I continue to work with new grads who are struggling to land a job after graduation. One of the reasons new grads can't find jobs is because they are failing to shine in the job interview. Of course when I ask, many of these new grads tell me that the reason they can't find a job is the high unemployment rate. That's the easy answer. As one grad said to me recently; everybody can understand that reason. It usually surprises the new grad when I share that even with 8.2% unemployment rate, there are millions of job openings that are going unfilled each month in the US. Most new grads don't believe me until I show them the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In fact, on the last business day of May 2012 there were 3.4 million job openings in the US. In some cases our new grads don't have the skills or experience the employers want. Not yet. However, in other cases, the new grad has the job skills but is just failing to impress the employer in the job interview. With targeted and specific preparation, new grads can shine in the job interview by doing these things.
Do company research so you can show enthusiasm for working in that specific job with that company
New grads must understand that hiring managers look for enthusiasm in the applicant sitting across from them in a job interview. Aside from the obvious body language that shows lack of interest, employers gauge applicant interest from the answers they receive to simple interview questions like: "Why do you want to work here?"
This question is an invitation for a new grad to shine in the job interview especially when they have done the necessary pre-interview company research. This is the time to share with the employer what you know about the company. Do you know any new initiatives underway at the company? Did you read the annual report? Do you know if the company is opening in new regions? Are you aware of a corporate training program?
After a dozen years of working with new grads in college career centers, I am still struck by how many new grads fail to do company research. Many recruiters cite it as the #1 reason a new grad will be overlooked in the job interview. When I work with college students in practice job interviews, the ability to do company research is something we have to discuss. How much research did the student do? How much did they tie the company's initiatives to their own personal objectives? New grads must be able to make the case for a match between their interests and the company's mission AND show why that match makes them excited and enthusiastic about wanting to be with that particular company. Without the research new grads can't shine in a job interview. Instead, they will be forgettable.
Grades, GPA, projects, campus leadership all matter
Another way for new grads to shine in the job interview is to speak about accomplishments through grades, GPA, projects and extracurricular activities. Many new grads will say, 'Well they have my resume already and so I don't want to repeat myself." In order to really shine in a job interview, new grads have to be able to share outcomes and reinforce the information in their resumes. The job interview is the time to put grades, GPA, projects and campus leadership on the table. Hiring managers are listening for what grades and participation say about a new grad. To really shine in a job interview, new grads must share stories about past behavior. Trust me, hiring managers get excited about working with new professionals who already can show a track record of success. Managers will draw parallels between the outcomes you have had before and the outcomes they expect to see after they hire a new grad.
Show confidence and readiness to move from the classroom to office
This is probably one of my biggest challenges working with new grads who don't believe they have anything to bring to a company. After all they are new grads. Yes they have a college degree, but they feel they bring no job skills or experiences that a company is looking for. Not true. One big difference between the new grad that shines in the job interview and the new grad that does not shine in the job interview is the level of confidence displayed. Not cockiness; Confidence. There is a difference. If a new grad has done internships, held leadership roles on campus and know how to communicate effectively, they can shine in the job interview. Most times I have to remind new grads that employers know they have a college degree, but they are also recruiting for potential and attitude.