Guest post by Dayleen van Zyl.
Dayleen van Zyl, Group Head of HR for Sanlam UK a diversified financial services firm in Wealth Management , Life and Pensions and Asset Management. Sanlam UK is part of the Sanlam Group, one of the biggest internationally active insurance groups in the world, based in 44 countries and with over 20,000 employees. Dayleen is an accomplished and result focused Group Head of HR with over twenty years of experience in delivering HR projects across various industries.
Long before your university education draws to a close, many students will be thinking about what jobs to apply for when you finish.
Postgraduate education helps people to hone their career goals, particularly when studying for a degree or qualification in a specific occupation.
But regardless of what you plan to do when you finish your studies, there is one big task that awaits all of us: the first job interview.
Prepping for your first interview involves thinking about numerous things – even what to wear. With the world of work changing and more people likely to work from home, your first interview may be virtual and not in person.
If this is the case, make sure your technology is working (do some test runs beforehand) and that the environment around you is what you want your interviewer to see. Making sure the room you are interviewing in is neat and tidy and that you are dressed appropriately is as important virtually as showing up at an office with the right attire.
While what you wear is important, there are several other things all interviewees can do to make sure they leave the best first impression possible at interview.
1. Know the company and role.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is vital to do thorough research into the company you are meeting, and the role you are applying for.
The more you know about a company, the better you will have to say, and a free-flowing interview is always preferable to a strained one where conversation is limited.
According to Interview Focus, there are a few key points in particular worth brushing up on:
- The target market and primary products/services
- Values and mission statement
- History and important leadership (know who the CEO is)
- Company culture
- Recent events (new product launches, initiatives, partnerships, etc.)
Of course, no prospective employer will expect you to know everything about the company, but having a firm grasp of what they do, and the company’s background, will go a long way. Most of this can be found on the company’s website but also be resourceful and think of ways to research more about the company which shows your interest and innovation.
2. Body language.
The way you carry yourself in an interview can make a big difference to the outcome. Everyone is different of course, and has different levels of confidence, but there are some pointers everyone can follow.
If in person smile, stand up straight, give firm handshakes and make direct eye contact with your interviewer and anyone else you meet whilst waiting for the interview or when walking out. Don’t just save your best behaviour for the interviewer; a receptionist would probably report a rude interviewee’s negative first impression.
If the interview is virtual, makes sure your camera is showing your whole face. It can be awkward if you are too close to the camera or the top of your head isn’t showing, so check beforehand that your camera level is correct and you are relaxed.
3. Come with your own questions.
An interview is, at its heart, a conversation, and therefore both sides should have plenty to say.
One way you can ensure you give it your best shot is to prepare some questions of you own, as its likely that your interviewer will ask if you have any questions. This is common practice and tends to happen at the end of the meeting.
According to CV Library, while you might think that saying nothing will make you look intelligent, interviewers actually want you to be curious, as it shows you’re interested in the role.
Planning your questions in advance can help to make sure you stay focused and don’t go off on a tangent. Popular areas to focus your question on include asking about career development, the size of your team and the company culture. Asking your interviewer what they enjoy about their job and working for the business is a great way to hear their personal story and can give you more insight into the business you may be joining.
4. Bring a notebook and pen.
Whilst you might not be going for a job as a reporter on a newspaper, one way to stand out and to help gather your thoughts during the interview is to take notes. This is a great way to show the interviewer that you are engaged.
Plus, writing can help to calm any nervousness you may be feeling. You may want to jot down some questions that come up as the interview progresses but you don’t have a chance to ask there and then, so writing them down allows you to come back and shows you are good at listening.
5. Follow up after the interview.
After your first job interview, follow up with a short thank you email to the person who invited you. In this, you should thank them for their time and state that it was good to meet in them and learn more about the vacancy.
Remind them that if they have any more questions about your application or would like you to come in for a second interview, then you are available.
If you don’t hear back, or you don’t receive good news, remain polite at all times. Asking for feedback is fine as it can help you in the next interview.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the job – rather embrace the process and keep going. Each time you meet someone, they become part of your network and to a large degree once you enter the world of work, that network can often act as a springboard to your success.
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