Your Countdown to Your First Job Interview

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The gradsingapore Team
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Breaking down the run-up to the interview into a series of manageable chunks and actions can really help a lot.

...One week before: Start by getting the dress code right

Objective: Look the part of an impressive candidate.

Your interview is a chance to show how you’d fit in, and this includes your appearance. Look on the recruiter’s website for clues about what the staff at the organisation consider to be appropriate business wear and copy them.

On the side of formality if you’re unsure – it's always better to come overdressed instead of underdressed!

Your clothes should be clean, fitted and pressed, and your shoes should shine.

Think sober, "bank manager" or "FBI agent" without the shades and earpiece: dark suits, pale shirts, respectable hemlines, dark ties, dark shoes, and tights if you wear a skirt.

Be sure to cover up any tattoos.

Some quick grooming tips to help you:

For gentlemen:

  • The clean-shaven look is always a safe bet. Get rid of stubble or wispy facial hair.
  • Make sure your hair does not touch your collar, and that your fringe doesn't spill past your eyebrows.
  • Don't be afraid to accessorise! Go for a solid watch or a simple pair of cufflinks to complement your outfit.  Don't overdo the cologne and aftershave, either.

For ladies:

  • Glaring nail polish only distracts viewers – neutral or natural colours are best. In fact, it may sometimes be better not to get your nails done at all.
  • Keep your hair pulled up or tied back. This will give you a more serious look.
  • If you plan on wearing jewellery and make-up, keep things subtle and simple. You want your personality – not your accessories – to shine through!

...The night before: Prepare everything you'll need in advance

Objective: Have everything you'll need ready to go so you won't panic the next day.

  • Hang your interview outfit out in the open to air so you won't be wreathed in that musty wardrobe scent the next day.
  • Pick a handy, compartmentalized document bag or folder to store your stuff in. Be sure to organise everything for easy access.
  • Prepare an additional three printed copies of your CV on good, solid paper. You'll never know if additional interviewers show up unannounced!
  • Get a good night's sleep to ensure that you'll be well-rested when the morning comes! You'll want to be as sharp and alert as possible in the interview room, not slack-jawed and spaced out. 

...Two hours before: Depart for your destination

Objective: arrive at the interview venue with plenty of time to spare.

You know how traffic generally has a way of going against you when you need to get somewhere in a hurry? This is not a good day to test that theory!

Leave early to ensure you arrive at the location before your appointed time. Remember that when it comes to job interviews, arriving "on time" is tantamount to arriving late.

...30 minutes before: Arrive at the premises and get comfortable with your surroundings 

Objective: Decrease your initial stress and get into a positive frame of mind.

Arriving at the location a good 30 minutes before your appointment will give enough time and space to draw breath and get to where you’re supposed to be with the least amount of aggravation.

Now is not the time to fret about what you’ve remembered and how you’ll come across at interview.

Write a mental list of things you like so far about the place – it could be the colour of the carpet in the reception area, or the pile of magazines on the coffee table – and focus your mind on that.

This will help calm you down.

...20 minutes before: Introduce yourself to a stranger and break the ice

Objective: Get used to talking in your new surroundings by striking up a conversation with someone who works for the employer but who won’t be interviewing you.

With any luck, the first person you’ll encounter will be a receptionist who’ll be expecting your arrival.

He or she may ask you to sign in before taking you to the visitors’ area and sorting you out with a nice cup of tea or coffee – or, perhaps the safest option for your pristine outfit, a glass of water – while you wait.

Be friendly and appreciative, as you should be towards anyone you come into contact with in the building, from cleaner to CEO.

...10 minutes before: Meet and greet the interviewers

Objective: From the very start, treat the interview as if it’s a meeting between two parties, not a one-way interrogation.

There’s usually a short explanation of how the interview will be structured. Commonly, the interviewers begin with an overview of the company and the role you are being interviewed for.

This pre- amble is the most "non-judgemental" part of the interview, so enjoy it and take the opportunity to ask some smart questions.

...Crunch time: Demonstrate your skills

Objective: Use your innate skills and experience and put to good effect the know-how you’ll gain through this platform and other sources.

The introductions are followed by the most time-consuming part of the interview: questions to find out whether you can do the job and, just as importantly, whether you would have the motivation to do a good job.

Finally, you get the chance to ask any questions of your own.

You may also be given a short test to complete before or after the interview. This could be to establish the level of your skills pertinent to the job, for example, or a more general evaluation of your preferred working style.

Follow any instructions carefully, work out how much time to allot to each part of the test and focus your whole attention on the task.

If you are applying to a graduate scheme, the testing process might be more extensive and carried out separately, for example in an assessment centre.

...Two hours later: Take your leave and depart with a favourable impression

Objective: Thank anybody, including your interviewers, who has helped you during your visit to the office and say goodbye.

Continue to behave like a professional until you are well off the premises – resist the temptation to light a cigarette as soon you’re out of the door, or to call your mum/best friend to tell them about how brilliantly/terribly it went.