20+ Tips to Ace Your Graduate Job Interview

POSTED BY:
Our Graduates
CATEGORY:
DATE:
3 September 2019
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Being invited to an interview for the exciting graduate job you applied for can lead to a bewildering mix of elation, anticipation and, of course, nerves. We have compiled over 20 tips that will help you to make the experience as successful and minimally traumatic as possible!

Preparation

  • Know your CV inside out and be able to expand on any information it contains. Potential employers will often use it as a basis for interview questions!
  • Prepare answers to commonly asked questions. As well as the usual ‘Why do you want this job?’ consider responses to questions more specific to your job role. A quick Google search, for example ‘interview questions teacher’, will turn up plenty of useful material. Don’t forget to include lots of examples (see our article Eight Steps to Write an Outstanding Graduate CV for more advice on this).
  • Research the company you have applied to. Don’t worry about memorising their entire website and social media presence; just pick three things that stand out to you. You can call upon this information if asked and explain why you found it interesting or appealing.

‘Working for an ethical company is important to me. I am motivated by making a difference in the community, so I would look forward to assisting in the efforts made by [Company X] to support small local charities.’

  • Don’t be over-prepared so that you sound robotic. I’m guilty of this because obsessive preparation is my way of coping with interview nerves! If you do feel compelled to prepare in exhaustive detail, use well-timed pauses and hesitations to sound more natural.
  • Have some questions ready to ask at the end of your interview. Also, have back-ups to your back-ups in case the interviewers do that annoying little introduction at the beginning, in which they answer them all.


‘I know that your company is very committed to staff training and development. Could you give me more detail about what my training would involve?’

  • Practice! If you’re still at university, ask the careers service if they will conduct a mock interview with you. Alternatively, you can sit down with a friend or family member. Someone not afraid to be honest with you is best – in my experience, siblings are good at this!

Logistics

  • Do a trial run of your journey beforehand. Try and carry out this trial at a similar time to when you will be travelling to your interview, so you can get an idea of what traffic, public transport etc. will be like. Remember, aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
  • Dress formally and minimalistic, wearing something that makes you feel confident. Unless a dress code is specified, think ‘Grandma’s birthday meal in quite a posh restaurant’.
  • Remember to think about the bag you will take, and if you need to provide any documents, protect them in a folder. Your slick professional look will be slightly undermined if you pull a crumpled reference from the depths of your battered rucksack!
  • If you wear make-up, go for a simple and natural look. For example, I usually wear BB cream, nude lip gloss, mascara and eyeliner on the upper eyelids only. Jewellery shouldn’t be too flashy either. Paying attention to small details like this can give you fantastic ‘I’ve got this’ vibes!

On the Day

  • The night before, lay out your clothes and have everything you need ready to go, to avoid last-minute panics. After dinner, stop all your preparation and do something relaxing, then get a good night’s sleep. If you’re struggling to sleep due to nerves, I find meditation apps such as Calm and Happy Not Perfect to be a brilliant help.
  • Wake up in plenty of time to get ready and eat a filling breakfast.
  • If you have time, meditating on one of the apps mentioned above is a perfect way to get in the zone. Happy Not Perfect even has a specific meditation session (only 5 minutes long) to prepare for a big day ahead!

During the Interview

  • Smile and be friendly – it’s easy to forget when you’re tense and on edge, but first impressions really count.
  • Don’t overthink things. Be straightforward and honest, asking questions if there’s anything you don’t understand.
  • Expect the unexpected. However much you prepare, there is bound to be at least one question you’re going to have to wing a little bit. If they throw you a curveball, don’t panic! Take your time to come up with a thoughtful response.
  • Relax! Easier said than done, but once you get started you’ll find your flow and your personality will start to shine through. Most people want to work with someone who brightens up their day a bit, so you’ll be surprised how far being the genuinely lovely person you are will take you!
  • Consider whether this is actually somewhere you would like to work: are you getting good vibes? The interview is a chance for you to suss out the company as much as they are sussing out you! I was once left waiting for my interview in a back office, by myself, for 45 minutes. Nobody even came to offer me some water or let me know what the delay was. Did I get offered the job? Yes. Did I accept it? Hell, no.

After the Interview

  • Thank the interviewers for their time as well as anyone else who has helped you, such as receptionists or the office junior who brought you a cup of tea.
  • Ask when you can expect to hear from the company. If you haven’t heard anything a couple of days after this date, send a polite email chasing them up to show you’re keen.
  • Treat yourself! This is my tried-and-tested strategy for getting through anything vaguely unpleasant, from exams to interviews. Whenever you feel nervous, instead concentrate on how triumphant you will feel in a few hours when it’s all over and you’re having a Netflix binge/indulging in retail therapy/scoffing one of those amazing raspberry-and-white chocolate muffins from Caffè Nero. 

Good luck with your interview!

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