The 3 Most Effective Ways to Ace Your First Job Interview

first job interviewWhat is the secret to winning the best job offers? Of getting your career off to a great start? From someone who has hired hundreds of incredible employees over the past 13 years, the answer is simple, and it all comes down to your first job interview with each employer:

Show you would be a valuable addition to the team by demonstrating diligence and an understanding of the role.

I have hired hundreds of incredible employees over the past 13 years. During my various mentoring sessions, I am regularly asked how I got to where I am and what advice I have for millennials as they begin their careers. I tell them that it all comes down to your first job interview.

You may have the best resume and the most experience, but if you do not place the same importance and focus on the interview process, you likely will not get the job.

Do Your Homework

You likely have not left your undergraduate institution without hearing at least once that you should do your research before applying for a job opportunity. It may seem obvious. But many candidates have a beautiful resume and a boatload of experience. So, they fail at paying attention to the organization and role.

In your first job interview, show your potential employer that you care and understand what they are trying to build and how you can best fit that unique role. For example, my best developers shared how they would solve some of my current companies’ technical problems with wireframes and prototypes. Taking the time and initiative to show how their unique skill sets and experience fit in at my company made them stand out from the other candidates.

If you do not fully understand the role or specific responsibilities from the job description, do your homework. Find individuals connected to the company or founders and ask them those questions. If you sought after by a recruiter, ask that recruiter questions specific to the role. That way, you can go into the first step of the hiring process understanding potential position. It is not enough to understand the company and its mission: Showcase how you can strategically and uniquely benefit the business as a hire.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

Recently, I didn’t hire a candidate because their second question in their first interview with my company was “How would you describe work/life balance for this position?” When I was interviewing for my first job, I made sure never to ask about vacation days or salary. Wait until after you receive an offer and negotiate all you want. If you are a recent graduate, work/life balance should be your last priority. I truly can’t stress that enough.

Work/life balance is something we value greatly as a culture. But I want to see that you come to us hungry, fully committed, and invested in growing at my company. Asking about work/life balance at the start of the hiring process makes you look more focused on your personal life than the potential role. That may not be the case, but your inquiry is a huge red flag. Don’t take yourself out of the race before you need to.

Some of the best questions an entrepreneur can hear deal with getting to the root problems we are trying to solve by filling the open position. Showing you care about the work will set you apart from the other candidates.

Show You Work With Diligence and Excellence

We recently loved a potential candidate for a tech role within our company. This person performed well in the interview and and boasted exceptional experience. So, we asked them to complete a tech-focused assignment to see how we would work together. We wanted to know how they think about a problem before we hired them. The candidate completed the project quickly. But, unfortunately, the product was so confusing and half-finished that we figured they didn’t understand what we requested. We went back for a second try; again, it seemed like they simply didn’t care.

In everything you do, do it with diligence and excellence. Ensure that your cover letter is free of typos and is tailored to the specific role for which you applying. If you need to include portfolio work or a writing sample, ensure it is your best work. Do everything well and follow every direction. If an application packet is missing any item requested, they are usually looked over. Don’t let these simple mistakes prevent you from your dream job.

Even if it doesn’t land you your dream job, give nothing less than your best in your first job interview. Landing this job may be the critical step you need to reach your destination.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Business Collective.


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Jennifer Mellon is the Founder of Trustify, the first tech platform to connect clients to a nationwide network of private investigators.


YECYoung Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.



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