Over the last year or so, we've helped more than 200 graduates prepare for interviews in a lot of different ways. Whether it's running through mock scenarios, offering some guidance and advice on best practices or helping them choose which room in their house to do the interview in (seriously) - we've pretty much covered it all.
Anytime someone we're working with goes forward to interview with one of our partner companies, we do our best to catchup with either the hiring manager or recruiter to find out a little bit more about why they were or were not successful and naturally, we've started to see some patterns in what works.
1. Get pitch perfect 🗣️
In every interview process you ever do, you'll be asked "tell me about yourself." While this might feel like a good time to run through your life story, it's not.
Instead, it's crucial to have a 30-second elevator pitch ready which summarises your educational background, your work experience and where you want to go with your career.
Once you've got an idea of what you want to say, rehearse until it's slick. Getting off to a strong start by having a well-thought through answer will not only give you a bit of a confidence boost, it'll let the interviewer know that you mean business.
2. Know why you want that specific job 💬
At Gradguide, we don't advocate for spraying and praying applications out to every job advert you see. In fact, we've covered what we think is the best way to search for jobs here.
If you've a well-thought out job search strategy in place, you should have no problem answering another question you're sure to be asked, "why do you want to work here?" Your answer should focus on why you chose this role and this company, so make sure you know the answer to both of those.
Most importantly, you need to be honest with yourself. Does this role actually excite you? Do you have a genuine desire to work at this company? If the answer is “no,” then don’t waste yours or the interviewer’s time.
3. Learn how to stall 💭
It's happened to us all. You get asked a question and all of a sudden your mind goes blank. The reality is you won't have the answer to every question you get asked.
You "em" and "um" your way through and all of a sudden, you realise you've managed to speak for 30 seconds without really saying anything. In this situation, it can be a good idea to try and stall while you gather your thoughts and think through your answer. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Keep a glass of water at hand and tactically take a sip to get yourself a few extra seconds.
- Ask them if they wouldn't mind repeating the question or if could clarify exactly what they meant.
- Go for the old reliable, "that's a great question". I've used this several times in interviews and more often then not, the interviewers know you're trying to buy a few seconds to think which they're normally happy to grant you as long as you don't push it.
Pro tip: It goes without saying, try to use these sparingly as it can come across you're not only unprepared, but a bit a spoofer as well.
4. ASK QUESTIONS AT THE END ❓❓❓
The vast majority of the people we've worked with at Gradguide have expressed some trepidation about asking questions at the end of the interview.
While I can appreciate it can be quite intimidating to reverse roles and turn it back around on the interviewer after they've led the conversation for 30-40 minutes, this is a golden opportunity to make yourself stand out.
Not only can you use questions to find out more about the role and the company, they indicate that you are engaged with the process and eager to learn more. We've chatted to some of our own Gradguide mentors and asked for some of their top questions they've used previously in interviews, which we've detailed below.
- “What are the next steps in the process?”
- “Is there any clarification about my experience I can provide?”
- "Based on the process so far is there anything you'd be concerned about with hiring me?"
- What does your ideal candidate look like?
- What are the main challenges people face in this role?
- What is the company’s position on internal growth promotion?
- What key characteristics would you be looking for in the role?
- What does success in this role look like?
- Culturally, what does COMPANY X look for in candidates?
- What are the main challenges the team are facing right now?
5. Follow up with a 'Thank You' note 🤝🏼
Last but not least is one of the most simple yet often overlooked parts of the process. In the same way you invest a lot of time prepping for interviews, companies put a lot of resources into coordinating them.
After each interview, make sure you thank your main point-of-contact at the company (whether it's the recruiter or hiring manager) for their time and mention a couple of your key takeaways from the interview.
Every time you talk to someone at a company you should try to find a way to stand out. This can be done by ensuring that the email you send could only have been sent to that particular person. If it's a standard copy & paste template with absolutely no personalisation, it won't resonate as much and your chance to set yourself apart from other candidates will have passed.
Ian from Gradguide
Gradguide is a career guidance and mentorship program designed to help college students and recent graduates land their first job in tech. We pair you with a mentor to help improve your CV & LinkedIn, upskill, find the right roles to apply for, prepare for interviews, and seek referrals to the best companies around.