First interview: cheat sheet

First job interview

So you’ve landed that all important job interview for what potentially could be your first real job – what can you do to make it more likely you’ll get hired?

Things you should do:

Get the first impressions right

  • Dress to impress (see below)
  • Smile!
  • Make eye contact
  • Shake hands (Covid permitting….)
  • Stay calm
  • Display positive body language (see this guide)

Show respect

  • Be on time
  • Turn off mobile  phone
  • Be prepared – know about the organisation (here are some helpful tips)
  • Offer a copy of your CV
  • Bring a notepad and take notes if appropriate
  • Have references ready

Show confidence

  • Be positive
  • Practice interviewing (here are some typical interview questions)
  • Speak about accolades
  • Describe your goals
  • Know your strengths
  • Express your passion

Create a lasting Impression

  • Be polite
  • Find out what happens next
  • Obtain the titles and names of all the people who interviewed you
  • Say thank you
  • Follow-up with a thank you note to everyone with whom you met
  • Show appreciation for the organisation’s interest in you and remind them why you are perfect for the position

Things to avoid:


  • Chewing gum or sweets
  • Using mobile phones/devices
  • Wearing excessive jewellery, perfume, cologne or make-up
  • Touching your face or twirling hair
  • Fidgeting
  • Touching items on desk

Wearing too much perfume or cologne can be an instant turnoff at a job interview. Not only is it distracting, but your interviewer also might actually be allergic to the scent and end up sneezing during the meeting. You don’t want that to be the only thing they remember about you as a candidate – do you?

~ Business Insider


  • Being late
  • Interrupting the interviewer
  • Rambling, mumbling or cursing
  • Getting defensive
  • Using poor language, slang and pause words (such as “like,” “uh,” and “um”)
  • Dressing too casually
  • Being too dominant
  • Expressing irrelevant opinions

If you get choked up, take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. It’s better to have a moment of silence than rush into an answer. Above all, don’t become defensive; instead, act professional. Your confidence and composure are sure to impress.

~ Forbes


  • Badmouthing past employers
  • Being unprepared
  • Watching the clock
  • Acting tired or bored
  • Asking about benefits and perks too early
  • Forgetting to follow-up

How to dress

How you dress for the interview depends a little on the type of job. Not every job requires a suit and turning up on a building site in expensive tailoring with inappropriate shoes won’t do you any favours!

Know your audience. Stay true to yourself but be responsive to your surroundings. Think about the business you’re interviewing for and about their company ‘aesthetic’.

~ Lucinda Lammin, Head of Communications, Paper Mache Tiger

Smart attire is the right choice for many jobs, and if you lack the confidence to put together an original outfit, you can’t go too far wrong with traditional choices. Traditional appropriate professional attire is a business suit, pressed shirt (with a tie, optionally) or smart top and a nice pair of trousers or a skirt. This guide by Zippia offers a good range of advice on appropriate choices.

It’s important to look like you’ve made an effort, so clothing that looks like it hasn’t been pressed is not good.

~ Sian Ryan, Head of Design at

Too tight or revealing clothing, or a too-casual appearance does not create a professional environment and will rarely be the appropriate choice. It will not only make the interviewer feel uncomfortable, but it’ll make you feel uncomfortable too.

Wear something you feel confident and comfortable in. Being comfortable in your own skin always shines through.

~ Lucia Debieux, Fashion Editor at Marie Claire

Traditionally, visible body piercings, multiple ear piercings, toe rings, bright hair colours and styles, and visible tattoos were also considered to be unprofessional. However, nowadays views have changed. If you have any of these, the best guide is to check to see if the organisation has a dress code and whether it has anything to say about them! If there’s no public guidance and the company seems relatively formal, covering them up for the interview may be the best way forward.

Do your research beforehand on the company and how they operate. For example, if the employer seems more traditional and professional in terms of their values and how they dress for everyday work, you may want to consider covering your tattoo and taking your piercings out beforehand — until you can gain more knowledge on whether or not these things are allowed.  

Jocasta Morrison for Zenopa

Final points to remember

  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression
  • It is important to go the extra mile and dress the part
  • Putting extra effort into choosing your outfit may give you an advantage over the competition

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