Without any work experience, the prospect of a job interview can be daunting. But work experience is only part of the equation, and you can overcome your lack of experience in the working world by highlighting specific accomplishments and skills that you have gained throughout the course of your education.
Throughout a graduate job interview, your aim should be to show the employer that you have the skills that the job requires, even if you haven’t gained them through work experience. With that in mind, here’s how to leverage your education for job interview success.
1. Discuss your dissertation
Your dissertation is likely to have been the biggest project you worked on throughout your education – so if you’re a recent graduate lacking in work experience, it’s worth discussing it in a fair bit of detail. Focus on the specifics of your dissertation, notable people you interviewed or worked with throughout the project, and the process by which you went about planning and writing it.
If possible, try to also speak about the skills you learned along the way; such as time management, organisation, and research. These will help to show the employer that although you may not have years of work experience, you have demonstrated valuable transferable skills throughout your education.
2. Talk about your study abroad experience
Did you study abroad at university? Lucky you – not only did you get the chance to experience another culture and make new friends, but you also expanded your skill set, and gave yourself valuable things to talk about in a job interview.
Before you go into an interview, make sure you do your research on the company and the role – this will give you better insight into how you can link your study abroad experience with their company values and goals. For example, if they are a multinational company, you might like to speak about how you work well with people from many different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures, and are open to international travel. It’s also a good idea to discuss the skills you developed when studying abroad and link them to how they can be used in this particular role.
The fact that you've studied abroad can really help you stand out from the crowd, so utilise your unique experience to demonstrate how you are more valuable than candidates who haven't studied abroad.
3. Speak about other valuable skills
You might have a Batchelor of Arts, but did you learn any other valuable skills throughout your education? Whether you learned a language, took a coding course, or contributed to a university newspaper, there should be something you can speak about to surprise an employer, and show them that you are a stand out candidate. They’ll be particularly impressed if you can show that you took the initiative and upskilled alongside your degree in your spare time at university.
4. Acknowledge your society membership
If you were a part of a group or society at university, it’s a good idea to include them on your CV, and discuss them in a job interview. Just like your study abroad experience, being part of university societies will have taught you a number of transferable skills outside of your degree. Try to pinpoint some of your key successes, such as an event you helped to organise, your role within the society, or a show or production you were involved in.
5. Demonstrate your knowledge of the industry
Work experience is important – but employers will also be keen to see that you have a good understanding of the job at hand, and a great knowledge of the industry their business operates within. This is especially important if your degree doesn’t have an obvious link to the role, like if you studied maths and you’re looking to go into a creative role. Use the research skills you gained at university, and make sure you are familiar with industry jargon, the company’s key statistics, their values and the team – a lot of this can be found on the company’s website. Once you know as much as possible about the company, you can assess how your education aligns with what they are looking for – and tailor what you say in your job interview accordingly.
6. Mention any work or internship experience
Even if you don’t have any work experience, it’s likely that you will have worked in a part-time job, or undertaken an internship, throughout your time at school or university. These will also have helped you build up your skill set; whether that be with job-specific skills, or soft skills such as communication and critical thinking. Treat every job or internship as valuable work experience, and speak about particular experiences that took you outside of your comfort zone and helped you learn more about the industries that interest you.
In order to sell yourself in a graduate job interview, you need to leverage your education – and that doesn’t just mean your degree. By utilising different aspects of your time at school at university, from your study abroad experience to your involvement in student societies, you can demonstrate to an employer that you have all the skills they are looking for, even without any work experience.
About the author
Give a Grad a Go is a London-based recruitment agency that aims to match exceptional graduates with fantastic companies across the UK. Since 2009, Give a Grad a Go has helped over 3,000 graduates land their dream jobs at more than 500 companies, and has grown to become one of the top graduate recruitment services in the UK.