What you should & shouldn’t do in an interview

Professional interviews for graduates are often a new experience and naturally can be daunting!

Acing an interview is all about being prepared, coming across as professional and doing lots of practise. Knowing what information to prepare and practise is the first step to ensure you put your best foot forward and make a strong first impression.

Performance Education’s top tips for what you should & shouldn’t do in an interview:

You Shouldn’t – Undersell/Undermine your skillset

Often students asked about technical experience respond with “I don’t have any professional experience with this skill…”. STOP! You have already undersold your knowledge/ability with that approach – don’t highlight your lack of professional experience, instead, focus on presenting your ability in a more positive way.

Examples:

  • You may have experience using this skill in multiple subjects and projects at university or everyday life – be prepared to share examples!
  • Share if you are currently upskilling with an online courses/certifications/self-learning or online tutorials in the said space.

You Should – Explain how you can add value

Interviews are highly competitive so you need to explain how you can add value to a business to set you apart from other candidates. A great way to do this is by researching the company and position, and then making comparisons between your skill set and the company’s requirements. It can also be useful to use examples of past achievements to support your pitch.

You Should – Use your experience & previous positions as examples

Often students fail to recognise the value of previous employment if it differs from the field in which they are applying. Prior part-time positions can be a valuable source of transferrable skills and experiences to draw upon when responding to interview questions.

If an interviewer asks about a soft skill, consider applying it to when you’ve used it in a part time role. Transferrable soft skills could include customer service, effective communication, time management, problem solving, troubleshooting, attention to detail or teamwork.

Similarly, you can reference a part-time job or real-life situation when asked behavioural/situational questions such as, ‘Explain a time when you dealt with a difficult customer’ or ‘Provide an example of a time you went above & beyond”.

Remember to reflect on your part-time employment in advance of the interview – note down transferrable skills and relevant situations so they are front of mind, and you aren’t caught on the spot trying to recall them.

You Shouldn’t – Be Negative About Past Experiences

An employer may ask behavioural questions or specifically about past employment experiences. We suggest keeping responses honest but always positive and respectful, even if you didn’t enjoy it or had a bad experience. Speaking negatively will give the wrong impression about your attitude or come across as an excuse. Flip it, focus on what you learnt from the situation, and the good parts of the workplace.

If you’ve had a bad experience with a previous employer – prepare in advance of the interview how you can talk about it positively, if asked.

You Should – Ask Questions!

Always do your research and have prepared questions for the interviewer.

Stay away from basic questions about what you will be doing – this is likely to have already been covered in the position description, or job advertisement.

Instead, ask questions that showcase you are genuinely interested and excited about the role and/or employer – these questions should relate to your research on the company, workplace culture or something interesting you may have seen on their website or a recent article.

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