Life Moments - Students & Graduates

Preparing for your first job

Preparation is key

University complete, it's time to think about your first job. We want to help you find your first job after graduation so we've put together some helpful tips about interviews and internships.

Interview tips

Read the job specification thoroughly, ensuring you have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities so you can directly relate your previous experience to it and the organisation.

Researching the company goes without saying. They want to see evidence that you have done your homework and have genuinely thought about why you want to work for them. Review the website, annual report, and check out recent news feeds from relevant trade and national press to get a feel for market position and any current challenges - and then importantly have an opinion.

Who are you going to be meeting? Look them up on LinkedIn and understand their background and experience.

Think about the type of questions you are likely to be asked. Most interviews tend to follow the same pattern and include questions designed to establish your specific skill set, motivation and team fit.

Look the part. For most companies offering post-graduate roles (who have a dress down policy at work) a suit and tie is not necessary but you should dress in smart office wear for an interview.

Plan ahead. Get the location directions, your recruiter’s telephone number and give yourself additional time to arrive.

 

A number of questions come up in almost every interview, so it’s a good idea to think through answers that put your skills and experience in a positive light and rehearse them in advance.

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why do you want this particular position?
  • What relevant qualifications and experience do you have?
  • Can you talk me through your work history since leaving full time education?
  • Why did you leave your last position/looking to leave?
  • What have you done that demonstrated personal initiative?
  • Where do you see yourself in 3/5 years from now?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What attracted you to this company?
  • How would you describe yourself?

Interviewers are constantly looking for updated methods to find their perfect candidate. Competency based questions are designed to allow the candidate to give examples in their professional life of times when they've displayed their skills and qualities. You should always have multiple examples on a number of varying situations.

Potential questions could be:

  • Tell me about a time when you were a member of a great team. What role did you play in making the team great?
  • Tell me about a time when you were given a task to accomplish without any direction.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone you did not get along with.
  • Tell me about a time when you felt that a decision was unfair. How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when someone asked you for assistance outside the parameters of your job. What did you do?

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model is highly recommended by interviewers and HR experts.

By structuring your answer in this way you are giving yourself the opportunity to explain what the task or problem was that you were faced with, how you tackled it and what was the outcome of your actions.

Telephone interview

This is generally used as a pre-interview screening exercise, so always take it seriously, as this is when the interviewer makes an initial selection:

  • Give yourself time to prepare for it as you would a traditional interview.
  • Try not to phone from outdoors or in a busy place. Find a quiet room and make sure that you have all the time you need to conduct the interview properly.
  • Listen carefully and don't speak too quickly or for too long.
  • Never rush things, and smile while you're speaking.
  • Always have your CV and additional notes in front of you.

Skype interview

  • Practice using Skype with a friend or relative.
  • Make sure your picture and sound are working properly.
  • Dress smart, remember with Skype they can see you. 
  • Make sure your laptop is plugged in or has enough charge.
  • Make sure you have a good internet connection.
  • Listen carefully and don't speak too quickly or for too long.
  • Smile while you're speaking.

Face to Face Interview

  • Address and make eye contact with everyone, even if one person seems to be leading the panel.
  • Choose a glass of water if offered a drink.
  • Always thank the panel for their time at the end of the interview.
  • You can expect to meet different people each time. While the first interview may be conducted by your future boss, the second could be led by your future bosses’ boss.

 

  • How do you invest in people and career development?
  • How has the business changed over the recent years?
  • What new products or services do you have in the pipeline?
  • Where makes your company stand out against the opposition?
  • What skills or qualities do you think would be most beneficial for this role?
  • What challenges do you think I'd face in my first three/six months?

Internships

Internships are a great way of starting your career yet some students and graduates are reluctant to pursue them as they worry they'll be stuck performing menial office admin and fetching the executive's coffee. However the benefits of working as an intern far outweigh any negatives and an opportunity to start your working career in this format should be considered an investment in your future.

Internships provide an effective way for students to meet new people in their field, network and make contacts for the future as well as gaining references from those in their industry to add weight to CVs and job applications, all of which could help them to secure that all important first job after graduation.

Thinking of starting a business?

If you're more interested in working for yourself once you leave university, be sure to look at the articles, blogs, videos and toolkits on offer throughout both Mentor and NatWest Boost.

NatWest Mentor

Your business partner for employment law & HR, health & safety and environmental support, advice and protection.

NatWest Boost

We want to connect you with the right people, with the right knowledge, to boost your business. 

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