Graduating from college is certainly a milestone achievement in your life. It marks the start of your journey toward your career goals. However, this doesn’t mean to say this is an easy first step. While you’ll have gained some knowledge from your education, employees generally expect more. Without experience, it can be difficult to stand out from other candidates and score your first position.
This is not necessarily a reason to feel downhearted, though. You still have an enormous amount to offer any organization. The key is to show potential employers that you’ll be an asset. Often, the best forum to express this is during the interview process. We’re going to lay out a few tips to help you nail your first post-college interview.
Make a Positive First Impression
Scientifically speaking, it takes 1/10th of a second to make a judgment about people’s faces. There are also varying opinions about how many seconds it takes to form a lasting opinion. This isn’t to say anything you do outside of those first seconds is irrelevant. Nevertheless, the first impression you make tends to inform how interviewers assess your suitability for a role.
Your physical traits indeed have no bearing on your abilities as a professional. However, employers want to see how you reflect their image for the culture and reputation of their organization. As such, it’s important to do some research into the business surrounding this. Not all companies expect formal attire, indeed this may be contrary to their image. So look on their website at photos of their team, and if possible, speak to current members of staff for insights.
Your body language is also an important consideration here. Maintain good posture at all times — even in the waiting area. Essentially, you’re aiming to appear attentive, responsive, and positive. This isn’t always everyone’s area of strength. Therefore, it can be wise to practice with a friend or in front of a mirror if necessary.
Remember that interviews are increasingly being held remotely. It is no less important to maintain your appearance and body language in these scenarios. In addition, the background of your video calls can swiftly communicate your professionalism and personality. Keep all surfaces uncluttered and utilize neutral-colored walls behind you wherever possible. Though, if you’re interviewing for a creative position, it can be worth having a few examples of your work and your inspirations.
Effectively Represent Your Skills
Making a solid first impression is good, but it is often your skills that sell you to recruiters. After all, they need to be sure you can excel in the role. As this is your first interview out of college, you usually won’t be able to use the shorthand of your previous roles in the industry. You, therefore, need to double down on representing the skills you’ve gathered.
Your university course will likely have provided you with many of the technical skills you need to perform well. However, interviewers will be just as interested in your soft skills. Some great abilities to have up your sleeve include collaboration, creative thinking, and problem-solving.
Don’t simply list your skills in an interview. Recruiters can get this from your resume. Rather, take the time to contextualize them. Even if your skills haven’t been gained in a professional setting, it helps the interviewer see you know how to utilize them to achieve results.
For instance, transformational leadership skills are highly regarded in the business community for the potential to influence innovation. Candidates with these skills can also bolster the culture of an organization and empower teams to achieve goals. Rather than simply say you have these skills, talk about a time you actively inspired a group of people to go morally and productively above and beyond. This could be in volunteer scenarios, college projects, or in your part-time work.
Demonstrate Your Cultural Value
Company culture is an increasingly important part of the employment landscape. A strong culture is recognized as key to retaining staff, influencing innovation, and maintaining a good reputation. As such, it can be a vital aspect of your interview to show how you can integrate with and add value to the culture.
Again, this has to begin with research before the interview. Dive into the company website and social media channels. Gain a solid idea of what is important to the organization on a cultural level. Are they committed to meaningful sustainability? Do they have close ties to charitable or community initiatives? Look into what their expectations are for workers to engage on a cultural level.
You should then make these a source of discussion during the interview. This isn’t about parroting their values in an inauthentic way. Rather, use the cultural information as an opportunity to show where your ethics align. Talk about experiences in your educational or personal life that reflect your shared values. Provide examples of times you have overcome ethical, social, or cultural challenges to achieve positive outcomes for everyone involved.
Importantly, most companies will want to know not just how you’ll mesh with the culture but how you can contribute to it. After all, employees influence the cultural shape of a business and will likely be future leaders. Find opportunities to ask questions that illustrate your consideration of forging a great culture. These could be around inquiring about how encouraging they are of employee suggestions or their openness to support new cultural initiatives. Show the recruiters you’re already thinking about your ability to positively influence their business.
When you’re fresh out of college, you can’t always rely on a rich career history to secure jobs. Your behavior during the interview can be key to your success. Ensure the first impression you provide is positive and professional. Don’t just list your skills but contextualize them to suggest how you use them effectively. Take the time to understand the company’s culture and discuss how you can contribute to it. These things tend to take a little preparation, but they can empower you to find an enriching role.
Huge thanks to Frankie Wallace for this guest post. Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about education, personal development, and technology. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero waste garden or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.