Common mistakes new graduates make in job interviews

Published June 17th, 2015 - 05:31 GMT

According to the Fresh Graduates in the MENA survey, July 2014, 79% of young professionals in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region feel that finding their first job is the biggest challenge their generation faces.

Job interviews can be a daunting process, especially for fresh graduates. Making even the smallest mistake could be fatal and unfortunately mistakes are very common. However, with a little guidance you can ace your next job interview like a pro. Below are five common mistakes fresh graduates make in a job interview and ways to avoid them from the career experts:

1. You think you know it all

After applying for so many jobs and striking one call for a job interview, common sense suggests that you should make the most of this chance. Surprisingly, many fresh graduates are too lazy to do their research on the organization’s values, mission, vision, structure or history. When asked about why they want to be a part of the organization, they are stumped for what to say.


Read, learn and absorb. Pretend that you are studying for an exam before an interview. Go through the website thoroughly, look through their corporate culture. Read up on the industry and market to which the company belongs. You could even contact an ex-employee to extract information and ask for guidance. Scan the job description like a hawk. Some keywords, once identified, could be used in your answers to make hiring managers feel that you have understood your role very well.When it comes to interviews, 20% of employers consider poor preparation to be the biggest turn-off in potential employees (as per the ‘Hiring Practices in the MENA’ poll, February 2012).

2. You discuss all your awesome future plans with your employer

You probably have a game plan for your future. For example, 68% of respondents in the Fresh Graduates in the MENA survey say they are planning to pursue higher education. Maybe you plan to work with a company for one or two years, then go to grad school or plan to save for a bit and go backpacking all over Europe. These plans might be great, but show a lack of commitment on your part to the employer.


The less you reveal about your personal ambitions, the better. When asked, you could state that you might pursue your higher education “sometime in the distant future”, and that you will give your absolute commitment to the organization, if hired. Honestly, these plans are not set in stone and you may really love your job after a couple years, therefore, talking about something which has not yet happened in a job interview may harm your chances.

3. You take everything casually or seem uninterested

After graduation, you may not know what your true calling is, therefore you experiment when applying for jobs. When called for an interview you might find that the job description doesn’t match your dream job. But you decide to go for the interview anyway since getting an opportunity like this is so difficult. The problem is that this lack of passion shows through your body language, the way you dress and the way you conduct yourself.


Dress appropriately, keeping in mind the company’s culture. Make sure you arrive on time. The most important point is to never look bored during the interview. Always be optimistic. Talk about the job role as well as your passions and experience. According to the ‘Hiring Practices in the MENA’ poll, 28.8% of employers in the region look for ‘hunger, drive and ambition’ as the most important factors when making a hiring decision. The employer might even find a suitable role for you, apart from the current job at hand. If you are offered a job ultimately, and you are still uncomfortable with the role, you could always look for better options. But don’t let any opportunity pass during the interview.

4. You ask the wrong questions

Usually, at the end of a job interview, the employer will ask you if you have any questions. Some common questions that fresh graduates ask are “What will my salary be?” or “Will I have to work on weekends?” or “How long is the lunch break?”These questions are the completely wrong ones to ask. In fact, these points should only be brought up when you have been offered the job. It doesn’t come across as intelligent.


Instead of asking all the wrong questions, you could convey your interest in knowing more about the job, your long-term prospects in the company, and the company’s culture. Examples of some intelligent questions are: “How would this role affect the organization in the short-, medium- and long-term?” or “What do you feel is the best part about working for this organization?” You could also ask technical questions after researching the industry and the market of this specific job role.

5. You talk about everything under the sun, except experience relevant to the role

As someone who is overly enthusiastic to land a job, you could be babbling about a lot of things in the job interview which are really not relevant to your role. A story about how you saved a kitten from a tree might be very inspiring, but irrelevant. Remember, the employer has a specific slot for you and you must not waste their time.


With the little experience that you have, it is important to highlight your accomplishments, if relevant to the job role. According to the Fresh Graduates in the MENA survey, 67% of fresh graduates in the region say that the biggest challenge they face when looking for a job is the fact that employers look for candidates with previous work experience. Prepare a list of questions that could be asked based on the job description then create a list of answers for each question before the interview. Make these answers interesting and relevant. Accentuate your biggest assets; your youth, the knowledge you have gained from university that is fresh in your mind and the fresh perspective that you can bring to the company. Finally, remember to talk about how you can help the company grow, by making it about them and not you.

By Menaka Ramakrishnan

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