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The Philosophy of Graduate Job Interviews

EmployabilityGraduate JobsInterviewsTips and Advice

Most of us know that feeling: you wake up at a prompt hour, iron your clothes, get a train that is far earlier than you need, wait for an hour in a coffee shop near the office because you are too early and don’t want to seem too keen, finally get into the office and step into the dreaded interview room.

It is a fact of life – at some point in a student or graduate’s career path, you will encounter interviews. In the modern age, they come in all shapes and sizes: video, recorded, technical, informal; the list goes on and on. However, the process need not be so daunting – in fact, I love interviews (yes, I am one of those people)! The interview process is a chance for you to show off your style, flair, personality and talent – and I want to share with you my tips and tricks, as well as a bit of insight into the philosophy of interviews, to make sure you ace you applications and enjoy the process too!

The Philosophy of Interviews

So, what is the purpose of an interview? Why do they exist? What do they show? And, the all-important question, how do you use the answers, to the aforementioned questions, to smash the interview itself? In my opinion and experience, interviews are conducted for several reasons:
  1. The employer wants to see if you will gel with them, the existing team and ethos of the firm.

  2. The employer wants to get a sense of the candidate’s character, personality, and general motivations/work ethic.

  3. The employer would like to test your knowledge and expertise.

  4.   The employer wants to check your enthusiasm for the role and company.

  5. The employer would like to check whether you’re the person they made themselves out to be on your CV/cover letter.

Here, the philosophy of the interview process begins to emerge – there is evidently a relationship-hierarchy here with the candidate being at the behest of the employer. Indeed, the employer holds the keys to your new job, don’t give them an excuse to throw them down the well. There is lots of advice on the Internet with long lists such as “top 10 things employers look for” – however, it all boils down to 3 essential questions:
  • Why do you want to work for this specific company?
  • Why do you want this specific role?
  • Why they should specifically choose me above everyone else?
Note the useful mnemonic ‘C.R.M.’ – Company, Role, Me. This should cover all the employer’s questions that are listed in the previous section. However, employers can be tricky in that answering these questions isn’t always enough (I know it’s frustrating, but remember the hierarchy…), you also have to answer them in the right way. Luckily for you, the next section has my tips on how to do so: Click here for Graduate Interview Questions by sector.

The Psychoanalytic-Philosophy of the Interview Process

Everyone has the subconscious ability to read body language, understand language subtext and connotations, and generally ‘get a vibe’ off someone.

1.       Dress well!

  •  I don’t really care what the invitation says, whether they say to dress informally or formally, I always go dressed in a suit. If they don’t specify a dress code, then I may add a tie. It is always better to be overdressed than under-dressed. The philosophy behind this is that you exude a professional tone. Furthermore, it indicates that you care about the role and the opportunity.
  •  It’s the first thing an interviewer will judge you on and the easiest to get right!
Check out Graduate Interview Dress Code for further advice.

2. Be happy, smile, and behave like this is the best day of your life!

  • Employers, no matter how dour they appear in the interview, do not want to be working with a misery-guts. Be happy! You made it to the interview process, that is an achievement in itself, now it’s a chance for you to show off!
  • Although I should add, do not grin like the Cheshire Cat or like your teeth are glued together – smile naturally, if you’ve prepared properly, this should come naturally.
  • The philosophy behind this is simple: happiness is contagious and addictive.
  •  The muscle contractions, made when smiling, trigger a release of endorphins in the brain. This happens even if you force a smile. (If you’re nervous before, try forcing a smile before you go in – this will trigger endorphins and help you to feel more positive and relaxed).
  • Humans are also more inclined to adapt to situations than rail against them – so your interviewer is more likely to smile if they see you smile, even if they don’t really mean to. This triggers the same reaction in the interviewer. So not only do you feel good, but they do too!
  • And guess what: the interviewer will subconsciously remember feeling good around you and they are more likely to want to offer you the job! Who knew you could weaponize psychoanalytic philosophy?!

3.       Be prepared!

  • Now, this sounds obvious, I know, but make sure you know your stuff inside out. That includes information about the company, the role, and yourself! You should have your CV/cover letter information memorised, and you should have also done your research on the company.
  • Some interviews might call for you to do some preparation beforehand (e.g. write something, make a presentation, etc.). I always like to print off all relevant documents so that I have physical annotated copies to refer to.
  • I also, without asking, always provide a little document, that I have printed to the interviewer at the end of the conversation. In this document I outline my answers to the C.R.M. questions I mentioned before. This ensures that they remember me after the interview – and I look even more prepared and diligent!
  • Once again, the philosophy here is straightforward: preparation makes a candidate look professional and punchy! If you are super-organised, have printed and digital materials ready, and give the employers a little something to take away, they will be hard-pressed not to be in awe of your dedication, motivation, and skill. Oh, and they probably want that in their firm, so they’ll probably want you too!
Crucially, when preparing for interview season, the mantra should be ‘practice, practice, practice’. Sometimes you might only get this via experience – but, if you have some kind family members or friends, get them to grill you as hard as they can on your CV/cover letter and see whether you can stand their test. Furthermore, there is no shame in learning from examples: if you spot someone with a good interview technique or a good CV format, do not be afraid to copy and adapt it – I’ve shared with you my techniques at the very least! So, I hope I’ve given you some helpful tips and tricks, as well as a little bit of a look into the philosophy behind the process itself. Unfortunately, interviews can be a dicey game – it sometimes just depends on what mood the interviewer is on that day, and I know that sucks when you put in a lot of work and they just don’t ‘vibe’ with you. Do not get disheartened, keep being yourself and, in the illustrious words of Jay-Z, move ‘on to the next one’. Read How to Avoid the Top Five Most Common Job Interview Mistakes.   Want to read more, Try our other blogs:  6 Key Tips To Help You in Your Graduate Job Hunt6 Top Tips For a Standout Cover LetterJobs and Careers The Brand New Student Careers MagazineGraduate Telephone InterviewsGraduate Interviews
GRB Blog Author and Student - Neville Birdi

Neville is an undergraduate Philosophy student studying at Warwick University who enjoys acting, debating, and chess.

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