They walk into the room, and you can sense that they do not know what to expect.
Their smile shows you that they are used to being around people, and their easy manner fools you into thinking that they know what is coming. Only their eyes betray them – they are searching for clues, desperately seeking any hint at how they should behave and what they should say.
The first time a grad walks into an interview with a potential employer should be handled incredibly carefully. Everyone is different, but there are some considerations that should be brought to any potential employer’s attention.
Firstly, the employer needs to understand where a grad is in their job search – before they walk into the room. If this is genuinely their first ever interview, it is important to know. Everyone needs to start somewhere, but the best talent can be easily turned off by an over-zealous interviewer who doesn’t take their lack of experience into account.
For these interview newbies, it is worth taking a couple of minutes for the employer to explain what they expect from the chat. Recent grads will relax a little when they understand what is requested from them and what form the interview will take. The last thing that an interviewer wants is the grad blasting off on a 10-minute monologue without any opportunity to build any rapport.
Every grad interview should start slowly with a few “sighter” questions. Get them talking about their strengths before you test their weaknesses – give them an opportunity to shine before you seek to challenge them. No interview should be a walk in the park, but if a newbie is thrown in the deep end immediately, they will be unlikely to do themselves justice.
The interviewer needs to manage the interviewee with their non-verbal and body language. Let them know with nods and appreciative noises when they are on the right track, and make sure that you are bold enough to interject when they go off on a tangent. Where possible, mirror their body language to make them feel at ease – you want them to perform, not to retreat into their shell.
It is important that any “first” interview is not a game of poker. If you like what they are saying, let them know why you like it. If you think that they could have given a better response, equally give them some feedback. They might not get the job, but they will be richer for the experience. Honest feedback is one of the most important things – without it, the grads won’t learn how to modify their approach.
Finally, the most important consideration. Remember how you felt in your first interview. It was scary, you didn’t know what to say, and you probably felt like an imposter who has no chance of getting this job. If you had been handled a little differently, you might have joined them, but they treated you like just another applicant. They didn’t understand that it was your first time.
They simply didn’t care.