7 interview tips for your first graduate job

Saffron Wildbore

~ 5min read

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~ 5min read

PING. You’ve got an email from the recruiter… yes! You’re through to the next stage! But while you’re still doing a victory dance, the fear sets in. How will you survive interviewing for your first graduate job? Read on for our tips to acing the interview process!

> 1. Relax

Relax – you’ll probably be asked strength-based interview questions

Strength-based interview questions are a type of interview designed to get you to talk about things you enjoy. Interviewers love using them for entry-level roles because they’re easy to answer honestly and enthusiastically, showcasing you in your best light.

For instance, the interview may include these type of questions:

  • What did you enjoy studying at school or university?

  • When did you achieve something you're really proud of?

  • What energizes you?

  • How would a close friend describe you?

  • Do you prefer starting tasks or finishing them?

  • What do you enjoy doing the least?

  • How do you stay motivated?

  • What do you do in your spare time?

Later in your career you can expect more competency-based questions (asking about how you’ve used business skills to get results) as well as strength-based questions.

> 2. Think

Think about where your career path could go beyond the first year

This is tricky when you’re only just starting out, but most employers are looking for ambitious people who want to build their skills and stick around for the long term.

Forget about a 5-year plan. Few people have one of those these days… the world is moving too fast.

Think about a 2-year plan instead. If you got promoted, what could you imagine yourself doing? Working towards leading a team, or becoming the go-to expert in your specialism, or building an adjacent skill set?

Your future vision doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it helps to go into an interview with some sort of idea. Even if your interviewers don’t explicitly ask you about your career goals, it will give your thoughts a sense of direction that carries you through the conversation.

> 3. Re-read

Re-read the job description before your interview

It’s important to remind yourself what the job is about so you feel prepared on the day. Especially if you’re applying for lots of jobs at the same time. This will focus your mind on what the interviewers are interested in, helping you answer their questions with more clarity.

> 4. Talk

Talk strategically about your previous work experience (we bet you’ve got some, really!)

Interviewers are trying to gauge what you’ll be like as an employee. Some graduates have completed formal work experience programs or internships, which is great. But what can you do if you haven’t got any of that on your CV or resume?

The good news is that lots of activities can count as work experience. Summer jobs, helping out with a family member’s business, volunteering, running a student society or a club outside of academia... you don’t always have to be wearing a suit and tie.

How did you work with others, what did you bring to the table, and what did you learn in the process? That’s what interviewers really want to know.

> 5. Frame your background

Frame your background so it’s relevant to the role

Let’s say you studied computer science. You’re applying for two different graduate jobs: one as a data analyst for a fashion brand, one as a software engineer at an investment bank. You’re still the same person, but to give yourself the best chance of success, you’ll need to position yourself differently in each interview.

We all do this, consciously or subconsciously, all the time. Giving a full account of an experience would take as long as the experience took in real life! So we have to choose which parts we focus on and which parts we leave out of the story.

Who’s sitting in front of you? What do you think matters most to them?

> 6. Keep an eye on your body language

The myth that 90% of communication is non-verbal has been debunked, but there’s no denying that it plays a role in first impressions.

Here’s how to turn your body language into an ally in job interviews:

  1. Pay attention to your breathing. Take deep, slow breaths, not shallow breaths. This solves most body language issues by itself.

  2. Sit up straight with your shoulders back, and avoid crossing your arms. You want to look open and responsive.

  3. Make eye contact with everyone (but without going overboard) and smile! For people who don’t know you, a forced grin is as good as a natural one.

  4. Try not to fidget. If you bite your nails or play with your hair when you’re feeling stressed, mitigate this by sitting on your hands or tying your hair up.

  5. Be aware of the pitch of your voice. Nerves tend to make us go a bit squeaky, which is perceived to be less confident than a deeper voice. Tension is usually the cause, so if you think about relaxing your neck and shoulder muscles, you'll get back to normal.

> 7. Remember the other side of interview questions:

What to ask your interviewers?

Hoping to make an impression by asking your interviewers some smart questions of your own? Great!

Bear in mind it’s always best to be led by your own curiosity rather than treating the interview as a script to remember or a game to “win”. If you’re not yourself in the interview, chances are you won’t love the job because you’ll be under pressure to keep up the act.

But there are a few questions that will reveal information you might not know you need to know:

  • What sort of development opportunities would I have in this role?

  • How would you describe the working environment?

  • Could you give me an example of a typical day for a graduate in this role?

  • Who else would I be working with in this team or the wider company?

  • What are the biggest challenges someone like me is likely to face here?

  • Is there anything I should have asked you that I haven’t already?

And if you’re wondering about a good question to ask at the end (and you really want the job), these will help to emphasize that you’re interested in the role:

  • Do you have any concerns about whether I’d be a good fit for this role? I’d love the chance to address them now.

  • What are the next steps in the process?

  • When can I expect to hear back from you?

Good luck – you’ve got this. Why not put your new interview skills into practice and discover your graduate career with Wiley Edge.

Saffron Wildbore is a Senior Marketing Executive at mthree. She has worked in marketing, specialising in creating content for over 4 years. Saffron focuses on writing tips for graduates, Alumni interviews and more!


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