Picture this… You’ve been feeling stuck for the last few months in your current role. On a quiet Friday night, you casually stumble upon an advertisement for your dream job while scrolling through SEEK. The salary is more than you could ask for! It’s close to home, the company promotes a healthy work/life balance and offers free coffee every morning. How could you pass this one up?

You send through an incredible resume and cover letter. Before you know it, you’ve got a call from the company’s HR Manager inviting you to an interview the following week. Naturally, you’re nervous and flustered (understandably so!) There is so much pressure to impress at your first interview, and often have only 30 minutes to prove your value and show a group of strangers that you’re the best candidate.

Sometimes, nerves can get the better of us, and we may not perform at our best on the day. You already know what a great addition you’d be to their company—so let’s get you a little more prepared and ensure you blow them away with your knowledge, skills, and charm. Here are my 5 tips to help you nail that interview and make an unforgettable first impression.

Tip 1: Prepare for common interview questions

What will they ask?

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why did you leave your last role?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • How has your experience prepared you for this role?
  • Tell me about a time when you had a conflict at work and how you dealt with it?

To find out exactly what questions a particular company might ask, it’s a good idea to check places like Glassdoor and see what previous interviewees had to say. You can also check out the company website as they might have interview tips there.

Also, make sure you know exactly what’s on your resume to best explain your previous roles and provide well-thought-out professional examples relevant to this position. You don’t want to get caught missing a beat, and have the interviewer think you’ve made it all up.

How to answer these questions

These may seem difficult to answer under pressure, but it will be less nerve-wracking if you follow through with a straightforward strategy. Make sure you respond with a compelling but short story. Start with a hook, include measurable metrics and results. 

In your answers, the interviewer will be looking to see if you fit their team culture, you’re adaptable, and you’re able to think on your feet when issues arise.

Practice, practice, practice

You may want to jot your responses down and practice memorising what you want to communicate a few days before the interview. It will be helpful to say them to yourself in the mirror, set up a mock interview with friends or family, or use voice notes and listen a few times a day if you can.

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Tip 2: Research the company

What you can look for

  • Profitability of the company
  • Any challenges they face and how you’d plan to deal with them
  • Company culture
  • Read or listen to earnings announcements or annual shareholder meetings.

Social media check

  • How do they interact with their users?
  • What’s their tone?
  • Are there significant events coming up?
  • Do they have a positive response?

Read customer reviews

Customer reviews help you consider the impact the company has on the community and its customers. How do they handle customer feedback, and is this a business you want to be working for?

Research the interviewers

You want to build rapport quickly with your interviewers. Researching them is an excellent way to find out what lights them up. By talking about activities you enjoy and could have in common, you connect with them on a psychological level and activate the pleasure centres, ultimately warming them up to you at a rapid rate.

Doing the research is easy! You can simply type their name into Google and look for articles they’ve been published in, check on their website (if they have one), or review their LinkedIn profile.

Listen to interviews with people of impact in the organisation

These days, you can find anything on YouTube, Linked In, or Facebook. Use those tools to find video interviews from the CEO or major players to gain better insight into who they are and how they operate.

Tip 3: Get clear on what you can do for the company

This is super important! Of course, you want to make sure you provide examples and talk about yourself a bit, but don’t focus too heavily on “me, me, me.”

In a way, you’re selling the benefits of having you onboard, and sales is always about what you can do for them. The aim of your interview is to communicate your value and show an interview panel how you can solve their company’s core problems.

For example, you could prepare a short pitch of an idea that would solve one of their problems (you’d get to know some of their pain points through researching the company in the above tips). Make sure you choose the right medium for the industry you’re interviewing for. If this role is for customer experience, you might want to present an idea that helps customers overcome their biggest problem.

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Tip 4: What to do on the day of the interview

Watch your attitude

First impressions count for everything, especially walking into a job interview. An article by Forbes states that we only have 7 seconds to make a great first impression. So, you’ll want to make sure you arrive with a smile on your face and are polite to everyone you encounter on your way into the office.

You never know if Lisa from the reception desk is the CEO or the man you pushed past on the way in will be your future manager. Manners might seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who come in with a standoffish attitude and a sour face.

Be kind, always.

Be early

Prepare for every worst-case scenario to happen on the morning of an important interview because it probably will—anything from car breakdowns and heavy traffic to spilling coffee all over your new interview ensemble. 

I have seen it all! Get whatever you can ready the night before, pack a spare set of clothes into the car and aim to get to the interview location at least 30- 45 minutes early. You’ll be able to sit at a nearby cafe while you wait, gather your thoughts, and gracefully walk into the building to check-in for your interview 10 minutes early.

Giving yourself this time and arriving cool, calm, and collected shows that you take this interview and potential role seriously and would be a reliable team member.

Brush up on your active listening

Non-verbal communication skills (or lack thereof) could make or break your interview. It’s essential to keep good eye contact and actively listen to what the interviewer is saying. If you’re always looking down, out the window, or at your phone (BIG NO, NO!), then your future employer may think you’re no longer interested in the role.

Body language is another good way to show you’re capable of taking on the role. Sitting up straight and being alert will give off positive, confident vibes. Even if you’re nervous, sitting tall and poised will automatically bring you a sense of ease.

Tip 5: Prepping your mind for success

Eat a healthy dinner & breakfast

When you nourish your body, you nourish your mind. Adding things like whole grains, Omega-3s and vegetables high in B vitamins (broccoli or spinach) to your dinner can help improve your memory and increase mental alertness. Avoiding sugars or caffeine the night before will also help you get a better night’s sleep, ensuring you’re well-rested to take on anything.

The morning of, you want to avoid too much caffeine or any smelly or carb-loaded foods. A strong coffee too close to your interview will enhance your nerves and have you speeding through your responses. Leaving out the heavy carbs will ensure you won’t feel so weighed down or sleepy, and not eating garlic or onion will have you smelling fresh all day (winning!)

Get eight total hours of sleep

There’s nothing worse than starting your day off exhausted and groggy because you didn’t sleep well. Give yourself an appropriate bedtime, put on some soothing music, and count those sheep into dreamland. You’ll thank yourself when you’re able to turn up to your interview bright-eyed and full of energy.

Hit the gym

An article by Mayo Clinic states that exercise is an excellent way to relieve the negative symptoms of stress. It also pumps up your endorphins, making you feel good! When you concentrate on the movements of your body and getting your sweat on, all of your worries melt away, and you’ll increase your mental clarity.

Deep breaths & meditation

Before you walk into the room, work through some focused breathing techniques or a short meditation. If you can find a quiet park bench outside the office, that would be best. Otherwise, you can sit in your car and work through it. Even doing this for a few minutes will help improve your mental clarity and relax you enough to shine through your interview.

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Following these tips will help you reduce stress levels before the big day and give you peace of mind that you’re able to achieve the outcome you want. In addition to those, don’t be afraid to show up authentically. It’s okay to inject some personality into how you present yourself.

Companies want to work with people who are genuine and that they like. Bringing a little personal flare is only going to make you more comfortable on the day. This way, you won’t need to act like anyone else and show them how wonderful you are!

In times of the COVID pandemic, interviews may vary slightly and will likely be on Zoom or other video calls. The same rules apply, and you’ll want to put your best self forward.

The perfect career awaits. Deep breaths, and good luck!

Pam Foster is a former hiring manager ready to help you land your dream career. She shares job search strategy insights with one simple goal – to help you stand out, captivate and impact hiring managers.