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Your first interview: What to do – and what not to do

24 May

Your first interview is one of the most important steps you can take on the career ladder. Whichever profession you’re applying for, making a good impression is essential, whether it’s through being well-prepared or being ready to greet your interviewer with a smile and a handshake. With 14 million graduates in the UK, and apprenticeships steadily gaining popularity as an entry point into an exciting and fulfilling career, competition for the best jobs is fierce. As a result, you need to be well-prepared if you want to stand out from the competition.

Whether you want to work in finance or in marketing, here’s how to make a great first impression for your first interview.

Dress the part

Regardless of the job you’re applying for, it’s important that you dress appropriately. After all, you want to show that you’re serious about the opportunity on offer. Simple, appropriate officewear is recommended: even if it’s just a white shirt and smart trousers, making the effort to look the part will impress your interviewer, whilst showing up in jeans and a t-shirt may imply that you don’t really care about whether you get the role or not.

Do your research

In a recent survey, 47% of employers said that not knowing enough about the company is the most common mistake to make in a job interview. Don’t fall into the same trap: take the time to research the company that you’re applying to. Whether you’re applying for a role as a Driver or an Assistant Branch Manager, you need to convince your interviewers that you’re passionate about the job, and about the company that you’ll be joining. Not knowing basic information about what industry you’ll be working in, who their competitors are and the specifics of the role that you’re applying for- as well as why you’re the best candidate for the job- can be a deal-breaker for your interviewer.

Don’t be late

Nothing says ‘uninterested’ more than a candidate who is late for their interview, and 96% of managers agree that a candidate’s timekeeping is influential in forming first impressions at interview stage. Don’t make the same mistake: check your timings thoroughly, and always leave at least a half-hour buffer in case of emergencies or delayed trains. It’s always better to arrive early than too late- and if you have 20 minutes to kill, use the spare time to look through your notes and calm your nerves before the actual interview.

Know what to bring

If you want to look prepared as well as feel it, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of what you’re going to bring with you before the big day. Pack lightly, taking a pen, notepad with questions you’d like answered during the interview, and multiple copies of your CV to hand out to your interviewers should they ask for them.

Speak with confidence

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer any questions you might have- after all, the interview is as much about deciding whether you’ll be a good fit for the role as it is about them deciding the same about you.

Similarly, don’t be afraid to steer the conversation towards areas that you feel more passionate about. This way, you’ll be better able to talk about things you love, how great a candidate you are, and questions you’ve practiced for, and your passion and enthusiasm will shine through.

Don’t be shy

If you’re applying for a job, you want the employer to believe in you- and believe that you are the perfect person for the role. This will only happen if you present a confident front to your interviewers. Remember to meet their eyes when you’re talking, shake their hand firmly and don’t be self-deprecating when answering questions. Yes, this might be your first proper job, but you’re qualified to do it- or they wouldn’t have called you in for an interview. Above all, remember to smile.

Make a good impression at Travis Perkins Plc

At Travis Perkins Plc, we go the extra mile to recruit talented young professionals whom we know will make an impact on their role and the wider business. Could you be one of them? Whatever you’re interested in, kick-start your career by browsing our vacancies.

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