Guest post by Rebekka Venter for StudentJob UK
“There is a first time for everything”, right? Right. But just because there is a first time for everything, doesn’t take away from the fact that first interviews can be extremely daunting. Whether this is your first ever job interview, or simply your first one in London, there are a couple of things you need to know to ensure your job interview goes smoothly. So let’s get straight to it: Here are the do’s, the don’ts and everything in between for preparing for your first job interview in London.
Do: Research the company
When preparing for your first job interview, it is extremely important to research the company before you meet with the interviewer either in person, via video-call or telephonically. Your prospective employer wants to see that you know who you are applying to work for, and coming to your interview prepared will make you seem proactive and diligent. Things to research might include the company’s history, values and mission, as well as any newsworthy information you can find about the company.
Bonus tip: apply your best online stalking skills and scour the internet for information on the person who will be interviewing you. This will not only put you at ease when you see a “familiar face”, but can help you to prepare relevant and interesting talking points. For example, if you find that the interviewer has been working at the company for more than 20 years, maybe ask them about what it was like working there so many years ago. Just avoid asking them if their daughter did well at her regional hockey tournament, if your stalking led you that far.
Don’t: Be late
This might seem obvious, but arriving late to an interview does not inspire confidence. This could make you seem unprepared, unprofessional and might come across as rude. Especially in the UK and a competitive city like London, arriving early to meetings is a must. Not only will your prospective employer be impressed by your punctuality, but will it make you feel more at ease and better prepared. Prevent being late by reviewing your route the day before (keep the London traffic in mind!) and work in time for any unforeseen circumstances. Failing to prepare is preparing to come late to your first interview and appearing super flustered. You get the point.
Do: Prepare questions
This might come as a surprise, but your job interview is just as much an opportunity for you to see if you want to work for a company, as it is an opportunity for the company to see if they want to employ you. Therefore, it is wise to prepare some questions for you to ask during your interview. Some questions to ask might include:
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What does your ideal candidate look like?
- How great is the growth potential for this specific role?
Remember not to ask questions that the interviewer has already addressed. This might create the impression that you were not listening to the interviewer’s points.
Don’t: Negotiate salary or paid holiday
This is a big don’t. Your interview – especially the first one – is not the time nor the place to negotiate salary or paid holidays. Unless brought up by the interviewer, you should avoid these topics. Chances are that you already have an idea of what the company is offering in terms of salary (they might have given an indication in the job advert) and you know that you will get your minimum amount of annual leave, as determined by UK labour law. Instead of trying to negotiate these particulars during the first interview, rather focus on getting to know the company and giving them the chance to see if you will be a good fit in their work environment. The time for negotiation will come, it just isn’t now.
Bonus tip: When you’ve aced the first interview and are invited to continue with the application process, you can start negotiating your salary and benefits. This might prove to be an awkward exercise, especially since you don’t want to come across as too forward or ungrateful, so it would be wise to seek some guidance on salary negotiation.
Do: Practice good etiquette
Good etiquette is key in the UK, and London specifically is no exception. Good etiquette starts before the interview, when you are dressing for the occasion. Wear something that makes you look and feel like a professional. Collared shirts, formal shoes and neat hair will take you places. During and after the interview, you should practice your best manners; those that would make your Nan proud. Stand up and greet your interviewer by the hand (or elbow, if you’re in the midst of a pandemic). Allow them their personal space and avoid coming across as overly-familiar. Whether you are being interviewed for a corporate job or a side-hustle, you are still being interviewed in a professional capacity, so keep that in mind when conversing with the interviewer. Be sure to thank them when you leave the interview and even send a thank-you or appreciation email once you get home. Manners maketh man!
Don’t: Give up
The last and most important thing to remember during your first interview, lies in the fact that this is your first interview. Although it is perfectly possible for you to land the job on your first try, chances are that your first will not be your last. Use your first interview as a learning experience, whether you get the job or not. Take what you’ve learned and apply it during your next interview. You will appear more confident with each try and gain valuable experience along the way.
About the author
Rebekka Venter is a South-African born Linguistics graduate and copywriter who now works for YoungCapital UK.