Insider Secrets to Graduate Interview Success You Need to Know

This is The Way To Be Remarkable in a Graduate Interview

22 May 2017

The graduate job hunting season is officially open. The annual stampede headlong into the graduate interview process is upon us.

After the cheers and tears, the ceremonial photos and the emotional tossing of mortarboards are over, reality bites – hard.

The need to start repaying student loans and get on with life beyond organised education begins to press. For the unlucky majority without a financial cushion or accommodating family, the pressure to get a J-O-B becomes a persistent attention-seeking roommate in the mind.

Campus community life quickly fades into memory. Almost overnight camaraderie flips into competition. Universities and higher education institutions open their floodgates, releasing a deluge of fresh-faced graduates onto the job market.

The competition to secure a coveted graduate job interview is hotly contested.

  • How on earth can you stand out in a sea of thousands of graduates with similar qualifications, community work, sports, and internship experience?
  • What if competing for a traditional job fills you with dread? The thought of successfully landing one of those jobs is the stuff of your worst nightmares.
  • What if you admit you are not in the market for a J-O-B in a conventional company?

The fear of failure threatens to make you lose control of your faculties.

Good news! There are alternative opportunities that meet the ‘what if’ criteria you dream of. But you cannot access dream jobs like these by going through the typical interview process.

Times have changed. The fact is, today’s progressive and creativity-biased companies are looking for different qualities from candidates during the hiring process. They are looking for remarkable employees with Super Skills. Discover 7 of these Super Skills in my guest post reveal for Open for Ideas.

They are actively avoiding cookie-cutter applicants devoid of personality, creativity and grit. Instead, recruiters are searching for exceptions to the rule – fresh-thinking individuals willing and able to make a real contribution to help the organisation fulfill its purpose.

If you are looking for a list of typical graduate interview questions to revise or a list of clever hacks that guarantee that you will get a job, I must disappoint you.

What you will get in this post is a serving of insider recruiter secrets that your typical university careers advisor is unlikely to give you.

A Letter to Graduates Who Want To Be Remarkable and Do Work that Matters.

The content of this letter is for the minority who are willing to turn their backs on the soul-sucking sameness of trained candidate responses to standard interview questions. It is a departure from your typical graduate interview preparation tips.

Read on to discover how you can be remarkable in a graduate interview.

3 Secrets to Interview Success A Graduate Needs to Know


Congratulations on obtaining your degree.

I want to help you separate from the herd of thousands of graduates hunting for a job. Here is  inside scoop on how progressive organisations hire remarkable employees.

To snap up a role in one of these organisations, you first need to understand the real (often undisclosed) hiring criteria and interview process geared towards finding that rock star candidate and future remarkable employee.

1. Reviewing and shortlisting candidate applications: I am looking for CVs/Resumes/Personal web pages which remind me of my favourite sofa – an overstuffed, colourful lived-in testament to interesting adventures and learning experiences beyond the boundaries of your chosen course of study and final degree.

Please let us be clear. I don’t mean the puffed up, over-fluffed, waffle-packed, windbag dossiers which clog up graduate recruiters’ and hiring managers’ inboxes.

I don’t mean the suspiciously paid-for-perfect profiles which blur the lines between storytelling and downright lies. They are damning evidence of the evil cookie-cutter CV design trend.

My personal mission is to find ways to stop unremarkable candidates using their smarts to ‘game’ the interview or hiring process.

The interview is the chance for the recruiter to learn about YOU and what makes you tick. They are not interested in hearing you regurgitate the stock answers to interview questions.

Examples of a deep-dive into a subject area or a passion project combined with real world experience are highly sought after.  These are glorious hints of an open mind and valuable skills that could be transferred into the right role within the organisation. They increase the likelihood of you being invited for an interview to tell the recruiter more.

It’s our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ~ J.K. Rowling

2. The Interview:  Recruiters are interested in your values (what do you stand for?) as much as the value you can bring to the organisation. This is what creative, innovative, human-centric companies are looking for in their graduate hires.

Start with this. Know your UVC – Unique Value Contribution. It does not mean how fabulous you are or how prestigious your university is (to be honest I don’t care to know).

UVC is all about your willingness and ability to contribute and make an impact.

Rock star candidates have thought deeply about their UVC and are able to explain it with clarity and conviction at interview.

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision” ~ Neil Gaiman

3. Hit the ‘what’s in it for me’ button. People are looking for 3 wishes to be fulfilled. Remember organisations are led by people.

Before the interview research the organisation, the market and their competitors. Savvy graduates get fresh ideas from other industries or disciplines. Don’t skimp on this!

During your interview share your ideas of tangible ways how you can make a difference in these three areas. Be specific, this is a NO-FLUFF zone!

First of all, solve a painful problem suffered by the business / team. Suggest ways to overcome a challenge or obstacle. ROCK STAR candidates have found a problem (opportunity) that the organisation is not aware of, can articulate it. Furthermore they can confidently describe how they can solve it or what role they would like to take in solving it!

Secondly, describe how you can help the organisation or team fulfill its mission or purpose.

Finally, demonstrate or explain how the company’s cause or mission resonate with their own ambitions, dreams and values.

Always keep these ‘3 magic beans’ at the forefront of your mind while you are applying for a job or preparing for your graduate interview. They will help you stand out from the herd of typical applicants and hack-loving candidates.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I hope this post has given you a few brainpokes and ideas how to be remarkable in your next graduate interview

These Insider Secrets to Graduate Interview Success are not for everyone. Please share them; but only with individuals you know are committed and willing to put in the work to be remarkable.

Our organisations need more remarkable individuals like you doing work that truly matters.

Sending you buckets of grit and inspiration. Here’s to  your remarkable success with your graduate job interviews.

Nicole, your Graduate Recruitment faerie godmother,

Who am I to call myself your graduate recruitment faerie godmother?

Here are the highlights of my unconventional journey … so far.

I dodged becoming a lawyer (sorry family) and instead studied German and International Studies at Warwick University in the UK.

Feeling the pressure to do ‘the right thing’ and start a ‘respectable’ career, I got that prized graduate management trainee job in what was at the time one of the top 5 retail banks in the UK. There I experienced a creativity-numbing short career in retail banking. I simply sucked at financial sales.

The gods took pity – throwing an unexpected opportunity my way. I grabbed it for my sanity’s sake and made a lucky escape into graduate recruitment in the bank’s head office. It was there I found my HR home.

Two years of learning the conventional ropes as a graduate recruiter leading the annual hiring process that converted nearly 3,000 applications for 100 graduate jobs whet my appetite to expand my horizons. Feeling the wind in my sails, I left to gain my consulting chops in recruitment marketing and employer branding in London. With my creative mojo regained, I honed it further as HR lead in luxury hotel openings in the Caribbean.

Finally, I chose to put my love for creativity and delight for ruckus-making to valuable use by starting my own Creative HR business. I am Creative HR specialist and an activist for putting the ‘human’ before the ‘resources’ and cross-discipline collaboration. I am particularly fond of ruffling Establishment feathers to help revolutionise HR as a valuable business discipline. A curious knowledge-sharer, I write about that journey, my discoveries and lessons learned here in my blog The HR Rabbit Hole.

Unconventional Sources of Remarkable Inspiration for this Post

  1. ‘The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit‘ by A.J Leon. Download the FREE pdf.
  2. ‘A Brief Guide to World Domination‘ by Chris Guillebeau. Download the FREE pdf

Until we meet again down The HR Rabbit Hole …





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