So you’ve graduated from university, polished up your resume, applied for some roles and – congratulations! – scored yourself an interview. You’re on your way to landing that job.
But the hard work has only just begun. Job interviews are an intimidating ordeal for anyone, and recent graduates in particular have a lot to prove with, in many cases, not much industry experience behind them. Our interview advice for recent graduates will help you make a great first impression and nail both the pre-interview prep and the deciding moment itself.
Before the interview
1. Do your homework
Firstly, find out what kind of interview you’ll be attending – is it a one-on-one, panel or group interview? Is it a competency-based interview? Will there be a non-interview component – psychometric testing, for instance, or a sample work task?
Next, research the company itself. Proving you’re up to date with the organisation’s products and services, ethos, workplace culture, and recent and upcoming developments helps vouch for your eagerness and credibility.
Re-read the job advertisement and position description, highlighting any words used to describe their ideal candidate – ‘team player’, ‘strong time management skills’, and so on. Then, brainstorm examples that prove your own experience, goals and traits match these desired qualities.
As a graduate, don’t fret if you don’t have extensive relevant industry experience yet – prospective employers will understand. Skills and achievements you’ve garnered from unpaid internships or seemingly non-relevant roles – even volunteering, or helping out with university clubs and societies, for example – can be potential examples of your suitability.
2. Plan in advance
You should also prepare a rough plan of your answers. Research common and difficult interview questions, both generic and industry-specific, and consider how you’d approach them. Raise solid, relevant examples for each question using the STAR method, in which the interviewee explains the Situation, Task, Action and Result of past work experiences, projects or accomplishments.
Preparing some go-to questions to ask the interviewer will also underline your interest. You may like to ask what they enjoy about working there, any challenges you should prepare for, and key indicators of success for the position.
Consider what you should bring along. This will depend on your industry so do some research to find out what is expected – an additional copy of your CV, work samples, a portfolio or written references, for instance.
Crucially, make sure you’ve planned your travel arrangements, parking options and schedule for the day in advance. This will prevent any last-minute disasters from making you late to the interview.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Practising is essential for a job interview, especially if you’re inexperienced. Many universities have career services offering mock interview sessions, which is a great way to get some feedback and suggested improvements. Otherwise, a friend or older relative can go through a practice interview with you and offer their thoughts on how to improve.
It may sound silly, but it’s also important to practice in front of the mirror. This will help you assess how well you present your answers – do you come across as confident, friendly and hire-able with each response?
4. Dress for the job
When it comes to appropriate business attire, expectations vary significantly across different industries, but as a general rule it’s wise to dress as formally or more so than you would turning up for work if you had the job.
Professional-looking corporate attire is a safe bet. It’s best to err on the side of conservative, with a tailored pant suit or perhaps knee-length skirt paired with a non-revealing shirt. Make sure your hair and nails are orderly and accessories, jewellery and makeup are minimal and work-appropriate.
At the interview
5. Be early
It goes without saying that arriving early is key – ideally twenty minutes before the interview begins. This will give you time to freshen up, get a feel for the place, and do some relaxation techniques such as taking slow, deep breaths to help you feel comfortable before you go in.
6. Make a great first impression
According to a survey in the UK, the vast majority of employers report that interview candidates have only ten minutes to make a good impression, so every moment counts. Impress the recruiter with a firm handshake and steady eye contact.
Be sure to flash your smile at each individual interviewer and avoid fidgeting, speaking too softly, or using filler language such as ‘like’ and ‘um’. Confident body language and posture can help not only convey that you’re a competent person but also help you feel more at ease.
7. Anticipate the nerves
Don’t be ashamed or afraid of interview nerves – they’re perfectly normal. Instead, anticipate them and prepare some mindfulness techniques to help. Don’t be afraid to pause for thought before answering, for instance. Interviewers are human too and know that your nerves are completely understandable, especially since you’re fresh out of university.
8. If in doubt, smile
As nervous as you may be, the best thing you can do is to just smile. Smiling gives off good vibes, showing that you can keep a steady head and friendly manner even in an intimidating situation.
Plus, studies have shown that even faking a smile can help you reduce stress – and provide a mood-booster making others around you smile too. Happier you and happier interviewers – win, win!
About the Author
Tony Pistolese is a foodie, father of four and orthodontist at Inner West Orthodontics.