25 Job Interview Tips for College Graduates (That’ll Get You Hired)
Graduating from college is a significant accomplishment and an exciting time. But, once you graduate, it’s time to get a professional job. Because the workforce is so competitive, it can take more than just a strong resume to land a job.
Being able to give a good interview is an essential practice that can get you hired quickly. If you’re a recent graduate and have never gone through the interview process before, there are some key things to know that can make or break your chances of getting hired.
Getting ready for an interview takes time, confidence, preparation, and research. But, with the right resources and tools, you can nail that big interview after graduation and end up with your dream job!
Table of Contents:
- 1 Interviewing Tips for Students
- 1.1 Know What You Want
- 1.2 Do Your Homework
- 1.3 Know Your Interviewer
- 1.4 Be on Time
- 1.5 List Your Assets
- 1.6 Real World Examples
- 1.7 Show How You Would Benefit the Company
- 1.8 Practice the Interview
- 1.9 Use Words from the Job Description
- 1.10 Conduct Your Own Interviews
- 1.11 Be Aware of Your Body Language
- 1.12 Communicate Genuinely
- 1.13 Dress for Success
- 1.14 Listen to the Questions
- 1.15 Keep a Positive Outlook
- 1.16 Don’t Look Desperate
- 1.17 Be Yourself
- 1.18 Break Stereotypes
- 1.19 Avoid Negativity
- 1.20 Be Polite to Everyone
- 1.21 Don’t Talk About Salary
- 1.22 Explain Why the Job Fits You
- 1.23 Breathe
- 1.24 Say Thank You
- 1.25 It’s Okay to Follow Up
Interviewing Tips for Students
This guide will provide useful interviewing tips for graduates on everything from how to adjust your appearance for an interview to things you should or shouldn’t talk about. Employers looking to hire new people often have many criteria. Being able to fit into their desired job description can help you to get hired faster.
But, it’s not enough to have a great resume. Even if you’re over-qualified for a job, it can all come down to how well you do during the interview process. With that in mind, you can use this advice to your advantage whether you’re going out for your first interview or if you’ve already been through unsuccessful ones in the past.
Know What You Want
What does your target job look like? You probably have a list of individual skills in mind that you already have on a resume or are ready to talk about. Think about how those skills and your experience could match up with specific jobs or places of employment.
You want to make sure you’ll be successful at the job you choose. So, rather than applying for a bunch of jobs that won’t necessarily use your skills, put your time and energy into those that will match your qualifications.
Those are the jobs that will offer you growth and experience while challenging you at the same time. Knowing what you’re looking for before you start the interviewing process can make the entire thing much easier.
Do Your Homework
Just because you’re done with school doesn’t mean the homework ends just yet. By doing your research on the company you’re interviewing with ahead of time, you can give yourself an advantage.
Doing your homework about a company involves learning as much about them as you can. An excellent place to start is by checking out their website. Then, see if you can determine what other employees have to say about it. Check out their competition, as well.
You can go a step further with this by utilizing any resources you might have. Alumni networks are a great way to get more information about larger companies. Doing your homework on a company will not only help you to give better answers, but it will also prepare you to ask better questions.
Know Your Interviewer
If it’s possible to learn who will be conducting your interview ahead of time, you should try to find out what you can about that person. Why is this important? Who interviews you will likely determine what kind of questions are asked.
For example, if your interview is conducted by the company’s HR professional, you can probably expect more general questions. They could include a few things about the job itself. But, an HR professional doing an interview probably has a lot of candidates to go through. So, they’re usually trying to narrow things down as best they can.
If your interview is being done by your potential future boss, you’ll want to be prepared for more in-depth questions about the company and the position itself. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do your research no matter what. But, if you know who will be interviewing you, you can hone in on which type of research you should be doing.
Be on Time
This might seem like an easy and pointless tip to include in a list like this. But, it’s one of the most important things you need to keep in mind when you’re going for an interview. Punctuality is key. It’s the first thing a potential employer will know about you. Before they assess your appearance, your demeanor, or your interview answers, they’ll know whether you were late.
Try to arrive early to your interview. This will give you time to settle your nerves, and it will show the company you’re excited to be there. If a company is interviewing several people, they aren’t going to wait around for you if you’re late. You could miss out on your chance if you choose not to practice punctuality.
Being on time will also show the employer that you know how to be punctual. This will encourage them in knowing you’ll be on time for work if you get hired, and they won’t have to worry about you being late to the job all the time.
List Your Assets
Most interviewers will ask you about some of your skills, or why you should be hired for the position. It’s a good idea to have a mental list of your best assets at all times so you can use them without having to struggle to think about them on the spot.
Your assets don’t just have to be your skills. They could be things like knowledge gained from experience. You could even talk about some of your traits and characteristics that would make you a better fit for the job. In fact, being able to talk about things like that can help you to stand out. Just make sure you keep your language and examples professional during the interview.
Real World Examples
If you’re interviewing for a specific position, be prepared to talk about some real-world examples that would make you a good fit for that particular job. It’s okay to think outside the box when it comes to these examples. Even if you don’t have experience for that specific position, you may have an example that can relate to it somehow.
The more personal experiences you can share that would suggest you’re a good fit for the job, the better. In fact, thinking outside the box and sharing examples that don’t directly fit the description may let the interviewer know that you’re quick to adapt and learn. You’ll show that you can offer the company more because of some of the situations you’ve been through.
Show How You Would Benefit the Company
It’s easy to be excited about an interview because you’re thinking about what you might be able to gain from the job at hand. You might be thinking about the salary, the prestige, the promotions, etc.
Instead, go into the interview thinking about what you can do for that company. Frame your questions and your answers with that mindset. If you’re able to do that, the interviewer will likely see how passionate you are about bringing your best skills to their business.
If you get hired because of that passion, you likely won’t have to wait too long to start seeing the benefits you were excited for in the first place. This is an excellent tip to keep in mind throughout your career. More often than not, the more you put into a job and try to boost a business, the more you’ll end up getting back.
Practice the Interview
Practice makes perfect in almost every situation. By practicing possible interview questions, you’ll feel more comfortable answering them when the time comes. Practicing gives you the opportunity to think of more obscure questions that might be asked. So, you’ll never be thrown off guard. You can practice with friends, family, or even in a mirror.
If nothing else, be sure to go over some typical interview questions and rehearse precisely how you’ll respond to them. Don’t memorize an answer. You shouldn’t sound overly-rehearsed or as though you’ve given the same response in a dozen interviews. But, you should feel comfortable enough to answer these fundamental questions without seeming nervous or stumbling over your words. The best way to do that is to be as prepared as possible through practice.
Use Words from the Job Description
One small-but-effective trick you can use in your interview is choosing the right vocabulary. If you’ve done your research about the business and job you’re interviewing for, this should be easy. Ask questions or give answers that use keywords featured in the job description. Or, use vocabulary similar to what the company uses on their website, social media, brochures, etc.
It’s important not to be too obvious about this. You don’t want to sound like you’re reciting something from the employee handbook. But, using words that fit the job description you’re looking for can cause your interviewer to pay closer attention to what you have to say. There’s a good chance either they wrote the description or had to prove it. So, those words are familiar to them and can trigger a signal for them that you have what they’re looking for.
Conduct Your Own Interviews
Once you become an alumnus of a college or university, you can use specific resources to help you prepare for an interview and eventually get a job. One of those resources is to reach out to other alumni in your field and interview them.
Professional interviews are a great tool to help prepare you in many different ways. Alumni who work in the field you’re interested can give you insider information that you probably wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. They can let you know about trends and statistics. They can also let you know about general work environments, what to expect on a day-to-day basis, and more.
The more you learn about a specific career or position from others in the field, the stronger you’ll be going into an interview knowing what to expect.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Sometimes, you can prepare so much for the technical aspects of an interview that it’s easy to forget about the simplest, most natural things. One of those things is body language. You may not be paying attention to your body language if you’re nervous, but rest assured, your interviewer will!
Body language can say a lot about what you’re thinking and feeling without you having to say a word.
To keep things positive, keep the following tips in mind:
- Maintain eye contact
- Shake hands firmly
- Keep your feet pointed toward your interviewer
- Don’t cross your arms over your chest
- Sit up straight
- Don’t fidget
There are dozens of things to keep in mind about your body language and how you might be perceived. The more aware you are of how you might be coming across to your interviewer, the better. As long as you appear relaxed but professional and interested, you’ll be in good shape.
Along with body language, your general demeanor will speak volumes to your interviewer. The way you sit and present yourself is part of this. But, it also includes things like your tone of voice and how excited you appear about the job itself.
You should show genuine excitement and interest throughout the interview. It can make a big difference in whether you get the job. If your interviewer feels you’re not passionate about the position, they can quickly move on to someone who will show them they’re excited.
Most interviewers will also know if you’re putting on a show, or ‘faking it.’ Always be honest. So, if you’re not interested in a position or don’t think you’d genuinely enjoy it, you might want to think twice before even applying.
Dress for Success
This may be one of the oldest tips around, but it remains one of the most critical. You should follow whatever dress code the job you’re interviewing for has in place. You may even want to go above and beyond what they would expect you to wear on a daily basis.
But, not all dress codes are the same, so it’s crucial that you know what you’re getting into with each company. Some businesses require a more business-casual or formal wardrobe. Others are more relaxed. If you go into a tech company interview where jeans and t-shirts are the norms, you probably won’t want to wear a three-piece suit. It can be a fine line to dress appropriately for interviews, which is another reason why it’s so important to do your research ahead of time.
By dressing for the job you want, you’ll show your interviewer just how well you can fit into that company. Take the brand itself into consideration and base your style for the interview around it.
Listen to the Questions
Many times, there will be a handful of questions from your interviewer that you probably expected. You can rehearse these questions ahead of time. But, on occasion, your potential employer may ask you something that you hadn’t initially thought about.
Take the time to listen to each question carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to ask the interviewer to get deeper into the subject. It’ll show them that you’re genuinely listening and you are engaged in the conversation.
Don’t feel as though you have to answer every question within a few seconds. If it’s something you weren’t prepared for, take a minute or two to gather your thoughts. It’s better to offer a well thought out answer than something that just popped into your head. Not only will you feel more confident in your response, but your interviewer will probably appreciate it more.
Keep a Positive Outlook
It’s not uncommon for a recent graduated to be somewhat uninterested or underwhelmed about an interview. If you think the job is ‘beneath’ you or you’re overqualified, don’t turn away from applying and interviewing! You may find that through the interview process, you become more excited about the job itself.
Keep in mind that it’s rare to go through one interview to get hired for a job. Most companies have a longer process that consists of several interviews. Your goal should be to get through the first one and get called back for another. Even if the first interview doesn’t excite you as much as you want it to, be grateful for a callback and go into it with an open mind.
As you continue to learn more about the company and what you’d be doing in your position, you might find that you’re more interested than you initially thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to a specific job position.
Don’t Look Desperate
If you’re a recent college graduate scrambling to find a job, you might secretly be willing to work for just about anyone! But, don’t sell yourself short in interviews. An interviewer will know if you’re answering questions in generalities. They’ll also know if you’re answering questions because you think it’s what they want to hear.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to come off desperate for a job. If an interviewer believes that you’re just looking for any career, they might be less likely to hire you. They want to know why you’re passionate about that specific job, and how you can add to their company. You may be worried about getting employed quickly on the inside. But, don’t show that during your interview. Each one you go through needs to show your strengths and skills for that specific job.
Between a dress code, etiquette code, and looking professional, you might think you don’t have any room to let the ‘real’ you come through. That isn’t true. In fact, being yourself in an interview can give you a big advantage. Many potential employers will even find it refreshing.
Your interviewer will have already read your resume. They know you’re a recent graduate. With that in mind, they can expect you to be professional, but they probably won’t expect you to be too experienced.
Don’t pretend to know more than you do. Instead, embrace your personality and your willingness to learn. Showing how you are different and unique can make you more memorable to a potential employer. When they’re going through their applicants, that will help you to stand out and perhaps get a second interview. This doesn’t mean you should tell jokes or act as you might with your friends on a Saturday night. But, it’s okay to loosen up a bit!
Unfortunately, almost everyone faces stereotypes of some kind when they’re interviewing for a job. When it comes to recent college grads, the stereotypes can cover a wide range of things.
Some of the common ones include:
- Weak communication skills
- Poor work ethic
There are more to add to the list, but these are some of the most basic culprits. It’s your job to break through these stereotypes in the interview. When you’re talking face-to-face with someone, it’s an opportunity to show them you’re not what they may have originally guessed. You may also experience greater prejudice when looking for a job when overweight.
Unfortunately, stereotypes are in place for a reason. Many college graduates do possess these characteristics. Perhaps the employer you’re interviewing with has even had problems with graduates in the past. By showing them you’re different from the start, you’ll likely get more respect on the job once you’re hired.
Staying positive and enthusiastic in a job interview is one of the keys to getting hired. In fact, the more positive you are about the experience and the potential job, the better. It can significantly increase your chances of getting hired.
As you might have guessed, having a negative tone or speaking negatively about anything can get you the opposite result. Negativity in an interview can cover a variety of subjects. Avoid talking poorly about your college experience or classes. If you had an internship, refrain from speaking negatively about it in any way. Instead, focus on whatever positives you got from those situations and lean on those to push your interview forward.
You may even get ‘baited’ during the interview. The interviewer might ask you questions about fellow students, professors, employers, etc. Try to keep things focused on yourself, and don’t speak ill of other people or businesses.
Be Polite to Everyone
Courtesy is essential when you’re going in for a job interview. That means being polite to everyone you meet, not just the person conducting your interview. Some employers will take you around the company or ask you to meet certain people. They may even leave you alone with other workers for awhile so you can get a feel for the job.
Many times, they do this not only for your sake, but to learn more about you. They can then ask those employees, etc., about your attitude. If you’re putting on your best manners for your interviewer, but you’re rude to everyone else, you’re probably not going to get hired. Be kind and courteous to everyone you come across in your interview.
Not only can it help to get you hired, but it will be much easier to work with those people one day if you do get hired! First impressions can mean a lot to people. By being polite to everyone, they’ll likely return the favor if you get hired. That can be used to your advantage when you’re new to a job. People will be more willing to help you out if they know you’re a genuinely kind and caring person.
Don’t Talk About Salary
Salary is usually a huge factor when it comes to finding a job you’re interested in. Some job postings will list a specific salary or a range on their original ad. Others will bring it up during an interview. If your interviewer brings up the pay and benefits for the job you’re applying for, that’s fine.
But, you should never ask about these things if they aren’t brought up. Asking how much money you’ll be making or what your benefits will be is a red flag for most employers. It gives them the idea that you only want the job for the money, or to know how many vacation days you’ll be able to take while still getting paid.
Conversations about salary and benefits will come up later. For your first interview, focus solely on the job itself and how you can assure the employer you’ll be able to benefit the company. You shouldn’t be worried about how the company can help you.
Explain Why the Job Fits You
No matter how lengthy your interview may be, you’ll probably get a feel for when it’s starting to wind down. By that time, your interviewer should have given you the full scope of what you can expect from the job. Both of you should have been able to exchange questions and answers.
Once you’ve gotten to that point, try to summarize why you would be a good fit for the job. Now that you know more about it and both of you have gotten your questions answered, you should have an even better idea of why you’re the right person for the job. You should also let them know that you’re still interested in the position, and why.
Take a minute or two to share that with your interviewer. It will be one of the last things you talk about, so it’s more likely to stay with them as something they remember when they’re hiring. Finishing your interview strong is perhaps one of the best things you can do. First impressions mean a lot, but last impressions will stay with the interviewer longer.
Because college grads are usually new to the interview process, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or nervous. Nerves will always be there when you’re going through an interview. One of the best things you can do to get through it is breathe and be honest with yourself and your interviewer.
Trying too hard to impress a potential employer with exaggerations or falsehoods will be exhausting. You will probably also get caught at some point, and that can end up ruining your career. It’s easy to be someone you’re not to look better. Pretending to know more than you do can also help to calm your nerves, but it won’t get you anywhere.
Instead, remember to breathe through the whole process. If you can focus on something as simple as taking deep, steady breaths, you’re more likely to stay calm and collected. Honest answers will come to you much faster when you’re more relaxed. It also gives you the opportunity to act more like yourself, which you now know is another critical tip for a successful interview.
Say Thank You
It might seem like second-nature to thank your interviewer, but it’s something that can often get overlooked. It doesn’t mean you’re rude or ungrateful. Again, interviews can be stressful and cause you to get nervous. As a result, it’s easy to become forgetful of things that would otherwise be normal to us.
With that in mind, be sure to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to your interviewer. If you met anyone else that day, take the time to thank them as well. It needs to be made clear that you are grateful for the time they took out of their day to give you a chance. You should also show them that you’re just as excited about the job now as you were when you first walked in the door.
It’s Okay to Follow Up
People have different opinions about following up with an interviewer, but it’s completely okay if it’s done the right way! No potential employer wants to be hounded continuously or bombarded with messages. But, you can continue your attitude of gratitude when you follow up.
To start this process, be sure to get the names and contact information of anyone you met on the day of your interview. Then, within 24-hours of the interview, send a quick email to everyone. These should be individualized emails, not one mass message that is the same for everyone. Taking the time to make things personal will reflect positively on your personality.
In your follow-up emails, thank the interviewer again for their time. Quickly reiterate how excited you are about the job opportunity, and why you think you’d be an excellent fit for the position. You don’t have to sell yourself all over again. But, the email can be a quick reminder for them, and they can reference back to it as they’re going through other candidates.
If you want to stand out, choose to send a hand-written note instead of an email. This might take a day or two to get to the interviewer, which is the only drawback. But, if you aren’t on a rushed timeline, it can make a big difference, and it shows a lot of genuine thought and gratitude.
How to Get a Job After College
Getting a job after graduation isn’t always easy. As the job market seems to change regularly, some industries are seeing growth while others are seeing a decline. Applying to different businesses you’re interested in is a great place to start. The best part? You can apply for any job you want in various industries. But, whether you get hired will usually depend on your interview.
It’s okay to be nervous about an interview process after going through college. But, don’t let those nerves bring you down or allow you to stumble through an interview. As you can see, there are so many things you can do to help yourself through the whole process.
If you’re a recent graduate and you’ve gone through some tough interviews already, put some of these tips to use. There may be some ideas here that you haven’t implemented yet. They could end up making a big difference in getting you the job you want. There is more to the interview process than most people realize. By keeping these job interview tips in mind, you can stand out from the competition and feel more confident in yourself.