From Communicating in the Classroom to Communicating in an Interview

Interview tips for new graduates

Schooling prepares you for the workforce in a variety of ways, how to meet deadlines, work in a team environment, and think critically. You attended classes, lunch, and extracurricular activities each day and on time. You will be expected to do this in the workforce too. Now it’s time to take those learned skills and transition into the workforce. But first, how do you prepare for an interview to transition from classroom to career?

Pre-planning for an Interview

Get your resume in tip-top shape even if your past jobs aren’t directly related to the position you are seeking. Lori DuMars, Human Resources Generalist at Coulee Bank says, “All experience is good experience. There are a lot of life skills being learned in every position.” If you worked in fast food, you learned valuable customer service skills and how to deal with difficult customers. You may have learned to count money and work as a team. Every job shows you were motivated to show up and do the work, so include this in your resume.

Once you have crafted your resume, have someone review it for grammar, punctuation, and typos. It shows a level of professionalism to submit a well-written resume with no mistakes. DuMars says, “If you choose to add a career objective at the top of your resume, make sure you personalize it for each position and each company.”

Do Your Homework

Before any interview, make sure you know the company’s values and mission statement and ask questions. It shows you have taken the time to think about the role and the company. Amy Bauer, Chief Human Resources Officer says, “Ask genuine and sincere questions that will relate to the position, and remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.”

Prepare for behavioral interview questions. These questions encourage you to describe situations and tell how you managed them. DuMars says, “Use the STAR method to respond to behavioral questions. Describe a specific Situation, and what your Task or responsibility was in this situation. Explain your Actions and what the Results were.” This is a great way to show how you react to situations and exhibit your problem-solving skills. Pro-tip: bring a copy of your resume to have on hand with notes written in a different color about how you managed different work experiences.

Virtual or In-Person Interview

Whether your interview is virtual or in person, arrive at least 10 minutes early. In a virtual setting, this allows you time to get your computer or phone set up in a quiet room where you will not be interrupted. “You may need to blur the background or select a professional background setting depending on your location,” says DuMars.

If your interview is in person, map out your drive. It’s important to look for road construction and determine if there are any delays. Again, make sure you are at least 10 minutes early. DuMars says, “Arriving early allows you time to watch the staff interact with each other and their customers. This is a valuable opportunity that shows a lot about the culture of the organization.”

When your interviewer arrives, smile, look them in the eye, and give them a firm handshake. Non-verbal communication is as important as verbal communication.

If you need to cancel or reschedule an interview, let the interviewer know in advance. If you get another opportunity or decide it’s not a good fit before the interview, let them know. Ghosting is unprofessional and shows you don’t care. If the position you applied for isn’t the right fit, another opportunity might arise, and they will remember your resume and stellar communication skills.

Answering Interview Questions

Take a breath before you respond. Be direct and specific. Bauer says, “Answer the question or describe the situation in approximately 30 seconds to three minutes maximum. Any less and it shows you aren’t interested, and any more means you are rambling. Rambling will cause the interviewer to lose interest in the conversation.” She goes on to say answers should be authentic and not scripted. The interview will be more comfortable as a conversation.

If you cannot think of an answer right away, it’s okay. A brief silence is acceptable. If you cannot think of an answer within a brief period, politely ask the interviewer to move on to the next question and come back to the question. Be prepared to go back to that question.

´╗┐Both Bauer and DuMars agree to keep all answers positive. “Talking negatively shows you are blaming others instead of accepting any accountability. Taking accountability for yourself is very important,” says Bauer. It’s crucial to leave personal drama out of the conversation. And if you decide partway through the interview that it’s not a good fit, it’s okay to politely tell the interviewer so you don’t waste their time or yours.

Interview Follow Up

Immediately following the interview, send a thank you note to each person you interviewed with. Be patient, the interviewers are likely working with several people to find the right fit for the job. Even though you feel like you are the right fit for the position, there may be someone else more qualified for the role.

If you are a recent graduate, it’s important to remember entry-level jobs are acceptable for your level of experience. DuMars says, “Don’t expect to get a managerial position if you are a recent graduate.” She says to accept the job you are offered and work hard. You may have to do tasks you don’t want to do. By doing these tasks, it shows you have an excellent work ethic, and in time, you may be promoted. “At Coulee Bank, we have several employees who started as Tellers and were promoted to different roles within the organization. We love to promote from within the organization.”

If you don’t get the position you applied for, they may consider you for a different role in the future. It’s important not to burn any bridges. Be gracious, professional, and positive. The right position will come along.