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Job Interviews After College: Be Prepared and Dress For Success!

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College is a time when the majority of young people juggle both school and work, but most of the time a college student holds down a part-time position that probably doesn’t require a Bachelor’s degree. As graduation approaches and life in the “real world” (whatever that is) becomes a scary reality, it’s time to start preparing for job interviews!

It’s important to realize that a college degree doesn’t guarantee the perfect job and a huge paycheck. Most new graduates enter the workforce by taking on entry-level positions. High unemployment rates mean more people are looking for jobs than getting hired for them, so it’s important to make a good impression at interviews. The biggest mistake that many recent college grads make when it comes to interviews is showing up unprepared. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, so start getting ready now!

The fact that interviewing is a skill is a tough concept for people to grasp, particularly recent college graduates who think that their newly earned degree entitles them to whatever job they choose. I was always a great student and I was hired for every single part-time job that I applied for during school, but running a cash register and helping customers required a different skill set than most of the “real jobs” I wanted after earning my degree. It can be intimidating to sit in front of someone and pretend to be calm while they ask you question after question. Different people will give you different advice when it comes to interviews, and there are plenty of dos and don’ts, so it’s important to figure out what works best for you. Here are a few tips.

Dress Appropriately for Job Interviews

You may have spent the last four years in jeans, T-shirts, and flip-flops, but unfortunately it’s time for that to change. Dressing inappropriately for job interviews is big pet peeves among employers. It’s true that the office dress code varies from industry to industry, even from company to company, but the interview is most likely your first chance to prove yourself. Even if you’re meeting with the boss on Casual Friday, you want to look your best. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. (Corny, I know, but it’s the truth!)

A few basic guidelines:

  • A dark suit comprised of matching jacket and a pair of pants (or a skirt) is your best choice for job interview attire.
  • Be sure to wear a button-down dress shirt with a collar that is free of wrinkles.
  • Wear conservative colors. You may love lime green and hot pink, but they are probably not your best bet when it comes to a job interview. Black, dark brown and navy blue are always safe choices.
  • Men should avoid wearing ties with crazy colors or patterns. A solid color tie is your best bet.
  • If a woman is going to wear a suit that has a skirt, she should also wear pantyhose.
  • Be sure that your shoes are in good shape. Clean, polished leather dress shoes are a great choice. Ladies should avoid open-toed shoes.
  • Flashy jewelry should also be avoided as it can interfere with your well-groomed appearance. A watch is acceptable, five or six bracelets is typically a distraction.
  • Keep your hairstyle and makeup simple and minimal. It may be fun at the club on the weekend, but a spiked purple mohawk and glittery eye shadow is probably not a great idea for job interviews.

Another thing to keep in mind is personal hygiene. Clean, wrinkle-free clothes are a necessity, but be sure to take a bath or shower before your interview as well. Body odor may keep you in the boss’s memory for the wrong reasons. You should also avoid strong perfumes and colognes because you don’t want to cause anyone to have an allergy attack!

Bad breath is another fear, but if you must eat a mint or chew gum, get rid of it before you walk in for the interview. Talking with a mouthful doesn’t exactly fit most people’s definition of professional.

Other Interview Information

It’s important to show up on time for job interviews. Professors might not mind if you slip into class a few minutes late, but your interview was scheduled at a specific time for a reason. Be prompt. It shows respect for the situation. The person that is interviewing you probably has a tight schedule, and other interviews may be taking place on the same day as yours. If possible, you should arrive ten minutes early – showing up any earlier than that may make the interviewer feel rushed.

Be prepared. Do some research on both the company you are visiting and the position that you have applied for. Your approaching or recent college graduation probably means that you are going on multiple interviews, so it’s imperative to remember which job you are even there to land!

Bring a copy of your resume that is free of errors and free of lies. Forbes.com estimates that 40% of people lie on their resume! More and more human resources offices are performing background checks and checking references than ever before, so it’s in your best interest to tell the truth.

Don’t be afraid to speak up during interviews. Sure, you’re there to answer questions about yourself, but it’s perfectly fine to ask questions, too! In fact, most interviewers would prefer if you did. That way, all the bases will hopefully get covered. Barely speaking throughout an interview will make you seem unapproachable and unprepared. It’s also acceptable to have a few questions jotted down so that you remember to ask them. Keep the list near your resume so that you don’t wind up fumbling for it.

It’s perfectly acceptable to send a thank-you card or a thank-you email after an interview. It’s also fine to inquire about the status of the job after a week or so. The worst thing that can happen? You find out you didn’t get the job. Recent college graduates don’t have a ton of relevant experience under their belt, so a successful interview is most likely going to be one of the biggest factors contributing to whether or not you get hired. You may have to go on several interviews before you snag a job, but don’t be discouraged: practice makes perfect!


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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