Ace Your First Job Interview

If you’ve recently graduated from college and you’re feeling a little apprehensive about the job application and interview process, take a deep breath and realize that you’re not the only one. Plenty of people feel overwhelmed when they go into an interview and get stuck comparing themselves to other applicants and imagining that they won’t stack up.

Especially if you don’t have much actual work experience in your field of study, it’s important to focus on what you do bring to the table rather than draw attention to your relative inexperience. While you might begin to question your decision as you approach your first interviews, continuing your education after earning your high school diploma is a strategy that’s proven to pay off. An advanced degree shows that you studied a subject in great depth, and it will help you stand out within a large pool of candidates.

College degrees, however, aren’t the only way to showcase your expertise. Certificate programs can demonstrate knowledge of a specific tool or skill, and with so many course options available online, it’s easier than ever to balance your education with your other commitments.

Because employers want to hire individuals who demonstrate compassion, volunteer opportunities can also add value to your résumé and show that you care about other people. They can also indicate certain skills, such as fundraising or event planning, that transfer well to the working world.

Whatever skills you have, there are a few ways to approach your interview that can give you the confidence you need to knock it out of the park. Of course, you should start by getting a good night’s sleep, but beyond that, you’ll want to do some research before you go.

Start by knowing where the interview is and where you should park. The last thing you want is to leave home with no time to spare and then arrive on a large corporate campus with no clue where you’re supposed to be. Know where to go, and plan to arrive 15 minutes early.

Research also means learning about the company itself. Know what it’s looking for beyond the job posting, and check out the “About Us” section of the website. To be even more thorough, perform a Google News search to see the most recent news pieces about the company. You might not need this knowledge during the interview, but if you do, you’ll look especially informed, and this step can differentiate you from other applicants.

During your research, think about how you can tie past work experience to the position you’re applying for. Even if a former role seems unrelated, chances are good that it’s somehow relevant. Maybe in high school, you spent your summers bagging groceries, for instance. On the surface, this job might seem unrelated to a corporate career, but it’s all about how you can spin it. Bagging groceries, for instance, requires you to interact with customers for eight hours each day, teaching you to maintain a high degree of professionalism, and you’re also expected to communicate well with everyone from cashiers to store managers.

Coming to your interview prepared also means bringing in printed copies of your résumé, as well as a pen and paper for taking notes. It’s also a good idea to write down any questions you might have for the interviewers because they’re easy to forget when you’re in front of a panel of people you’re trying hard to impress.

Conclude by thanking interviewers for the opportunity, whether you think you’ve got the job or not. It’s also important to send a thank-you shortly afterward to help the interviewers remember your name and face. You’d be surprised how many people overlook the importance of being polite before, during, and after an interview.

When it comes to the interview process, Concordia University Chicago is ready to help you prepare to put your best foot forward. Our professors are also practitioners, making them a great resource for advice, and you can access our comprehensive online services, including our partnership with Resume Target, at Concordia Connect.

Interviewing can be intimidating, but all your peers are going through the same process. Reaching out to them and sharing your experiences can be mutually beneficial, so don’t go through the interview process alone. By using the resources at your fingertips and preparing ahead of time, you’re putting yourself in the best position to succeed.