You've done it! The invitation to interview sits, glorious in monoochrome, at the top of your inbox. You know you've got this.

But, as the day looms, you panic. You've prepared your stock answers, but what about your company research? You've had your morning coffee, but only managed chocolate for breakfast. It's all going wrong and, with a thousand things running through your mind, you're bound to forget something – something important, something essential…

Calm down, dear; not all is lost. Even at this late hour, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your chances.

Research

Just. Do. It. In this age of LinkedIn, Google and Twitter, knowing the people you're interviewing with and what their company does is interview 101. Turning up to a job app with no research behind you is like rocking up at a cricket match with no knowledge of the rules; not only have you wasted everyone's time, but you've pissed them off too.

Spend ten minutes of your time doing a thorough Google of the relevant company. No idea where to start? This handy how-to can solve all your problems.

Set off early

If you're currently unemployed, there's really no excuse for being late to an interview. You've got all the time in the world, so use it. Aim to arrive at your interview venue an hour early. Hang out in a coffee shop nearby, then walk in confidently ten minutes before the scheduled time. This is the only way to ensure that you're not late, even counting for delayed tubes, traffic, broken ankles and hurricanes.

The coffee shop tactic is as important as arriving promptly. Being overly early for an interview (more than fifteen minutes) is almost as annoying to employers as a candidate being late. Almost.

Power prime

If you're prone to nerves, interviews can be a challenge. Apart from remembering that the interviewers are probably just as anxious to find a perfect candidate as you are to be one, there are things to can do to ease the stress.

'Power priming' is a proven way to improve performance and confidence in an interview situation. While you're waiting to meet your recruiter, take a few minutes to recall a time when you exceeded expectations, impressed your colleagues or otherwise succeeded. The resulting flow of self-assurance should help steady your nerves in the interview room.

Accept that drink!

At the start of 90% of interviews, somebody – hiring manager, secretary, receptionist, CEO – will offer you a drink. The polite response may seem like a refusal. But actually it's best to accept.

Why? Interviews are only stressful and awkward if you make them that way. Having a chat over a coffee is way more relaxing than a standard interview; even if you're still applying for a job, that mug clasped between your fingers can be a soothing influence.

Accepting the offer of a drink signals confidence, relaxation and a willingness to engage on the hiring manager's level. You may be a candidate for a job, but you are not some underling – at least, not yet. Treat yourself as equal and request that green tea with a smile.

Smile

Happy, approachable, carefree, pleasant to work with – sure, smiling makes a big difference to the way people see you. But did you know that grinning also makes you more memorable?

According to research, faces that are smiling stick in the memories of observers. In a job market where several people are bound to be interviewing for the same role as you, you need to stand out. The answer? Get flashing those pearlies.

Talk back

'Don't talk back to teacher' – so the wisdom went in primary school. Well, you're not making paper chains anymore. An interview is a two-way process; a good candidate will engage with the hiring manager as much as vice versa.

Treat your interview not as a one-to-one grilling session but as a conversation. Don't save your questions for the end of the slot – ask them as soon as the issue comes up. Though you might want to let her/him direct the exchange, make sure to take some initiative and bring up the points you want to get across. Nobody wants to hire a shrinking violet, while everyone likes an effective communicator.

Got it? Good. Now breathe, sip that drink and shine.

Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs, visit their website.

 Image Credit: Michael Ramey