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Tips for Nailing Your First Post-College Interview

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.

An Interview with a Geography Teacher

We spoke to Dan Cropper, a geography teacher at The Fallibroome Academy, located just outside of Macclesfield in the north of the UK. Dan studied Geography at the University of Manchester and completed his PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University.

How did you first get into geography?

“I enjoyed Geography lessons at school and found that I seemed to do well at it so continued with at GCSE and then A-Level. I really enjoyed learning about different places around the world but also the fact that, particularly when it comes to human and environmental geography, the discipline seemed to be based around the desire to improve the world we live in for all. A classic subject rivalry at school is between Geography and History (both are fantastic subjects) and I found myself preferring the fact that Geography looks to the future whereas History looks to the past (though I definitely acknowledge how important it is to learn from the past!).”

What area of geography do you find the most interesting?

“Whilst at school and university, I was drawn more towards human geography – globalisation, population, development etc., because it seemed as though that was the part of the subject that was more concerned with “making progress” as opposed to physical geography which was more “how stuff works”. At university, all of the modules I could choose were human geography and I became really fascinated by the part of geography that draws a lot of influence from sociology, anthropology and even psychology. My dissertation was concerned with how listening to music on portable devices can change the way you perceive an environment as you travel through it.
“However, since being a teacher, I have had to teach the whole spectrum and have really enjoyed revisiting and learning more about physical geography topics such as rivers, coasts and glacial environments. Indeed, one of my favourite things to do these days is to go off to the countryside for a walk and marvel at the magnificent scenery we are blessed with on these little islands we call home.”

Do your friends see you as an expert when country questions come up in pub quizzes?

“I imagine that a lot of the onus would be put on me, yes. But some of my friends could certainly contribute too. I do enjoy questions about countries, capitals and flags but I definitely don’t know everything. African and Asian countries are my weakness.”

What made you decide to study geography in Manchester?

“As I said, I enjoyed Geography at school and did well at it so chose that as my subject at university. I chose Manchester simply because I got an amazing vibe when I was there. Wasn’t anything to do with the course or stuff like that – I knew that it would be great at a university as esteemed as that – so I just went on how I felt there during the open day. The fact that I support Manchester United and love music also helped. The music scene in Manchester was a big pull.”

Did you have a lot of options with your course or was it quite rigid?

“The first year was pretty rigid in that we had to do a range of modules across the discipline. However, beyond that, we could choose from a good range of modules in the second and third year, as well as choose the location for the second-year field trip we went on and our dissertation title. I went to the Czech Republic (which was my second choice after New York) and had a brilliant time. I think that other people went to Cuba, Crete, possibly Morocco and Ireland.”

Would you ever like to go back and continue your studies in Geography?

“I did consider doing a masters in something related to Geography after my degree and before my teacher training, but mainly for the sole purpose of making myself more employable. The one issue with a Geography degree, in my humble opinion, is that, because it is so broad and gives you such an array of different skills, you leave not necessarily being tailored for a specific job. When potential employers are looking for experience in a specific field during an interview, that can be a little problematic.”

How did your teacher training prepare you for your current job?

“Quite simply, without it, my first year in the job would have been incredibly difficult. I took the School Direct PGCE route which I felt was right for me because you spend more time in schools learning the trade so-to-speak, rather than in university. It gave me experience in so many aspects of the job that was invaluable when you are left on your own, in your own classroom, with your own classes for the first time in the NQT year.”

In your current role as a geography teacher, do you get to take your class on many trips?

“We don’t do trips with our Key Stage 3 classes (Year 7 to 9) but, after that, there is a trip with each year. We mainly stay domestic but there is a chance to go to Iceland with the Year 11s, which I managed to get on last year and will be going again in October. It is my favourite country, a geographer’s dream I always say, so that is very special.”

What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching geography?

“Apart from getting to go to Iceland(!!), I would say the most rewarding thing is helping the students to realise that there is a world out there, beyond their little bubbles. Geography helps us to develop an appreciation and understanding of different people, places, cultures and environments so that we become much more open-minded towards them; more empathetic and accepting. What made me want to teach Geography in the first place was the desire to help others reach that point.”

Finally, what advice would you give to any student about to start a geography course at university?

“Give everything a go before you decide what aspect of the discipline you perhaps want to home in on. Don’t rule something out because you find it difficult – if you actually work harder at that particular aspect, you may find yourself actually enjoying it. Make sure you go on any trips because they invariably are the most memorable parts of the course. Finally, pick a dissertation topic that you have at least an interest in. It is a unique opportunity to put your stamp on the discipline; but also a huge piece of work that you will spend HOURS on, so make sure you choose wisely!”

Travelling Europe
Golfoss Waterfall, Iceland

An Interview with a Sports Therapist


Jenny Jones is a lecturer in Sports Therapy at the University of Hertfordshire and a sports therapist for the England U18 Men’s basketball team. We spoke to her about her career.

What path did you take to become a sports therapist?

“I studied the 3-year degree at what was then University College Chichester which is now Chichester University. Whilst at Uni I made every effort to gain as much work experience as possible to maximise my chances of employment after graduating. Once I had graduated in 2004 I started working part-time with a semi-professional football club and in two sports injury clinics, one physiotherapy and one chiropractic clinic.

“After 6 months working I decided I wanted to gain more experience in sports so decided to spend a month at a University in America. There, I worked in the Athletic Training room which gave me access to athletes from a large variety of sports. I spent quite some time with the Men’s basketball team where my love for the game increased even more. This led to me making the decision that I wanted to work full time in basketball if possible.

“On return to the UK, I managed to secure a full-time job with a professional team in the British Basketball League. Unfortunately, the club folded in 2006 so I moved on to begin lecturing at the University of Hertfordshire. Whilst taking a slight detour from full-time practice I was very keen to maintain my hands-on sports therapy; since joining the University of Hertfordshire I have worked with Saracens Rugby, Arsenal Ladies Academies and UK athletics.

“Throughout my career so far I have maintained my passion for basketball and for the past 3 years have been the Sports Therapist for the England U18 Men’s team.”

What are the best and worst things about your job?

“There are many best parts about being a sports therapist, I truly love the job. It can be very rewarding when players return to full fitness and can play again. Being part of a very close team experiencing the highs and lows together makes the job really enjoyable.

“There are obviously negative aspects to the job as with everything. One of them is that it is extremely time-consuming and hours are not predictable. Working at the crack of dawn and into the night as well as every weekend can be very demanding on your time; not only on you but it also has a knock-on effect on your family at home. This is by far the biggest disadvantage of working in sport. I find the best way to get around this is to work in a sport your family like and can, therefore, come and watch. It keeps them happy too!”

What is the best advice you can give people wanting a career in sports therapy?

“The key to success in this profession is motivation, determination and love of sports. I would recommend getting as much experience in as many sports as possible. Get yourself a first-aid certificate and volunteer at Saturday league games or help out with local sports or physiotherapist. The Society of Sports Therapists website is a key source of information for anyone interested in the profession.”

What would a normal day be like for a sports therapist?

“My current career is slightly different to a full-time sports therapist. I lecture at the University of Hertfordshire but I have recently returned from a European Basketball Championships in Bosnia. I will give you an example of a day there:


“On a game day, we would wake early and have breakfast as a team. Following this, we would have a short break before training. I would use this time to treat any injured players or get on with all the pre-training preparation. This involves taping and massaging the players that require it.

“Any new injuries that had occurred in the game the previous night would also be assessed in this time. A decision on whether they could train and/or play would be made. The team would then all go to training where I would be available for any players that got injured during this time. If there were any injured players, the training time would often be used to run rehabilitation sessions using the spare courts.

After training

“After training, I would take all the players to the swimming pool to run a cool-down session. Following lunch, the players had a team meeting which I would also attend. The management team would meet immediately before this. My role as a sports therapist was to provide details of any injured players and whether they could play or not. Depending on the time of the game there may be an hour or so break for some rest. If the game was early I would begin pre-match preparation after lunch and then travel to the game. At the game, I would sit on the bench and be prepared to treat any injuries that occurred, which in this tournament was many!


“Following the game, my role would be to organise a cool down and then assess any injuries and treat any acute injuries immediately. I also had responsibility for the players’ nutrition and rehydration. After treating the players and having dinner I was then free to relax. Depending on game time could be very late in the day. This is an example of a tournament scenario, every day would be similar but less hectic, just a slightly scaled-down version.”

What are the different types of organizations and workplaces that hire sports therapists?

“When I first graduated in 2004 the employability of a sports therapist was limited and it took a lot of motivation and perseverance to get a job. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Sports Therapy is becoming widely recognised and there is currently employment in

  • Professional sports clubs
  • Various types of sports injury clinics
  • Working with disabled athletes
  • Organised events such as marathons
  • And much more.

“The degree also allows people to go on to further study, a number of students go on to become teachers or study Masters programmes.”

What made you want to become a sports therapist?

“I have always had a real love of all sports and have participated in athletics and basketball from a young age. It was whilst competing for the south of England in athletics that I damaged my knee which resulted in two years of various treatment to no avail and led to a doctor telling me I could no longer participate in athletics.

“It was heartbreaking. Being very persistent, I did not like being told I couldn’t do something so I decided I would get educated so that I could fix myself and not let others go through the same experience I had. It was then that I found out about the Sports Therapy degree and it sounded perfect. Two years later I started at Chichester.”

What action can university students take to establish themselves as an attractive candidate to future employers?

“Since taking on the lecturing job at the University of Hertfordshire I have made it a priority to help make our students highly employable. We run events on CV writing and cover letters as well as implementing clinical experience into the degree and providing the option of a sandwich year placement. In my opinion, there are many things students can do whilst studying, but the key is gaining as much experience as possible. This will often mean volunteering at local sports clubs or events, generally getting out and experiencing the working world. It is also important for students to have the academic skills to communicate effectively.”

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An Interview with an Environmental Scientist

We spoke to international student Rebecca Cavlan, from Malta, about her experience studying Environmental Science at the University of Brighton, UK. She tells us what it’s like to study environmental science at an undergraduate level and how her career has worked out as an environmental scientist.

Did you always want to work in environmental science?

“Growing up in Malta from the age of 10, I snorkelled around my local coasts for most of my summers.  It didn’t take long for me to notice that human activity was linked to the ocean floor, I saw our waters becoming more and more polluted and I noticed that the pollution was linked to the amount of marine flora and fauna there were.  The moment I realised this I knew that I had to dedicate my life to conservation.”

Has your degree benefitted you in the current job field?

“I have had around five environmental internships since I graduated, I have only begun to look for jobs now as I took a managerial position for a year. Hopefully, my hard work will allow me to be paid for working in conservation! A degree tends to be one of the minimum requirements for most of the jobs that I’m applying for.”

What university did you attend, and what are your thoughts on it?

“I attended the University of Brighton.  Brighton is a great city, it is very accepting and there is always something to do.  Although the University (like most) has mixed reviews, I found my experience there and my course very fulfilling. I went on two field trips abroad and about half a dozen around the UK, I had lab access and computer lab access when I needed it and never really struggled with the library either.  My lecturers were very supportive and I am still in contact with a few of them now, a year after graduating.”

Which module did you enjoy the most and why?

“I enjoyed my dissertation the most (sad, I know)!!  I picked my own topic and designed the project myself, my supervisor was very supportive of this too.  I had 4 weeks of data collection in Malta, which involved a lot of snorkelling and scuba diving, then I got to read and write about a subject that I was very passionate about.”

What are the best and worst parts of working in environmental science? Where would you like to be in 3 years’ time in your life and career?

“The best part about working in environmental science is definitely the fact that what you are doing could make a difference, whether you’re waist-deep in a muddy river, crunching data on a computer, writing reports or even talking to the public, you know that you’re having a positive effect on the world and this is very fulfilling.  The only negative I can think of is that there is no set ‘template’ way of starting up your career in environmental science – like there would be for say, law or architecture.  There are so many pathways you can take with endless experiences you can have in this field, and there is no way of knowing where you’ll end up really.  I don’t really see this as a negative point, though it can be quite exciting!”

As alumni, would you have any advice for those entering the field?

“Read, Read, Read.  Keep up to date with what is going on out there; just because you’ve graduated does not mean you can stop learning!! Plus, in interviews, if you’re up to date with current affairs you’ll be able to actually hold a conversation with your interviewers.

Intern, Intern, Intern.  While you are studying or looking for a job, volunteer or get an internship somewhere.  This will look good on your CV and also help expand your network – you never know who you’re going to need as a reference or a foot in the door.”

If you are interested in contacting Rebecca about her interests, you can follow her on Twitter.

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An Interview With an Earth and Environmental Scientist

Dom studied Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Brighton, where he also started his career working in the environmental sciences department. He tells us about his time at university and early career.

Did you always want to work in earth and environmental science?

“Ever since I was a child, going hiking and fossil hunting, I always knew that I wouldn’t be studying and working in anything other than the earth and environmental science field.”

Do you feel your degree and experience has benefited you in the job field?

“Not only that, but it may soon allow me to be promoted to a position directly related to my studies and based in another country.”

What university did you attend, and how do you feel about it?

“I was a student at the University of Brighton. I had an amazing time and the lecturers were all very helpful. As a bonus, the University upgraded the earth sciences department halfway through my studies.”

What was your favourite project or module and why?

“My favourite project was my dissertation. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours and late nights on it,  but I had the opportunity to go out in the field to a location of my choice to undertake a project by myself. That meant that I felt in complete control of everything I had been taught previously.”

What are the best and worst things about being in the earth and environmental sciences?

“The best bit about earth sciences is the opportunity to travel and explore far-flung locations that you may have never visited, but the worst bit is that it’s not very common to find a relatable job near to home, meaning that you will probably have to move away for long periods of time.”

Where would you like to see yourself in 3 years?

“In 3 years’ time, I’m hoping that the global volunteering company that I’m currently working for will open up and put me in charge of their planned volcanology project studying volcanoes in Indonesia.”

As alumni, would you recommend doing anything different during your degree?

“I’d probably recommend building a close relationship with your lecturers as early as possible. If they trust you and can see that you’re working hard, you may find that they may put you in contact with someone about a trip or a graduate job for when you’re finished.”



An Interview with a Food Scientist

Food scientist Rebeca Lopez-Garcia answers our questions about studying food science and what sort of a career it can lead to.

Why did you decide to study food science concentration toxicology at university, and why did you choose the USA as your study destination?

“I was originally an exchange student at the University of Arizona where I did some research in Fumonisin contamination of corn. I had some fascinating results and one professor invited me to come back as soon as I finished up my BS in Mexico to continue my research. Thus, I went back to the states and pursued graduate studies in Food Toxicology. My professor moved to Louisiana State University so I followed him. LSU had a PhD interdepartmental programme in Toxicology. I always liked science and food. I liked cooking since I was very young so food science made a lot of sense.”

What exactly is food science, and why do you think students should study this subject at college or university?

“Food science is the study of everything related to food and food processing. Students should choose to study food science because it is a great applied field of study. If you study food science, you have a lot of career options in the future that range from very basic science to applied engineering.”

Do you think your experience of living in a foreign country and absorbing other cultures has had a positive impact on your career successes? Why?

“Of course, I think travelling and experiencing other cultures has made a lot of difference in my life and my career. It has helped me put things in perspective and understand different ways of thinking. Also, living in the US and being very active in professional organisations such as IFT has given me all the contacts that have helped me shape my career. Living in the US made me really become bicultural and that has made a great difference in my business. Companies hire me for projects that involve working in both countries and I can do that seamlessly.”

Can you tell us a bit about your work with food companies in developing countries? For example, how did you start working in this area and how you have managed to help these countries?

“I have worked in many areas and different projects. With FAO I have had the opportunity to develop an Integrated Mycotoxin Management Plan for coffee producers in Ecuador so they can export their coffee without contamination problems. I helped manage a wheat contamination crisis in Uruguay and helped the country develop a National Action Plan to control mycotoxin contamination and avoid future crises. I have worked with the governments of Egypt and Panama to help their food industry become more competitive. Currently, I am working with the Dominican Republic to develop a National Food Inspection System. I also work with many multinational companies helping them develop suppliers and improve food safety. I still use my toxicology background to put together dossiers for regulatory approval of food additives and ingredients. Every day is different and very interesting.”

What do you think is special about the food science industry compared with other scientific industries?

“I agree it is very technical and creative but I think it is a great area because people always have to eat so it is a very stable industry and it gives you a great sense of purpose since nutrition is essential for good health. In addition, food and eating are very social so your work is present in everybody’s family events. You can really make a difference in this area.”

What are the different job prospects food science students have upon graduation?

“I think there are many options because you can work at different stages of production. From the field to food service there are many opportunities. You can work in a laboratory or in an office or in a production facility. It really depends on what you like and even in these tough times, I still get messages from companies looking for qualified individuals so I think the field is far from saturated.”

Finally, what aspects of this job do you love the most? Are there any examples of your work where you have felt you have made a difference?

“I love that I have to keep on studying and learning every day. I never ever get bored because every day I have a different challenge. As I mentioned before, working with producers and companies that really need help and watching them achieve a contract or produce safer products or start exporting is very rewarding. I have always stayed close to academia and have taught several classes in the last few years. I think teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs.”

Interview With A Computer Science Student

We caught up with Luke, a Computer Science student at the University of Cardiff who is currently doing a year in industry before returning to University to finish his degree. We asked him what it’s like to be a Computer Science student and his hopes for the future.

Tell us a little about yourself

“Hi, my name’s Luke- I’m a Computer Science student at Cardiff University and I’m currently on a year in industry as a React/React Native contractor. I chose to contract as it gives you the flexibility to choose and change where you’re working and what you’re doing. React is a framework built on JavaScript, a language mostly used to automate websites. But, thanks to React Native, it is also starting to be used for apps. It’s certainly on the rise as this means you only need to have one codebase to make apps for both Android and iOS.”

Luke (back middle) with his University friends

Why did you choose to study computer science?

“Computer Science has always appealed to me – I taught myself to program when I was 14 to make Minecraft Mods. I got bored of that but I got into making websites and then a bit later on some apps. Not everyone seems to be the same though – about 50% of people had never touched a line of code before coming here, they teach you right from the basics. I’ll never be sure why I like the subject so much. I was always interested in building and creating things since a young age, and I guess code is like building things in a different way. If I didn’t do Computer Science I’d probably do engineering or business.”

Why did you choose Cardiff University to study for your Computer Science degree?

“I guess because they’d accept me. I was well under my predicted grades (I got BCC) when the Unis I’d applied for wanted AAB-ABB. Interestingly, Cardiff was also my first choice, but I managed to get in through clearing three grades under.”

Why do you think there is a rise in students opting to study Computer Science?

“Computers are everywhere, and I don’t just mean your laptop. Anything with any sort of display will be driven by a microcontroller chip (microwaves, calculators, the sign telling you which bus stop is next, etc.) and now even several things without. You can get lightbulbs that your Alexa or Google Home can turn on, and there’s an emerging field called the ‘Internet of Things’ (or IoT) which talks about how to create these systems. Everything digital around you will have been programmed by someone, and the more people using this technology means the more demand there is for developers. I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.”

What do you hope to do with your degree, and what have you gained from it?

“I like what I’m doing currently as a contractor, and probably will continue on the same path after university. What I’ve gained from the course is an interesting question, as I knew quite a lot when I came in, and arguably have learnt more from my own side projects than I did while there. It’d be very difficult to get a good job in the field without a degree, or maybe an apprenticeship. But I’ve loved the Uni experience on the other hand – that’s something you could never get anywhere else.”

Luke (left) with his friends

Thanks for chatting to us Luke, and good luck with everything in the future!

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