Preparing for Your First Interview: Tips for College Students and Recent Graduates

Thumbs up with text that says 'hire me'.

Going for an interview for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. And truthfully, even experienced career professionals can feel a little nervous before an interview. But when you know what to expect, and prepare with a few tips for your first job interview, you can gradually develop the confidence to help things go a little smoother.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Your First Job Interview

If you’re fresh out of college, here are some tips and best-practices to feel more confident in your job search. As always, preparing ahead of time is the key to being poised and able to demonstrate your skills and self in the best possible light to prospective employers.

Research the company where you’re applying.

To start, you’ll want to know about how to research a company for a job, for several reasons. For one, it will let you determine if you’re a good match for the company culture. If you are, then you have a basis to demonstrate your compatibility during the interview. Coming prepared also helps to make a strong first impression because it shows you’re serious about the position.

Research the position, including day-to-day duties and advancement opportunities.

If you’re asking basic questions about the job, that tells an employer that you don’t know what you’re signing up to do. It suggests you would accept any job rather than the job in question, which could imply higher risk of employee turnover. And it might indicate that you need substantial training.

Preparing for your first interview by taking the time to research the position can prevent all of that. It allows you to prepare some of your own thoughtful questions, help ensure the job is actually suitable for you, and allow you to more effectively communicate why you think you’re the most qualified candidate.

Practice interviewing with a friend or family member.

Like learning to drive, learning to interview is much easier with practice. Over time, interviewing, like driving, can become an automatic and effortless process. Practicing with friends or family can help you achieve that kind of confidence by gradually building familiarity with the interview process. Going for an interview for the first time, you’ll also specifically want to practice common interview questions.

Get directions ahead of time.

Know where you’re going. You don’t want to feel rushed or lost while finding your way to the site of the interview, and you don’t want to show up late. Figuring out where you need to be ahead of time can help ensure you can show up on time and feeling prepared. In addition to looking into directions and parking, remember to prepare printed copies of your resume.

Dress for the job you want.

Dress appropriately, not overdressed or underdressed. Overdressing gives off the impression you don’t know what you’re doing, and might not understand the job position. Underdressing shows a lack of professionalism. And both overdressing and underdressing show a lack of serious interest in the position.

Among the many interview tips for recent graduates, some of the most important are some of the most basic. For many of the same reasons you should know where you’re going, you should also consider planning your outfit in advance. Because preparing an outfit can help eliminate another potential distraction on the day-of.

Stay calm and be yourself!

The purpose of an interview isn’t only to determine if you’re qualified -- it’s also to determine if you’ll get along with the people that you’d be working with. Being professional is important, but just because you’re practicing the interview doesn’t mean you want to sound like you’re reading from a script. Doing so makes it difficult to get a sense of your personality; so try to speak in an extemporaneous way to help you come across as your genuine self.

Remember: don’t beat yourself up if you need extra help. Interviewing can make almost anyone anxious. However, with preparation, it is possible to stand out of the crowd. And there’s always more you can learn to prepare.

You might want to figure out how to describe yourself in an interview setting, or depending on the job, how to create a professional portfolio. MyPath’s Blog is full of interview tips for college students, career advice for graduates, and other guides to helping you master interviewing one step at a time.