When you're a recent college graduate, interviewing can be a challenge, especially if you haven't interviewed much. That's especially true when you're interviewing for entry-level positions because, in general, it's a level playing field with all candidates having the same basic qualifications.
However, there are ways to prepare for an interview so you can stand out from the crowd of entry-level candidates and make the best impression on the interviewer. The more you prepare by practicing your interview skills, researching the company, being able to show why you're qualified, and by following up after the interview - the better chance you'll get at securing a second interview and a job offer.
Here are tips for acing an interview for college students and recent graduates from Mike Profita, director of career services at Skidmore College for 25 years and college career expert.
Top College Grad Job Interview Tips
Analyze Your Target Job. What skills, knowledge, and personal qualities are required by the employer and are critical for success in that role? Do you have the skill set the employer is seeking or, at the least, are you a close match for the job?
Make a List of Your Key Assets. Be prepared to share seven to ten key assets, like skills, course projects, experiences, personal qualities, and knowledge bases, which will enable you to make a solid contribution in that role if you were to be hired.
Share Examples. For each of those assets be prepared to share an example or anecdote which shows how you used that strength to complete an academic project or successfully carry out work or a co-curricular role. Sharing "real life" examples will help you show the interviewer that you're qualified for the position.
Show Enthusiasm. Be ready to articulate why you are interested in the target job or organization and how it relates to your goals. Show enthusiasm during the interview for the job. Try to stay positive during the interview, even if you're stressed and nervous.
Practice Interviewing. Review common interview questions and think about how you would respond. Practice your responses with advisers and use the interview preparation modules offered by the career office at your college. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be during job interviews.
Conduct Informational Interviews. Conduct informational interviews with college alumni who work in your target field. Find out key trends and what it takes to be a success.
Research the Company. Research your target organization. Learn about their challenges and accomplishments. Read the press releases on their website. Look for articles in the business press evaluating the progress of the organization. Search Google and social media for news about the organization.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language. During the interview watch your body language: shake hands firmly, make eye contact as you articulate your points, and sit up straight.
Listen to the Interview Questions. Listen carefully before you respond to questions, and ask for clarification if you are uncertain about the focus of a query. It's fine to take a few moments to frame your response.
Be Ready to Ask Questions. Be prepared to ask questions about the job that reflect your genuine interest and build on the research you have done about the position.
Summarize Why the Job is a Fit. Towards the end of the interview if you are still interested in the job, let the recruiter know that you think the job is an excellent fit (summarize briefly why) and that you are highly interested.
Don't Forget to Say Thank You. Make sure you get the contact information for your interviewer and send a follow-up email or letter as soon as possible after the meeting. In addition to thanking them, reference anything which they said that enhanced your interest and briefly summarize why you think the job is an excellent match.
It's Fine to Follow Up. If you don't hear back right away, it's appropriate to follow up on the status of your application by phone or via email.