How To Nail Your Job Interview

published by Ana García

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You’ve received an email from HR and it’s good news: they like your CV and you have your first job interview. Awesome! Now it’s time to show them why you’re a perfect fit for the role.

We’ve prepared our top tips to help you land that job (but if you’re still in the process of getting the interview, check out our CV templates instead).

Are you ready?

Tip 1: Prepare, prepare and prepare:

  • Pay close attention to the job description
    If possible, print the job description and underline specific skills and tasks that they’re looking for. Think about how you can tie those skills and tasks to your background. For example, if the job ad mentions you need analytical skills, think about 2 or 3 scenarios where you’ve shown analytical skills in previous jobs, schools or personal projects. The same goes for any task mentioned that you’ve done before; think about examples and stories you could tell that show that you know how to perform them.
  • Prepare for the most common questions.
    Many of the questions you’ll have to answer are well known interview questions, so preparing for those already gives you an advantage. Some examples are “Tell me more about yourself”, “Why do you want to work here” or “what are your biggest strengths and weaknesses”. For an exhaustive list of the top 125 questions and their explanation, check out this article.
  • Practice with a friend
    Even if you’ve done your homework writing down answers to the most common questions, practicing by yourself might not cut it. If you have the chance, practice with a friend by handing them the list of questions. This trick allows you to practice in a more realistic environment, plus you can get valuable feedback on what to improve. Better to make mistakes with a friend than with an interviewer!
  • Research the company
    This involves studying the company website, understanding their products or services, checking them on social media, reading recent mentions in the media or press releases, talking with anybody that you know that works there, etc. You will probably need to explain why you applied to them in particular, so understanding the company in depth will give you the right answers, and show that you’ve done your homework.

Tip 2: Professionalism first

  • Be on time
    Make sure you allow plenty of time for the journey, especially if you’re visiting for first time and using public transport. Plan to leave a buffer of at least 15 minutes (or more depending on your city). Arriving late to an interview gives a terrible first impression.
  • Never criticize past companies
    Criticizing your previous or current employer will likely create a bad impression. Even if you’re unsatisfied with your current job, focus on the positives such as what you’ve learnt there. You will probably be asked to explain why you’re searching for a new role, but remain respectful and positive about your current job.
  • Research the dress code
    While many companies are caring less and less about how you dress, you want to be on the safe side here and avoid showing up in jeans for a company that values smart dress. Researching the type of company, asking people you know or even asking HR are good ideas to make sure you don’t mess up. And if you’re not sure, it’s always best to play it safe and dress as smartly as possible.
  • Prepare your outfit before the day
    Your interview will get off to a bad start if you discover 15 minutes before you planned to leave that the shirt you intended to wear has a stain or is wrinkled. Better to plan, check and polish your outfit the previous day.

Tip 3: Nail the interview

  • Try to remain calm.
    It’s easier said than done, but there are some tricks that will help you relax and be natural. Good preparation is one of them, as this allows you to focus on how you say things rather than thinking from scratch what to reply. Also, it’s good to remind yourself that this is not a school test, for the most part there are no right or wrong answers – it’s just a way for a company to see if you could fit into their environment.
  • Ask questions
    When it’s your chance to ask questions, use it! It will show that you’re interested in the position, and also it’s a great opportunity to learn even more about the company. Prepare your questions beforehand, and if you run out of ideas, you can simply ask more about the role, your team, specific tasks, expectations, how your success will be measured, etc.

Tip 4: Know what to do after the interview

  • Ask about timings. Before you leave the interview, be sure you understand what to expect next. For example when should you expect to hear more, and what would the next step be if they want to proceed. Depending on the company and the role, the hiring process can take anything between a couple of weeks and several months. It often includes talking to several members of the company on the phone or in person, performing certain tasks or tests to show your skills, etc. It’ s always good to be informed about these processes and plan accordingly.
  • (Optional) Send a thank-you note. While not obligatory, it might make sense to send a thank you note and use it to emphasize your interest in the role. Keep it short and simple, you want to appear polite and interested, not desperate!
  • Got rejected? Ask why. Learning from your mistakes will help you improve in your next interview. As you do more interviews you’ll become better until you get your perfect role.

Further reading on the Xara Blog:

Get your dream job with our simple CV editor
Resumes – Stand Out From The Crowd

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