31 May 2023

4.4 How to prepare for your first job interview

Author/Compiled by
Rianna Gonzales (GWPO)
Alessandra Giolo (GWPO)

Executive Summary

In this module we will go through some useful tips and tricks that will help you in any future job interviews. Even if you have already gone through the job interviewing process before it is still a good idea to re-evaluate how you interview and identify the things that you could do better – there is always room for improvement! Want to become a master interviewee? Then scroll down and carryon reading 


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Before an interview go over the following points: 

  • About the company: What do I need to know about this company to show that I am interested in working for it?  
  • About the interviewers: Who will be interviewing me? What is their role in the company? What is their professional background?
  • About me: What are my strengths and weaknesses and how I can I communicate them in an honest but strategic way? Who am I and what are my life dreams? What lifestyle do I want?
  • Interview questions: What questions would I ask myself if I was in the interviewer’s shoes? Should I ask questions at the end of the interview?
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First of all, if you have an interview coming up congratulations, you are one step closer in the game! If you are still waiting for that much anticipated email from a potential employer, don’t fret, we’ve all been there and if this one doesn’t work out another one will but it is still a good idea to be prepared for a potential interview!

If you have been invited for an interview it means that the potential employer has seen something in you that other candidates didn’t have, whether that is your qualifications, experience, skills or a combination of them all. Right now however, you are still a name on a paper with tidy formatting and 0 typos. The employer has seen the trailer and liked it and is ready to see the full movie! Now, we all know that trailers can be misleading sometimes, and a good trailer doesn’t always lead to a good film. Similarly, a bad trailer doesn’t necessarily mean that the film is going to be bad. But enough with the analogy, you see where I’m going. In order to make sure that the employer sees that you are not only who you say you are on paper but so much more, there are a few things that you can do in the pre-interview phase that will put you in a stronger position.


During the interview the interviewer’s job is to find out if you are the right person for the role. Essentially they will seek to answer the following question: “why should I hire you?”. Each interviewer will be looking for a combination of different characteristics but generally speaking every employer will look for someone who is qualified for the role, communicates well (can speak articulately and clearly about their accomplishments), is genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity, and is a good company and culture “fit”. Your job is to convince them that you are the missing piece of the puzzle that they’ve been desperately trying to find! You will also want to get rid of any pre-conceived doubts that they might have about you.   


It is not only about them liking you however, you also want to use this as an opportunity to get a feel for the role and the company and decide whether that is what you are looking for. You will want to ask the following questions_ What does the work really involve? What is the work culture like? Does this position match your professional goals, values, skills, and interests? Is there room for self and professional improvement and job progression?

Interviews can take place under different formats including face to face, virtual, group, panel and even over lunch (intense right :/) . Regardless of what format your interview will be in, the preparation steps will be the same. We have clustered these steps into three key areas:


Before the interview...

  • Research. Do  research on yourself, the position and company.


Get re-acquainted with your resume, cover letter any other documentation that was used in the application process. The interviewer is likely to make reference to the experiences and skills mentioned in your application since that is all they have access to (unless they have taken the time to find out more about you by looking up your digital footprint). Be prepared to talk about these in more detail. You don’t want to repeat what the interviewer already knows but instead you want to build on it to demonstrate that there is a lot more to you. Take time to identify the  strengths, characteristics and qualifications that make you a good fit for the position and find strategic ways of capitalising on these and communicating them strategically.

Research the position beyond what was listed in the job description. One way of doing this is through finding people with similar job roles on professional platforms such as Linkedin or on the websites of similar organisations.   For job descriptions you can also look on Indeed or Glassdoor or if you want something specific to water, there is of course Josh’s Water Jobs.

Do your homework and research the company and those who will be interviewing you (if you know who they are). Learn about the company by reading news articles, their website, and press releases. What is their mandate, vision, mission and values? Consider reaching out to people you know who work or have worked either for or with the company. Having this background information will put you at a vantage point when talking about the company and how you picture yourself in it. Stay up-to-date with any news concerning the company. You can do this by conducting a quick Google search on the organization the day of the interview to learn of any new developments.


  • Prepare. The best way to showcase how your unique skills-set and experience make you the right candidate for this job is through storytelling – stories can be a good tool to engage with listeners and a good way to put things into context and present the bigger picture. In order to make your stories concise and interesting you can adopt the STAR Technique (Picture 1), this method of answering interview questions allows you to provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. You can use this method for typical interview questions that start with phrases such as, "Describe a time when..." and "Share an example of a situation where...."

You should also prepare some questions that you would like to ask the interviewer. For example:

- What do you hope the person you hire will accomplish in the first year?

- How would you describe the work culture?

- What do you most enjoy about your job?

Your responses are ready, but you must also leave some time for deciding what you will wear and finding the best route to the location of the interview. Your choice of attire will give a non-verbal indication of who you are, so ensure that it is clean, it fits, and you are comfortable. Find out the location of the interview before the interview day and note the travel time and how soon before the interview you should arrive (sometimes there are security checks or registrations you have to leave time for, depending on where the interview will take place).


  • Practice

Practice is the best tool to excel in a task so practice your interview skills in advance. Practice answering questions, set up mock interviews with colleagues or friends, accept feedback and critique and use them to strengthen your performance.  Remember you are not a robot and your answers should not sound rehearsed and mechanic. It is not only what you say but how you say it. In relation to the type of interview you are going to face (phone interview, in person, video/online, recorded), follow the tips and suggestions in the listed references.

Communication is tested continuously during an interview, so speak clearly and show confidence in yourself and your resume. Be ready to discuss your past choices of journeys and what makes you different from the other candidates.  Maintain good eye contact and don’t be scared of smiling and being yourself – be the best version of yourself while always being respectful.

Interview day...

  • Take your time but be on time. On the day of the interview you will be nervous, but with all the research and preparation you have done you should be ready to nail the interview, so just use this time to relax. Give yourself enough travel time but don’t arrive too early either as you don’t want nerves to pile up by waiting outside the interview place for hours.  
  • First impressions matter so don’t  miss an opportunity to make a good impression and not only on the interviewer. Extend kindness and courtesy to everyone you come across including security, receptionists, and assistants. Have a smile on your face and maintain eye contact.


After the interview...

Closing statement, use the last few minutes to reiterate why you are interested and grateful for the opportunity. Gratitude (without overdoing it) goes a long way and shows that you are respectful!

Next steps, if it was not already discussed ask about the timeline to gain feedback on the process.

Thank you email, within 24hrs of the interview send a concise thank you email, you never know if this can tip the scale in your favour.

Finally, remember to smile :), make eye contact, and be your best self.


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 Here are some questions you might be asked during an interview. Practice answering them even if they seem obvious.


  • Can you describe yourself in three words?
  • Tell us about yourself (stick to one minute and avoid telling your life story)
  • How would your previous employer/professor/other describe you?
  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • Describe a time when you were involved in a project or research that was not going well and tell me how you handled it and the outcome.
  • Where do you think our company can improve?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me about a time when someone was critical of your work and how you responded.


When answering these questions, take a moment to listen and articulate a proper answer. Use the STAR Technique mentioned above. Do not let anxiety and impulsiveness make you answer with confusion. Take your time to answer these questions, it shows that you are giving them some thought and not just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.


Figure 1: The STAR Technique for interview questions (Source: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-the-star-interview-response-technique-2061629 )


Want more advice on interview techniques? Visit How to Ace an Interview: 5 Tips from a Harvard Career Advisor 


DOs and DON'Ts for interview preparation

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Ask questions at the end of the interview

Tell long irrelevant stories from your childhood

Try to bring your best foot forward to impress the interviewer

Make up skills, stories and qualities about yourself

Prepare and practice answers for possible questions

Use flash cards or prewritten material, especially in a face-to-face situation.

Be polite, even if the job is not for you


Bad mouth the company or send defensive emails if you do not get the job

Go to next topic!

4.5 New employee toolkit

Further Readings

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