking questions will demonstrate your interest in the position. Make use of your pen and paper (if you brought one) to note down essential information throughout the interview and leave most of the question-asking for the end.
6. Make a good first impression during the interview
With 33% of hiring managers deciding if they’ll hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds, making a great first impression is crucial.
If you’re interviewing virtually through a platform like Zoom or Skype, you should still dress professionally. In fact, 55% of interviewers confirmed that dressing appropriately makes a great first impression.
While professional attire depends on the type of job you’re interviewing for, business casual is almost always a safe bet.
What to do before an interview
- Plan out your route and arrive a little early
- Bring extra resume copies and a pen and paper to take notes
- Treat everyone you meet respectfully as if they’re a potential interviewer
- Be friendly
What not to do before an interview
- Not doing enough research on the company and the role
- Dressing inappropriately for an interview
- Turning up late or too early
During an interview, you’ll need to polish your image to make the best first impression possible to present yourself professionally. Make a lasting impression by leaving on a strong, memorable note.
What to do during an interview
- Have good body language (good eye contact, a firm handshake, appropriate posture)
- Answer clearly
- Focus on your strengths and use positive language
What not to do during an interview
- Speaking negatively of teammates, classmates, etc
- Being too familiar, using coarse language
An interview isn’t over even if you’ve left the room. These final steps will cement your image as a potential candidate in the hiring manager’s mind.
What to do after an interview
- Send a thank you note to the hiring manager and reiterate your interest in the position
- Follow up a week after the interview if you haven’t been contacted (you may need to follow up twice)
- Take notes on what you think went well (and not so well) during the interview to improve
What not to do after an interview
- Waiting for an answer for more than a week without following up
- Worrying about how the interview went
- Not continuing your applications for other jobs in the meantime
- Not improving your interview strategy (even if you get the job)
7. Follow up after the interview
Making a good first impression doesn’t stop when the interview stops. Make sure you also send a follow up email after the interview to impress the hiring manager.
Send a well-written thank-you letter after the interview (or email) within 24 hours while they still have your profile in mind. You should briefly re-state your interest in the position and express appreciation for the interviewer taking time out of their day.
Additionally, you’ll want to follow up on your job application within a week if you haven’t yet been contacted. Not hearing back from a hiring manager after your first follow-up doesn’t mean you’ve been disqualified. They may be too busy with work or are still processing other applications and you may need to follow up more than once.
It’s important to show professionalism and follow up during the final step of your job application to show your interest in the position.
As a candidate with little or no experience, following these tips for a first interview will help you stand out from other applicants who may not put as much effort into interview preparation.