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How to Survive Your First Job Interview

By Zain Nabi

Updated March 17, 2021 Updated March 17, 2021

Getting a first job is always a difficult task. You are caught up in dilemmas that increase your anxiety by every minute. The fear of failure, and uncertainty about what the interviewer will ask do not help either. I myself was certainly very nervous before my first job interview, but if life has thought me anything it is to put my game face on when I am out there in the open.

A friend recently got a first job interview call, and for understandable he was frightened and confused. It was the first time his résumé had been accepted and his application progressed to the next stage. He asked for my help and I think it’s worth sharing the experience…

1.  Put your game face on

To begin with, this friend is an idiot. He will pick your brain for no reason and I hardly take him seriously. But this time I could sense a determination in his voice. He really wanted to see it through and was willing to work on whatever I would tell him. Given that it’s hard to get jobs without any experience and proper qualifications, I asked how he expected to get this job while still studying. “Well, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not complete their degrees.” His answer was the most clichéd response ever. But, he had clearly put his game face on.

2.  Set the scene

I set up a role play scenario where I played the role of the job interviewer. He played along. He knocked on my door, came in the room and took a seat, all while maintaining a professional outlook. That was impressive. However, he was understandably not able to give proper answers to my questions. For instance, when I asked him why he was the best of the candidates, he simply said he would do whatever I as an employer asked him.

3.  Be specific

The key to impressing in most job interviews is to be specific. You are there to market yourself so play to your individual strengths and highlight your unique features. Make sure you’re offering something new. Is there anything different (read better) that you would bring to the table? It’s a good idea to think your answers through beforehand (or at least before speaking out loud) and be as specific as possible. As for my friend, his next attempt was to say that his management skills could help the organization.

4.  Give complete answers

Well, referring to management skills was close to being specific. But it was not a complete answer. While making such comments you must never simply stop there. You need to further elaborate or else the follow-up question will ask you to do the same. “How did you acquire these skills?” That was my next question. This doesn’t mean tell a longwinded story of your life, but provide a decent package in an answer. Include concrete examples of occasions when you’ve used certain skills or shown certain qualities. That’s how you stand out.

5.  Channel your passions

Now the question is, how to provide a complete answer? Certainly, without any relevant work experience it is hard to give examples. But take some time to reflect on what really makes you tick. In my friend’s case, the explanation was simple. I knew he loved soccer, so I shaped my conversation around his area of interest. Before long, he was passionately talking about the tactics, strategy, team spirit, dedication and psychology of the game. While many others would be able to do just the same, few would be able to turn this to their advantage in a job interview.

Even though everyone has a unique set of skills, it is the presentation of these skills that matters the most during a job interview. You might have all the relevant experience and skills you could wish for – but if you’re not able to present these to the job interviewer, you’ll definitely fail.

That conversation definitely helped my friend, and I hope it is of help to many of you as well. Best of luck hunting and getting that first job; put your game face on!

This article was originally published in May 2015 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Hailing from Pakistan, Zain finished a Masters of Journalism and International Relations at Monash University in Australia. He is working as a journalist and media trainer in Melbourne along with secretly harboring an ambition to become a filmmaker.