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Ace Your First Job Interview: 5 Tips for Success

With a little bit of effort, you can shine during your first interview for any job. Use these tips to prepare for the big day.

Your exceptional resume and cover letter caught the eye of the hiring manager. By the time you arrive for your first interview, you may even have a successful phone interview under your belt. The next step in the process is the first face-to-face interview, which can make or break your chances of getting the job. But don't fret; with preparation and practice, you'll slay the competition during your first interview.

A first interview is a chance for recruiters or hiring managers to see if you can back up what you put on your resume. They'll want to know how your skills transfer into real world experience and how your personality meshes with the rest of the group. This is your chance to show that you are an asset to the organization and that you fit right in with the company culture, even as you give valid examples of previous work that highlights the skills they want in an employee. In order to help you prepare, we've put together a list of five tips to get you ready for that all-important first interview.

1. Know Exactly What You Are Walking Into

Nothing says "unprepared"Â quite like walking into an interview without first doing your research. If you truly want a job, this type of research requires more than just a quick web search to determine where the company is located and what it does. Before a first interview, really delve deep into the company's values and mission. This will help you come up with talking points that will help prove that you are the best fit for the job.

Look for these items on a company's website when doing research for a first interview:

•Company mission statement: What does the company value, and what are its ultimate goals?
•Community involvement: What has the company done in the community over the last year, and how does this relate to its overall culture and values?
•Recent press releases: Has the company been noticed in the media for a new product or award lately?

Coming prepared with this type of information shows that you are not only interested in the job, but that you are focused on a career with the company.

2. Mind Your Manners

It must be said — being courteous, polite, and appropriate can make all the difference during a first interview. You never want to be the candidate who is remembered for being too loud, or for wearing clothing that was too revealing, or for being rude to the receptionist. Speak in a confident but calm voice, never chew gum or fidget, and treat everyone in the building with respect. Don't bring food or drink to the interview, and make sure your clothes are clean and well-pressed the night before. Arrive at least ten minutes early to the interview — this may require a trial run the night before to ensure that you can get to the building on time.

3. Use Your Contacts

In today's world, who you know can help you get a leg up in the interviewing process. If you have an acquaintance in common with the interviewer or know someone in the company, don't be afraid to mention it during the first interview. It may be a good idea to those contacts know that you are interviewing with someone they know so that they can put a good word in for you beforehand. Similarly, research the interviewer to see if you have any hobbies or interests in common. These can be good ice breakers to get the interview started and move the conversation along.

4. Ask the Right Questions

Interviewers expect you to have questions for them, and not having any questions prepared may make you seem disinterested in the job. This is your chance to determine if the position is really right for you, so don't be afraid to ask for more information. Some of your questions may be answered naturally during the conversation, but come prepared with several so you'll have something to ask at the end of the interview. While you are trying to sell your own skills, the interviewer wants to see that you are engaged and have done your homework and having relevant questions is a good way to show your interest.

Avoid questions about salary until the second interview or until you have been offered the job. The first interview is your chance to learn about the position, the company, and the culture. Save the discussion about compensation and benefits until after you've landed the job.

5. End Strong and Follow Up

Making a strong first impression is important but so is making a strong exit. How you leave the interview is just as important as the answers you give. Once the interview is complete, thank the interviewer for their time, give a solid handshake with eye contact, and request information about next steps. This will give you guidelines about when to follow up on the job. Also, always send a thank you note via mail or email to the interviewers to let them know you appreciate their time.

During your first interview, do your research, ask questions and don't be afraid to be yourself. With a little bit of practice, you can demonstrate why you are the perfect fit for the job.

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