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Good First Jobs Are Hard To Find. Here’s How To Ace Your First Job Interview 

Andres Lares  |  May 21, 2024

Looking to land not only a first job, but a GOOD first job? you can absolutely get one if you know how to wow the interviewers. Here's how.

Graduating from college is a monumental achievement, marking the end of an era filled with late-night study sessions, campus activities, and lifelong friendships. However, as the celebratory dust settles, the next significant challenge appears: finding a good first job, and acing your first job interview! 

According to a recent survey from WalletHub, nearly half of college students think their college needs to do more to help them understand personal finance. Additionally, the top post-graduation fears among students are not finding a job (39%), student loan debt (35%), and credit card debt (13%).

While transitioning from the academic world to the professional realm can be daunting, with the proper preparation and mindset, you can impress potential employers, secure a good first job, and settle those post-graduation fears. Here are some essential tips to help you ace your first job interview after college.

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Research the Company and Position

Before your interview, take time to research the company and the role you’re applying for. Use a quick internet search or browse through LinkedIn to gather information. Review the job posting to understand the requirements and qualifications. Familiarize yourself with the company’s products and services to see how your potential role contributes to the business. Additionally, explore the company culture on review sites like Glassdoor to ensure it aligns with your values and work style.

Prepare for Common Interview Questions

Anticipate typical interview questions and prepare your answers in advance. As a recent graduate, focus on showcasing your eagerness to learn and positive attitude. Once you script your answers, practice answering these common interview questions with a friend or family member. This is much more effective than simply reading the questions and crafting answers in your head. By practicing your answers, you get the opportunity to refine them, which helps build confidence! Common questions include:

  • “Why are you interested in working for this organization?”
  • “Can you tell us about yourself?”
  • “What role are you applying for and why?”
  • “How can you help the company achieve its goals?”
  • “What is your biggest strength? And weakness?”
  • Questions about your skills, qualifications, work history, work style, and salary expectations.

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Be Ready to Negotiate Compensation

Negotiating your salary can be intimidating, especially at the start of your career, but it’s essential to know that entry-level offers are often negotiable. Research the average salary for similar positions in your industry and use this data to support your case. As salary transparency laws become more common, you have leverage to negotiate better terms. Present hard data, such as “Glassdoor shows the average starting salary in this industry is $60k,” to strengthen your position. Negotiations can also include benefits like health insurance, 401k contributions, commuting expenses, and paid time off.

Communicate Your Value

Clearly articulate how you can add value to the company. Highlight relevant experiences, such as internships, and discuss how these have prepared you for the role. Show your ambition and eagerness to contribute to the company’s success. Confidence is key—demonstrating that you know what you want and how you plan to achieve it can impress hiring managers.

Prepare Questions for the Interviewer

Having questions for your interviewer shows your engagement and interest in the opportunity. Draft a list of questions beforehand, focusing on aspects like the job duties, company culture, and opportunities for professional development. Asking insightful questions can help you understand if the role fits you and show the interviewer that you’ve done your homework. Common questions include:

  • “What are the typical day-to-day responsibilities?”
  • “How do you measure success in this role?
  • “What are the next steps in the hiring process?”
  • “What is the culture like at the organization? On the team?”
  • “What will training look like for this position?”
  • “What are the short-term vs. long-term expectations for this position?”

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make a great impression in an interview after college, and land not only your first job, but a good first job. Above all, remember that you’re worth what you’re asking for. Self-confidence is the foundation of great negotiation!

About the author: Andres Lares is the managing partner at the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, and co-author of “Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions

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