Graduate Interviews

Getting a graduate job isn't as simple as applying, going to an interview and starting next Monday. Many companies aim to put graduates through their paces to make sure they're the right person for the role. Here's a sample of the things that could be thrown at you.

Multiple Interviews

You've got through two interviews and now they're asking you back for a third. The first thing to do is congratulate yourself and recognise what an achievement it is to get this far.

At this stage, you'll probably have proved you've got the right skills for the role - what they want to find out now is if you're the right cultural fit for the company's working environment and existing staff. A good tip is to dress as if you already work in that organisation, so try to get a sense in advance of the dress code and then look and dress as if you already belong there.

Still, you'll have to work hard to convince the panel you're the best bod for the job, so put in the same effort as you would for a first interview. You might feel like you've got nothing left to say, so avoid being caught out by getting as much information as you can about what the focus of the interview will be. Contact the HR department in advance, if there is one, or email the person arranging the interview. Do some extra work that reflects the job you're going for. If it's a PR position, for example, make a brief document of the kind of press coverage you think the company should be aiming for. Hand it in at the end of the interview and they won't fail to be impressed by enthusiasm and initiative.

Presentations

Urrggghhh - the dreaded 'p' word. You may well feel like running away right now for an easy life behind a fast-food counter? You wouldn't be the first and you won't be the last, but try to remember that you'll never master the art of public speaking if you don't try. The key thing to remember is that you're presenting to human beings and they're not there to catch you out. They've all been in your shoes and had those butterfly moments and they'll be very supportive if you're having those moments too.

Preparation is key. If you are given a specific topic to research make sure you answer and address the question they've given you. Consider why they're asking you to cover this topic and how it relates to the job itself.

Practise out loud in front of a mirror or in front of a friend. The more run-throughs you have the more comfortable and confident you will become for the real thing.

If you get stuck or forget, it's fine to acknowledge that and say "Sorry, I'm really nervous and I think I'm beginning to forget what I was about to say, can I take a moment?" Usually this will get a laugh and it will also deal with any discomfort you are feeling.

Group Interviews

The first thing to understand is why they are inviting you to a group interview. A common reason is to get a sense of how you interact in a group situation. You probably won't be working alone in the job you are applying for, so they want to see how you relate to other people.

The key thing to remember is to be assertive without being dominating - you don't have to lead all the discussions. Make sure you're inclusive, so everyone within your group gets the opportunity to shine, which will demonstrate that you can relate to people well.

Sometimes it's worth taking on a specific role - for example, be the timekeeper and give the group five-minute warnings, or chair the group discussion ensuring everyone gets the chance to talk. By allocating yourself with a specific task you're demonstrating the sort of roles you're able to take on in a work environment.

Trial Days

Being invited to work in your potential workplace may seem daunting, but it's as much a chance for you to check them out as vise versa. Soak up as much of the atmosphere as you can. Who will be on your team? Are they helpful and approachable? How do staff dress and communicate? These are all factors that will affect your suitability to a workplace.

Equally, they will be assessing you to see if you fit within the culture and whether you're capable of doing the job. Make sure you fully understand what is being asked of you throughout the day and don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you're not sure. If they invite you along to any meetings, ask for an agenda and spend some time researching the topics of discussion so you can go along with some useful feedback. Overall, show enthusiasm for the role, the company and its aims - many employers prefer enthusiasm and cultural fit over skills and experience, which can be learned on the job.

Outcome

By the time you find out if the job's yours you should have a pretty good idea if it's right for you. If you're still not sure, consider your options. You might choose to take the job and build up your skills while you work out if it's the right role for you. More controversially, you could hold out for a more suitable role. It's tempting for graduates to take the first job offer they get, but don't be afraid to hold out for something more suitable - it could affect your whole career path, after all.

If the news isn't good, try not to kick yourself too hard. Ask for feedback and think constructively about how you can improve on the areas they bring up. Above all, treat the interviews you've had as a learning experience and try to learn from the mistakes you made this time round.