Preparing for job interview success: vital tips for graduates

Person sat across a table from two others.

As an HR professional, I’ve attended many job interviews – both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

Some of them have gone brilliantly and some, well, not so brilliantly! After all, they can feel like incredibly pressurised environments… where the desire to showcase skills and experience can be overtaken by nerves and the pressure to perform in a limited time frame.

Job interviews can be mentally and physically challenging environments, but they’re a necessary and unavoidable part of professional life. A job interview is your chance to shine, showcasing your skills, experience, and personality. It’s the moment when an employer decides whether you’re right for their advertised role, and an employee learns if the job and business are right for them.

While nerve-wracking, I’ve found that solid job interview preparation can turn the tables in your favour. Thorough prep for a job interview will help boost your confidence, sharpen your responses, and showcase your skills effectively. It’s the key to aligning talents with employer needs, making that stellar first impression, and clinching your dream job in an ultra-competitive landscape.

So, what should you do to prepare for job interview success? Here are my top tips…

Research the company and industry

One of the most common job interview mistakes I come across as an interviewer is candidates who don’t do any research on the company they’re applying to work with! So, dive deep into the company’s mission, values, culture, and recent news. Understand their products, services, their target audience and tailor your answers to align with their ethos. Also, be aware of their industry trends, challenges, and innovations. It demonstrates your commitment and passion for the field you’re applying to join.

Know your CV inside out

Be prepared to discuss every detail on your CV and provide anecdotal examples to showcase your experiences. Ideally, quantify your claims with hard numbers or stats – this will give you real credibility. Highlight your core achievements, skills relevant to the role, and anything else you believe – such as hobbies or interests – which could also be beneficial.

Understand the job description

Make sure that you analyse the job description meticulously. Identify its key skills and requirements, and prepare examples illustrating how your expertise meets those needs.

Practice common interview questions…

I found that practising answering common interview questions made me feel calmer and more concise during interviews. Plus, it also helped me create my own ‘elevator pitch’. So, anticipate how you’ll respond to standard interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want this job?” and “What are your strengths/weaknesses?” You’ll then be able to create a concise, compelling summary of your background and career goals

… and prepare your own!

Show interest in the business by asking insightful questions about the company, team dynamics, or the role’s responsibilities. This helps demonstrate your own enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.

Prepare for different interview formats

You should be ready for various interview formats as this could impact how you present yourself. Will it be a virtual interview, or will it be with a panel? Could it be behaviourally-based or a skills-based task? Aim to find out and adapt your preparation accordingly.

Dress the part

Even if your interview is being conducted remotely, dress appropriately for the company’s culture. When in doubt, opt for business casual attire. What you wear should reflect professionalism and respect for the opportunity.

Try doing mock interviews

When I began my career journey, I found conducting practice interviews with a friend or family member really helped settle my nerves before potential job interviews. Practising can also help refine your responses, body language, and confidence – so it’s definitely worth doing if you can and will help you feel more comfortable with formal interviews.

Arrive early and be polite

Never keep your prospective employers waiting! If you’re unfamiliar with the location of your interview, check travel times, and directions and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Greet everyone courteously, from the receptionist to the interviewer. If you’re having a remote interview, check your equipment is all functioning and that you have stable internet beforehand.

Stay calm and confident

Remember, an interview is a two-way street. The company is also assessing if you’re the right fit for their culture, not just if you have the right skills and experience. Try to stay composed, even if you’re faced with challenging questions. For example, I’ve tried relaxation techniques – such as deep breathing or visualization exercises – before potential job interviews in the past as they can really help calm nerves.

Be aware of your developmental needs

Nobody’s perfect, so be honest about areas needing improvement and demonstrate how you’re actively working on them. Showing your willingness to learn and grow is just as important as the skills and experiences you already have.

Be authentic

Potential employers don’t just want to know about what you know and what you’ve done. They also want to get to know you as a person! So, let your personality shine through as authenticity can often leave a lasting impression.

Follow up post-interview

Once your interview has taken place, send a thank-you email expressing gratitude for the opportunity. Reiterate your interest in the role and highlight a key point discussed during the interview.

Learn from every experience

Lastly, regardless of the outcome, reflect on the interview and look to identify areas for improvement so you can use them as lessons for future interviews. Ask for feedback from the interviewers, you may just learn something you may never have considered!

 


Author: Kim Holdroyd

Kim Holdroyd is the HR and Wellbeing Manager at Cezanne HR and has an MSc in HRM. She’s passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

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