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May 2024
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For graduates interviewing for their first jobs, interviews can be especially stressful. But they don’t have to be. Consider the following recommendations to give your best interview and present yourself as the candidate of choice.

Think Beyond Paid Experience

Internships or volunteer positions can demonstrate experience and interest. When discussing your skills, experiences, and accomplishments, don’t hesitate to use relevant anecdotes from all facets of your life. Even classroom activities, such as group projects, can provide good examples to employers of how you can contribute.

“Paid or unpaid experience is irrelevant to me,” says David Coffey, executive director of the Recovery Café, a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Washington. “What I’m listening for is do they truly care about this or are they saying what they think I want to hear, and what was the situation and how did they handle it. Someone who has been in a challenging situation and responded in a creative, dynamic way is the sort of person I want on my team.”

Make Connections

Stay in touch with people at any higher education institution where you received a degree or certificate, including faculty and career development professionals. Tap into the alumni network and connect with people in organizations and fields of interest.

Use online tools, such as LinkedIn, to expand your contacts. “LinkedIn is most effective if you engage with it,” says Catherine Stace, career services manager for the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She recommends joining groups and promoting relevant professional articles. If you see someone sharing articles that align with your interests, thank them for the information, seek their advice, or comment on their posts.

Even with all the technology and online tools, it’s still important to make a personal connection. “Online tools will help you find the door, but your communication skills will help you get your foot into that door,” says Stace.

Employ Active Listening

An important emotional intelligence (EI) competency to use during a job search is active listening. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal communication throughout the interview. Don’t just focus on the questions being asked. What is the tone, and how is the interviewer responding to your answers? “Many people are thinking about what they’re going to say next, but then they’re not really listening,” says Paul Binkley, executive director for career and professional development for University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. EI is also about adapting, so if you’re picking up negative cues, adjust your approach and get the interview back on track.


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