12 strategies for acing your first job interview

12 strategies for acing your first job interview was originally published on College Recruiter.

Although some employers like Amazon have stopped interviewing candidates for some jobs such as package handler, the reality is that virtually all candidates for virtually all jobs are interviewed by recruiters, hiring managers, and others.

Some interviewers are well-trained. Sadly, many are not. Some interviews reveal to both the interviewer and interviewee that there’s a great match. Others create more problems than they solve as the questions, answers, or both can, at times, be useless at best and harmful or even illegal at worst.

Into this fray we thrust people who have never interviewed for a job and we expect them to be as proficient as those who have interviewed dozens or even hundreds of times. What do those first-time job seekers need to know in order to succeed? Does that vary industry-to-industry? To help answer these questions, we asked 12 thought leaders to each share one tip for new job seekers who are preparing to interview for a job.

  • Practice Job Description Mapping
  • Bring Digital Marketing Improvement Ideas
  • Practice Case Interview Techniques
  • Highlight Problem-Solving in Academic Projects
  • Conduct Mock Interviews for Confidence
  • Emphasize Adaptability and Continuous Learning
  • Research and Understand Staffing Industry
  • Detail SaaS Experience and Contributions
  • Learn HR Terms and Demonstrate Transferable Skills
  • Research Company Deeply for Finance Role
  • Tailor Resume for Public Sector Applications
  • Craft a Compelling Elevator Pitch

Practice Job Description Mapping

As someone who has interviewed engineers and technologists in the civil, geotechnical, environmental, and software fields, here’s one area for job seekers to practice if they’re seeking opportunities in the engineering space at large.

This technique is called job description mapping, and it does a couple of things:

1. It helps you form the habit of using the right terminology in the interview—the team’s own terminology, to be specific.

2. It signals to the interviewer that you’re more qualified for the role.

To do this, you’re going to read the job description carefully, highlight action words, and map those action words to your own experience so that when describing your past jobs, projects, etc., you’re mirroring the company’s language.

If you’re a business analyst, for example, action keywords might be things like ‘SQL,’ ‘data analysis,’ or ‘database management’.

James Cooper, Cofounder and Resume Writer, Final Draft Resumes

Bring Digital Marketing Improvement Ideas

If you’re pursuing a role in digital marketing, one of the most effective ways to impress the hiring manager is to arrive at the interview with ideas on improving their current strategy.

Digital marketers need to be versatile problem-solvers, capable of spotting and addressing flaws and opportunities in website design, architecture, editorial content, and marketing strategy. By providing thoughtful suggestions in the interview, you’ll demonstrate a detailed understanding of the employer and their industry, and give them a sense of how you’ll help the team if hired.

The specific suggestions you should give will depend on the role’s responsibilities.

Let’s say the employer was looking for someone to manage their website’s content schedule and implement their on-page SEO strategy. Your first step would be to scour the employer’s blog and landing pages for opportunities that would add to their authority and ability to anticipate and address user needs.

Even if the employer doesn’t directly ask for feedback, you can use this information to tailor your other answers to their specific needs, helping you come across as informed and enthusiastic about the role.

Sebastian Morgan, Senior Content Specialist, CV Genius

Practice Case Interview Techniques

If you’re going for a case interview, make sure to practice! Some great content is available on YouTube, showing candidates how to prepare and work through a case study. Then, work with a friend or family member, having them ask you a case study question until it’s perfect.

Justin Abrams, Founder & CEO, Aryo Consulting Group

Highlight Problem-Solving in Academic Projects

For graduates with limited work experience preparing for interviews in the technology industry, it’s essential to highlight your problem-solving abilities through relevant academic projects, internships, or extracurricular activities.

Even if you lack professional experience, you likely have completed coursework or participated in projects that involved problem-solving in a tech-related context. Reflect on these experiences and be prepared to discuss them in detail during the interview.

Additionally, consider completing relevant online courses or certifications to bolster your technical skills and demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning. Many reputable platforms offer free or low-cost courses covering a wide range of tech topics, from programming languages to data analysis.

During the interview, emphasize your ability to learn quickly, adapt to new challenges, and work effectively in a team. Showcase your enthusiasm for the industry and your eagerness to contribute to the organization’s success.

By showcasing your problem-solving skills and demonstrating a proactive attitude toward learning and growth, you’ll position yourself as a promising candidate for entry-level roles in the technology industry.

Margaret Buj, Interview Coach and Sr. Talent Acquisition Partner, Mixmax

Conduct Mock Interviews for Confidence

While I’ve been in the education/career space for a long time, interviews still get my nerves buzzing sometimes. But here’s one tip I’ve always found helpful: do mock interviews. Whether you practice by talking it out yourself or involve others, rehearsing can boost your confidence. Take a deep breath and relax. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but remember, it’s a two-way conversation. Take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering, and don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something. Honesty and a willingness to learn are valued qualities in any candidate.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

Emphasize Adaptability and Continuous Learning

In the dynamic field of technology, where innovation is paramount, a key strategy for new job-seekers preparing for an interview is to showcase their adaptability and continuous-learning mindset. Given the rapid pace of technological advancements, employers in the tech industry highly value candidates who can swiftly adapt to evolving trends and acquire new skills. Therefore, my top tip for aspiring tech professionals is to emphasize their commitment to ongoing learning and staying updated with the latest industry developments.

During the interview, candidates should discuss specific instances where they proactively pursued new skills or took initiatives to stay ahead in their previous roles. This could involve online courses, certifications, or participation in industry events. Demonstrating a willingness to embrace change and learn on the job not only reflects a candidate’s adaptability but also signals a proactive approach toward personal and professional growth. In the tech industry, where innovation is synonymous with success, showcasing a continuous-learning mindset can significantly enhance a candidate’s appeal to potential employers.

Steven Mostyn, Chief Human Resources Officer, Management.org

Research and Understand Staffing Industry

When prepping for an interview in staffing and recruiting, a crucial tip is to thoroughly research the company to understand its mission, values, and the kinds of positions they typically recruit for. Familiarizing yourself with common staffing and recruiting terminology, as well as industry trends, can showcase your knowledge during the interview. This research can prove helpful when you are practicing answering behavioral questions to showcase your ability to source candidates. Finally, you should be prepared to discuss your own experiences, skills, and how they align with all the research you have done prior to your interview. If you focus on these tips, you should ace it!

Sarah Manrique Chiriboga, Recruitment Consultant, Hays

Detail SaaS Experience and Contributions

Showcase your experience working with SaaS products, platforms, or clients. Provide specific examples of projects, achievements, or challenges you’ve encountered and how you’ve contributed to the success of SaaS initiatives.

Zahra Kadhem, Lead Talent Acquisition Business Partner, Achievers

Learn HR Terms and Demonstrate Transferable Skills

As a Recruitment Specialist and Interview Coach, I’m often asked about how to move into HR/Human Resources. To prepare for an interview in HR as a new job seeker, here’s what I recommend: Familiarize yourself with HR terms such as an HR scorecard, grievances, onboarding, and talent mapping. Just doing a quick search on these terms helps you to shape an idea of what is included in a general HR role, and interviewers are usually impressed by someone who has gone out of their way to understand the industry. Have a think about transferable skills you can bring; for example, building strong internal relationships is critical in most areas of HR, so any customer service experience, or any experience working with others and building relationships, can be an excellent transferable skill. Lastly, demonstrate an understanding of the typical challenges within HR so your interviewer knows you have a realistic understanding of the job and won’t be overwhelmed. One of these challenges is variation – HR can be extremely varied, which makes it an exciting and rewarding industry, but at times, very stressful. Therefore, demonstrating you can manage your time and categorize tasks by ‘urgent vs. important’ is a powerful skill to demonstrate.

Amri Celeste, Interview Coach, A Celeste Coaching

Research Company Deeply for Finance Role

My top strategy for any job seeker preparing for a finance interview is to thoroughly research the company and role.

Go beyond just reading the job description. Dive into the company’s website, social media, news articles, and any other sources you can find. Get a deep understanding of their mission, values, products/services, culture, organizational structure, and recent news or initiatives. This will allow you to craft thoughtful questions, speak knowledgeably about the role during the interview, and show genuine interest in the company.

It’s also crucial to brush up on your finance knowledge. Review key concepts, terms, and trends related to the specific position. For example, if it’s an investment banking role, bone up on valuation methodologies, common deal structures, and market conditions. Think through examples that showcase your finance skills and problem-solving abilities.

Sai Blackbyrn, CEO, Coach Foundation

Tailor Resume for Public Sector Applications

One of the most valuable tips I can share is the importance of tailoring your resume and cover letter for each application. Tailoring your application materials to match the specific job and agency you’re applying to shows that you’re genuinely interested and invested in the opportunity. Highlighting relevant skills and experiences in a personalized way, using strong language and concrete examples, can really catch the attention of hiring managers. Don’t forget to tap into your network for advice and insights, and stay informed about current government initiatives related to your field. Showing that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about the work can set you apart during interviews. Lastly, focus on honing those key skills that are highly valued in the public sector, like communication, problem-solving, and project management. With a thoughtful and targeted approach, you’ll be well-prepared to make a positive impression in your next interview.

Michael Hurwitz, CEO and Co-Founder, Careers in Government

Craft a Compelling Elevator Pitch

Regardless of the industry, most job interviews start the same way: The interviewer will say, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ This isn’t the time to talk about your hobbies, your family, or to ramble on for five minutes. When the interviewer asks for your introduction, you should be prepared with your ‘elevator pitch.’ An elevator pitch should be intentionally crafted, last for approximately 45-90 seconds, and should highlight why you’re perfect for this specific job. Though you don’t want to sound like a robot, having your intro polished will go a long way. A great elevator pitch is a powerful way to be prepared for your interview.

Logan Mallory, Keynote Speaker, Logan Mallory Speaks

By College Recruiter
College Recruiter believes that every student and recent grad deserves a great career.