Long days and late nights of studying pay off as you cross the stage on commencement day. With a diploma in hand, you’ll finally be able to reap the benefits of all of your hard work. Landing a job post-graduation can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be, even if you’re pursuing one of these competitive fields.
Take a look at these job interview tips to help you seal the deal at your upcoming job interviews after college.
Tip #1: Cast a Wide Net
Some recent graduates may feel certain about their next career moves, while others may still be undecided. It’s important to cast your net wide early on in your job search.
If there’s anything we’ve learned collectively during the pandemic, it’s the importance of adaptability. That same flexibility is critical as you plan for life after college and begin applying to jobs. Keep in mind both preferences and must-haves when approaching each job prospect. Do you live in a small town? Are you willing to relocate to a larger city with more industry-specific opportunities? What are your salary expectations?
Consider where there may be room for flexibility, including:
- Location (or willingness to relocate)
- Job title
- Pay grade
- Company size
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Studies have shown that women and other underrepresented populations tend to avoid jobs they don’t feel 100% qualified for. In fact, a study conducted at TalentWorks found that women are nearly twice as likely to dismiss jobs compared to men when both groups match 50-60% of the job criteria. Furthermore, the same study found that job applicants were just as likely to get an interview whether they met 50-90% of the job criteria. So don’t count yourself out, especially if you meet half or more of the qualifications.
Tip #2: Do Your Research
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you’ll begin the process of submitting applications and resumes. Be sure to conduct thorough research about the company and vacant position. This job interview tip is critical throughout the job search process, from submitting your application to second and even third-round interviews.
Avoid Resume Spraying
Early in your search, you may be tempted to send out as many copies of your resume as possible, but remember: quality over quantity. Learn about each company you will apply to and tailor your resume accordingly. Companies often rely on an applicant tracking system (ATS) to conduct the preliminary vetting process. So, as you craft your resume, pull as much language from the original job posting as possible so the ATS can flag you as a strong match.
Research the Company Inside Out
Familiarize yourself with the company’s mission, values, industry, and culture. You can also check out reviews on third-party career search sites like Glassdoor to get anonymous feedback from employees.
During your interview, the hiring manager may ask, “So, what made you decide to choose ABC Company?” Think of this as your chance to show off your careful research. Your ability to do so will be a clear indication of your eagerness for the opportunity and willingness to absorb new information if it means doing your job better.
Tip #3: Make a Great First Impression
You only get one chance at a first impression, so do your best to make it count. Competition may be steep, but you can move to the front of the line just by assuring the hiring team that you’re the best fit from the get-go.
The best and first way to demonstrate this is through preparation—it’s all in the details. Show up on time, bring extra copies of your resume, and dress the part. As job interview venues moved largely virtual this year, the same tenets still apply. If your interview will take place over Zoom or another video conferencing platform, make sure you test all equipment and internet connection at least a day in advance.
Set the Stage
Be sure to eliminate the noise around you. Maybe you’re used to working in a crowded coffee shop, but this isn’t the best location for an interview. Instead, choose a quiet location at home, a library study room or a shared workspace conference room.
Get to Know the Interviewer
Before you ever shake hands, get to know a bit about the HR rep or hiring manager. A quick search on LinkedIn is a good place to start. Look for areas where you may be able to connect: professional background, alma mater, interests and awards. At the very least, double-check name spellings and pronunciations. Using LinkedIn’s audio feature, you can both listen to and record a name so there’s no room to slip up during the interview.
Tip #4: Lead with Confidence
According to Glassdoor, the average corporate job today attracts 250 resumes. It’s no wonder, then, that HR representatives and hiring managers may sift through dozens—if not hundreds—of resumes to pare down the most competitive candidates. When you lead with confidence, you’ll position yourself as a strong contender amongst your peers.
Give non-verbal cues that will assure the interviewer you’re best for the position. Sit up straight with your shoulders back, and lean in slightly. If you are participating in a virtual interview, it’s also good to practice looking at the camera lens directly (not your video feedback). Leave a slight pause between the interviewer’s question and your response to avoid unintended interruption. This job interview tip is especially true when conducting the interview via video with even the slightest lag.
Highlight Your Expertise
Be upfront about why you are the best candidate for the position, and tie each past work experience or skill to the new role. Use as many specific metrics as possible, and mention any industry-based hard skills.
As you’re crafting your responses, focus on the ways you will benefit the company, not the other way around. Put yourself in the company’s shoes: How can you sell yourself in a way that establishes trust and assures the hiring team that you are uniquely qualified, reliable and committed?
Tip #5: Ask Questions
At the end of the interview, the interviewer will undoubtedly ask you, “So, do you have any questions for me?” Your answer should always be, “Yes.” Demonstrate your continued interest and offer opportunities for clarification.
Aim to Learn More About the Prospective Role
To begin, try to fill in any gaps you may have about the role itself. Think about the routine duties of this position, those whom you would work most closely with, or any foreseen challenges. Some questions you might consider asking include:
- “What’s a typical day/week in this role like?”
- “Who would I work with most closely?”
- “What do you anticipate being the biggest hurdle for new hires?”
Demonstrate a Desire for Professional Growth
No job candidate is too young, too old or too experienced to identify areas for professional improvement. Make it clear that you are open to pursuing learning opportunities by asking wrap-up questions like:
- “Are there opportunities for candidates to build cross-departmental skills?”
- “What certification opportunities may be available for new employees?”
Allude to Future Communication
At the end of an interview, make it clear to the interviewer that you are interested in learning more about next steps. Not only will this reiterate your excitement about the position, but it will also give you a clear path for following up post-interview. You can ask things like:
- “When can I expect to learn more?”
- “What is the timeline regarding this hiring process?”
Tip #6: Follow Up
Don’t forget that the interview process extends beyond the confines of a conference room or Zoom call, even after the nerves wear off. As a final job interview tip, you must follow up after to show interest and keep the line of communication open.
Within 24 hours of completing an interview, send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for the time and effort taken. The note doesn’t have to be lengthy, usually 3-4 lines. You should briefly recap something new you learned during the interview, your excitement about the role, and again, your gratitude for the opportunity.
Continue to Show Interest
After the initial thank-you email, follow up the day after you’re expecting to hear back from the hiring manager if you still haven’t received a response. Your message should be friendly, brief and direct. Express your continued interest in the position and offer to provide additional information as needed.
Stay Optimistic and Open-Minded
You can follow up twice more after your initial inquiry email. After all, people’s schedules get busy and your email might get lost in the shuffle. It’s likely your steadfast approach will garner a response. However, if you still have not heard back 2-3 weeks after your initial interview, it’s best to begin exploring other options.
Remember, not every position that you apply to will be the perfect fit for you, but if you stay open throughout your job search and remain diligent as you begin the interview process, you’re sure to find the job that’s right for you and your career trajectory.