3 Tips for any Graduate’s First Interview

The nerves are jangling, but the door to their future is now slightly ajar. They have the first interview at the company of their dreams, but will the door swing invitingly open or slam in their faces? A lot will depend on how the grad handles themselves during the interview.

When you have a stellar career behind you, you can be forgiven a few mishaps at interview. Your CV will still speak for itself, and people will often give you the benefit of the doubt, well at least to invite you back for a second interview, in any case. For a graduate, however, the stakes are that little bit higher. 80% of your success will depend on your performance at interview – lesser mortals get better jobs because they interview fantastically and better mortals get lesser jobs because they interview less well.

Why wouldn’t you give every possible thought to the preparation?

Now, interview tips are a subject that has been well documented, and I do not intend to give chapter and verse on the perfect recipe (as everyone is different), but there are three evergreen tips that every single grad should bear in mind when they walk into that room. These are things that might seem obvious for more seasoned interviewees, but for a grad in their first few interviews, these snippets of advice might as well come from Mars.

The grads that heed them are those who smash the door down.

  1. Ensure that your authentic personality is front and centre. The interviewer doesn’t only want to know the detail about how you went about researching your dissertation – they want to know you. That means being honest, telling some stories and being open to not fitting in immediately. The biggest mistake that any grad can make is to “adapt” their personality to the role – that is far too easy to detect. Show them what you are really about and let them decide whether you would fit in. Any other approach is doomed to failure; after all, if you don’t fit it’s not the job for you anyway!
  1. Ask the right questions at the right time. An inquisitive nature is expected in a graduate, so if you sit there timidly answering questions like a frightened deer in the headlights, don’t expect much success. If, however, you ask questions in line with the conversation (and where the answers are not publicly available on the internet), you can demonstrate your ability to gain value from your communications. Employers want bright grads who aren’t afraid to say that they don’t know something, but who will then seek out the answer with the determination of a heat-seeking missile. The ability to ask the right questions will always get you nearer that elusive answer.
  1. Project a sense that you are in control of your own destiny. This is the hardest thing to pull off, for any interviewee. Obviously, you are desperate to impress and probably really need the job, but you must let the interviewers understand that you will only join if you feel that it is the right thing for you to do. It isn’t in their interests to take on people who are just in it for the monthly pay cheque, so for them to feel that you are engaged. It is important to let them know exactly why you want to join them, not from their point of view, but from your point of view. What is in it for you? Why exactly are you choosing to join? That is powerful.

Personality. Questions. Control.

Focussing on those three issues will ensure that you come across as a composed and compelling candidate. Something that is surprisingly rare in graduate interviews.