The Basics

7 First-Round Interview Tips That Will Help Land You A Second Interview

Securing the first-round interview is a major accomplishment in your job search process: It means that you did something right when it comes to the preparation process. Your resume was on-point, your experience is on-track, and your cover letter was well-written. But now it’s time to show them even more about yourself.

A first-round interview is usually done over the phone or by video call. It’s a screen that you have to pass in order to be truly considered for the job. It has its own set of precautions and best practices that should be acknowledged in order to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward.

Here are seven interview tips for snagging that second-round spot.

1. Have answers prepared for the three most common interview questions.

They’re not all going to be this easy.

There are certain questions that every interviewer will ask in one form or another, so you have to be ready to answer them regardless of which field you’re trying to enter. The good news is, if you’re a great candidate for the job, coming up with an answer that will impress your interviewer should be easy.

These questions are:

  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What are your strengths?
  •  Why do you want to work at this company in particular?

You should always answer “Why do you want this role?” with the following two points:

  1. Talk about why you’ll be a great fit for the position.
  2. Explain what you think you can get out of the position in the long-term.

This way you’re showing that not only do you have something to offer the company but also that the company has something to offer you (which makes you an even better investment on their part).

Most employers want to know that the person they’re hiring is looking for a productive relationship—not just a way to make money.

As for strengths, be sure to pick your top three strengths most relevant to the position and have concrete examples of when you displayed them in the past—even if that means bringing an example from class or an extracurricular rather than a past job or internship. And be honest here—misrepresenting yourself will only hurt your chances of giving a quality example.

The last question will rely heavily on your research around the company’s mission, culture, and how those relate to your personal goals. For example, you could say something like, “Because I want to be in leadership in the long-run, I think your company, which offers a ton of management training, would be a great fit for me.”

2. Show them that you’ve done your research.

Just be sure to do it before the interview.

There are three things you really need to learn about before your interview:

  1. Learn about the company’s business and history. You should know what the business does (obviously) and how it started. Make note of things like acquisitions, major turning points, and the biggest wins (and losses) in its history. This kind of information can come in handy and—more important—is not something you want to be caught off-guard without.
  2. Learn about your potential role. Understanding the business means understanding what you would add to the business. Thoroughly read the job description. After that, search the name of the role plus the name of the company to get more example-based definitions of the position. This will greatly inform your answers in regards to strengths, fit, and what you hope to gain.
  3. Check the news. When’s the last time the company made the news? You probably won’t want to bring up any scandals or PR disasters. But showing them that you not only keep abreast of current affairs but also have an eye on the company is a great opportunity to shine.

How are you going to show them you’ve done the work? Let the research inform your answers. It’s okay to be explicit and say, “For example, in my research, I learned…” They don’t expect you to be a lifelong expert on the company, just someone who can do their homework when they’re called upon.

3. Show enthusiasm and gratitude throughout the interview.

Let ’em know that you care!

Already by applying, you’ve shown some interest in the position. However, to prove to the interviewer that this isn’t “just another job” to you, make sure to sound engaged, enthusiastic, and grateful for the interviewer’s time and consideration. This is especially important over the phone, where your interviewer’s only impression of your attitude is the sound of your voice.

Even if you’re nervous, you should answer the phone with a cheery, “Hi, this is ____.” rather than just a “Hey!” or “Hello.” Listen closely to what the interviewer says, thank them for their time, and be sure you’re showing your excitement with passionate answers. Don’t worry too much about being cheesy—it’s certainly better than the opposite!

4. For phone interviews, make sure you’re in a quiet place with a strong signal.

Believe us, it never sounds as charming in an interview.

Find yourself a room in the library, your home, or a school building that will give you the privacy and resources you need to successfully complete the interview. You want to avoid taking any calls outside, in coffee shops, other public places, or anywhere where you might be asked to move in the middle of your interview.

This means you should carefully plan ahead. Ask your roommate to clear out for that window of time, book a room in the library in advance, or tell your family that you’ll be in room taking a call at x o’clock.

You’ll also want to have your laptop ready (with internet access) to take quick notes, reference any documents they might want to send you, or open any links they might pass along. Sometimes you’ll even be asked to complete a quiz or exercise during the call, so make sure you’re ready for anything.

5. Have a notepad and printed version of your resume in front of you.

Jot down quick talking points you want to hit later… but always look attentive, like so.

This is especially important if they’ve sent you documents to look at on the computer or have asked you to follow a link. You can’t always use your computer to take notes and you don’t want to miss something important. Plus, if your first-round interview IS in person, then using a computer to take notes is out of the question (unless they instruct you to).

6. For video calls, dress professionally and work in a clean setting.

Just make sure you have somewhere to sit up straight…

When you’re on a video call, there’s a limited visual element that you have to be aware of. Make sure the room you’re in is clean and nothing too distracting is in the image. You should also dress like you would for an in-person interview.

Take down any distracting or controversial posters/wall art and make sure your internet connection is strong enough to properly conduct a video call. You might need to work off a school computer or Wi-Fi network to make this happen—so, once again, plan ahead.

7. Don’t forget to follow up.

I just wanted to say, “Thanks… and here are three reasons why I’m perfect for the job, partner!”

First round interviews usually mean many candidates being screened for the same position. Following up with a well-worded, prompt email briefly reminding the interviewers of your skills, why you would be a great fit, and your interest in the position will help you stand out. Also, be sure to thank them again for their time and tell them you’re looking forward to further discussing the opportunity.

By following these steps, you’re on the road to landing your dream job. Remember that even if you don’t get this particular position, you’ll just be better prepared for the next interview. Getting through an interview is in and of itself an accomplishment.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Negotiate a Job Offer and find answers to common interview questions such as What Motivates You? right here on the WayUp Guide.