Avoid rookie mistakes to shine in every interview

Looking for an internship or job? Then you'll need some tips on how to succeed at job interviews. To help you out, we had a chat with Andrea Kráslova, head of the NEWTON Career Centre, and she gave us her golden rules…

1. Give your job search top priority — looking for a job is a full-time job


You may know people who found a job right away – one application and *bam*, employment! But the truth is that those situations are the exception. Usually, finding a job that is a good fit for both you and the employer takes some time. So leave your trip to the gym or coffee shop until after the interviews. 

2. Keep track of your applications

Decide on the positions you want to apply for with care, and keep a careful record of each of your applications — there's nothing more embarrassing than when HR calls and you can’t remember anything about the job. For each position, make some notes on why you applied — then you have this information ready if they ask. Finally, prepare a couple of questions to ask during the call — this is a great way to show you’re really interested, as well as to find out more about the role. 

3. Always answer the phone!

When you’re looking for a job, try to keep your phone with you and on ‘loud’. Don’t worry where you are when they call – even if you’re standing in the checkout line, you can explain the situation and take the call while you’re paying, or quickly answer to let them know you’ll call them right back. There are, of course, exceptions — if you’re driving or in class, for example. If you really can’t pick up, call them back as soon as you can, ideally within an hour or two — returning a call two days later isn’t a great way to convince HR that you really want the position. 

4. Know your value

The employment relationship is a two-way street. You don't have to agree to an employer's terms just because they offer them — you can always negotiate, and don’t be afraid to say “no” if you can’t reach an agreement that works for you. Do you need €1700 to support yourself? Then don’t take a job for €800. 

5. Be honest

Obviously your application should show you in the best light, but there’s a big difference between emphasising your strengths and plain lying. Not being honest in an application will come back to bite you — don't claim you’re great at public speaking if you’re not, and don’t misrepresent your English language skills as C1 if they’re actually B2.

6. Prepare questions 

Having questions prepared shows you’ve really thought about a role. Here are some to get you started:

  • Who would be supervising me? Can I talk to them?
  • What projects are you working on right now?
  • What tasks would I be responsible for? 
  • Who would I be working directly with? 
  • Which teams would I have contact with?

7. Prepare answers to common questions

There will also be questions about your good and bad qualities, or how you want to develop.

8. Reflect on your impressions and feelings…

… because how you feel during the interview is a good clue as to how you’re going to feel working there. You may face a situation where you like the job description but the manager or something in the environment doesn't give you a good vibe. Don't ignore this feeling — remember, if you take the job you will be spending quite a lot of time with these people.

9. Prepare your references

Think of 2-3 people who you know professionally and who will say something positive and factual about you. Contact them and ask if they’d be happy with you putting them down as a reference. If they say ‘yes’, put them straight on your CV. 

10. I don't want this job! 

If the interview reveals things about the role that mean you don’t want it – for instance, excessive long hours, or working practices you’re uncomfortable with — it’s okay to make clear that some things are not acceptable to you.

11. Not as many offers as you expected? Review your application materials.

Sometimes all it takes is a small tweak to your CV for companies to start calling you back. Have an honest family member or friend take a look at your CV, or visit a careers advisor for some professional guidance.

12. Two offers at the same time? Hooray! Now to decide…

Tip: Before you start looking for a job, be clear about what you want from your internship

Want to take control of your job search? Visit our Career Centre and our experienced team of career counsellors will advise you.