Interviewing: Recent Grad Edition

Interviews are the worst. Maybe not worse than going to the dentist, but they’re up there. How many times have you just known you were perfect for a job then completely blew the interview?

Different companies have different interviewing criteria, but as the interviewee, one thing should be standard, always, and I really mean always be prepared. Whether it is over the phone, in person, or via web call (i.e. Skype or FaceTime), you’ve gotta fake it ‘til you make it. When preparing for any interview, there are typically four key steps – the resume, phone call/interview, the in-person interview, and the follow-up.

Let’s start with the resume – because first impressions, even on paper, are everything. When preparing, obviously practice all of the typical questions, all of which are covered by Huffington Post’s article Top 10 Interview Tips for New College Graduates, but be sure to add your own flair! Typically, the first thing a potential employer sees is your resume. Therefore, in order to make a lasting impression, you’ve got to make sure you have a solid resume.

The Resume

I love updating and improving resumes. I don’t care if it’s my own or one of my friends; the idea of being able to organize all of my professional experiences into one area is exciting (sounds lame, I know). Not everyone has this same thought process so here are some pointers when looking at your own resume:

  • Elaborate – employers want someone who can get the job done. Be sure to use action verbs (i.e. performed, utilized, completed, assisted, etc.)
  • Be Concise – though you want to show that you can do what is asked, it’s also important to remember that the potential employer is probably going to only skim your resume. Find simple ways to state accomplishments and use numbers to quantify your achievements where possible (numbers and data are typically easier to skim and are more impressive).
  • Be Honest – it may be tempting to “leave out” some of your work history, but if there is an awkward gap in employment or something doesn’t add up – you’ll probably get called out.

For more tips on making a successful resume, check out another one of our blogs, here.

The Phone Call

This is where I struggle the most. Many blogs about phone interviews say to dress as if you are interviewing in person, but I’ve always done the exact opposite. However you dress, just make sure you have your computer in front of you so that you can have the company’s site and your resume pulled up in front of you. By having these two pages on your computer, it will be easier to recall your research. During the actual phone call make sure to consider the following:

  • Answer your phone! It may not seem like a big deal if you step away from your phone for a few minutes, but if you miss that call, you might miss the opportunity.
  • Be professional. Please do not answer your phone with “what’s up?”. You’re speaking to a professional, so answer the call as if you are one too.
  • Make sure you’re in a location with good reception. Though it may not be your fault entirely, having terrible cell reception can cause a lot of miscommunication and annoyance for the interviewer. Same with doing an interview while driving.

The Interview

Some of the advice that I’ll be sharing has come from professors, parents, employers, and the all encompassing Internet. During the interview process, it isn’t uncommon to freeze up and completely lose your train of thought. My favorite method to handling this, especially as someone who is typically quiet, is that I like to pretend that I’ve known the interviewer(s) for years. This allows you to “pretend” that you’re in control and that what you say isn’t the end of the world. By becoming personable (because if you’ve hypothetically known these people for years, you’d probably be friends) you seem more relatable and approachable. Actions and behaviors that may not seem like a big deal could also be the same factor that separates you from a successful candidate, such as:

  • Chewing gum during the interview
  • Not having any questions for the interviewer – this makes it appear as if you did little to no research before coming in for the interview.
  • Dressing too casual – even if the office environment is casual, you should always dress professionally. For help, check out this tip sheet.

The Follow-Up

Congratulations! You made it past the first interview, but you’re not out of the woods yet. After any interview – in person or over the phone, there are a few key elements that are crucial to a successful, lasting impression.

  • Always leave or send a thank you card. I cannot stress this enough; whether you get the position or not, the employer took time out of their day to interview, consider, and give you feedback – that alone requires appreciation (and they’re human, give them some recognition that you value their time).
  • Ask questions that will help you in the future. This will allow you to improve your interviewing technique, even if you don’t get that particular job. Some examples of these types of questions are:
    o “Is there anything about my resume or interview that concerns you?”
    o “What do you typically look for in an ideal candidate?”
  • Don’t be too aggressive, it’s always good to follow the social media sites of the company you hope to work for, but if you’re constantly messaging or posting on their pages, they may get the wrong idea about your intentions.

Obviously these tips aren’t foolproof or guaranteed to get you a job, but as someone who just graduated, it would have been nice to have some tips when interviewing for jobs. ExactHire has a ton of blogs that can provide more insight as to what an interview should (and could) entail, as well as many more helpful topics by professionals. If you have any tips that you think the world needs to know, comment them below!

Image credit: Sticky Notes – Find a Job by Flazingo Photos (contact)

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