White woman with glasses and coffee cup interviewing with Black man in vest

Your First Job Interview: Before, During, and After

Listen up, college students! You want a good job, right? Here are some important tips for what you should do before, during, and after your first job interview.

Between perfecting your first “grown-up” résumé and cover letter, it’s easy to forget the next step in the post-grad job application process: the interview. Job interviews allow employers to determine whether or not they want to hire a candidate and give the applicant a chance to showcase their abilities. (It’s also your chance to see if the job and company are a good fit for you too!) Luckily, with just a bit of preparation, college students and recent grads can feel confident during the interview process and get the job of their dreams. Here are some tips for what you should do before, during, and after your first job interview!

Before the interview

According to Glassdoor for Employers, every corporate job opening receives 250 résumés on average, but only about four to six people will be invited to interview for the position. Those are some scary odds, especially for college students with little—or no—interview experience. When you finally land an interview, prepare for it with these tips.

  • Do your research: Basically every job interview expert will tell you the same thing: research the company beforehand to get a feel of their mission statement and how they operate. In addition, it may be a good idea to research the potential department you hope to work in to see how you may contribute to them specifically.
  • Have some thoughtful questions ready: All the research you just did on the company will really help with this! Come up with some questions for the interviewer based on the company and position. Here’s a list of general examples, but you should tailor your questions to the company if you can. And whatever you do, don’t ask questions you could easily Google yourself!
  • Prep your résumé: Print out a few copies of your résumé and also take some time to review it. For each job position or skill you listed, try to think of a story that highlights how the experience helped you grow professionally or how it will make you a better employee.
  • Check your online presence: when a potential employer looks you up—and they will—what would they find? A whopping 90% of recruiters say they research the candidate online beforehand, and 70% of employers who use LinkedIn have chosen not to hire someone based on their online information. It is better to be safe and take down any questionable content long before a job interview.
  • Dress to impress: Lay out an appropriate job interview outfit and make sure you’re looking your best. First impressions count, and for better or worse, the first impression you make will largely be visual. If that also means ironing your clothes, getting a haircut, or trimming your beard the night before the interview, so be it!

Related: 5 Questions to Prepare for Your First Job Interview

During the interview

This is it! Time to wow your future employer. Ensure you have a memorable interview (for all the right reasons) with the following tips.

  • Listen: Be attentive whenever your interviewer is speaking so you don’t miss any important details. It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you’re nervous, but try to take deep breaths and focus on what the interviewer is saying. You can jot down a few notes if you need to remember something, but your primary objective is listening.
  • Detail your skills and experience: Always relate your answers back to why you’d be a good fit for the job. Even when you’re being asked about your previous work experience at a bowling alley, you should talk about the transferable skills you gained there that make you a great fit for the engineering job you’re interviewing for.
  • Pay attention to your body language: How might your posture or hand gestures be interpreted by the interviewer? Maintain good posture, make eye contact, and nod your head from time to time to show you’re engaged. And don’t forget to smile!
  • Notice the interviewer's body language as well: Likewise, does the interviewer’s body language suggest they are engaged in—or uncomfortable with—what you’re saying? If they seem to be shutting down, you may want to reflect on what you just said and explain it better if you can.
  • Be respectful: You need to show the utmost respect for your interviewer in your words and actions. For example, don’t put your stuff on the interviewer’s desk or talk over them. Of course, when you do talk, don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions to show that you're interested and have thought out your future role in the company.

After the interview

You made it through—now it's out of your hands, right? Not exactly. You can use this time productively and make yourself top-of-mind by doing the following. 

  • Follow up ASAP: Whether you feel like you aced it or barely got by, it’s a nice gesture to follow up with the interviewer and thank them for their time. You should send a thank-you email (or maybe even a paper card) within a day.
  • Connect on social media: If the company is active online, stay in the loop with what they're doing. Liking a few of their social media posts is a good way to show that you're interested in the company.
  • Think about what went well (or not so well): Taking the time to reflect on how you did in the interview will help you find ways you can improve in the future.

Related: How to Navigate and Excel at a Job Interview on Zoom

Whatever happens during your first job interviews after college, remember: the right job for you is out there. And the more interviews you complete, the more natural they'll become and the more confident you'll feel in your ability to represent yourself in a professional manner. Best of luck! 

How are you preparing for your first job interview? If you’ve already been on an interview or two, what did you do before, during, and after it? Share your experience with us on Twitter @CollegeXpress.

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