Top Tips For Nailing Your Graduate Interview

Going for your first graduate interview can stir up a lot of uncertainty and nerves. You might feel like you’re competing against everyone in the country who just graduated alongside you, especially if you send a few CVs out and hear nothing back. Sooner or later, though, you’ll get the call and you’ll be on your way to the first step on your chosen career ladder.

A little planning and prep time can make all the difference when it comes to nailing your interview, leaving a lasting impression on your prospective employers and, ultimately, netting yourself that career. Let’s take a look at some top tips for preparing for an interview…

Research the company

You’ll have done some reading up on the people you want to work for before building your CV around an application (right?), but the context of an interview is entirely different.

Now you’re expected to be able to hold a lengthy conversation about the company’s work, their achievements and how you can slot into it all.

Don’t just focus on the company itself, but on issues affecting the sector and industry. You can also get a firm grasp of their brand ethos and tone of voice from following any social media activity.

A good way to get your head around this is to rope a (preferably willing) friend or family member into helping you. Just sit and talk to them about the company in a relaxed, informal setting. It does wonders to reduce pressure if the first time you discuss a company in-depth isn’t in a high-stakes interview.

Build your prep around the type of interview

There are interviews, then there are interviews. Knowing what exactly you’ll be required to do means you can get into the right mindset before you begin.

Telephone interviews, for example, tend to be for earlier rounds when employers are whittling down potential candidates. You’ll have a relatively short space of time in which to impress, so come ready with a few stats and facts to show you’ve done your homework.

Competence-based interviews will require you to demonstrate skills you’ll need on the career, like problem solving and teamwork. Here, being able to reel off figures will impress less than a hands-on approach to the task.

Panel interviews, where you’ll be grilled by several members of the HR team or management staff, can be daunting. Prepare for these by developing a wider understanding of how different departments in the company might interact and show you can be a team player.

If you don’t know what type of interview you’ll be having; call up and ask. Any contact with your prospective employer is another chance to get noticed, remembered and, in the end, hired.

Focus on you

As we touched on before, it can be intimidating when you think of the number of people who might be applying for any given graduate role. The best way to deal with this is to simply not think about them. Focus on you, what you bring to the table and why you’re different.

Go over your CV, unpack different aspects and think about how you might approach working for this company in ways that other people might not.

What have you achieved in the past, for example, and how does it demonstrate the skills needed for this career? If you got the chance to do these things again, how might you do them better?

University societies you were part of, earlier career which might seem irrelevant at first, even your hobbies and interests all form part of the tapestry which led you to this point. Don’t hide it all away, use it and apply it to this job, just as you would do in a day at work.

Look and act the part

As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to look overly professional and loosen up later than it is to turn up looking rough around the edges and then try to rise to the occasion.

Of course, part of that will be down to how you dress. But even the best-dressed applicant can turn up looking haggard if they’ve had to make a mad last-minute dash. Plan your day carefully, consider alternate routes to the interview in the event of any transport problems and give yourself plenty of time.

If you’re bringing any documents with you, bring them neatly in a folder. These can be used as prompts if you have difficulty answering a question, or evidence to back up your points.

Remember to act in a professional manner at all times, to everyone you encounter. Extend this to a few streets away from the interview venue to avoid, for example, being overheard talking about the company on the phone.

It might also be worth giving your social media presence a check over just to make sure you aren’t expressing any opinions that might hinder your chances.

Ask questions and follow up

More important than how you look, however, is the overall impression you give of how you’d act while working for this company. People want to see proactive, interested prospective employees.

To demonstrate this, show up with some questions prepared relating to your position, and how that might fit in with the future of the business. It’s good to show that you’re planning to get on board for the long haul and contribute ideas, rather than just perform the same task for your entire career.

After the interview, follow up a day or two later and ask when you might hear back from them, and any feedback they might be able to provide at that point. Again, it’s always best to appear more keen than necessary, it helps you get noticed.

Above all else, remember that everyone was in your position at one point. Don’t see interviewers as obstacles. They’re people to win over to your side, into a shared belief that you’re the right person for the job.

With the right prep and the right circumstances, there’s nothing stopping you. Good luck!