Skip to main content

👋 Initial interviews

The first interview is an opportunity to get to know the company and role better whilst showing off your interpersonal skills. Although it’s an exploratory chat, it’s still vital to sufficiently prepare to increase your chances of moving onto the next stage.

How to prepare for an initial interview:

Do your research:

  • Look at the company’s website, any social media profiles they have, the job spec and the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile.
  • Gather knowledge on the company’s mission and values.
  • Find a project, event or something similar that the company was involved in that you can speak to with passion. If you can prove you’re genuinely interested in what the company has been doing, it’s more likely you’ll progress in the process. Companies want evidence that an interviewee is excited about them.
  • Take down notes of questions you may have, anything interesting to you that you’d like to point out and possible talking points to get to know the interviewer better.

Prepare any other questions:

  • Considering you’ll be interviewing the company too, it’s important to take note of any questions you have that will help you decide if it’s a suitable opportunity.
  • Have a look at the job description again, and any other information the hiring manager has given you. Find out if there are any elements in the role that are unclear and prepare to ask questions that will help you decide if the opportunity aligns with your job search priorities.
More resources:

Examples of questions you can ask the hiring manager based on your decision-making factors can be found in this downloadable resource

Prepare the space you’ll be in for the interview:

  • For phone and video calls, set up a space where you won’t be disturbed. For a video call, ensure you have a professional background that’s clear of clutter.
  • For in-person interviews, consider visiting the space beforehand to get comfortable with the environment. This will be difficult if it’ll be in the company’s offices, but you can map your travel route to ensure you won’t be late or get lost.

Practice interview etiquette:

  • Make sure you can arrive earlier for the interview to avoid any unexpected delays.
  • Figure out what to wear. In researching the company, you should get an understanding of the dress code culture. If in doubt, rather dress more formal than casual. It may feel easy to dress informally for remote interviews, but you should make the same effort to present yourself professionally no matter the interview setting.
  • Practice active listening with a friend or colleague. Companies will already be assessing your listening and communication skills. Showing that you’re actively listening can mean recalling details mentioned earlier and adapting it to the conversation.
  • Understand how you can create a lasting, positive impression; remembering the interviewer’s name, sitting upright and not crossing your arms, making eye contact, and coming across as humble, friendly and not overly-confident.

Review your past experience:

  • Go through your CV and old projects to remind yourself of your previous experience.
  • Take down notes on any skills you’ve developed that will help you in this role.

How to engage in the interview

Don’t avoid any questions

If you’re unsure of your answer, don’t say “I don’t know.” Rather say:

  • “I’m not entirely sure of my answer right now. Can I get back to you by [give them a specific time]?” or
  • “I would need to think about this for a bit. Can I get back to you by [give them a specific time]?”

Ask lots of questions

Since you’ve done your research, you should have a sufficient list of questions to ask the interviewer specific to the company you’re interviewing with.

Show your interest

Again, your research will assist you in speaking to specific aspects that excite you about the company and role.

After the interview

Once you’ve completed the initial interview, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve learnt about the company and the job.

If you’re not interested in the opportunity anymore, send a message as soon as possible to close the loop – this will ensure the connection remains strong.

Don’t feel you need to complete the entire interview process, but don’t burn any bridges in the process.

How to close the loop if you’re not interested

Here is a useful template to withdraw from an interview process:

Get your template!

Hello [hiring manager’s name],

Thank you so much for this opportunity, I've enjoyed getting to know [company name] and really admire [something the company is doing that resonated with you]. However, I don't believe this role is in line with where I am wanting to head at the moment so I will not be continuing with the interview process.

Kind regards, [your name]

You can also offer a reason why, such as the tech stack doesn’t excite you or it’s the wrong location.

Why reflecting after every interview is important

Practising this reflection and narrowing down your interview processes helps you take ownership of your job search. You’ll feel more in control of your job search as a whole.

Taking ownership is also useful as employers won’t always drive an interview process. They may have ongoing interviews with multiple candidates.

How to follow up with an unresponsive company

Yes, it can be frustrating when you haven’t heard back from your interviewer in a week or more, but why let this deter you from fully exploring the opportunity?

Rather send a follow-up message if you haven’t heard from them in 3 days (or 3 days after they’ve confirmed to get back to you) to ensure you are top of the interviewer’s mind.

Communication is the biggest thing that will keep the momentum up in your job search. Besides this, it makes a good impression on the hiring manager – that you’re proactive in your job search.

You could use the following template:

Get your template!

Hello [hiring manager’s name],

I enjoyed our interview on [date] and I'm very excited to hear from you - would you be able to give me an indication of when I can expect feedback? I would be glad to continue the interview process with [company name].

Kind regards, [your name]

How to close the loop with an unresponsive company

You cannot wait for a company to respond for too long. You may have other ongoing interview processes reaching the last stages.

If a company hasn’t gotten back to you in over 2 weeks, here is a useful message you could follow up with:

Get your template!

Hello [hiring manager’s name],

I’ve really enjoyed the interview process so far and would love to continue. Since I haven’t heard back from you in [give number of days or weeks] I will focus on other opportunities for now.

Please let me know if this role reopens as I’d still love to explore the possibility to work for [company name].

Kind regards, [your name]

Even if this is what gets the company to respond to you, never assume a delayed response means that you've been declined. Always assume best intent – the company could’ve had a major project deadline to meet, or perhaps the interviewer has been sick and didn’t manage to update a colleague on your process.

You should still consider the delayed response in your evaluation of the opportunity – will I experience similar delays if I have a problem at work? However, use it as a starting point to explore the potential issue instead of assuming it’s a problem.

More resources:

Download resources on how to prepare for initial interviews and psychometric assessments.