Recent Graduates: How to Succeed in an Interview

Ready to ace your next interview and land that job you've applied for? After you've done your research and prepped for success, there are still some additional things to consider.

So, you have prepared and researched as much as you can for your interview, and it is now time to wow your interviewer with all your fantastic knowledge. But how will you get all that knowledge across? How can you make sure you are representing yourself as well as possible?

 

  • Arrive early and dressed to impress – You want to arrive at least 10 minutes early to show you are organised and keen. Dress business smart, but avoid too formal, unless you know that’s the company vibe (suits aren’t usually necessary). 
 

While waiting, don’t sit on your phone. Instead, have a look through your notes and check out the space around you – get as good a feel as you can for the environment. 

 

If your interview is over video, still dress as you would otherwise, and log into the meeting early to allow for any technical difficulties. 

 

How to have a successful interview 

  • Stay calm – When you arrive, shake the interviewer’s hand (covid permitting) and smile, this will show them you are confident from the first minute. You can ask the interviewer an introductory question, perhaps how they are or how their day is going. 
 
Get comfortable and if there is downtime don’t pick up your phone, just sit up and avoid fidgeting. Take this time to compose yourself, take a few breaths, think and, if appropriate, read over your notes. 

 

If your interview is online you can use the same techniques, sit confidently and smile until they start asking you questions.

successful interview signs

How to improve your interview performance

  • Keep your answers concise and relevant – Interviews will take many different formats. Some may dive straight into the interview questions (e.g. what do you know about the company, what do you understand about the role) while others will start with more open questions (e.g. tell us about yourself). 
 

If they go straight into interview questions remember to stick to the STAR method (details below), whereas if they go for more broad questions like “could you tell me a bit about yourself” avoid launching into your life story. What this question really means is “why are you a relevant candidate”, so stick to things like your degree, uni and what has made you decide to go for this career and this industry. 

  • Use the STAR method – Competency-based questions will ask you to describe a time you have achieved something in particular. As an example, they may say “Can you tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with a tricky customer?” The best way to approach these questions is by Using the STAR method. 
 

STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action Result. 

Situation: What was the situation surrounding the example you’re using? 

Task: What was it that you had to do? 

Action: What did you do to get the task done? 

Result: What was the outcome of your actions and what was achieved? 

Using this format means your answer will be structured, concise and not rumbly. If a question take you a little left-field, give yourself a minute to think of a great example rather than panicking. Tell the interviewer, “let me have a second to think of an example” and formulate your response.

signs of a good interview uk

Interview tips

  • Take your time – Don’t feel the need to rush your answers. As mentioned above, if there is a question thrown in you hadn’t prepared for or you need a second to think how to answer, don’t feel the need to rush. You can say to the interviewer “I will just need a minute to think about that” or “that’s a good question, let me just think of an example.” 
 

Sit confidently in the silence while you think and then come back with a well put-together answer. It goes without saying but use this wisely, if you use this approach for every question you will look under prepared. This risk of not taking your time is answers can be vague and uninformative. 

  • Follow up – Ask about next steps as you leave the interview to gain an understanding of the process and that should give you a good indication of timelines. You can then follow up with an email when you get home to thank you interviewer for their time and invite them to get in touch should they have any further questions for you. 
 

In this vein also, if you’re unsuccessful it is always worth asking for feedback, to see where you can improve in future. Take feedback with grace and listen without speaking back, you don’t want to burn any bridges, you just want to learn.

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