Whether you’re a college student interviewing for an internship, or a recent graduate trying to land your dream job, nailing the interview can seriously increase your odds of success.
But how, exactly, do you impress your interviewer?
How do you go about preparing?
And what can you do during and after the interview to stand out from all the other candidates?
Well, in an effort to make the process a little less stressful, we’ve put together 11 interview tips for college students.
Let’s dive in!
1. Dress For The Job You Want
Believe it or not, one of the things that stress people out the most before an interview is what to wear.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than misjudging the dress code.
Imagine turning up to your interview for a marketing position as a programmer in a tech startup in a three-piece suit, only to sit in front of your interviewers who are casually dressed in t-shirts and jeans.
That might not send the right message!
While not every workplace has a strict dress code, the best advice here is to dress for the job you want.
For instance, any corporate role in a large company is probably going to require you to wear a suit.
But if you’re unsure of what to wear [like our startup example], you can find clues on their website and social media. Try and get a feel for the culture of the company, and you will work out what’s appropriate.
If you’re really panicking in the days leading up to the interview, you can always send the hiring manager a quick message. Ask them about the dress culture and what it would be appropriate to wear, and they will normally be very happy to tell you!
By the way, if you’re preparing for an interview with a more formal dress code, here’s an incredibly helpful article for you to read: 7 Best Places to Buy a Suit for College Students.
2. Stay Off Your Phone
Few things are more off-putting to hiring managers than seeing a candidate on their phone.
While we use our phones for everything these days, it’s the height of rudeness to pull your device out when you’re in an interview.
As soon as you arrive at the interview venue, put your phone on airplane mode and drop it in your bag.
If you have to wait for your interview, pick up a newspaper or magazine on your way in and flip through it while you’re waiting to be called.
Trust us, hiring managers will remember the guy who checked his WhatsApp messages mid-interview; and that’s not a good thing!
3. Treat Everyone You Meet With Respect
Your interview doesn’t start when you’re called into the room. It actually begins when you arrive at the building.
From the security guard who checked your bag and wished you a good morning to the receptionist who directed you to the relevant floor, treat everyone you meet with respect.
While you shouldn’t go over the top, being courteous and polite is absolutely essential. Lots of hiring managers will ask their colleagues how you interacted with them before offering you the job.
If they find out you were disrespectful to the security guard and dismissive of the receptionist when asking for directions, it won’t do you any favors.
4. Practice Being Interviewed
While you don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict what the interviewers will ask you, you can practice the interview process.
Just like you would prepare for an exam, you should spend a decent amount of time preparing for your interview. Either ask yourself questions in the mirror or ask your friend to come over and quiz you for a couple of hours.
Each of the questions will get you thinking about your life experiences and will enable you to prepare answers when you’re put on the spot in your actual interview.
The practice will give you confidence when the pressure’s on.
5. Ask Questions During Your Interview
Remember, an interview is a two-way process. While you might think that the hiring manager is only interviewing you, it’s also an opportunity for you to interview them [within reason].
If you’re unclear about anything they’ve raised or on any questions that they’ve asked, be sure to ask for clarification.
Equally, prepare two or three questions before you arrive.
These should dig a little deeper into the company’s values or current projects that they’re undertaking.
You could also ask a bit more about the work culture.
Whatever you do, don’t spend your first interview asking about holidays, sick pay, and paid time off. This just shows you’re only interested in one thing.
We should also note here that an interviewer probably won’t take kindly to someone who bombards them with difficult or sensitive questions. Keep things professional and show you’re interested in finding out more about the company.
That’s all you need to do.
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6. Be An Active Listener
As well as considering your responses, your interviewers will be mindful of how well you listen. But active listening is more than just hearing.
Make sure your body language is positive, and you’re sitting up straight. You shouldn’t be fiddling with anything and should be totally focused on what the person in front of you is saying.
Eye contact is also super important.
If you’re being interviewed by several people, be sure to cast your gaze to the person who is speaking instead of just looking at the person who you think is in charge.
When you’re listening, ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand, but don’t cut the person off. Wait for them to finish, and then ask them to go over something that wasn’t clear the first time.
You will be amazed at how much people appreciate being truly listened to and appreciated, so your additional efforts will go a long way to helping your case.
7. Take A Breath
After being asked a question, lots of people are desperate to answer immediately. This can cause them to jump in and rush to give an answer that they haven’t fully thought through.
Even if you know you’ve got a perfectly good answer prepared for the very question you’ve just been asked, stop and take a breath for a couple of seconds.
While you might think this will look weird, your interviewer will actually appreciate that you’ve taken the time to consider your answer before blurting something out.
8. Do Your Due Diligence
At one point in the interview, you will almost certainly be asked about the company. It might be a question about their values, mission, or even performance.
To be able to answer, you will need to have done your homework.
This isn’t to say that you should spend 48 hours before the interview learning everything about the company’s 200-year history, far from it. But you should have a good understanding of the ethos, values, and operational objectives of the company.
If you find that you can’t answer the question you’ve been asked about the company directly, you could always redirect it slightly and answer with some other research you’ve prepared.
While this won’t necessarily be the answer that your interviewer was expecting, it will still show that you’ve done your homework and tried to prepare for the interview.
After all, they can’t expect you to know everything about the company at the interview stage!
9. Be Yourself
Don’t try and be the person you think the company wants to hire. This is a mistake that graduates often make.
They get it into their head that to work for a particular company, they have to be a certain type of person.
In the vast majority of cases, this isn’t true.
Remember, the hiring manager isn’t looking for a robot that gives uninteresting but accurate answers to their questions. They’re looking for character, integrity, proficiency in the required skills, and individuality.
They want to get to know the real you and consider whether you’re the right person to join their team. So don’t be afraid to show your personality in the interview.
Your passion comes out when you are being yourself and talking about your experiences.
As long as you remain professional and show how you will fit in well with the culture and values of the company, the hiring manager will be impressed by your willingness to show your true self during the interview.
10. Don’t Pretend To Know Things You Don’t
This point could also be written simply as ‘don’t lie.’
If you lie in your interview, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Don’t boast about achievements that you weren’t responsible for and avoid exaggerating the truth.
Interviewers have a knack for working out when someone’s lying and may even call you out on it during the interview. Also, if they suspect that you’re lying, they might even ask you to back up your claims once the interview has concluded.
The moral here is simple – be honest.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, you’ve been asked, or haven’t done something that they specifically ask for, just say no. It’s better to follow up after the interview with the right answer than it is to lie.
11. Follow Up And Be Persistent
Similar to how the interview begins before you walk into the room, it doesn’t end when you leave the room. You should always finish the interview with a polite, professional, and concise email.
Tell them that it was great to meet them, that you were impressed with the company, and would like to know the next steps.
This will show them that you’re keen on progressing to the next stage of the hiring process and will keep you in their thoughts.
Also, if you haven’t heard back by the time you expect, don’t take it as a rejection. Be persistent and follow up with the hiring manager again and ask for feedback.
Remember, they’re busy people and are likely to have many other tasks going on at the same time.
As we come to the end of this guide, we hope you agree that interviews aren’t as scary as they might seem.
By following these eleven interview tips for college students, you gain the confidence you need to ace your upcoming interview and land a job that you love.
Got any other helpful interview tips? Be sure to drop them in the comments section below.