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5 checks to be ready for your interview

Team Prosple

How to dress, what to take, and more importantly, how to stay sane during the interview. We also throw in a few handy questions to ask at the end.

How to prepare for your graduate job interview

You’ve done your research and prepared your answers but the way you appear at your actual interview can make or break your chances. Being badly dressed, chewing gum, rocking up late because you didn’t plan out your trip, or failing to have a pen and paper might seem like harmless errors, but employers won’t often give you a second chance to correct a botched first impression.  

Appearing prepared, like you’ve considered every detail that could help you get the job, will give you the best chance of standing out in an employer’s mind.  

Dress the part

The prevailing opinion says to dress in a way that is ‘professionally appropriate for the job to which you are applying.’ But what does that really mean? If you’re applying to a tech company can you don the conventional hoodie and cargo shorts of all the other coders? If the agency life is for you should you be wearing skinny jeans and a silk top?

The answer is a resounding no.  

A job interview is a test. It’s about presenting yourself in a professional and formal manner - regardless of the job to which you’re applying. Sure, you should tailor your dress to the context and setting, but not that much. Wear something neat and clean, well-fitted and suitably modest. Shirts are compulsory for corporate gigs and, really, most other interviews. You might not want to sport a full-blown pants suit in some situations, but an ensemble of some description is usually the go. Avoid crazy colours and flashy prints as these may distract from what you’re saying. Keep your hair and makeup low-key for similar reasons.   

You can check out basic sites like Pinterest, iStock and Google for inspiration. Remember, you don’t have to spend thousands on high fashion to make a good impression. The most important thing is to look neat, polished and professional.

Pack your bag

No, this isn’t school and you won’t be called on to offer visual aides during an interview, but showing up with a pen and notebook means that you’re ready to take notes when required. Your interviewer might mention an application that they use internally, or a book you might be interested in. Show that you’re not just giving these things lip service and that you intend to follow up. It’s also useful to write down the name of the person(s) you’re interviewing with on your notepad to avoid any embarrassing instances of forgotten or mispronounced names.

You should also bring along at least one printed copy of your CV and reference list to give to your potential employer. If you’ve already got a portfolio of work that you’d like to mention when it comes to your skills you should bring this along.  

Finally, throw in a few breath mints or pieces of gum because nobody wants to work with Bad Breath Barry. Just don’t be chewing anything when the interview starts.

Do a mental health check

Stop. Breathe. We know you’re stressed beyond reasonable measure. You’re doing great.

While you’re checking things off your list we thought it might be useful to add in a mental health scan to ensure you keep your cool leading up to your interview. Planning ahead and being prepared can go miles in squashing nerves. But even the best-equipped candidates can feel anxious. There's a lot at stake and much of it comes down to in-person performance.  

So how can you minimise the sweaty palms and stuttering sentences?

It might be helpful to visualise yourself being successful during your interview. These ‘plays’ in your head can create positive emotions, helping you to believe that a good outcome is absolutely possible.  

You should also eliminate as many unknowns as you can. This means call human resources and find out who will be in your interview, what to wear, and where to go if the company occupies a large campus. Knowing exactly where your interview will take place will reduce your stress levels on the day. There is honestly no excuse for being late or getting lost. All graduates should know how to use Google Maps and plan enough time to get through traffic. Don’t add to your own stress and ruin your chances even before you arrive.  

Finally, smile. Think positive thoughts. The rest of your body will catch on, trust us.

Brush up on nonverbal cues

The ability to read nonverbal cues can increase your chances of success in an interview. For example, if an interviewer is nodding as you answer, you’re probably on the right track. If their eyes glaze over, or they begin to look distracted, it might be time to wind up that particular answer and move on to something else.  

Similarly, regular and sustained eye contact is another good sign that the interview is going well and that the hiring manager is interested in what you’re saying. Other positive cues are when an interviewer takes notes, laughs or smiles as you talk.

Bad signs that might indicate a disconnect or lack of understanding include crossed arms, a stiff posture, furrowed brows and head shaking. Taking note of these reactions can give you a chance to modify your tone or answers during the interview.

Some tricky interviewers will deliberately stonewall you just to test your stress response. So don’t be put off if you’re your sparkling witty self and receiving zip. Keep calm, measured and focused.

Write a few questions for your interviewer

You’ve just spent the past hour being grilled and now it’s your turn to ask a few questions. Coming up with a meaningful line of inquiry at the end of a stressful interview can be tough. Remember, questions help reinforce your interest in the company and role, as well as demonstrate how prepared you are.  

The ensure you ace this part of the interview, think about the job description and company then come up with two or three questions ahead of time.  

These can include:

  • Can you tell me a bit more about the day-to-day requirements of the job?
  • Could you please give me an example of a career path within the company that started with this position?
  • What do you view as the biggest challenge of this job?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Are there any opportunities for mentorship?
  • I noticed you have offices in other parts of the world. Is travel/relocation possible?
  • If I were to be successful, how soon would you like me to start?
  • How would you describe the culture of this company?
  • Do you have any concerns about my skill set?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

Just remember to breathe. You’re prepared and you no doubt look fab. So now it’s time to let your skills do the rest.  

Here's an article that covers 30+ Questions to Ask at Internship & Grad Job Interviews.