Your Graduate Interview

So you’re going for a graduate interview. I’m pretty sure this feels like a life and death moment for you, when the direction of your whole career prospects, and your future happiness, hangs in the balance. I’ve been there. And I’m pretty sure its all going to turn out just fine for you. However, there are some unique challenges you’re likely to face in a graduate interview, and the better equipped you are to handle them, the better things will go.

As I discussed in the article on the graduate CV the two key challenges you face are;

1)Lack of experience/achievement

(It’s a chicken and egg scenario, you cant get it, until you get it!)

2)Volume of competition

How can you differentiate yourself from them competition? To the untrained eye, there are countless fresh faced graduates just like you.

Employers take hiring graduates very seriously, and for good reason. After all, you are their future. To go about finding such a person they employ a number of screening techniques to filter the pool of candidates down to more manageable levels. These may include the following:

Telephone interview, Group interview, Panel interview, Job interview tests But don’t panic. Employers appreciate the situation, they are not looking for the finished article. If they were they wouldn’t be hiring a graduate in the first place. They are looking for the rough diamond. Someone who has the potential to add value to the company in the years ahead. What you have done is far less important then who you are, because this is the best indicator of where you are heading. If you can present yourself as a winner/the right type of person, they will want you to join them.

So what does it take to succeed in the graduate interview?

Firstly understand the core questions of the interview. Then recognise that the most important question is will you fit the team? In other words, what kind of person are you?

Its largely to do with the attitude, and personality you convey. They will be impressed by someone who takes pride in what they do. They will make assumptions about these things based on how you appear to be. The truth is there just isn’t time to get to the heart of every candidate they see. The halo effect means that if you present yourself in a positive way, making a good first impression, they will assume the best of you.

Your aim is to create a great first impression, build rapport, and present yourself like a winner.

How to succeed in the graduate interview

Be prepared

Ok, so if you’ve done your research, gone over the job description and got the job interview information you need, you know what they want. Your goal now is to show you’re it. Do your homework, it will be worth it.

Make the most of your experience

I know as a graduate you may not have a great deal, but its what you do with it that counts. Many graduates have never worked a day in their lives. Those who have are at an advantage because they know how the world of work operates, not just in theory but in practice too. This is very refreshing to an interviewer, since many graduates are “book smart”. Put your experiences into context in terms of what you learned about the business world.


You may find that the questions follow the structure of a behavioural interview. Take the opportunity to show how you have used the skills/attributes required for the role in previous situations. Use the star technique as a guide to help you.

To learn all about the STAR technique - click here

Demonstrate transferable skills

Being a whiz kid in the latest technology will only last as long as that technology is in vogue. In the article on the graduate CV I described the importance of having a core set of skills that will stand the test of time over the years of your career. Demonstrate you have the core transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, organisation and leadership . The kind of skills that will serve you and your employer over the years to come. Things such as your membership of teams, or societies work well for this.

There you have some solid advice for your graduate interview. I know you may well be feeling stressed, and pressured about your interview, and right now, getting this job is probably the only thing in the world that matters. So, I’ll leave you with a final piece of advice I was given many moons ago in my own career, by a very successful mentor of mine.

“When you look back, you realise that the things, decisions and opportunities you thought were hugely important at the time, were not so important at all”

So relax and try and enjoy it. You’re going to be just fine.

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