What is one best practice when heading into an interview as a recent college graduate?
To help recent college graduates prepare for job interviews, we asked career coaches and HR leaders this question for their best advice. From being clear and intentional to demonstrating a willingness to work and learn, there are several best practices that may help you feel more prepared and confident going into an interview as a recent graduate.
Here are 10 best practices for interviewing as a recent graduate:
- Be Clear and Intentional
- Avoid Being Too Casual With The Interviewer
- Do Your Research
- Know How To Present Your Background and Experience
- Play Up Your Soft Skills
- Take Time to Understand the Job
- Emphasize Skills and Lessons Learned in College
- Prepare Alternative Answers for Work Experience Questions
- Bring a Pen and Paper
- Demonstrate a Willingness To Work and Learn
Be Clear and Intentional
Many college students will interview without a lot of clarity around what they want. This may come across as “I’m still trying to figure it out” or “I just want a job that gives me the ability to travel.” Instead, be intentional about what you are working towards. Have a clear narrative for why you’re applying for that role or company. You don’t have to make a lifelong decision, but interviewing with an intentional purpose will help you stand out from other recent graduates.
Logan Mallory, Motivosity
Avoid Being Too Casual With The Interviewer
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed a recent college graduate, established some good rapport, and been referred to as “bro” or “dude” in the interview. I’m not your “bro,” and don’t call me “dude” in an interview. I’m your interviewer and prospective employer. If a candidate wants a position at a company, maintain a level of professionalism while still being true to who you are.
Brett Farmiloe, Terkel
Do Your Research
Do some research and learn about trends in their industry, as well as who your interviewer is, the history of the company, and their mission. What goals, accomplishments, awards, and or distinctions have set them apart as leaders in their field? Understanding who is looking to hire you and knowing what they are all about can make a big difference in setting you apart from other candidates, during the interview. Discover what they are looking for in terms of particular qualities or experience, and then prepare yourself accordingly to become as attractive and qualified a candidate as possible!
Lastly, remember that the interview is not just about them getting to know you, but about YOU getting to know them! Do your goals align with theirs? Is this a place where you could see yourself growing and being happy? When you focus on the interview being as much for you as it is for them, it makes the experience much less nerve-wracking.
Linda Scorzo, Hiring Indicators
Know How To Present Your Background and Experience
You should be able to talk through your accomplishments and challenges from each role on your resume. This means having specific examples and a story to tell. When you have your stories already thought out, you’ll be ready for any of those common “tell me about a time when…” questions. You can also add those examples to any other type of question you’re asked. It’s okay if you can’t quickly recall every experience, that’s where your preparation comes in. Take some time in the days before the interview to recall (and even write out) your experiences ahead of time so they are easy to remember on the day of the interview.
Marisa Allen, University of Arizona, Eller College of Management
Play Up Your Soft Skills
As a recent college graduate, it’s likely you don’t have a ton of experience in your field. However, there are soft skills, like communication, leadership and adaptability that are valuable no matter what your job is. Once you identify your best soft skills, be prepared to show (and not just tell) how you use them. Is there a time when you made a real difference during an internship, as part of a college organization or in life in general? Offer real-life examples that play up those soft skills and what you’re capable of.
Jae Pak, Jae Pak MD Medical
Take Time to Understand the Job
As a new college graduate, entering into an interview can be scary because of all the unknowns. You have so many questions prior to the interview and afterward. The key is to prepare weeks in advance. Look up the company’s core values, write out the questions you want to ask at the end of the interview, and make note of your strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, understand the duties and responsibilities within the job description and make note of how your previous experience can contribute to the new role.
TK Morgan, Tuesday at 1030
Emphasize Skills and Lessons Learned in College
As a recent graduate, highlighting the skills gained and lessons learned in college can be very beneficial. Not only do you show the organization that you really applied yourself, but it also shows that you retained useful information. Highlighting your unique journey and skillset also sets you apart from the other candidates.
Hilary Kozak, LivSmooth
Prepare Alternative Answers for Work Experience Questions
There are often questions in an interview about past workplace experiences, asking you to describe past customer/coworker interactions or your response to common workplace scenarios. These can trip up recent college grads who don’t have much (or any) work experience to draw from. You can prepare for this by looking up the most common hypothetical or situational interview questions and brainstorming some similar scenarios you’ve experienced in an internship, school club, classroom, volunteer activity, etc.
You never want to respond with “I’ve never had that experience” when it comes to questions about soft skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork, or about your greatest strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, or mistakes. Knowing in advance what you’ll answer to these common questions can help prevent your lack of workplace experience from being an impediment to getting hired.
Archie Payne, Caltek Staffing
Bring a Pen and Paper
Bring a pen and paper to take notes during an interview. This is a great way to retain the knowledge of all of the information the company shares, which may include day-to-day tasks, salary, or hierarchy within the company. To the manager, it shows you’re engaged and interested in the position. First impressions are everything, and this small tip will ensure your interaction is a positive one.
Sara Adam Slywka, Nestig
Demonstrate a Willingness To Work and Learn
The best practice when heading into an interview as a recent college graduate is to show you are willing to work and learn. We already know that it’s hard to find a first job that we love, but if you show them that you are willing to work and learn more, it’s easier.
Show them that you are organized, committed, and responsible and that you think it’s better to learn by doing, and trying. Go to the interview a little earlier, maybe 10 to 15 minutes, with a smile on your face. I was an HR leader for a long time at a small company. We hired some recent college graduates at the time, and the ones who stayed with us were the most energetic and committed.
I know it’s not easy, but, if you do this, they will be more inclined to hire you, and they will be happy to have someone with such a willingness to work.
Zoila Streich, Independent Fashion Bloggers
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