A crash course for college seniors on how to nail a job interview

College career counselors share five things new grads need to know before setting foot in an interview room.

A crash course for college seniors on how to nail a job interview

A job interview is a serious step up in the adulting department.

Class of 2020, graduation day is getting closer by the second. If you’re like most students, you’re balancing the stress of finals with the nail-biting, nerve-wracking task of sitting down with strangers and selling yourself—aka, interviewing for a job.

You’ve probably been through the interview process before, either for internships or back when you applied to college (remember that?), but interviewing for your first real job is a serious step up in the adulting department. Therefore, it requires a touch more polish and preparedness.

Luckily, Monster can help with the finer points of job interviews. We asked college career counselors to share their tips to help you feel more confident and become an interview pro.

Tell a story

So you’ve got a bunch of great experience listed on your resume from internships, part-time jobs, and more. Do you know how to talk about each during the interview? One proven approach is to turn your work experiences into short stories that demonstrate your skills and engage your listener.

“By using a storytelling approach like the STAR method, you can develop complete stories that describe: the situation you were in, the specific task you were faced with, the action you took, and the result or outcome of your actions,” says Vickie Cox-Lanyon, former career services director, Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “This strategy allows you to clearly illustrate your skills and capacities relevant to the position you are seeking.”

Axe the “uh”s

Do you, uh, sometimes ramble? Everyone does. But for interviews, it’s best to try and eliminate the filler so you can sound as confident as possible. Your career center’s counselors are there to help you do just that.

“Many centers record the [practice interview] session so students can also see their posture, facial expressions, and body language,” says Stephanie Kit, director of the Center for Career Development at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Sometimes students will hear the fillers like ‘uh’ or ‘kind of’ in their answers so they can work on eliminating them.”

Even if your career center doesn’t record mock interviews, college career counselors can still help you identify which of your answers are heavily peppered with “um,” “ah,” “you know,” and other fillers.

Ask specific questions

You’ve researched the company and the industry, and practiced, practiced, practiced. You’re prepared to answer any question the interviewer throws at you. But here’s the thing: Interviews are a two-way street. You’ve got to ask some good questions too. Not only will that help you learn more about the company, it also shows you’ve done your homework.

According to Erin Lewis, assistant director at the Center for Career and Professional Development at Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania, your questions should be specific enough to reflect all the research you’ve done, and help you clarify whether or not the position will be a good fit.

“Questions like, ‘How would you describe the people I’d be working with?’ or, ‘What is typically the next step for someone who enters in this position?’ or even, ‘What excites you about working here?’ all demonstrate interest and will help you gain a better understanding of the culture of the company,” says Lewis.

To give yourself an edge, bring a list of interview questions along with you. You might think referring to a list makes you look lazy or is some form of “cheating.” It’s actually the opposite—it demonstrates forethought, but also, it can give you a boost of confidence walking into the interview.

“When asked what questions you have for them,” says Kristen McMullen, director of the Student Success Center at the College of Charleston School of Business in Charleston, South Carolina, “opening your portfolio and reviewing your list shows you prepared, put thought into the opportunity, and want to know more.”

“Be sure to have at least 10 to 15 questions because several of them will be answered during your conversation,” she says, “and you do not want to ask about something you have already learned.”

Get in shape—quickly

We know the end of college can be overwhelming what with all the exams and emotions you have to contend with. But here's a tip: The real world doesn't take too kindly to cramming, so if possible—and it is possible—you want to leave feeling prepared. Could you use some help nailing down a few awesome answers to common interview questions? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can get interview insights, career advice, and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. Don't let the job search frazzle you; with a little help from the experts at Monster, you can set yourself up for a successful job search without waiting until the last minute.