“We would like to invite you for a graduate interview.” Did your heart just leap out of your chest? These are the words that every graduate job hunter, beaten only by “the job is yours!”.
Developing your interview technique is a skill in itself, one which many graduates haven’t had the chance to practice.
It’s totally understandable, but if you’re aware of the common mistakes, you can plan to avoid them.
So, what are the little things that let graduates down at an interview?
Lack of professionalism
A lot of graduates haven’t had much experience working in a professional, commercial environment, so this one can be tricky to get right.
It’s important to remember that the interviewer will be assessing whether or not you will fit in well with the team.
Of course, you need to let your personality shine through, but you also need to demonstrate that you are mature, professional and ready to start a career. Keep an eye on things like your posture and eye contact, and avoid using slang or sounding too relaxed.
With regard to your appearance, it’s always better to look too smart rather than too casual.
Read our guide to “What to Wear to a Graduate Interview.”
Unclear career goals
It’s not easy knowing exactly what you want to do when you finish uni. However, if your interviewer thinks that you have no idea what you want, it’s unlikely they’ll hire you.
Before you start applying for jobs, it’s worth pulling together a short-term plan, or even a few different potential plans.
Once you get to the interview stages, do your preparation so that you can show that you have clear career goals in mind.
Don’t forget to keep it relevant, there’s no point applying for an administration role and telling the employer you want to be a pilot!
There’s a difference between ambition and delusion. Yes, by all means let your interviewer know that you’re hungry to succeed, but be realistic with your expectations.
Many graduates let themselves down at an interview because they expect too much too quickly.
E.g. if your interviewer asks you where you want to be in 5 years’ time, there’s no point saying that you want to be the CEO.
The same goes for salary expectations, if you walk in demanding significantly more than the industry/role average, you’ll just come across as arrogant (or clueless).
Do your research into typical career progression paths and salaries for the type of role you’re applying for.
Poor commercial awareness
You’re new to the world of work, you shouldn’t have to know what’s going on in business, right? Wrong!
Successful graduates show that they’re up to date with what’s happening in the economy and the industry they are applying to work within.
You don’t need to become an expert overnight, but demonstrating at least a basic understanding during an interview will put you in an employer’s good books.
Read our article on “How to Develop Commercial Awareness.”
Sometimes this one can be hard to avoid. The thing is, employers want to see confidence at an interview. Even the most experienced professionals can feel nervous before an interview.
Want to know the secret? Fake it ‘till you make it. If you act confident, you’ll start to feel confident.
Amy Cuddy gives a brilliant TED talk on how to “fake it ’till you make it” by adjusting your body language and how “power poses” can help you give a better interview performance.
Remember, the more interviews you attend, the better you’ll get!
Practicing your responses and thorough preparation will definitely help you feel ready for your next interview.