5 Dos and Don’ts When Students Go for a Job Interview

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.


Gordon Magill, right, a Genentech employee and UC Davis alumni, listening to a student at a career fair
A great place to do your homework before an interview is during quarterly internship and career fairs at UC Davis. Gather information from visiting employee representatives like Genentech employee and UC Davis alumnus Gordon Magill, left. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

1. Know why you want the job

Winter Career Fair

Set your calendar for the Winter Internship and Career Fair:

  • When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28
  • Where: ARC Pavilion

Consider taking a workshop to prepare for the 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.”)


A male, left, shakes hand with a female, both in business attire
A friendly, firm handshake is always a good first move. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

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.


UC Davis student Don Ho making a presentation to a business group
At a 2012 jobs summit on campus, UC Davis student and ASUCD Controller Don Ho, left, dresses appropriately to reflect expectations in the professional world. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

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.


Bird tattoo on a woman's shoulder
Cover your tattoos, shut off your phone and avoid other distractions for the interview. (Rachel Agana/UC Davis photo)

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.


Female student sitting in the Coffee House with her skateboard
As common as skateboards and bikes are at UC Davis, employers aren’t expecting them as part of the interview. Find a place to store your wheels before you meet with your interviewer. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

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.

We are available to assist you during your job search. Make an appointment online through Aggie Job, and then visit us in South Hall, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More job advice

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.


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