Three Things to Remember For Your First Job Interview

It was a typical Wednesday night, but instead of winding down after a day of homework and lectures then settling into bed, I was hopping around my room at 12 am, doing absolutely everything in my power to ensure that my first job interview the next day would go well.

I’d had a job before, luckily not requiring an interview at the time, but unluckily, this left me ill-prepared for my possible second job—this opportunity to work at another educational center that would boost my resume, was gated by my first actual job interview. The whole way there I fidgeted and tapped the steering wheel, worried that I would trip over my words or forget to highlight some of my previous assets, both things that would be essential to me finally getting the ideal work experience within my major. 

It turns out that the actual interview, compared to my thorough mental overthinking I did beforehand, was relatively short and sweet, and looking back on it now, although I didn’t take the job, it went pretty well. Here are three big picture and overarching themes I learned from my first job interview that can apply to your next step in your career in any field. 

 

1. You may realize the job isn’t really what you’re looking for. 

This job I found online checked all of my boxes—manageable driving distance, great pay and flexibility, and tasks that weren’t too demanding with my 18-credit schedule, but yet would provide me with valuable experience on how to be an effective educator. However, throughout the interview, I began to realize that the particular role this employer was looking for was beyond my scope—and although she had confidence that I could be effective at it, I knew what I was capable of, and knew it wouldn’t be the right fit. I thought to myself, should I give myself a challenge that’s good for my resume, but may interfere with my schoolwork, or should I keep looking for my ideal job, even though I run the risk of not finding anything else? I ultimately decided against the job because of this reason, and this is a transferable lesson to anyone: if something doesn’t feel like the right fit, whether it seems too overwhelming for your current life, or you fear being underwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a step back. You know yourself best.

woman typing on laptop Photo by Christin Hume from Unsplash

 

2. You can think of the interviewer as a resource, too.

As you can imagine, for my first official interview that required me to demonstrate my best image as to why I was the best candidate for the position, I was scared and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do that as a nineteen-year-old with minimal experience, even for an entry-level job. Although I expected my interviewer to shoot intimidating questions at me with little room to collect my thoughts in between, she ended up giving me a lot of valuable information about the early childhood & family studies field that I’ll never forget. Once we established that the interview was a two-way street, I had the room to ask questions and talk about broader concepts besides myself and the job, and I was able to use this opportunity to ask about other concepts I hadn’t learned in a college classroom. In short, you can think of the interviewer and interview itself as valuable resources to learn from on a firsthand account. Also, when you demonstrate that you’re curious about the job, the company, and the field, you simultaneously go the extra mile to show you’re dedicated to doing your best work possible. 

 

3. A sense of humor can go a long way…at the right time. 

Towards the end of my interview, the teacher I had been conversing with for the past twenty minutes signed a form, handed it back to me, and said, “Sorry, my handwriting is so bad lately.” I laughed and replied, “Don’t worry, me too. I’ve been typing everything on my laptop since COVID started, so I’ve pretty much forgotten how to write.” Her silence in return told me she didn’t think that was funny. 

It was a harmless joke that I cringed at right after the fact, and although I can laugh it off now, my instant thought after it came out of my mouth was, yeah… maybe I shouldn’t joke about my ability to do the job. I’ll follow this piece of advice moving forward, but it’s important to consider when I say, “use humor at the right time,” I don’t mean don’t use it at all. Before that, I had many moments with my interviewer where I was friendly and bubbly, which in turn made me more personable and was a likely contributor to her offering me the position at the end. Although you want to demonstrate upfront that you’re the best and brightest for the job up against the other candidates, try not to go into it with a stoic attitude—remember that having a sense of humor and humility is important too, and when an employer sees that side of you, they’re more likely to connect that positive quality to others you have, such as working cordially with others, having a positive outlook when taking on workplace challenges, and much more. 

Believe in yourself, you got this!