Strategies For Nailing Your First Job Interview


Jeff Cuellar



Thanks to a well-written first resume, you’ve landed your first interview. After a few minutes of well-deserved celebration, nausea (or is it reality?) suddenly hits you – it’s your first big job interview! Right now isn’t the time to hyperventilate. It’s time to prepare for nailing that interview by researching the job/company, practicing your answers, and avoiding common interview mistakes.

If you follow these pre-interview strategies, you’ll stand a better chance of landing the job:


Researching the Job


Research plays a big role in preparing for your job interview.


In an ideal world, every job ad would be clear and detailed. But the reality is that job sites are littered with ads that barely offer a snippet of what responsibilities and requirements needed for the position. If you applied for one of the jobs and landed an interview, it’s up to you to find out more.

Because if you don’t have a clear idea of what skills and duties a job requires, you won’t know how to justify why you’re the best person for it – and that’s a question your interviewer is guaranteed to ask.

Here are some good sources of job information to check out:

  • Similar Job Postings: If you’re interviewing for a job posting that lacked detail on what skills and requirements are needed, check similar job ads. Chances are you’ll find at least two or three descriptive job ads that clearly show what they’re looking for in a candidate.
  • LinkedIn: Using LinkedIn to connect with professionals with the job you’re interviewing for is a good way to find out more about what duties and goals the job requires. Just keep in mind that the job duties and skills required can differ from company to company.
  • Google: You can use Google to search for just about anything – including job descriptions. While it’s better to either ask seasoned professionals about the job or look at descriptive job ads, you’ll at least guaranteed to find a basic description of the job’s skills and requirements.


Researching the Company


An annual report is like a cheat-sheet for understanding a company’s structure, leadership, and goals.


Researching the company’s history, leadership, and the way it operates is important for two reasons. First, it gives you an idea of what kind of “culture” exists at the company. Second, having greater knowledge about the company gives your interviewer the impression that you’ve very serious about working there. That’s important because your interviewer will ask you know about the company.

Here are good sources of company information to check out:

  • The Company’s Website: The Company’s website is the best place to find useful information regarding the company’s history, leadership, and business strategy. Checking the company’s Annual Report (if available) is a must-read for finding more in-depth information on the company’s strategy and direction.
  • The Company’s Blog: Many companies have a blog as part of their strategy to inform and educate the public on what the company does. Some company blogs are even written by normal employees (not just those from the corporate comms/investor relations/public affairs department) to give candidates an inside look into what it’s like to work there.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s strength as a social/business networking platform makes it an ideal source of company information. That’s because you can connect directly to current employees of the company you want to research. This not only lets you build relationships, but gives you an inside look at what it’s like to work there.

Important Note: Multinational corporations (MNCs) usually have plenty of information available on their history, leadership, and business strategy. However, many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) lack this information, so find out what you can and eagerly ask your interviewer to learn more.


Conducting Practice Interviews


Practicing your answers with a friend will make those “tough” questions much easier to answer.


Going through several practice interviews before the real thing will boost your chances of nailing your job interview. That’s because practicing enough will give you the poise to replace stumbling answers and awkward silence with confident responses that interviewers look for in candidates.

Here are some important interview questions to prepare for:

  • Can You Tell Me About Yourself? – You’ll want to give your interviewer some brief information on your background, education, skills, and achievements. Don’t get carried away by giving your complete life story or personal information that’s not to the job. Only provide the interviewer with information that relates to the job or demonstrates your enthusiasm to join the team.
  • Can You Tell Me About Your Work History? – If you have a limited or a non-existent work history, talk about experiences that taught you skills that can be applied to the job you’re interviewing for. This includes any school projects, volunteer work, NS, or internships you participated in.
  • What Are Your Strengths/Weaknesses? – When you speak about your strengths, make sure they are relevant to the skills the company is looking (ex. saying you’re a great networker when applying for a business development job). When talking about your weaknesses, choose something that’s not really negative (ex. saying you get frustrated when you don’t succeed). Expect to give specific examples of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Why Do You Want This Job? – The answer you give should highlight your absolute interest in the company’s products, goals, and success. It should also include how you like a good challenge and you’re excited about the prospect of “growing” with the company. You should NEVER make this answer about salary, benefits, or desperation for a job.
  • What Is the Most Difficult Situation You’ve Been In? – The interviewer is not asking this question just to know what your greatest problem was, but to get an answer on how you dealt with it and ultimately solved it. If you can answer with a problem/solution that’s related to the job, you’ll really nail this question!
  • What Career Goals Do You Have? – Interviewers use this question to gauge whether they’re interviewing a potential long-term employee, or someone who’ll leave after a year. Keep in mind that employers shy away from hiring employees who aren’t “committed” to working for them long-term.
  • What Do You Know About Our Company? – Giving a detailed, but brief answer about the company’s history, products, competition, and challenges is a great way to show your interviewer that you’re serious about working there. And if you can’t find information about the company, tell the interviewer information was limited and eagerly ask to know more about the company.


Getting Interviewed


Now this is what I call dressing to win that job!


Practicing your answers until you respond to each question with confidence is a big part of having a successful interview. But even with good answers, there are still plenty of mistakes that can reduce your chance of getting hired.

In fact, your interview starts even before you hear the first question, and ends only when you thank the interviewer for his/her time.

Here are several big interview mistakes to avoid:

  • Arriving to the Interview Late: Arriving late for the job interview is enough for most employers to eliminate you as a candidate. Avoid this by planning your transportation ahead of time so that you’ll make it to the interview at least 10 minutes early.
  • Turn off Your Cell Phone: You should turn off your cell phone right before you go into the office. That way, you won’t have to worry about any embarrassing disruptions during the interview.
  • Dress Professionally: Dressing too casual gives employers the impression that you’re not serious about the job. But if you dress in at least business attire, you’ll eliminate any chance of making a bad first impression (at least appearance-wise).
  • Shake Hands Firmly: From the moment you’re greeted in the meeting room to the moment your interviewer(s) sit down, always introduce yourself with a smile and shakes hands firmly. If you fail to shake hands firmly or don’t shake at all, it can be seen as disrespectful.
  • Watch Your Body Language: During the interview, your interviewer won’t just be paying attention to your answers, but your body language. So during the interview, make sure you sit straight, look your interviewer in the eyes, and don’t fidget with anything in your hands. Otherwise you’ll give the impression you’re not confident or can’t focus properly.
  • Answer Questions with Confidence: As long as you prepared well for the interview, you’ll be able to answer questions with confidence. But if you get asked a question you didn’t prepare for, don’t panic or get flustered. Instead, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and give a sincere answer that relates how hiring you will benefit the company.
  • Don’t Forget to Thank Your Interviewer: After your interview, you should smile, address your interviewer(s) by name, shake hands, and say thank you. If you want to make an even better impression, send your interviewer(s) a letter thanking them for the interviewer – email is good but a posted letter will definitely stand out. 


Know any other good first job interview strategies? Share your experience with us on Facebook!

Image Credits:
Light Collector, Chris Hester, Becky Stern, vu_hai2k

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.