The First Jobber series is designed to help fresh graduates make that transition from student to employee. There are a lot of mistakes you can make and a lot of time wasted if you don’t know what to look out for. Personally, I wasted a lot of my precious time trying to figure all these out by myself after I graduated.
Hence, as an employer now, I wish to share some tips and actionable steps with you with the hope of helping you secure the job that you want and subsequently for you to adjust well into your first job.
How to stand out in an interview: Advice for new graduates
Congratulations! You’ve secured yourself a first job interview. You’re getting closer to the finish line of securing the job you have been eyeing for. You want to stand out from the other candidates and create a lasting impression, but don’t really know how. Don’t worry, I got you covered.
Essentially, what you want to achieve during an interview process is to live up to the promises you have stated in your resume. My advice is to, “Just be yourself”. As an employer, I want to ensure that what’s written in your resume is genuine and you are who you said you are, in person. It’s likened to going for a first date after you’ve connected with this person online. As much as your hiring manager is going to be evaluating you, tell yourself that you’re also going into this “date” to evaluate him/her and the company. Like in any relationship, it should go both ways.
That should take some pressure off you because think about it, you’re going to be spending the next few years of your life with this company if you get the job. So, shouldn’t you at least find out more about your hiring employer during the interview?
Here are some other tips (some are pretty unusual) you can consider to ensure that you shine during a job interview and convince your potential employer you’re the one for them.
1. Do your homework
One area that really triggers me during an interview is the candidate’s lack of knowledge about the vacancy offered and my organization. It tells me that the candidate just does not care enough for this opportunity given. Whenever that happens – the interview is over.
I can’t emphasize enough the need to do deep research before your interview. Here’s what you should find out on:
The job itself; what is the job scope, skills needed
The organization; how do they make money, how have they grown, their competitors, their products and services, their values etc.
The interviewers; their role in the company, their background, their passions etc
It’s not about memorizing what you have investigated. This is not high school. It’s about understanding what all these data point means for you as a potential employee. And if you can demonstrate during the interview that you have a firm grasp of what the job requires and you have the relevant skills to contribute to this position – you’re already way ahead of the pack of candidates.
Don’t worry about getting it wrong. What’s more important to the hiring manager is that you did your homework and prepared well for the interview.
2. Prepare answers to these common interview questions
As common as these questions are, like it or not, most HR and hiring managers will be pulling out some of these questions from their holder to shoot at you. So, you better be prepared with a comeback. Here are some of the common interview questions:
What are your strengths?
What is your weakness?
Why do you want to work here?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Why should we hire you?
What are you looking for in this position?
What this company?
How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
What are your hobbies?
How would your friends describe you?
Important tip: Remember to back-up your claims with evidence because employers want to see real examples. For example, don’t just stop at “I’m a driven person”. You need to prove to your hiring employer how driven you are with previous achievements. Share a specific situation in your life that you have demonstrated this value.
3. First impression matters
Dress well and look sharp. Guys, I don’t mean you need to put on a suit and tie for every interview you attend. But if you’re applying for a business consulting job, go for it! But if you’re eyeing for that creative job in an advertising agency, it would be an overkill.
Take for example at Nuffnang. Our dress code is smart casual. If you come with jeans (no torn jeans please for an interview) and a fitting T-shirt, that should suffice. But if you want your personality to shine through, you can put on a casual jacket or carry a modern man bag. Just ensure you’re comfortable and you feel confident in your outfit.
Arrive early so that you give yourself enough time to calm yourself down and be clear-headed before your interview starts.
And when you finally meet your interviewers, put on a smile, shake their hands firmly while maintaining a good eye contact and greet them clearly. Then wait to be invited to sit down.
Like it or not, we are judgemental creatures. I read somewhere before that three-quarters of candidates fail within three minutes of entering the room. That’s why it’s important to work on your grand entrance.
4. Be respectful to everyone you interact with during the interview process.
This is a true story because it happened to me. In my first job, I was asked by my HR to be an “actor” and pretended to be a job candidate. My part was to start small talks with the other candidates and evaluate how they responded. How they reacted was taken into account for their overall interview grading. These candidates didn’t even know the interview has already started the moment they walked into the office reception area.
So, whether it’s the admin assistant helping you to schedule the interview or the receptionist who greets you at the door or even the other job candidates waiting for their turn – treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect.
5. Wow your interviewer with an opening line
“Tell me about yourself.”
This is how the interviewer will usually kick-off the interview. Your goal is to tell them something which IS NOT in your resume. Your interviewer has already looked over your resume, so it would be wasting their time to repeat what you’ve already written on paper.
I would advise you to start off with an interesting story. As much as your interviewers want to know about your skills, they also want to know about – you. People remember people who tell interesting stories.
If you’re not sure how to go about this, check out this helpful article: Storytelling: The Secret Weapon To Wow A Hiring Manager.
6. Ask the right questions
This section is my favourite as a hiring manager. The questions a candidate ask tells me a lot about a person’s thought process. Also, I’m always looking forward to questions from “strangers” because some of the questions asked would expose the company’s blind-spots. This is most helpful to me because it will help me to move from, “That’s an interesting question. I never say it from that perspective before. Thank you!” to taking action steps to address this new found insight.
So, do prepare two to three specific questions. The operative word here is “specific”. Don’t just go, “How is the working culture here?”. Instead, say something like this, “I’m friends with Samantha, one of your company’s former staff. I was curious to find out about the company culture so I reached out to her. She was kind enough to share. She said she really miss the people and the leadership. “What does she mean by that?”
Again, if you’re not sure what questions to ask, here’s a good place to start: Questions You Should Absolutely Ask Your Interviewer.
7. Send a thoughtful thank you note after your interview
Trust me, if you drop a simple but heartfelt “thank you” note to your potential employers, you’ll most likely be one of the few who do so. You would think this is common courtesy but no, in my years of working, I have only received a handful of such emails from candidates.
When you do so, preferably a few hours after your interview, your interviewers will definitely remember you.
In closing, doing well in an interview is just like any other skill, you need to practice to get better at it. If you want to increase your chances of success, put yourself through mock interviews. Ask your trusted friend or a family member to “interview” you.
Even if you’re done everything I have written here, you’re not guaranteed a job. Succeeding in job interviews takes research, practice and persistence. So, go for as many interviews as you can, learn from each experience and keep improving along the way – you will eventually get there!
If you have any further queries about this topic, please leave a comment or write to email@example.com
Previous articles from The First Jobber series: