Top Job Interview Tips for College Students

College student at interview
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Finding a job can be challenging when you're in college, especially when you are balancing classes, schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and your social life. It can be tricky even finding time to schedule interviews, so once you have an interview secured, it's important to make the best of it.

When you haven't had much practice interviewing, it can be hard to know what you'll need to do ahead of time in order to ace your interview.

Planning ahead and being prepared to interview on short notice is the best strategy.

It will be much less stressful than trying to get ready just before the interview, especially if you need to line up appropriate interview attire and juggle your schedule to get to the interview.

15 Job Interview Tips for College Students

Here are some tips for interviewing when you're in college.

Prepare a List of Your Top Qualities

Prepare a list of the top five qualities, skills, and areas of knowledge or experiences that would best equip you to excel in the position. Think of an example of how you have demonstrated each asset in past jobs, volunteer roles, academic projects, or school activities. Be ready to sell yourself to the employer.

Describe Why You Find the Job Appealing

 If it is a career-oriented internship or job, be prepared to state how it is related to your career goals and/or your academic studies.

Practice Your Interview Answers

Check with your career services office to see if they conduct mock interviews. That's a great way to prepare for the real thing. Also review common interview questions and answers, so you're comfortable responding to questions about your background and skills.

Schedule Your Interview Carefully

When scheduling your interview, make sure you have enough time to get to and from your interview if you have classes that day. If you're coming right from class, mention that to your interviewer. If necessary, ask your professor if you can leave a few minutes early in order to get to your interview on time.

Have the Interviewer's Contact Info Handy 

Although it's important to give yourself enough travel time, in a college environment it's not unlikely to encounter unforeseen obstacles—maybe class runs late, a professor wants to talk to you, or a test runs over the allocated time. If something beyond your control happens and you find that you're running late, it's good to have your interviewer's contact information on hand so you can notify him or her.

Dress Appropriately

When you have an 8 a.m. class, on an ordinary day, you might roll out of bed and head to class in your pajamas. But if you have a 10 a.m. interview, be sure to plan accordingly. Even if it means wearing your interview clothes to class, make sure you look professional and put together for your interview. If you have to go to your interview straight from class with your backpack, a nice outfit will balance that out.

Bring a Copy of Your Resume and Cover Letter

Bringing a print-out of your resume and cover letter is a great move. It doesn't hurt to have extra copies because you may be interviewing with more than one person. Bring a list of references to share with the interviewer upon request. Also, consider bringing a copy of your transcript as well if you're interviewing for an academic-related position and your grades are an asset.

Turn Your Phone on Silent

Even if you get away with texting in class, your interview isn't a place to sneak in a few texts. Also, if your phone is constantly beeping or ringing during your interview, it creates a very distracting environment and reflects poorly on you. So, make it a priority to turn your phone on silent and stow it away in your bag or pocket during your interview.

Stow Your Headphones Before You Enter

Although you might be dying to catch the end of your favorite song, put your device away before you walk into your interview. You want the focus on to be on you as a prospective intern or employee, and not on any distractions.

Don't Bring Food or Drink

Plan ahead and grab a snack before or after your interview, because it isn't professional to eat during your interview. This applies to drinks, too—even if you're running on two hours of sleep, finish (or throw out) your coffee before your interview.

Don't Bring Friends

You should go to your interview alone, so don't bring your friends or your significant other. If your parents are around, don't bring them either. If someone gives you a ride to the interview site, have them wait in the car or go and grab a coffee. Review these tips for what—and what not—to bring to an interview.

Be Polite, Professional, and Attentive

 No matter how tired you may be, make an effort to greet your interviewer kindly, and be active and engaged during the interview process. Be outgoing and positive, even if you feel crappy. Sit up straight and make eye contact. Here's how to introduce yourself and start the interview off on a positive note. 

Know Your Availability

Employers know that college students have busy schedules, so it's important to have an idea of your availability, such as how many hours per week you can work, if you can work weekends, and if you will be available during summer semesters or breaks. If you can, bring a copy of your class schedule or write up when you're available, so you're not scrambling to remember during your interview.

Be Upfront About When You Can Work

 On a similar note, once you know when it's feasible for you to work, be honest with your employer. You don't want to end up taking on more hours than you can handle, inconveniencing both yourself and your employer. Be sure to be honest with your interviewer about when you can work, and if your availability isn't the right fit for the employer, it's better to know that as soon as possible so you can look for other positions.

Send a Thank-You Note Afterward

 Although you should thank your interviewer in person for taking the time to interview you, it's a great idea to send a thank-you email as well. In addition to being good manners, taking the time to follow up reiterates your interest in the position. Be sure to express your enthusiasm for the job if it is still an attractive opportunity and briefly summarize how it is a good fit.

For example, you might say, "I am so excited about the possibility of working as a publishing intern with your organization since it will tap my strong writing, editing, and organizational skills." 

Key Takeaways

  • Take time to prepare. Spending time preparing for a job interview will make you a stronger candidate.
  • Be on time. It's important to be punctual, or even a little early, for your job interviews.
  • Follow up after the interview. Send the interviewer a thank-you note or email message.