If you recently graduated, congratulations! Finishing your degree is a true achievement and something to be proud of.
However, if you’ve not started job hunting yet, it’s time to begin the search. Competition for graduate jobs has always been high, but this year it could be more challenging than ever.
Some companies that would usually be hiring graduates aren’t, and those that are hiring are being inundated with applications.
So, a quality CV or application form and excellent interview skills are more critical than ever before.
How do you ace your graduate job interview? Below we outline our top graduate job interview tips and take a look at the questions you might be asked and the questions you should ask, alongside what you should wear on the day.
Graduate job interview tips
You may have attended interviews before but, the chances are, they were for more casual positions — such as in your local pub or for delivering pizzas.
A graduate job interview will be the first formal job interview that most graduates attend. As such, it can be tough to know what to expect — something that can cause anxiety and concern.
That’s why we’ve written this guide; we want you to feel confident before and during your interview. Please remember that you’ve just studied for your final year of university during a worldwide health crisis and managed to graduate — you’ve got this!
So, let’s get into it.
Prepare for your graduate interview
You’ve probably been told many times that you need to ‘prepare’ for your graduate interviews, but what does that preparation look like?
Firstly, you need to research the industry until you know it like the back of your hand. Then, you need to look into the company and know exactly what it does — if you don’t know this, there’s no point in attending the interview!
Next, you need to research the position you are applying for and gain a good knowledge of what it is the company would be paying you to do.
Finally, you need to consider all of the above and work out how you are going to convince the interviewer or panel that you’re perfect for the position.
Yes, your degree is crucial for getting you to the interview stage, but now the company will want to know why they should select you over the 50 other applicants with the same degree.
Show an understanding of how the role you are applying for fits into the company’s broader aims and explain how you would be contributing.
Do you have skills that might help you stand out? Make sure to highlight those.
Dress the part
As much as we’d like to say that your graduate job interview outfit doesn’t matter (and, arguably, shouldn’t) — it does.
First impressions are made before you have even opened your mouth to speak and so you must dress well and enter the room confidently, making eye contact as you do.
What to wear for a grad interview depends on the company you are applying to, however; it’s a formal interview, and so you will never go far wrong if you wear formal attire. In short, a suit with trousers or a skirt, or a formal dress.
Only wear an outfit you’re comfortable in, though, or you’ll look and feel awkward throughout.
If you arrive and feel over-dressed, you can always remove the suit jacket to tone it down a little.
It’s also essential that you make sure you look neat and tidy — ensure your hair is under control, your clothes are ironed, and your shoes are clean and polished.
Finally, plan your route and check the weather, so you don’t show up to the interview sweaty from a surprisingly long walk or drenched from a downpour that took you by surprise. The last thing you want on interview day is any surprises!
If you are interviewing during a national or local lockdown, make sure you still dress well for your Zoom call — at least up top!
Expect these interview questions
While nobody can be sure about what you’ll be asked in your interview, there are some commonalities across all graduate interviews that might help you to prepare.
Firstly, it is highly likely that you’ll be asked to talk the interviewer through your CV or tell them about yourself.
The latter is a broad question, so it’s certainly worth planning a response to this question that summarises just what they need to know.
You don’t want to find yourself sitting in an interview telling the interviewer about a rollercoaster you rode when you were on holiday in 2010, for instance! When they say “tell me about yourself”, do not be tempted to start with “Well, I was born in 1999…”.
Secondly, the interviewer will be looking to see how well your skills match the skills required for the vacancy. Therefore, there will be questions in the interview around that — possibly along the lines of “tell us about a time you demonstrated [skill]” or “tell us about a time you successfully [did a task]”.
Sometimes, scenarios are thought up, and you are asked to explain how you would react in the said scenario or how you would fix a given problem. You can’t really prepare for these particular questions but expecting them is a good start.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
Towards the end of the interview, you will usually be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. This is your final chance to stand out from the crowd.
You may want to know about lunchbreaks or annual leave, but this is not the time to ask these questions!
Instead, go into the interview with a few questions pre-prepared in your mind. Choose questions that show you already imagine yourself in the role, such as:
- How will my performance be measured?
- What do you love about working for the company?
- Is there anything in my application or in what I have said today that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?
- What will the most challenging aspect of this position be?
Once you have followed all of the tips above, you are ready for an interview. Go get that job!
If you experience a terrible interview, don’t worry — we’ve all been there. Use the experience as a practice run for the next interview, and reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Then, you’ll be even more prepared next time.