Are you just about to leave University? Preparing for your very first graduate job interview can be a daunting prospect. However, if you take some time to prepare before hand, it will be time well spent.

Taking the time to prepare for your first graduate job interview will help increase your confidence too. Ask your network for help or to share their experiences of interviews to give you some insights.

If you went straight to university from college and have no work experience, the first graduate job interview is likely to focus on your degree modules and studies.

The interviewers will probably focus on your theoretical knowledge and your behavioural competencies (Research techniques, time management skills, meeting assignment deadlines, report writing, presentation skills, working as part of a team and communication skills etc.)

How to prepare for your first graduate job interview

first graduate job interview

An interview is attempting to determine whether you are suitable and capable of performing well in that job. It’s to assess your fit to the company culture and team. It’s also ascertaining whether you are genuinely interested and therefore, motivated for the job and company.

Keep these three aspects in mind when you are preparing:

  • Job Fit: Can you do the job and do you have the knowledge and skills
  • Team and Company Fit: Do you share the same values, attitude and characteristics
  • Motivational Fit: Are you genuinely interested in the job and company

Just because you don’t have any work experience doesn’t mean you cannot share specific examples to demonstrate your behavioural competencies:

Research techniques: Talk through how you’ve conducted research to build up knowledge and evidence to support an argument and write assignments. Describe the nature of the subject, the hypothesis, objective or rationale. Share the professional journal articles you found and read to support your theory.

What sources of data did you use to write your assignments and how did you interpret the information to demonstrate your theory?

Presentation skills: It’s highly likely you’ve had to prepare and deliver a presentation as part of your studies or as part of the assessment process. Talk through the steps you took to prepare the content and design the presentation. Talk about the core messages you wanted to communicate. Share what elements of presenting you took into consideration (understanding the needs and engaging with the audience, eye contact, handling questions, etc.)

 your first graduate job interview

Team work: If you worked in a team during your studies, talk about how you worked together successfully. Share how and why you distributed the tasks amongst the group members. It’s okay to share any disagreements or conflicts as long as you all reached a positive outcome. Describe how you worked through these disagreements. These experiences are highly relevant in our modern and diverse workplaces.

Time Management: No doubt you’ve had several assignments, projects, presentations and maybe the odd exam. Think about how you managed your time. Talk about how you planned to spend your time during the week and month. Describe your schedule and how much time you spent in the library, researching, reading, drafting, editing and proof reading and how you fit in your personal life, hobbies, fitness, family and friends too.

Common interview questions you may be asked at a graduate job interview

There are hundreds and hundreds of different questions that could be asked during an interview as you can appreciate. So rather than spending your time preparing answers to lots of different questions consider the three elements above (Job fit, knowledge, skills, competencies etc. Company fit and motivational fit) and how you match all these aspects related to that job.

Gone are the days when you could prepare some scripted stock answers and reel them off in an interview. You need to prepare your answers specifically to that job and that company. You can of course, start to consider and prepare some general information ahead of the interview. However; you must tailor this information to the specific vacancy when you get the invite to interview.

These are some of the typical questions that are still asked during the interview:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What do you know about us?
  • What skills and knowledge can you bring to this job and our company?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses in relation to our vacancy?

Sample behavioural competency questions you may be asked:

  • Talk us through a time when you have used your planning and organising skills?
  • Tell us an occasion when you are worked as part of a team to meet a common goal?
  • Describe a piece of research you have conducted. Explain the background, objectives and justify your findings.

Practice

Once you’ve prepared a few possible answers to commonly asked questions, it will be time well spent practicing with a good friend. Practice answering the questions concisely. Ask for feedback on how to improve either the content or how you communicate the information. Did they understand what you had done and achieved?

You could also record yourself using your iPhone. Today it’s likely you’ll be invited for a telephone or Skype interview.

What to bring to your first graduate job interview?

Curriculum Vitae: Take along a couple of copies of your CV on quality paper. It shows you are thinking ahead and have taken the time to prepare for the interview. It also shows a little courtesy to bring along copies for the interviewers.

Work portfolio: If you haven’t already done so, prepare a folder of your certifications and examples of the work you’ve done throughout your studies. When you take time to organise and present your work you are demonstrating your motivation and self-drive.

Contact details: Should you have problems with late running trains or heavy traffic, always phone ahead before you are late. If you are running late always offer to reschedule. You might not be the only person they are interviewing that day. The interviewer may have several back-to-back interviews scheduled and one late arriving candidate can disrupt the whole day.

Map and directions: This sounds like common sense but you never know when there are going to be unexpected road closures and you’re diverted off course! If you use a Smartphone make sure it is well-charged. And just in case that you can’t get a signal for your phone – always print and take a map of the area if you are not local and then you can plan an alternative route quickly.

Pen and notebook: Prepare some questions to ask about the job and the company. Preparing some questions will again show you are genuinely interested. Just take brief notes when the interviewer is answering your questions because you still want to maintain the rapport.

It’s not a great idea to “wing” it these days. Interviewers and hiring managers have probably dedicated some time to the recruitment process before they’ve even started interviewing. They will have almost certainly looked at your CV or resume. It’s courteous to spend some quality time researching the company and preparing.

There is a lot of competition for graduate placements and you want to give yourself the very best opportunity to land that graduate job.

What are the benefits of using an Interview Coach to prepare for your first graduate job interview?

Your first graduate job interview can be one of the most important interviews that you attend.  Most people – given the chance – would love to have expert advice.

Using the services of a good professional Interview Coach will help you prepare by highlighting your strengths and working on any weaknesses.  You can get great advice and eliminate areas of concern.

Working together, you will gain confidence by developing interview techniques that work for you. Their advice should not apply for one specific interview, but will give you the tools to approach further interviews positively.