Preparing for a graduate job interview: What you need to know

Deep breaths. Follow this advice and hopefully your nerves will subside. Source: Shutterstock.

Many students spend their last few months at university in a feverish state; juggling coursework, spending time with friends and sending off job applications like they’re going out of style.

So, one rainy Tuesday afternoon when you get in from your morning lecture to find an email from [Company You Really Really Want To Work For] inviting you for an interview, you are filled with excitement… But then dread sets in.

How do I show them how totally awesome and perfect for their company I am? You ask.

There is so much to think about in a job interview; from clothing to confidence, eye contact to attitude, not to mention the way you talk about your experience and interests.

Feeling nervous as you prepare? Print off our handy PDF to ensure you keep these key factors in mind as the big day approaches.

Before the interview

When you receive that wonderful, wonderful email in your inbox, it is courteous to respond straight away. Thank them for taking the time to contact you and confirm you will be in attendance as well as checking any details you are unsure about like who you will be meeting and where.

Then, you can begin preparing!

Deciding on an outfit is a rather crucial step when prepping for your interview.

Wear something you are comfortable in; something that makes you feel like yourself yet maintains the formality of workwear. And it goes without saying your clothes must be clean and ironed and shoes must be shined.

For men, it is most likely you will want to wear a suit or at the very least a nice shirt, tie and formal trousers. Women, on the other hand, tend to have more options.

Ultimately, choose something you feel good in which shows a little personality but doesn’t detract from your professionalism or the company culture. Remember that it’s okay to strut into the interview looking sleeker than the people you see working in the office – you’re there to impress, after all.

So, now that you’ve sorted your outfit, it’s time to move on to even more crucial stuff: Ie. working on your ability to respond to questions and perfecting your knowledge of the company.

Researching the company is absolutely essential. You want to wow the interviewer with your in-depth knowledge of their company and show them your genuine interest in the position.

No doubt you tailored your résumé and cover letter to the job description so you probably already have a good idea of how you fit the specification, but make sure you keep this in mind as many questions your interviewer could ask might revolve around this.

Typically, at the end of a job interview, your potential employer will ask you if you have any questions for them. Make sure you are prepared for this by readying at least two or three questions beforehand, because not having anything to ask suggests a lack of interest in the company and the job. It’s also important that you think of the interview as your opportunity to find out as much as possible about the company you intend to work for. That information will help you decide whether or not to accept the offer, should you get one.

Practice answering questions from as many different people who are willing to ‘interview’ you as possible. Ask your friends, your parents, your extended family members and well, just about anyone who doesn’t mind spending a few minutes with you asking you questions.

Your university is likely to have a careers service too which just might offer mock interviews so be sure to look into that too. That way, you will be able to practice with someone who doesn’t know you and you are potentially not comfortable with so it will feel like the real deal.

On the day

If you were invited to interview, your prospective employer has almost definitely seen your résumé already, however it’s not a bad idea to bring it with you for reference. Chances are it will stay in your bag the whole time but it’s always good to have it. You may also need to bring a portfolio of your work depending on the type of job you are applying for so if in doubt, ask or prepare something to bring with you just in case.

It’s also crucial that you turn up on time for the interview – remember, first impressions are the most lasting. So get a headstart if you’re coming in from quite a distance. And if you’re there a little early, that’s fine… at least you’ll have time to gather yourself before heading in.

Be positive. We know you’re a bag of nerves and telling you to simply “be positive” is easier said than done but remember: from the moment you enter the building, you are being analysed. That sounds a little scary but if you have positive body language, smile and are friendly to everyone you interact with, there really isn’t anything to be scared of.

Be prepared for curve-balls. You never know what the interviewer might ask you so no matter how many practice interviews you do, nothing can totally prepare you for what your interviewer might say. Sometimes an interviewer might throw you a question which seems a little irrelevant or downright weird; chances are, they are seeing how you cope under pressure so stay calm and answer as best you can.

Interviewers would want to gain an insight into you as a person and see what you would bring to their company, so it’s also advisable that you relax your guard a little and show them. Being overly stiff during an interview could be construed as a sign you lack confidence in your ability. Overconfidence is bad but then a total lack of confidence isn’t great either.

And remember those questions you prepared? Be sure to ask them when prompted! Sometimes you may have had them already answered indirectly through the course of the interview so have a think some more as you go or use some you had prepared as reserves. Either way, questions show an inquisitiveness, desire to know and genuine interest in the company.

After the interview

Do not underestimate the power of saying a simple ‘thank you’. It goes without saying you should thank your interviewer on the way out but when you get home – or even on the bus or train – send a quick email thanking them for their time and saying it was lovely to meet them and you are looking forward to hearing from them.

Not only is this polite but also ensures you stay in their mind and shows you are seriously interested in the position and valued the time spent with the interviewer.

And then, there is nothing to do but wait patiently. Try and put worries out of your mind because it is out of your hands now. They will get back to you soon so just hang in there.

If you are offered the job, then congratulations – pop the bubbly and celebrate! But, don’t forget it is courteous to let your employer know whether or not you will be accepting the position as soon as you can.

Whatever your decision, reply as soon as you receive the email or phone-call. If you need a day or two to think about it, still reply immediately but just ask for a little time but be sure to give them a date and approximate time you will let them know.

If rejected, don’t lose hope. This is just one of many job interviews you will have in your life and possibly as a fresh graduate.There is nothing stopping you from asking for feedback and this is bound to help you with your future interviews.

Don’t forget you can print your guide to graduate interviews here

Smile, be positive, show you are keen and be yourself. And last of all, good luck!

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