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Graduate Job Interview Tips

Our job interview tips will help you keep those nerves in check so you give the best performance on the day.

Prepare yourself

Preparation for your job interview is vital - if you do your research thoroughly beforehand, it will boost your confidence and help set your mind at ease.

It will also put you at a great advantage if you are asked in the interview what you know about the company, and you are able to provide a detailed overview of who they are and the work they do.

There are a number of things you can do during your preparation for the interview:

Research the company/employer - careful research will mean you know exactly who the company are, what they do, their ethos, and their history.

Write down all the skills and experience you have that you believe is relevant to the job – remember that the more you put on your list, the better you will look.

Have all your preparation done by the night before the interview – this means making sure your clothes are ironed and that they are smart.
You should also have any documentation you require laid out ready or in your bag so you don’t forget it in the morning.

Write down any questions you wish to ask them - this is important as well, as after nearly all interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions for them.  Asking at least one question shows that you have prepared and that you have researched the company. It also shows that you are enthusiastic and interested in both the job and the company.

What should I wear?

Remember the old saying ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’? Well, this means it's very important that when you go into an interview you make a good impression by dressing smartly, even if the interview is only supposed to be 'casual'.

This means jeans and trainers do not qualify as part of your outfit! Guys do not necessarily need to go with a full suit unless it's a big company with an excellent tradition/reputation, but certainly a trousers/shirt/tie or trousers/shirt/jacket combination is crucial.

Girls should go with a blouse/shirt, smart trousers (a dark colour such as black or navy blue always looks good) and a jacket. Smart skirts are fine too, as long as they are not too short (i.e. just above the knee or a little longer)

Make an effort with your hair so it is nice and tidy, and don't wear too much makeup, jewellery, accessories etc. 

Guys should make sure they are clean shaven, and remember not to overdo it with the aftershave/deodorant/perfume!

Before you go in to the interview

First of all - try to stay calm. Although this is often hard when you are worrying about what you will be asked, etc. it’s good to try and at least keep your composure.

Drink some water beforehand to make sure you stay hydrated and try to keep some water with you up until you enter the room to stop your mouth getting too dry.

Make sure to eat something before the interview, even if you don’t really feel like it much. This will stop your stomach rumbling in the interview!

During the interview

  • When you are first addressed by the interviewer(s) – smile! Make sure your posture is upright – no one likes a sloucher! And if you're offered a hand or two to shake, accept the invitation and shake firmly - this is important because it shows confidence.
  • Be sure to make eye contact, especially at the beginning, though try to maintain this during the whole interview, as it will make you look focussed and engaged.
  • Do not sit down until you are invited to do so – although this may not seem like a big deal, it can be viewed as rude behaviour.
  • Try to take the lead from the interviewer(s) too: if their tone and posture is relaxed then see this as a sign to be relaxed also; if they are very upright and formal with their speech, try to adopt the same manner.
  • Don't lean your elbows on the table during the interview either, and don't fiddle with your hands or your hair, even if this is a nervous habit. If you know that you usually fidget, try putting your hands together with your fingers interlocked as if you're praying and rest them on the desk in front of you – making your hands visible should encourage you to look over them into your interviewer's face and not fiddle.
  • Remember your manners at all times. Pleases and thank yous will be noticed and reciprocated, even if that means a consolation phone call if unsuccessful that you wouldn't have otherwise received.
  • Accept a glass of water, or tea/coffee if offered, and if they are also going to have one. Most certainly you should not accept or request soft drinks, fizzy drinks or food.
  • Listen carefully to the questions. Don't interrupt, but do ask them to clarify what they are asking if you don't understand the question straight away.
  • Show you are interested in the interview by maintaining eye contact, and nodding or smiling where appropriate. If you find you cannot answer a question, don't be afraid to say "I'm afraid I cannot answer that" – it’s better to say this than spend ages trying to think of an answer or only giving a half decent one.
  • Think about what you are saying: talk slowly and clearly; take your time and pause to consider your answers before replying, if an example or answer doesn't come straight to your mind. The interviewers will prefer you do this as it will seem like you're taking it seriously. Avoid waffling during your answers and avoid saying "um" and "err" if you can.
  • Try not to make your answers overlong so that you are doing most of the talking; be concise, and wrap up your answers with a clear conclusion.
  • Answer questions honestly (do not lie, as you can be easily caught out with this!) and be careful not to criticise current or former employers - your interviewers may think you will do the same to them. Try not to reveal any confidential information about other people either, as this makes you look untrustworthy.
  • Focus on selling your existing skills and abilities as much as you can through the answers you give, as this will present you in the best possible light. Interviewers look favourably upon attributes such as enthusiasm, determination and a willingness to learn new skills and work as part of a team.
  • Try to use positive phrases, such as "I enjoy..." rather than "I like..." and speak positively about the opportunity to accept the role. For example, "I anticipate the challenges this job would provide", rather than "If I get the job I think I could cope with the challenges

After the interview

  • When the interviewers have asked all the questions they want to, they are likely to ask you if you have any questions. As mentioned earlier, make sure you take up this opportunity – it’s likely to be your only chance and it'll give you an insight that you may wish you had received if you are offered a job and then don't enjoy the situation.
  • It’s important to realise that a job interview is not a one-sided process and you shouldn’t think of it as a grilling by a couple or a panel of strangers. It’s a two way process, and as much about you finding out about them and whether you would enjoy working there as about them finding out more about you.

Your choice of where to forge the foundation for your career and work for at least 2 or 3 years is dependent on finding out as much as you can about the company.

Therefore it’s important the questions you ask them are relevant, so you can actually glean some useful information.

For example, you could ask about the short term and long term plans for the company, staff training and development, etc. This would demonstrate an interest in the company that will look kindly upon you and a willingness to get involved in what they do.

Also, if you have researched the company in advance, you can prove your knowledge of the company - which could stand you in better stead than the other candidates - and mean your questions are more interesting to the interviewers. This will leave them with a better impression of you.

  • Ask who you would be working with when you first start, who you would answer to, and how your development will be managed in the early stages of your career. This will show an eagerness to learn as well as showing that you're taking an interest in how they train their staff.
  • Asking questions about your potential salary is a big no-no, especially if this is a first round interview: if there will be a second or even a third round, it’s best to save this question for later.

If it is a last round interview, then save this question for the end, and phrase it appropriately - i.e. "Can you tell me what the salary might be for this position?”, not "So, how much will I earn?".

  • Remember that you shouldn’t settle for the first position offered your way – find out whether the company/employer is right for you.

Don’t feel bad or guilty if you don’t think you would fit in, or the role isn’t as suited to you as you first thought. You can always politely decline their offer, and on the plus side, being offered a position will help boost your confidence in other interviews you attend.

  • Once you have finished asking your questions, make sure you thank them for their time and for giving you an interview, and remember your posture, smile, handshake and manners as you exit the room.

At the end of the day...

Remember that lots of people apply for the same job and some (usually most) don't even make it to the interview stage, so don't be too disappointed if you're not successful.

It is, after all, going to be a important experience in helping you prepare for future interviews, and you never know, if you make a good enough impression the employer may keep your details on file and contact you in the future if a suitable role comes up.