From Applicant To Interviewee: The Journey To Landing Your First Job Interview



anding your first job interview after graduation can be a heart-pounding experience. You want to be sure you are taking all the right steps to succeed and make a great first impression. However, the job market is tight and can be highly competitive. As a college graduate, you must accomplish a few things before achieving your goal of interviewing for a dream job.

Craft an Impressive Resume

If you have yet to create a resume, this will be your first opportunity to land your first job interview. A compelling resume represents your professional journey. It highlights your skills and the value you bring to a potential employer. To convince hiring managers you deserve a spot in the interview room, your resume should include several key elements:

  • Contact information: Your name, phone number, professional email address and LinkedIn profile.
  • Objective or summary: A brief overview of your career goals and how you align with the desired role.
  • Education: Details of your academic achievements, including institutions attended and degrees obtained.
  • Experience: Professional experiences, internships or relevant positions that detail key achievements.
  • Skills: Technical and soft skills pertinent to the job.

When crafting your resume, you must have all these essentials to impress potential employers. Soft skills are critical, as 93% of employers mentioned they look for them.

However, your resume should be unique to each job you apply for. For instance, suppose you recently graduated with a degree in digital marketing and are interested in an entry-level position as a digital marketing specialist. Since this field is vast, companies may look for employees who specialize in a certain tool or a skill like PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising.

Should you apply for this role with various companies, you must tailor your resume to highlight specific experiences and skills that resonate with the job. Doing so ensures you are a direct match with the employer’s needs. Plus, it helps you stand out from other applicants.

Nurture Your Personal Brand

A good resume is a great way to impress employers. However, if you want to stand out, give yourself a personal brand. These days, hiring managers are all for learning about who you are, where your passion lies and if you have what it takes to succeed in your company.

Building your brand may begin with launching a website or portfolio. Such platforms display your work and tell your story. For instance, your brand might mention how you bring fresh perspectives since you are a recent college graduate. Studies show companies prioritizing inclusivity are twice as likely to thrive financially and eight times more likely to achieve better outcomes. Therefore, state how you provide more updated methodologies and innovative thinking.

You must customize your personal brand just as you would your resume. During an interview, you could share stories that reflect your brand essence, but ensure they align with the employer’s aspirations. It may feel daunting to talk about the personal elements of yourself. However, showing off your personality traits creates a refreshing change for hiring managers. They value originality and applaud those who step beyond convention.

Maximize Your Professional Network

Your chances of landing your first interview rely on who you know and how you connect. If you tap into your professional network, you will be on your way to enhancing your job prospects. However, doing so requires some effort on your part. You must build and nurture relationships to establish an effective network.

Start by using social networking platforms like LinkedIn. Rather than collecting connections, it is important to engage strategically. When seeking opportunities, approach those familiar with your skills and ask for specific referrals. Clarify the roles you are targeting and state how your expertise adds value.

Consistency is also key. A dormant LinkedIn profile keeps referrals uninspired. Therefore, maintaining an active presence is crucial, such as:

  • Sharing your insights.
  • Commenting on others’ posts.
  • Creating content that demonstrates your knowledge.

As you build your reputation as an industry thought leader, referrals may come organically. They will be more keen to promote you without you asking for it directly.

Conduct Effective Job Search Strategies

While tailoring your branding and resume is essential for landing a job interview, you still want to be sure these open positions align with you. Upon graduation, it is normal for students to feel overwhelmed if they have difficulty finding immediate employment. As a result, they end up applying for jobs that slightly resemble their skill set or experience, which can be a mistake for various reasons.

Succeeding in a role that may not mesh with your interests is challenging. People who are passionate about their jobs are the ones more likely to succeed in their roles.

Applying for those jobs can also be a waste of time on your end. Employers know when your interest in a role is low. They want to hire people who care and are enthusiastic about the position. Therefore, it is essential to take the time to look for places that catch your attention.

You can search for positions on job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor. LinkedIn also has employment opportunities posted on its site. You could even leverage your college to see if they can line you up with anything.

During your job hunt, research the business to learn more about its culture and assess whether it aligns with you. As you learn more about it and its job opportunities — and reading about it lights you up — this is when you will know it is the right place to submit your application.

Prepare for the Interview

Once you have applied for a position and heard back, now is the time to prepare for an interview. Even if they have yet to set up a talk with you, it is always best to stay one step ahead. Plus, practice makes perfect. You will have an interview at some point, so why not boost your confidence now while you wait patiently?

The first step to preparing for your first job interview is to review the job description and research the organization thoroughly. Taking this step helps you imagine yourself in the role. It also allows you to understand the type of employee they seek. That way, you can talk about how your experiences directly relate to the job.

Next, prepare your answers to the questions they may ask you. Consider researching the most common interview queries and writing them down. Prepare yourself even further by listing some of the tougher ones. Then, have a mentor or friend sit with you and practice answering them.

Preparing questions you may want to ask the hiring manager is also essential. You are there to interview them, too.

Nail Your First Job Interview

On the day of your first job interview, ensure you make a good first impression by smiling, giving a firm handshake and having a good posture. The goal is to instill confidence the first time you meet the hiring manager. You also want to wear attire that shows off your professionalism. Neutral colors are always best — they help you appear more trustworthy and authentic.

Ensure you bring extra resumes and references in case they need another copy. It is best practice to have these on hand to show you are well-prepared.

Lastly, it is important to establish a positive attitude and your interest in the role. Showcase your interest by leaning in, making eye contact and nodding your head. Small gestures like these give you your best chance at securing a position within the organization.

Follow Up

Increase your chances of landing the role by following up with the hiring manager. Before you ask them for an update and the next steps, the first step is to send a thank-you note the day after the interview. Approximately 51% of hiring managers say thank-you letters help candidates stand out.

Show your appreciation and excitement for the role by highlighting anything you discussed in the interview. Then, end it on a note with how much you look forward to hearing from them.

If you are still waiting to hear back, take the initiative to reach out a week after you interviewed with them. Send them a quick note expressing your excitement and saying something positive about the company. Then, wait to hear back from them again. If you are still waiting after another week, consider asking them for a status update. It takes time for employers to reach out because they may still be interviewing others for the position and deciding who is right.

Yet, if you are feeling good about the interview but have not received an offer, ask for feedback. Some recruiters may take the time to give you constructive feedback and offer a tip to help you get to the next step in the interview process.

Succeeding in Your First Job Interview

Landing your first job interview can be exciting, but it takes various steps to set yourself up for success. Consider making a checklist of everything you need to do to get an interview. The more you prepare, the better you will feel about yourself. Then, your confidence will be through the roof the day the interview comes and employers may be highly excited to start working with you.

Post Written By:Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is the managing editor at Designerly. She’s also a user interface designer with a focus on mobile apps. Connect with her about graphic design, UX or tea on LinkedIn .

By Erin Wheeler
Erin Wheeler Career Consultant