Every spring, a new class of college grads is unleashed on the world. And while some grads take some time to relax or travel and reflect on their academic accomplishments, many hit the ground running with their first post-college job search during graduation season.
If you’re a new graduate, there’s a lot to do to prepare for your first entry-level job after completing your degree. From deciding whether you want to live and work in San Francisco or another location to researching first interview tips, good preparation for your first post-college job search is a must in today’s competitive job market. You worked hard throughout college, and you don’t want a lack of preparation to stand in the way of starting your career.
While there are a lot of aspects of the post-college job search that differ from a search for part-time or summer work, many college grads have specific trouble with the interview process. However, there are some tips you can use to help you prepare and succeed in interviews during your first post-college job search. Here are a few favorites from the expert Nelson recruiting team:
1. Do Your Research
Getting your first post-college interview is a thrilling occasion. It signifies that someone liked your resume and that you have an opening to an opportunity to kick off your career. Though there’s reason to celebrate, remember that your work has just begun now that you’re at the interview stage of your entry-level job search.
To begin, conduct research on the company where you’re interviewing. What industry is it in? How many people work there? Is it publicly traded or privately held? In addition to the company’s website, see what sites such as Glassdoor and Vault say about the company. If you show up for an interview and don’t know basic information about the company that’s readily available online, you risk coming across as unprepared; and if you’re unprepared for an interview, hiring managers will assume you won’t be prepared for the job. This research can also help you evaluate whether the company will be a good fit for you.
In addition to preparing to answer interview questions, prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer. Avoid questions that should have been answered in your research process; instead, ask open-ended questions such as “What would success in this role look like?” or “What are the biggest challenges the person in this position will face in the first month?”. These questions are good because they show your interest in learning about the day-to-day realities of the position.
Avoid asking “What’s in it for me?” type of questions. Also, avoid bringing up the topic of salary. If you are working with a recruiter, you can handle those discussions directly with them.
2. Prepare to Talk about Your Achievements during Your Entry-level Interview
First, jot down about three to five recent notable accomplishments from your academic projects, work, or even volunteer experience, and practice talking about them. Since you’re interviewing for your first job out of college, no one expects that your achievements will rival those of a professional with a 20-year career. They do, however, want to see that you’ve gone above and beyond in school or work, and that you can intelligently talk about these accomplishments.
For example, you can discuss a problem you faced during a class project and what you did to resolve it. You can talk about inefficiencies in the restaurant or retail store where you worked and how you implemented an improvement. Even if these instances seem small, the hiring manager wants to see that you have leadership, problem solving, and communication skills and that you can work well in a team environment.
3. Practice Answering Common Interview Questions
After becoming familiar with the company and preparing your outline of accomplishments, you should be prepared to answer some common interview questions in an engaging yet succinct manner. Common questions include “Tell me about yourself,” “How did you handle a challenging situation?” or “Why should I hire you?”
Knowing what to say and ask is a good starting point but it’s not enough. To truly succeed in your entry level job search, you must practice. This will help you sound natural and relaxed. Have a friend or family member stand in as the hiring manager, and ask this person to throw some expected and unexpected interview questions your way.
4. Understand the Level of Formality an Interview Requires
Even if the company environment seems more informal, it’s better to err on the side of formality during the interview. Remember to put your phone on silent, and put it away. If you’re looking at your phone, the interviewer could take it as a sign you’re not engaged in the interview. Make sure you do everything possible to avoid these awkward interview situations.
It’s also likely that an interviewer may be from a different generation. Just like in the workplace, generational differences in communication during interviews can create miscommunications and wrong impressions. Err on the side of not using slang terms, sarcastic humor, or informal body language.
5. Be Prepared for a Possible Video Interview
When you’re looking for your first job out of college, any first interview with a company is likely to be a phone screen. But more companies are setting up video interviews (via systems like Skype or Google Hangout) instead, or conducting a second-round video interview. Companies that do this want to make sure you’re a good fit and meet basic requirements before conducting a complete, time-intensive interview.
If you’re asked to do a video conference, treat it as you would an in-person interview. Wear appropriate clothing, silence your phone, make sure your internet connection is strong, your background is appropriate and orderly, and your lighting is good.
6. Follow Post-Interview Best Practices
Immediately after the interview, send a brief email to thank the interviewer for their time, and reiterate any important points from your conversation. It can take several weeks or longer to hear back from a company after an interview, so don’t despair if you don’t hear back right away. Remember, it’s important to be patient during this process.
If you’re offered the position, congratulations! Don’t be afraid to respectfully negotiate the salary you’re offered; some back-and-forth discussion on the matter is always expected. Again, if you are working with a job recruiter, they may offer this as part of their services. In that case speak with them about that before bringing up salary with the hiring company. More than likely, you’ll be asked to fill out and sign some papers to formally accept the job offer.
By partnering with a Nelson recruiter who works with college graduates, you can get the help you need to make the most of your entry-level job search and start your professional career out on the right foot.
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