How to Be Confident and Open for Your First Interview

You are a total “newbie” in the job market. You have your degree, your resume, and good references lined up. Unfortunately, your interview experience has only consisted of a brief conversation with the manager of a fast-food restaurant prior to getting employed. You are in the big time now, and you realize that you really have no interview skills at all, nor can you even begin to anticipate what you will be asked – it’s time for fear to take over and time for you to freak out!

Preparation is the key to confidence:

While you cannot anticipate every question that will be asked, there are certain general things that are sure to come up. Preparing your answers in advance will keep the sweat off of your brow and the shakiness out of your voice. Here are some questions for which you should be prepared:

1) “Tell me about yourself”:

This is a really open-ended question, but your interviewer does not want a full life history. Hit the high points only, focusing on your educational background, your interest in this particular career field, and what stimulated that interest. Speak to your future goals a bit, although those may come up in another question.

2) “What makes you think you will be a good fit for this position and for our organization?”:

Part of your preparation should have been some research into this company/organization. You need to demonstrate that you know something – how has it grown in recent years, what are the corporate or organizational goals, what were revenues last year? Getting on the company website will give you loads of information that you can include in this type of answer, and your interviewer will be impressed that you have taken the time to gather some detail.

A word of caution: Some interviewers like to tell you about the company. Be a good listener, maintain eye contact, and show your interest with body language – a nod of the head here and there, a small smile – you need to demonstrate high interest even if you already know what you are being told.

3) “Give me some examples of your ability to work as a team member”:

If you have not had any prior experience in a full-time position that has been career-related, you will need to pull from your academic background. What major group projects did you participate in – projects in which everyone had to play their appropriate roles and complete assigned tasks? Did you have any leadership roles in these group projects? If so, speak to them. Being a part of the “team” at McDonald’s really doesn’t count for much, because you were not a part of making decisions and solving problems!

4) “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”:

Be honest and open here, even if your long-term goals may not be a fit for this specific organization. If you try to fit your goals to the organization, and they are not real, you will come off as insincere. Everyone has long-term goals, and those goals may change. The interviewer is really trying to get a feel for your ability to think about your future in a reasonable and realistic way.

5) “What are your salary expectations?”:

Be honest! Part of preparation is knowing what the salary range is for an entry-level position in your field. Speak to that range specifically, with the additional comment that flexibility within that range is based upon the total package – health insurance, retirement plans, etc.

“What questions do you have for me?” Do not ask about salary, benefits, vacation days, etc. These will be answered if you are offered the position. Your questions should relate to the organization itself, its future growth plans, and perhaps your growth potential within the organization. Prepare these questions in advance and commit them to memory.

Think long and hard about these questions and practice your answers (note: don’t memorize them – you are not a robot)! Practice until you are at ease with the content and until you are pretty sure you will not forget important points you want to make. If you do this, lots of fear will dissipate when you settle into that chair. You will have confidence, and it will show!

Other critical pieces of the process:

A few other tips will perhaps ease your fright and anxiety.

Keep your tone conversational: you are not on the witness stand! Be expressive, keep eye contact, and use your hands and arms sparingly as you speak. Let your voice show enthusiasm, but do not be excessively so – it will look unnatural.

Don’t get a major change in hairstyle the day before the interview: You will feel less comfortable than if you are still sporting the “do” you have had for some time already.

Don’t over-dress: If you’ve done some research on the company, and if you have been on its website, you will undoubtedly see images of people at work. While you may not want to be as casual as they are (if the “culture” is jeans and tennies, for example), you will want to “up” your dress one level. Slacks and a sport coat (male) or a nice pair of dress pants and perhaps an unstructured jacket (female) would be appropriate. And please, no 3-inch heels and glitzy nail polish!

Hydrate yourself: while you are traveling to your interview, but arrive early enough to use the restroom before you go in.

If you must sit in the waiting room for a while, grab a magazine and open it – at least pretend to read! Show that you are someone who likes to stimulate your mind even during brief times of waiting.

While going into the interview room, take 8-10 deep breaths as quietly as you can. This is a well-researched method of calming oneself physically and will help to slow that racing pulse and the flutters in your stomach.

Remember, too, that your interviewer expects a certain amount of nervousness. Just knowing that should ease your fear somewhat.

Author: Kateline Jefferson believes that only through experiential knowledge does one become an engaging and creative writer. Her degree in Journalism and a host of real-world study and experience has made her a permanent and popular blogger for

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