There are literally a bajillion resources online on how to prepare for a job interview. How you should dress, what you should say, what you should research and memorise. But a lot of that stuff tends to be either too vague or too gimmicky and anything beyond the obvious – dress well and show up on time – can be hard to put in to practice. So here is part one of a two part column on the advice I’ve found helpful when it comes to job interviews. I think job interviews are a lot like public speaking in that it mostly comes down to practice and feigned confidence. It’s a myth that some people are naturally better than others – if you want to be good at it, you can learn. I like to think I’m better at interviewing than I was a few years ago and here are some of the nuggets I’ve picked up since then.

One thing everyone will tell you about prepping for an interview is to do your research. This is really important, but there’s no need to get carried away memorising the names of the board members, sales figures and the year they were founded. Your interviewer isn’t going to be quizzing you on the history of the company – there might be a cursory ‘Tell us what you know about or business’ but all they’ll want to know is that you’ve taken the time to learn the basics. What you do need to read up on is how that company is positioned in the market – how they see themselves compared to other similar businesses (i.e. their branding and their unique selling point), their size, and any large current projects or initiatives. Make sure you know the names and job titles of whoever’s interviewing you, the names of any other key figures in the company, and a rough overview of their background. The aim is just to make sure you’re not starting from scratch in your conversation with them and remember that these aren’t facts you’re learning with the purpose of repeating back in your interview. This is mainly for your own reference so that you have a good sense of the company you’re going to speak with, and you’re able to have a good quality, intelligent exchange.

Again, there is heaps of advice online about how to dress for an interview and a lot of it is garbage. Yes, you need to wear something clean and professional. No, that isn’t open to interpretation unless you’re explicitly told by your interviewer that you can dress casually (even then, err towards business casual). I’ve heard a lot of talk about how if you dress in your normal work clothes it will better help them visualise you having the job, or you’ll “stand out” and they’ll remember you. But I think is missing the point: If you rock up to a job interview in jeans, you probably won’t get the job and it won’t be because you wore jeans to an interview. It will be because you’ve signalled that you don’t understand (or care about) normal professional conduct and even in a pretty casual workplace, that’s still important. I have a few visual tattoos on my arms and hands and I always make an effort to cover them for an interview. Not because I think they wouldn’t hire me if they saw them, but because I want them to know that I know how to be a professional. My usual work outfit consists of jeans, t shirt and cardigan, nobody cares about my tattoos. But I’m good at my job and my boss knows that I can turn it out for a client if I need to. So just wear something nice. You’ll figure it out but don’t listen to anybody that tells you that dressing down is some kind of strategy.

Once you’ve got your research and your outfit, you need to get in to the right head space. I like to get PUMPED for job interviews. I listen to this song, and just keep telling myself that I am awesome and qualified and all of the other candidates are dumb-dumbs with bad breath. You’ll probably be asked why you think you’ll be good at the job, so go back over the spec with a copy of your resume and come up with a list of reasons why your experience and personality makes you a perfect fit. At the end of the interview they’ll ask you if you have any questions, so be prepared with anything you’d like to know about the company or the role. Even if there’s nothing specific, you should still ask something like, ‘What’s the culture like here?’ or ‘Can you tell me what a typical day in this role would look like?’ Having rehearsed phrases at hand always helps me feel a bit calmer. Then I tell myself I’m going to crush it. CRUSH IT!!!!!

This next point is so obvious I feel like I shouldn’t even need to mention it, but – be on time. Besides researching the job and the company, this is maybe the most important thing. Be. On. Time. And that means getting there at the time that was agreed on – if the interview is scheduled for 11.30, get there at 11.30. Again, someone might tell you that you should be there really early to show enthusiasm or something but I’m telling you, that doesn’t work. First of all, like with the dress code thing, it just shows your interviewer that you’re not really up to speed on how this stuff works. And second, it’s kind of rude. Getting there early puts pressure on your interviewer to stop what they’re doing to come out and meet you earlier than they were expecting to, even if it’s only by ten minutes. It doesn’t make a good first impression so be punctual, not too early (and not late, obviously). Personally, I always aim to be at the location stupidly early, like an hour or so before the interview starts so that I have plenty of buffer if I get lost or stuck in traffic or something. But then use that time to get a coffee, collect thoughts and go over notes.

I hope this has all been helpful, for the next part I’ll go over some of the things I found helpful once you’re actually doing the interview. Until next time!