Graduate interviews

PUBLISHED: 12:56 09 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

WHEN you go for a job interview, the challenge doesn t start when you sit down and begin your answer to the first question - you may have already lost the job by then. Graduate recruitment can be a cut-throat business, and employers often have a difficult

WHEN you go for a job interview, the challenge doesn't start when you sit down and begin your answer to the first question - you may have already lost the job by then.

Graduate recruitment can be a cut-throat business, and employers often have a difficult job in whittling down the candidates until they find the person they think will be right for the job.

While recruitment specialists are forever talking about matching the skills, experience, competencies, abilities and motivations required by the job to the candidate, selection is not a science.

It's an art and all the tests and references in the world won't help you if a potential employer has simply taken a dislike to you.

Graduate recruiters, believe it or not, are human, and they have prejudices and irrational dislikes just like the rest of us, which is why first impressions count for so much.

Mostly, that first impression comes when the interviewer meets and greets the candidate, when a handshake is the norm. But many interviewers complain that they get a limp, drippy handshake and a complete absence of eye contact.

The next challenge is the small talk on the way to the interview room, where the interviewer asks: "How was the journey? Did you find us all right?"

This not an excuse to ramble on about roadworks or betray your terrible map-reading by saying you've spent the past hour going round in circles and only arrived on time by a miracle.

No. Why not take the initiative instead and get the interviewer talking to you?

Next comes the dithering-at-the-door, when the recruiter opens the door to the interview room and invites the candidate to enter. The candidate suddenly remembers his or her manners and a string of 'after yous' and all-round hesitation follows. This does no good to anyone and is best avoided by just going through the door when invited to.

One of the problems for graduates is that they are fairly new to the interview game and inexperience can make some pretty inept.

Employers have been known to complain that prospective recruits do not even know how to shake hands, sit during interviews with their arms folded, slouched in their chair, or respond to questions with one word answers like 'yes' or 'no'.

It has been said that interviewers make up their minds about you within three minutes of meeting you, and spend the rest of their time asking questions that confirm this view.

Research has also shown that most recruitment decisions are based on immediate impressions, rather than selection criteria, with physical appearance and personal presentation playing a disproportionate part.

Worse still, further studies have found that any physical disfigurement or disability can lead to totally biased decisions.

So candidates who can sparkle from the moment they meet their interviewer create a buzz which can lead the interviewer to forget their lists of essential skills and justify their decision by saying the candidate fills all the required attributes - even if they don't.

Some employers don't just base their decisions on their first impressions, they ask the first person to meet the candidate - the receptionist - for their views.

In one letter to the magazine Human Resources, the Bible of the personnel manager, a manager complained about the cost of employing the wrong person for a particular job.

There had been doubts about the candidate's suitability at the interview stage, but he was employed anyway, and after a short period in the job, was given his marching orders.

The human resources manager concerned said: "Our receptionist is very rarely wrong in her opinions of candidates, based on a five minute chat, while we normally reach the same conclusion having put the candidate through a full day's assessment.

"She had said 'no', we had said 'yes' and look where it ended up."

So remember that you need to act in an interview and sell yourself without becoming false and over-the-top. A smart appearance, a good posture, eye contact and a genuine smile will be as important as the degree you've got and the work experience you have done.

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