10 tips on how to prepare for your first interview

Over the last year, I’ve coached over 150 students and working professionals from Europe, North America, South America and Asia on how to prepare for interviews to land their dream job. Many of them have landed jobs at large companies with a market valuation in the billions while others have landed jobs at small fast growth startups.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to prepare for your first interview:

  1. Leverage creative assets - Most people that go into an interview bring a cover letter and a copy of their resume. Don’t be most people. Go above and beyond and show the interviewer how much you want this job. How do you do that? Two words: Creative assets. For example, you could create a 10 slide Powerpoint deck on how you’re going to make an impact on the company as a digital marketer. That deck could highlight your goals, the 30, 60, 90 day plan, your skill sets and more. And best of all, it should be personalized to the goals of the company and the job responsibilities of the role you’re applying for. This will help show the company that you really want the job and are willing to go the extra mile to demonstrate that to them. Need help making creative assets? I wrote a best selling book (over 40,000 Kindle copies) on how Matt Epstein did this and landed 80 interview offers. You can get a free copy here if it helps!

  2. Learn about the interviewer - If you happen to know who your interviewer is going to be ahead of time, look them up on LinkedIn and Google and get to know as much about them as possible. For example, if you read my LinkedIn profile you’ll see I’m really passionate about helping startups and that could be a fantastic topic to build rapport around. Or maybe you noticed I’m a UCLA Bruin and you went to UCLA too. That could be another rapport building topic as well.

  3. Learn to use callbacks - This is a tool that comedians use, where they refer back to an old joke they told earlier in their stand up. I’m not telling you to tell jokes of course. What I am telling you is that it can be very effective to reference or summarize previously discussed important talking points in the interview. For example, if the interviewer tells you about 3 key things they’re looking for in a new hire, you could potentially refer to those later on in the discussion. It shows that you are actively listening and sharp enough to remember the important talking points.

  4. Practice - A lot. Practice with a friend or family member in a role play. Practice using flash cards. Practice in the mirror. Here’s a pro tip: Usually in most of your interviews you’ll find there are a very common set of questions the interviewer will ask such as “Why do you want to for this company?” And you need to be really prepared with a personalized, well thought out answer. Not sure what questions will be asked? Don’t worry, I (along with the help of a HR expert from a Fortune 100 company) wrote a guide of 500 of the top interview questions and answers for you here.

  5. Do your research - What’s the company mission? What’s the company culture like? What are the products or services the company offers? Who is on the leadership team? What are the job responsibilities? How well is the company doing financially? If you don’t know the answers to these types of questions, start doing your research. Now.

  6. The 15 minutes early rule - Once I had an awesome manager at Cisco who taught me this great lesson: Being 15 minutes early to a meeting is being on time. Make sure you give yourself a buffer so you don’t risk being late to your interview. You definitely don’t want to be sprinting to the interview and arriving all out of breath. You want to make a great first impression after all, right?

  7. Remember to breath - When I first started interviewing, I would get super nervous. I was so afraid of failing and it reflected in my interviews. I would speak really quickly and often rush to answer the question. Here’s a secret I wish someone told me when I first started out: you don’t always have to answer right away. Slow down, take a breath and really spend time being thoughtful about your answer to the question. And even if you don’t know the answer, remember that it’s okay to say…

  8. I don’t know - Be prepared to say it. If you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend like you do. People will often read right through it.

  9. Learn to send a follow up note - Whether it’s an email, video or even a screen share recording, make sure you send a highly personalized follow up “note” to the interviewer to let them know how you’re going to deliver value to the company. For example, you could highlight the top 3 ways you’ll be amazing in the job role.

  10. Remember to enjoy the journey - You’re on the path to your dream job so take a moment to appreciate every step. High five your friend that helps you with your interview role play. Do a fist pump after you crush your interview. Because you know what? The journey is the best part.

Wishing you all the best,


Nelson WangComment