“Dear Nicola, the Managing Director would love to meet with you on Monday, can you attend?”
Received something similar recently and want to know how best to prepare?
I have had my fair share of job interviews; group, panel, one on one, assessment centres to name but a few.
I’ve also been the interviewer, so I know the challenges and critiques on both sides of the table. As a recent graduate, I’ve picked up numerous tips and tricks that always fill me with confidence sitting down for that all-important interview.
You’re more equipped than you think, the key is in the preparation! You may feel inexperienced and nervous about the whole process but there is nothing preparation and determination can’t achieve. Not sure where to begin? These are my main tips for any graduate interview:
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Do: Research the company in-depth you are being interviewed for
Researching the department and area you are interviewing for is crucial. Google and search on YouTube as much as you can to get to know the company. You want to be up to date with company news, the key players, the clients being served, or the products being offered.
Even more important are the company’s core values, these are what directly impact every business decision a company makes.
If you understand these, you will get a deeper understanding into what kind of employee they’re looking for and how you can be a fit with this. I always get a large A3 page and brainstorm everything I can learn about the company and build on it as I learn more.
Don’t: Don’t overlook the importance of interview preparation and research. From a recruiter’s point of view someone who deserves the role shows passion and energy.
Example Qs to Prepare?
- What do you know about the company?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
What Distinguishes you from Everyone Else?
Do: Align your personal strengths and weaknesses with that of the role. Have a strong introduction prepared for your self in which you relate your background to the job. The employer should feel like this is the only job you want and that it’s a natural fit with your interests and passion.
My number one piece of advice is to brainstorm your strengths. Ask your friends and family what they are if you don’t know. Then, use that A3 paper and write them down. Think about why this company needs someone with these skills.
Do your skills align with the company values that you researched? If you focus on this and align yourself naturally to what the company is looking for, you’ll ensure you’re a good cultural fit.
Back up your strengths up with examples. For example, if you have great time management skills and are hardworking, prepare an example of when this was used to get a college group project submitted within a short deadline.
Generally, employers want graduates because they are willing, used to teamwork and full of knowledge. They know you don’t have a lot of hands on experience so don’t let the technical skills bog you down.
Don’t: Don’t draw attention to negative aspects about yourself. If asked about your weaknesses answer and then move on to explain the action steps, you are taking to improve. For example, if your weakness is organisational skills emphasise how you are reading books on organisation and attended a recent talk about how to be more organised.
Example Qs to Prepare?
- Tell me about yourself?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
Do: Prepare answers for key interview questions.
At graduate level you’ll be asked a lot of behavioural questions with less focus on competency-based questions. Often people can get frustrated by these types of questions, but the interviewers is simply trying to assess whether you will be a good cultural fit or not.
From experience I have found reading the job specification thoroughly and aligning your college experiences with it works well. For example, are they looking for someone who has strong planning and organisational skills? Think of a group project where you took the lead and really used these skills to benefit your team. Prepare your answers with substance and determine a beginning, middle and an end.
You’re a graduate so you’re full of interesting knowledge and employers love to hear that. Don’t be afraid to throw in some theory or information you learned in your studies to strengthen your answer as long as it’s relevant.
Practising interview questions with somebody can also be really beneficial. It can be hard to get comfortable praising yourself and highlighting your accomplishments for a long length of time but practise with a good friend and they will let you know if you are underselling yourself.
Don’t: Ramble when you answer, preparing key examples will keep you on point and ensure you answer the question asked. No more no less.
Typical Behavioural Questions and how to tackle:
- Discuss how you handled conflict from a past experience?
- What do you think will challenge you about this role?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Tell me about a time you made a big mistake and what you did to fix it?
Relax and be Yourself
Relax, dress professionally, carry a CV and a smile. You’ve got this far so they are interested in what you have to say. Shake the interviewer’s hand at the start and maintain good eye contact.
Have some questions in your back pocket to ask the interviewer at the end. Keep this in mind throughout your preparation and jot down anything you’d like to know more about of the role. This will impress the interviewer and show you’re really interested.
Sit up straight to appear confident. You want the employer to have confidence in you, that you are the right person for the job. Keep your palms upward where natural and avoid crossing your arms.
Remember if you are unsuccessful this time, don’t beat yourself up about it. Every interview you have is building upon your experience for the next one. Soon you will have your examples mastered and be confident in selling yourself positively.
With strong preparation and examples ready you can take some of the pressure of answering questions and focus on maintaining a genuine conversation. Overall prepare the common interview questions, research the company you’re interviewing for and have some examples to show you have the skills this company needs.