11 Job Interview Tips for Students

Going to your first job interview as a college student can be intimidating. However, coming across as a professional adult is possible with just a bit of practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel, so take these 11 job interview tips for college students into account including dress to impress, brush up your resume, and practice with a mock interview.

A business person offering a handshake.

11 Important Job Interview Tips

1. Dress to impress

The first step to professionalism is looking the part. Dressing appropriately for your interview will benefit you in multiple ways: firstly, it makes you come across as respectful and mature. Secondly, it puts you in the right frame of mind to be at your absolute best. 

Wearing a well-fitting and professional outfit makes you stand up a little taller; it makes you feel like you belong in that work environment. It doesn’t matter if you are even going for a McDonald’s interview, dressing well is one of the most important factors in getting the manager’s attention.

There’s no blanket rule for what to wear. Different industries have different standards — applying to work in a creative field warrants a different outfit than applying for a finance position, for example.

Don’t hesitate to ask the administrative assistant or hiring manager about the typical dress code when you’re scheduling your interview. If you’re not sure, err towards being overdressed rather than under-dressed. It’s better to look overly eager than to look like you don’t care whether you get the job or not.

Your clothes should also fit you and look clean and pressed (not wrinkled or baggy!).. You don’t want to borrow your sibling’s clothes if your sibling is half a foot taller than you! If you’re tight on money, you can absolutely find something affordable at a thrift store or through various community programs that help with job interviews.

Give careful consideration to your shoes, too! You might want to skip the sneakers and wear dress shoes this time.

2. Look the Part

Wearing the right style of clothes is just half of the battle. Your hairstyle and grooming should also be office-appropriate. This can mean a few different things based on your own personal style. But depending on the job and industry, you may want to cover up tattoos, especially ones that could be considered offensive, and remove any piercings. 

If it has been a while since you’ve had a haircut, you should schedule one before your interview, too. Even a trim will go far. 

Being you is important though as well. If you want to wear makeup, have at it! If you don’t, that’s fine, too. And if you don’t want to cover up the tattoos, many organizations are becoming more okay with them and piercings. If you have any questions about your tattoos, piercings, or other potential issues, talk to others in the industry about expectations.

job interview tips

How old is your resume? Has it been updated as you’ve gone along since you left high school? It may be time for a complete refresh.

Use a format that includes all the vital information an interviewer needs to know about you. That includes:

  • Contact information
    • Full legal name
    • Phone number
    • Email
    • Physical address
    • Website (if you have one)
  • Education
    • Name of college or university
    • Name of high school
      • This becomes unnecessary after you get older, but you may want to include it if you have limited work experience.
    • GPA (optional)
    • Major
    • Type of Degree
    • Minor (optional)
  • Job and/or intern experience
    • List of places worked
    • Dates of time worked
    • Position at each job
    • Responsibilities in each position
  • Volunteer experience
  • Portfolio or link to portfolio (if required)
    • If you’re applying for a design position or something similar, you may be required to include a link to your portfolio
  • Hobbies/Skills
    • Include things that you do outside of work, such as rock climbing or photography
    • Any relevant job skills you have should be included, too. This can mean WPM, computer skills, and more

Some resumes also include objectives, which is a one-sentence summary of your goals in your job search, references, and/or a list of achievements, awards, and honors.

Here are some tips, too, that you’ll want to follow when crafting your resume (remember, your resume helps you get the job interview):

  • Use a clean, legible format. Google Docs and Microsoft Word have plenty of preformatted formats for you to use and fill in!
  • Have someone read it over. Always have someone proofread your resume. You may want to take it to your college’s career center too for some feedback.
  • Use keywords. Many recruiters use AI to sift through the massive amount of resumes they receive for every open position. These robots will look for keywords within the paperwork, so make sure you’re researching the top ones for your industry.
  • Keep it to one page if possible. Resumes should be succinct and to the point, and, for most positions, should be kept to one page.
  • Keep things relevant. Resumes aren’t technically one size fits all. You may want to highlight different skills or job responsibilities for one potential position than another, for example.

Your resume is a revolving document and should be regularly updated to be current with your life, skills, and experiences.

4. Show Up On Time

If you do not show up to your interview on time, hiring managers can only assume that you’re habitually poor with time management. Even showing up 5 minutes late sends a message.

Aim to show up 5 or 10 minutes before your scheduled start time. That gives you time to settle in without inconveniencing the interviewer.

Additionally, when you’re figuring out how long it’ll take to get to the interview, it’s always a good idea to give yourself a bit of buffer time. That way, you don’t have to worry about being late in case anything goes wrong en route, like traffic or a missed train.

5. Practice

One of the most important job interview tips we find is that practice makes perfect –  or at least much better. Practicing a mock interview at a college career center can greatly improve your performance at the actual interview. Mock interviews teach you about the types of questions that you can expect to receive and help you prepare for the ones that may be more difficult to answer. An interview coach can also improve your communication skills. You can take the feedback the mock interviewer gives you to use in your next practice interview or the real deal!

Another benefit of mock interviews is that they make you feel less nervous about the actual interview. Nervousness can get in the way of presenting yourself well, so the more prepared and comfortable you feel, the better. 

Make sure to take the mock interview as seriously as you would take a real job interview. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on many of these benefits.

6. Don’t Memorize Your Answers

Although it’s important to practice answering interview questions beforehand, it’s also important to sound natural and unrehearsed. Hiring decisions are often based on personality and whether the candidate seems like they’d be a good cultural fit, so sounding like a robot isn’t going to work to your advantage. And that’s exactly what you’ll sound like if you’re speaking from memory!

Rather than rehearsing rote answers, try thinking of stories you want to tell about specific aspects of your experiences. For example, you can think of situations where you’ve been able to shine or where you overcame a challenge. Then, when a relevant question comes up, simply tell that story in a way that makes sense for the context.

7. Demonstrate your Relevant Experience

You put all your relevant experience on your resume, but that’s not enough. You need to demonstrate it in the interview itself. Recruiters are often interviewing dozens of people, if not more. Even if they completely read your resume, they don’t have it memorized.

So getting across your relevant experience demonstrates self-awareness and ambition. You should aim to tell a cohesive story about your experiences thus far that make you uniquely suited for this role.

When you speak about past jobs, internships, or volunteer experiences, try to link your responsibilities there to the job you’re interviewing for — even if the work wasn’t necessarily in a similar role or field. You can talk about how you developed skills like working on a team or communicating well, for instance.

There’s a reason why you think you’d be able to do this job, and interviewers should know it.

8. Speak Confidently

Don’t be overly humble in your interview. While you certainly don’t want to exaggerate your accomplishments, make sure to talk about your past experiences in a positive manner that highlights your own successes. Equally important, make sure that your tone and body language conveys confidence.

Be thoughtful in your speech. Avoid filler language and informal, casual language. Speak loudly and clearly enough that the interviewer can hear you, and speak more slowly than you naturally do. Think of interviewing like giving a speech — you have to make certain adjustments to your natural tone of voice so that your words come across the way you want them to.

Speaking confidently is often a skill that must be learned over time, so don’t be scared to practice until you get it right. Mock interviews are a great place to practice these skills, too!

9. Ask Your Own Questions

A job interview isn’t just a one-sided conversation – or it shouldn’t be at least. Many job seekers make the mistake of assuming the company is interviewing them. But the job seeker should be interviewing the company, too! After all, you want to make sure you’ll be happy there too. 

You should ask about:

  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Vacation time
  • Company culture
  • Their expectations for your role and you as an employee
  • Your potential team
  • The boss

Questions should be personalized in order to come across as sincere, and so you can get answers that are relevant to your own job-seeking goals.

10. Watch for Warning Signs

One of our more unexpected, but still top job interview pro tips: watch for warning signs! As mentioned just above, you want to be sure you’re going to be happy at the organization if you’re hired. Asking questions is one way to do that, but you also want to keep an eye out for other warning signs that could tell you it’s not a good workplace for you.

This can include:

  • The interviewer is late
    • If the recruiter is extremely late and/or doesn’t apologize for the inconvenience, you’ll know that the employer does not value or respect their employees.
  • They refuse to tell you the pay rate, especially when asked
    • You should always have a clear idea and understanding of the pay and benefits that are included with the job.
  • The description of the position is unclear
    • If the company doesn’t have a clear job description, it’s likely they don’t even know who they’re looking to hire. They could also switch up job responsibilities on the fly.
  • Badmouthing
    • Did the interviewer talk poorly about other candidates? Or other employees? You might want to avoid this gossip mill.
  • And more, such as
    • Uncomfortable interview
    • A lot of unnecessary tests, including personality tests
    • Mandatory overtime
    • Record of high employee turnover
    • Lack of written offer
    • Lack of transparency

Now, sometimes, if you’re in desperate need of a job fast, you might have to overlook some or even all of these red flags. But they’re good to keep in mind, in general, either way.

11. Follow up

While you don’t want to hound the recruiter for an answer, sending a brief email that thanks them for their time and comments on something specific from the meeting can do the trick. This can make you more memorable and also show your enthusiasm for the job. 

If it has been a bit since your interview, it is okay to follow up, too. But within reason! You don’t want to be calling every day or morning, noon, and night – that’s a surefire way not to get the job. Instead, a single simple call or email can do the trick and get you an answer one way or another. Be polite, though, and don’t demand anything.

A job interview is stressful – and it doesn’t get less stressful as you get older either! These job interview tips will help you whether you’re straight out of college or 20 years postgraduate. Remember to always be polite, highlight your achievements and skills, and work towards being a professional.

Are you looking for the perfect career you can apply to? Finding our dream job isn’t always easy. Some of us know what we want to be since we were 4 years old, while others take a bit longer to figure it out. That’s okay! If you want a bit of help brainstorming though, head over to College Raptor’s Career Finder to look through some top positions and their expected job growth, potential salaries, and more!