I am not a career counselor or expert. However, as a recent graduate, I have attended my fair share of interviews and have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Below are my personal thoughts and interview tips for the recent college grad job seeker:
Research the company.
If you tell a hiring manager “Oh yes, I am soooo organized!”, but you forget copies of your writing samples you promised or show up to the interview frazzled because you were almost late, what kind of message does that send? Bring multiple copies of your resume, references, and give yourself “extra-extra” time to get there. I also suggest bringing a portfolio of samples that demonstrate your previous work experience. Class projects are perfectly acceptable.
It’s better to err on the side of overdressed. Career experts suggest conservative apparel over trendy, especially for more formal business settings, such as suits, close-toed shoes and minimal makeup and jewelry. Some fields, however, do allow for more creative garb, but use your best judgment based on your line of work and the individual organization.
As a recent college grad, I struggled with this. And I doubt I’m alone. Especially in this economy, grads are often competing with people whose experience far outweighs ours. But, we all have very valuable experience to contribute.
You just completed four years of intense learning, class projects, internships, and university organizations. You have a wide network at your fingertips, so use them. Some of my best references and sources of contacts are university professors.
Prepare answers—ahead of time.
Interviewing really is a skill that is groomed with practice. Have sample answers prepared to common interview questions. Practice them in a mirror, or with a partner. Be able to deliver well-thought out answers smoothly, concisely and with professionalism.
I have been asked variations of all these in an interview:
- “Why did you choose this major or field?”
- “Tell me about what you did in ____(insert college course).”
- “Describe a typical day at your job (or internship or past work).”
- “Tell me about a time you have you strived to improve yourself.”
- “Tell me about a time you were presented a problem, the action steps you took to resolve it, and the final results.”
- “How do you handle conflict?”
- “How well did you get along with past bosses/managers? Who was your best boss? Your worst?”
- “What do you know about this company?”
- “Why should we hire you?”
- “Give me an example of when you’ve worked in a team.”
- “Describe a leadership role you’ve had.”
- “How do you manage your time?”
- “If you were me, why would you hire you? Why?”
- “What have you learned from previous jobs.”
Here are some great examples of questions and how to approach them.
Be sure to answer question completely, but don’t over answer.
At the end of your answer, don’t be afraid to ask, “Did I answer your question fully?” or “Would you like me to add more?” Don’t over answer and talk their ear off, but make sure you do give them enough information. A mistake I sometimes made in interviews was fumbling/rambling at the end of my answer while I waited for their approval.
Studentbranding.com writer Nicole Anderson gives great advice about approaching interview questions using the STAR model.
Lastly, be able to answer the question “Why do you want to work in this position?” Mention the company and the position in your answer. And, always be sure to stress the value you can provide to the company.
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently joined SPARK Advertising in Neenah, Wis. as a full-time public relations specialist. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.