Nearly everyone gets nervous about their first interview after graduation, whatever their field. As you prepare to graduate from cooking school you will likely have more than one job interview lined up. Now is the right time, as you shift gears from student to professional, to bone up on your interview skills, so that you can receive your certificate or diploma with the confidence of knowing it was all worthwhile and you are well on the road to your chosen career.
Whether you have landed your interview based on word or mouth or as a result of answering an advertisement in a newspaper or online, you will want to start by doing some research into your potential new employer. What do they do? Are they a new business looking to expand? Are they looking to replace someone who has left? What is the work environment like? Is it upbeat and energetic, or straitlaced and corporate?
Go to the website of the restaurant or business to gather some basic facts, such as how many people work there and how long they have been in business. Then ask around. If you know someone who works there or has worked there recently, give him or her a call to ask about the place and your would-be boss.
You should already be a member of relevant professional social networking sites (like LinkedIn). These can help you find out more about the atmosphere of a given employer.
Now that you know something about the potential new position, take a closer look at yourself. What do you bring to the job? Make a list of the reasons why this employer would benefit from hiring you. Get comfortable talking about yourself. Take a mock interview through your school’s placement department.
In the days before your interview, carefully plan what you will wear and how you will get to the site (slightly ahead of schedule, just to be sure). Get a haircut if you need one, perhaps even a manicure. Remember, your interviewer will form an opinion of you within the first minute or two of meeting you. First impressions are critical.
On the day of the interview, dress professionally and groom yourself carefully. Some employers are more casual than others, but the general rule is that someone being interviewed should always look at least as professional as the interviewer. Ask around to find out if you need to wear a suit or if business-casual will be sufficient. Never wear jeans to an interview. Be sure to turn off your cell phone before entering the interview room. When you are brought into the room, smile and look the interviewer in the eye. If you are nervous, try not to let it show.
If you are interviewing at a restaurant, be sure you are familiar with the menu, in case you are asked any questions about it. Be prepared to discuss your experience, both at cooking school and in the workplace. If you are a good team player, be sure to highlight that when you are asked.
Remember that there will likely come a time when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. It is a good idea to have something prepared for this moment to demonstrate that you have done your homework and are serious about the company, not just this particular job. It also indicates that you are not so desperate for a job (any job) that you are willing to work for anyone who will have you.