Unlike school and university, the professional world is much less structured, and it can be daunting to find your own way. As conveyed in a 2020 report by The Higher Education Policy Institute, although 79% of students reported confidence in finding a job, 23% of students were anxious about entering the labor market.
When applying for a job, it may feel like countless factors out of your control could affect your chances of getting it, such as the interviewer’s attitude, the questions they’ll ask, and their perceptions of your qualifications. Fortunately, there are many things that you have control over. All it takes is knowing how to prepare and what to expect.
Here’s what you need to know about how to navigate job interviews.
Job interview basics
Research the company.
While this is standard practice, being knowledgeable about the company shows your enthusiasm for this particular job. It helps you understand how to frame your answers according to the qualifications and qualities the company would benefit from and what questions you can ask at the end of your interview.
You can conduct research on a company pre-interview by looking through its website, social media, company profiles, and latest news. You can also get insider information if you have access to someone who works or has worked there before.
Optimize your CV.
Your CV and cover letter are the first steps to getting employers interested in you, so it’s important to make sure it stands out. Make sure that you highlight details linked to what you have learned about the company in preparing both your CV and cover letter. This helps your interviewer find key points to address during the interview itself.
Say you’ve had a leadership role. If you’re applying for an HR position, then you would emphasize your interpersonal skills, but if you’re applying for a management position, then you should highlight your time management and attention to detail. What matters is that you strike the employer as being exactly who they need.
Market your soft skills.
It’s natural to feel like your CV could have a few more items on the list, but your interview is an opportunity to sell what you do have. As a fresh graduate, employers won’t expect you to be a fully formed professional with lots of work experience. Instead, your value to the company will be in your capacity to grow and learn with the team.
The interview is particularly useful for providing context for the items on your CV and linking your credentials with the soft skills you possess — such as creativity, leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and more. Think deeply about how each role has honed these qualities in you, and incorporate how they can be of value to the company once you’re hired.
Common interview questions and how to answer them.
Q: Tell me about yourself?
This question often serves as an icebreaker that can help you ease into the interview and contextualize your conversation’s direction.
This is best answered by simply giving the interviewer a concise rundown of your present, past, and future. Talk about what you recently graduated with and any current or recent experiences relevant to the job. Describe the training you got from your education, previous work experience, or extracurricular activities. Lastly, talk about where you hope to be in the future.
Q: How do you handle disagreements in the workplace?
Answering this question offers insight into how you respond to interpersonal conflict. As conflicts are detrimental to the productivity and environment of a workplace, emotional intelligence is important to companies.
In answering this question, make sure to stay professional and not throw anyone under the bus. Be accountable for your mistakes, and talk about the valuable steps you took to resolve any issues. The most important part is emphasizing what you learned from the situations and how these lessons informed your actions moving forward.
Q: Tell me about a time you accomplished something
This question is meant to gauge what you consider as success and how you can contribute solutions to the company.
Choose a success story that is relevant to the position you’re applying for, and show enthusiasm about the experience. Talk about what made the situation challenging, how it made you feel, and how you overcame obstacles. Make sure not to downplay or oversell yourself, and as a bonus, acknowledge anyone who might have helped you reach your conclusion.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interviewers want to know that you’re not just taking this job merely as a way to stay preoccupied but rather as an investment for your long-term goals.
Make sure that your goals align with the company, and focus on your desire to stay in the industry. Try to provide general answers. Instead of specifying the positions you want to achieve, talk about the skills and experiences that you want to gain. A great way to do this is by providing a major goal and enumerating the small goals you’ll need to achieve.
After the interview
Send a thank you email.
There are probably many other candidates being interviewed for your position. This is why sending a thank you email after your interview is good. This gives you the chance to express your gratitude and solidify the impression you gave to the interviewer. It also helps you address points you may have missed.
It’s easy to overthink each detail that transpired in your interview. But after you’ve sent the thank you email, it won’t do you much good to agonize over what could have been
done better. Instead, take note of points for improvement, and apply them to your next interview. Whatever happens, each interview gives you valuable experience.
As a fresh graduate, you may feel overwhelmed by mishaps or unsatisfactory results in your job search. However, being prepared and making a good impression at job interviews can spell the difference between getting rejected or accepted. As long as you know how to prepare, job interviews will become more and more manageable.