You are about to graduate from UC Davis, earning a degree that signals to the world that you are qualified and ready to be a workplace leader. You’ve polished your resume, written a killer cover letter and identified jobs that excite you. Now it’s time to meet and impress employers, and the Internship and Career Center is here to help you.
Often, your first professional job interview will be on campus. When you connect with company and nonprofit representatives at a networking event, UC Davis Internship and Career Fair, company information session or interview, follow this advice to avoid making common first-interview mistakes.
1. Know why you want the job
Winter Career Fair
Employers want to meet you because they are on the lookout for future colleagues, and they want those colleagues to be as excited about their company’s work as they are. Be prepared to tell an employer why you want a job with them. Drill down: What is it about the company or the position that you care about? If you can’t answer this question, conduct additional research on the organization to learn what makes it unique. Look to its mission statements, press releases, annual reports and social media for ideas. When meeting with your interviewer, be specific, authentic and enthusiastic about your interests. And, don’t forget to smile — who doesn’t want a colleague who is happy when talking about their work? (Get more details on what to research in “5 Tips for New Graduates Looking for a Job.”)
2. Mind your manners
Be polite and respectful toward everyone, all the time, no exceptions. Employers will notice how you treat them as well as how you treat others, including other UC Davis students. If in doubt, you’ll want to err on the side of formality. It’s better to be too formal than to be perceived as too casual or immature. Avoid the friendly fist bump and slap on the back as these behaviors are too casual for most interviews, let alone workplaces. By all means, do extend your hand and offer a firm handshake. Good manners should infuse your in-person interactions as well as your writing. When corresponding with an employer, avoid slang, excessive use of acronyms and never use emoticons.
3. Look the part of a professional
You’ve heard the old adage “dress for success.” When meeting with an interviewer, you must dress in professional attire and attend to the details of your appearance. The extra effort to polish your shoes, trim your nails and iron your clothes will pay off. Employers may be less interested in a college student who looks like they just rolled out of bed and didn’t prepare for the meeting.
4. Don’t distract from the interview
Cologne, tattoos, buzzing cell phones, jewelry and snapping gum can all distract the employer from hearing what you say about your skills and accomplishments. When attending a networking event, company information session, career fair or interview, keep the focus on your skills.
5. Park your wheels outside
As a student at UC Davis, the only bicycle friendly university with platinum status, you are accustomed to navigating campus by bike or skateboard. This is, of course, good for you and for the environment. But, don’t, under any circumstance, roll your bike or skateboard into a meeting with an employer. Take the time to park your bike or skateboard outside and secure it with a lock for safekeeping. At the Internship and Career Center, we’ve heard employers exclaim, “What’s with the skateboards?!” If you are interviewing at our center in South Hall, take advantage of the lockers on the third floor to park your skateboard.
More job advice
- 5 Steps for New Grads Looking for Work at UC Davis
- 5 Actions to Take Now for Next Summer’s Jobs and Internships
- 5 Reasons to Attend the Internship and Career Fair
Janice Morand is an associate director with the Internship and Career Center. She enjoys educating and encouraging students, helping them to connect with meaningful work.