Five dos and five don’ts you need to know to ace your first job interview

Getting ready for your first proper job interview after leaving university or college? Here are five things you need to do – and five things you REALLY don’t want to do.

Your first proper job interview after university or college is a nerve-wracking experience. What do you need to do? What should you say? How should you act?

How can you shake off (some of) your nerves and ensure you make the best possible impression? To help you, I’m sharing five things you do want to do, and five things you really don’t!

Five things you need to do in your first job interview

So what should you do in your first job interview if you want it to be a successful? Here are five dos.

1) Arrive early

When I say ‘be early’ I don’t mean you need to show up an hour before your interview starts. But it’s a good idea to plan to arrive round 10-15 minutes before.

Not only does this show you’re punctual and keen, but it gives you time to find a parking space, and allows for delays on public transport and getting lost. The last thing you want to do is arrive stressed and panicked after a tricky journey.

2) Dress appropriately

Make sure you pick out an outfit that’s appropriate for the kind of role you’re going for, and a job interview in general. (Check out our article on how to dress to impress for an interview here.)

You want to present yourself as neat, tidy and clean. So make sure you get your outfit ready a week before This will give you time to buy any accessories you need, or replace clothes you’ve grown out of, and wash or dry clean any items that need it.

3) Research the job you are going for

Before your interview, find out what sorts of things happen at the company you’re interviewing at, and think about the tasks you may need to do if you get the job.

This way you’ll feel more prepared at your interview, and will appear more confident and genuine when you tell the employer that you are prepared for the job.

It also gives you a chance to ensure this is really a company you what to work for, and a job you believe you’ll enjoy and can excel in.

4) Get ready for questions

During a job interview you’ll be asked lots of questions – you’ll also be expected to ask questions of your own. So make sure you’re prepared.

To start with, make sure you have answers for the 10 most difficult job interview questions you could be asked. And have some questions ready to ask yourself – if you don’t it can look like you don’t care or haven’t prepared properly.

To make sure you feel confident on the day, practise roleplaying your interview with a friend or family member. This way the real interview can feel less overwhelming.

5) Practise good body language

Before you even say a word on your job interview the recruiter will have already formed an impression of you based on what you wear and how you act.

So make sure you practice good body language – this includes maintaining (natural) eye contact, a firm handshake and smiling.

Five things you DON’T want to do in a job interview

So that’s what you DO want to do. her are five things to avoid if you want to make the right impression in your first job interview after university or college.

1) Don’t be late

If you don’t want to be rejected before your job interview has even stated, then don’t be late for it.

Turning up late gives the impression that you’re not that bothered about the job, you have low commitment levels or you’re not a great planner – none of which are employable traits!

2) Don’t be ignorant

Interviewing for a job when you clearly know nothing about the company, or worse, the role you allegedly want, is a big no-no.

Why would a recruiter hire someone who didn’t care enough to research the job before applying? Even if you were capable of the role, you might not enjoy working for the company.

So demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by researching these five things before your job interview.

3) Don’t disrespect anyone

From the moment you leave your front door for your job interview, assume that everyone you encounter has a say on whether you’ll get hired or not.

For all you know, a ‘harmless’ dirty look you give someone for taking your space in the car park could be your employer coming back from their lunch break.

Or the person whose seat you quickly sneak into on the bus is someone on your recruitment panel. That would be a very awkward interview.

4) Don’t say no

When you’re in an interview and you’re asked about something you haven’t done or don’t know, never use the word “no” when responding to a question.

Instead say you don’t have that experience ‘yet’ or steer the conversation into something else that shows you up in a good light. Here’s an example:

  • Recruiter: Do you know how to create PowerPoint presentations?
  • You: I haven’t created PowerPoint presentations yet, but I put together regular class presentations on Google Slides and I am sure I’ll pick it up quickly.

It’s important that, while you don’t respond with “no” that you also don’t lie. Telling the employer that you’re a whizz with PowerPoint could lead to an embarrassing admission if they ask you further questions.

5) Don’t leave your phone on

You don’t want to risk getting a call, text or notification during your interview. Or worse, check your phone to see who has contact you – it looks disrespectful and is likely to lead to an instant rejection.

So make sure your phone is switched off before you enter the room, and give your recruiter your full attention.

Need help finding your first job after university or college?

Trying to find your first proper job after leaving university or college? You’ll find more helpful advice in these articles:

Rosie Heath is a pupil at Chatsmore Catholic High School and aspiring journalist.

Photo by Chris Barbalis