How to Ace a Job Interview: A Guide for Recent College Graduates
Like other important things in life, the interview process requires preparation to be successful. The employment world is very competitive and if you’re fresh off college or a newbie in your career, knowing how to prepare for the interview and what to focus on is key.
I’ve had my fair share of interviews and I wish someone shared with me the tips below. These are some insights that can improve your chances to land the dream job.
Before the interview
More than half the battle is decided before you even meet the hiring manager. Never go into an interview room ill-prepared. Here are some of the things you should be doing before meeting the interviewer.
Research the company in depth
Your interviewer will expect you to know quite a bit about the organization. Do your research and be prepared to give a short and concise answer that shows you know the company’s activity in the industry, their values, and recent or future acquisitions or trends they’re following. The time you spend doing your research shows you care about your potential role at the company.
Identify what you have to sell
Make a list of qualities that you have. Important distinction – qualities that you have, not qualities you believe you should have or would be good to have. Since you’re working on making a great impression, make sure you’re creating the right one.
If you’re serious about a certain job, try to acquire the skills required or “preferred” by the employer. Chances are you will not master the skill before the interview, but I am sure your interviewer will appreciate you have taken the initiative to improve yourself for the job.
Remember the stories behind your accomplishments
Your interviewer wants to see how your current skills match the requirements for the job. The best way to prove them is to describe your previous achievements. But instead of just spewing out numbers and data (those are important too), try to tell a story instead. That’s because stories are more convincing and memorable than just data. Make sure your stories are not only interesting but also a support for the accomplishments related to the skill you mean to emphasize.
For example, if you helped improve a certain process at your previous internship position, in addition to telling the hiring manager that you made the process run 50% more efficient, tell them how you did it, what made you did it, and how it works. Of course, you don’t want to sound long-winded so tell a story, make it as long as it needs to be but not any longer.
Come up with intelligent questions
Most likely, near the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions. Instead of saying “No” and risk being interpreted as lack of interest, ask pertinent questions related to the job and to the company. Your task during the interview is to impress the hiring manager during that short period of time — so every minute counts. Plus, if you’re really interested in the job, wouldn’t you at least have a question or two? Unless… you don’t really care about getting this position at all. So be ready with your questions.
Some examples of the questions to ask the interviewer are as followed.
- Who’s my direct supervisor if I get this job?
- How big is the company? How many colleagues on the team I’ll be joining?
- What is the work culture like?
- Working hours – this is important.
- What does the daily routine look like?
- When will I know if I get the job?
Like it or not, a job interview is fairly similar to an exam. At the end of that exam, you can pass, and get the job — or you don’t. But that’s very much up to you and how well you are able to sell yourself, and accentuate how you would be an asset for the company.
To start off, try to check out the commonly asked interview question list and come up with your own answers. In the beginning, try to do that without preparing, just answer based on what you know. If you’re happy with it, great! If not, you’ll know where your weak points are and where you should put your effort into.
Do a mock interview
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and role play with one of your friends or parents. If you don’t have much experience with job interviews, doing mock interviews will gain you some valuable experience. If you play tennis, doing a mock interview is like practicing with a real opponent — it’s just more effective than playing against the launcher.
During the mock interview, feel free to change the roles if your partner is up for it. Try to think like the hiring manager. Why do you ask the questions you ask? What is your goal? What are you looking to achieve during the interview?
During the interview
You’ve done all you could to prepare. Now it’s time for the main event.
Stay away from generic answers
You can imagine what the interviewer wants to hear, but the bad part is that they’ve already heard it before. Interviewers see thousands of people monthly and they can definitely tell apart the exaggerations from the truth.
It’s your responsibility to come up with unique, personalized answers that speak about your strengths in a genuine way.
Focus on your unique strengths
What makes you stand out from the crowd? What do your friends appreciate about you? Or what is that skill you’re good at? Make a list of people whose opinions you value and ask them about your strengths.
Think of this interview as a reason to celebrate your accomplishments. You have the stage all for yourself, so this is your moment to shine and show your best angle.
Take their feedback into account and use any information you get to improve your weak spots.
Focus on your potential
The fact is most employers are hiring based on your potential for growth. I’ve seen numerous people with a huge learning capacity that can overcome the absence of certain skills when the hiring assessment is done. However, these people learn very fast, and they can accumulate knowledge to a more extensive degree compared to the people who are already doing that job. If you’re passionate about the job, don’t be afraid to show that. Let your passion shine through and be confident. Don’t just say that you have potential. Show them. However, the best time to do this is before the interview when you’re preparing. If you tried to learn knowledge or skills that are in the job description for the interview, this is your chance to show the prospective employer that. Let them know your capability and willingness to grow beyond your current self and that you carry a great attitude.
Be ready for surprises
The interviewer may ask you to complete a test for which you didn’t prepare. Or there may be a creativity assessment which was not included in the presentation of the interview. Be quick on your feet and get ready to reinvent yourself on the spot. Whatever happens, do not panic. Sometimes, hiring managers utilize the element of surprise to gauge how would a prospective employee respond in various situations.
Develop your close
Just as lawyers prepare a closing argument for their cases, you should do the same. Work on a short and concise close, where you express your gratitude for being interviewed and state again the reasons why you’d love to join the team.
Stand on your feet before you meet the interviewer. Walk around the meeting room if the room size allows it. Getting yourself familiarized with the environment will make you feel less nervous about the process.
The first impression will last until you get the chance to improve it. The way you prepare and present yourself during the interview will determine if you will be hired or not. Do you best to and cover all the bases so that you can have the best possible outcome.
Hopefully, these tips will build your confidence – one of the most important traits when entering the job market.
Not sure what to wear to the interview? Check out one of our outfit guides.
[This post was contributed by Laura V. Thanks, Laura!]