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Interview Tips for Fresh Graduates

by Chris Fogarty

You’ve worked hard, and now you feel you DESERVE to find a great job.  And you do!  But you still got work to do.  Delivering a successful interview is not rocket science, but it does require preparation. 

You’ll need to know:

  • What they’ll be looking for and how best to communicate your value, both verbally and nonverbally.

  • How to answer a range of interview questions.

  • The best way to answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ question in a way that will positively influence the rest of the interview.

  • How to end the interview in a way that positions you as the top candidate.

  • Follow up strategies, so that you keep yourself foremost in their mind during their selection process.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you have a GREAT resume put together (if not, then click here for our free new grad resume guide), that you’ve done all the right things towards finding a great job (if not, then click here for an article on new grad job search), and that you’re really close to getting that live interview for a job you really want.

Eight steps to interview success for new college graduates

Wow them on the first phone call.

Your interview starts here.  You are a person of interest, and this first phone call is what is referred to as a ‘screening’ call.  This call is to determine whether or not what they see on your resume or in your online portfolio or what they’ve heard about you is real.  This is your chance to make a great first impression, one that will carry through the live interview.  Be prepared to expand on what’s in your resume and to answer questions such as ‘why are you interested in working here’.  And if this call is to schedule the live interview, have your own list of questions about logistics, who you’ll be meeting with, and what to expect.

Do your homework. 

There are two big complaints we hear from recruiters and hiring managers around interviewing fresh graduates.  First, the interviewee (that would be you) knows NOTHING about the company.  Second, the interviewee (you, again) doesn’t seem very clear about what he or she wants in a job/career.  Don’t make these mistakes!  To meet this challenge requires a three step process. 

First, spend a good amount of time researching the company, their products, their target customers and the requirements for the position.  Investigate what it is ‘like’ to work there, what kind of people they attract. 

Second, get very, very clear on who you are, what you want from your career, and what value you have to offer. 

Third, look for the matches and gaps between step one and step two.  Will you fit in?  Will you enjoy working there?  Where do you meet their requirements and where do you not?  Go into the interview with eyes wide open to the possible issues and concerns that you both may have.

Prepare your ‘tell me about yourself’ answer

As this is often the first question in an interview, it is critical that you’ve got this answer down and practiced so that it doesn’t sound memorized.  What you say in your answer will often influence the next questions during the interview.  Keep it under 30 seconds, make sure that it connects with the needs of the position, and always end with a question to the interviewer.

Learn how to answer interview questions.  And Practice.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice makes improvement.

There are a lot of very common interview questions, and you COULD get a list of these and memorize an answer for each one.  That will work up to a point.  But they’ll sound memorized (which won’t make you sound very ‘real’ or ‘honest’), and you’ll most likely stumble on the first unexpected question.  So having a strategy for HOW to answer ANY QUESTION is a much better method of preparation.   

Types of questions will include “tell me about a time when….”, “what would you do if…”, “What is your greatest…” and the all intimidating “greatest weaknesses” inquiry.  Be prepared by thoroughly analyzing your background and develop ‘stories’ that portray your skills and qualities.

Strengthen your visual image.

From the moment they lay eyes on you, an opinion is being formed.  Think carefully about the message you want to send when you stand and deliver the first handshake.  Carefully analyzing what message you want to send, and then selecting your interview attire to emphasize that message, may sound over-the-top. 

Those first seconds when meeting your interviewer are critical.  And carefully select what to bring to the interview, so that you’ve got an uncluttered look and you don’t fumble around with your stuff.

Deliver the interview with attention to the five key areas.

What are the big five?  First is competency.  Make sure your answers speak to what you do know and use stories to show your abilities.  Second is attitude.  Be positive and motivated; tell them why you want to be part of their team.  Third is ability to learn and adapt.  You’re bound to have gaps in your skills so it is important that you have examples of how you’ve learned things quickly and that you’re interested in gaining new abilities.  Fourth is fit.  Having done your homework on the organization be able to articulate how you’ll not only fit into the organization but also that you’ll be a great asset.  Finally, ethics and integrity.  Be sure and prepare some stories around times when you’ve had to use your great judgment to make difficult decisions.

Close the interview with strength.

Too often, and interview ends with the interviewer asking if you have any questions and the interviewee saying “I don’t think so”.  Wrong way to end an interview!  The best way to end an interview is to ask for a bit more info on one of the topics brought up during the interview.  And then use this to re-iterate how this position/organization is a good match with you.  And wrap it up by asking when they expect to make a decision and notify you of the next steps.

Follow up and be remembered.

Over and over, we hear that thanks were not sent by the interviewee.  So do that immediately, it is expected.  Send personalized thanks to each interviewer, noting something that came up during the interview.  This is also your opportunity to add anything that you wished you had said during the interview.

If you’ve been working with a recruiter, follow up with a phone call to ask how the interview went and what next steps you should take.  And follow up again when approaching the time you were told that a decision would be made.  You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain from being a pleasant squeaky wheel.

Do you need some help in all of this?

Help is available, and don’t you think it is just too important to risk coming in second place for the job you really want?  We offer an extraordinary interview preparation for new graduates, and it’s available for immediate download.  FiredUP Interviewing, new grad edition, is a set of mp3 interview preparation audios that you can download and listen to anytime.   In addition, you’ll get a pdf eBook to reinforce the mp3 interview preparation and give you tools and advice for your interview preparation.  All for only $9.99.  Don’t wing it.  Win that job!

Check out our Interview Products!




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