You have made it to the interview stage for a graduate job opening and are now very close to taking the leap into the world of work.
You are probably feeling mixed emotions, one minute excited the next minute anxious? If you are slightly nervous don't worry most people feel the same way about interviews. Once you are really prepared and know what to expect, you will have no problem nailing it.
It goes without saying that being prepared before going into an interview greatly increases your chance of selection. There are many helpful websites that provide typical interview questions, preparation strategies, practise tests, and hints on how to perform during interviews. Try the links in the Useful Resources section, read our advice below and you'll have a much better chance of landing that graduate job.
The more you know about the hiring company the better advantage you will have over other graduate candidates so do as much research possible. Have a look at their website to find out about the company's culture, beliefs and objectives etc. Look at annual reports and newsletters and try dig out anything that can be mentioned in the interview. The employer will appreciate that you spent time researching their company and it will show that you really want the position.
Make sure you know the name and title of the interviewer.
Don't wait until the morning of the interview to find the location of the company. Know its location well in advance, you should even consider taking a practise trip a few days before to familiarise yourself with the route and avoid confusion on the day. On the day of the interview aim to arrive 15 minutes beforehand this way you will avoid being late which is never justifiable.
Before you go into an interview you should remind yourself what you are actually offering the employer. Go through the Application form or CV that you used to get to this stage and make sure you can talk in detail about the course you studied, your experiences and the relevant skills you have to offer.
Nowadays, most interview questions are carefully designed to identify if the candidate has key skills and requirements related to the job opening. Interviewers will most likely ask about past performances as an indicator for future behaviour. As an interviewee you are expected to offer much than a yes/no answer, so practise answering questions using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This technique will enable you to answer tough questions in a subtle and compelling manner.
Example Question: Give me an example of a time when you helped solve a problem in a group or team setting?
The interview is all about selling one thing - yourself. If you've made it to the interview stage you have done so because the employer has liked what they have seen on paper, now is your chance to prove yourself in person.
Your appearance is really important in creating a good first impression. A smart appearance shows that you care about the job and are willing to make the effort. You should arrive at the interview dressed conventionally; make sure you do not wear anything too â€œloudâ€ and keep accessories simple. Remember to shine your shoes, clean and trim your nails and make sure your hair is neat and styled away from your face. Don't go overboard with perfumes, makeup etc.
When you meet the employer make sure you greet them in a friendly manner and offer them a firm handshake. While this may seem like a small point, the truth is that employers are looking for any clues as to what type of person you are. The handshake is a chance to show how confident and enthusiastic you really are.
There is no way you can predict exactly what interview questions you will be asked, but preparing answers to likely questions can help clarify points in your own mind. Learning answers off by heart is not the way to go (it will be obvious to the employer) but there is nothing wrong with using possible questions to help refine and clarify the way you articulate your skills, experience and qualities.
Try to think of a range of examples you could use to support your answers. You don't want to simply tell the panel you have skill â€˜X', you want to prove it with strong illustrations.
Why would you like to work for our organisation? What do you know about us?
The interviewer is trying to see what you have to offer and how your needs and those of the organisation complement each other.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Here the interviewer wants to hear about your capabilities. Provide examples to back up your claim. When speaking of weaknesses it is best to answer in a positive way i.e. describing the action you have taken to address a weakness.
Other questions likely to come up are listed below. Always back up your answers with examples and where possible measurable facts.
Remember an interview should not just be one way traffic, you should be asking questions too. By asking the interviewer questions you will reinforce your interest in the position and organisation. It also provides you with an opportunity to find out more about the company. Avoid asking questions that indicate ignorance or lack of preparation; or that focus on benefits to you.
Make sure you follow up with a thank you letter/email or a phone call. If you're neck and neck with another candidate, your follow up could give you the advantage.
And even if you don't manage to get the job treat every interview as a learning experience. This will ensure your interviewing skills improve as does your performance next time round.