Interview Tips for New Master's Grads
Graduation with your new master's degree is the first big step toward your career. You also need to apply for jobs and interview for positions to ensure that you make the move. Get higher paying job offers in your field by acing the interviews with the following tips from our recruiters and interview prep coaches.
How the Interviews Will Be Different
To prepare for the job interviews, it is important to first understand how these interviews will be different from the interviews you had while seeking your undergraduate or graduate degree. The most significant difference is that now you are being interviewed for a specific job, instead of just getting into a school program. This means that the questions you will be asked will be more pointed and specific to your qualifications for the role.
Another key difference is that you will likely be interviewed by a panel of people, rather than just one person. A panel interview may happen all at once or separately over multiple interviews because of scheduling constraints. This can be daunting, but remember that each person is there to assess a different aspect of your qualifications. For example, one person may be looking at your technical skills while another person may be assessing your cultural fit for the organization.
You will also likely encounter case study-type interviews or some other assessment type of interview. These interview types are different than the typical job interview because you will be evaluated based on how you think through the problems rather than just your answer. You will be expected to apply your technical knowledge in this type of interview, but will also need to articulate how you think through things.
Do Your Research
Now that you know how the job interviews will be different, you can focus on the things to do to prepare for the interviews. First, it's important to do your research on the company.
Review their website, social media accounts, annual report (if they are a publicly traded company), and any news articles or press releases about them. This will not only give you a better understanding of the company's businesses and products, but it will also help you formulate questions to ask during the interview. Plus, it will help you to better evaluate whether the company and opportunity are really a fit for your skills and career goals.
Make sure that you also spend time reviewing the job description as part of your research process to prepare for the job interview. You will likely be asked questions based on this job description in the interview process. Be ready to articulate how your skills and experience fit with what they are looking for in a candidate.
Prepare for Common Questions - Example Q&A
There are some questions that are commonly asked in job interviews, regardless of industry or experience level. The following is a list of those common interview questions and some tips on how to answer them.
What can you tell me about your background?
This question is usually one of the first ones asked in an interview. The interviewer wants to know more about you and why you’re interested in the position. When answering this question, be sure to focus on your skills and experiences that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a position in marketing, you might talk about your experience with social media campaigns or market research projects.
What made you interested in this particular field/position?
The interviewer wants to know if you have a genuine interest in the field or if you’re just applying for any job that’s available. When answering this question, be specific about what it is that interests you and why. For example, if you’re applying for a position in social work, you might talk about your interest in helping others or your passion for being an advocate for change.
How have your academic experiences prepared you for this role?
This question is another opportunity for you to sell yourself and highlight the skills and experiences you have that are relevant to the job. When answering this question, focus on discussing how your coursework has prepared you for the role by giving examples of specific projects or papers you wrote that relate to the job duties.
Do you have any experience working in this field?
If the answer to this question is no, don’t worry – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The interviewer just wants to know if you have any real-world experience that could help you excel in the role. If your answer is still no, simply highlight any other experiences or skills that would make up for a lack of direct experience in the field. For example, if you’re applying for a position in sales but don’t have any sales experience, talk about how your customer service experience has given you the people skills necessary to succeed in sales.
Tell me about a time when…
Behavioral interview questions like this one are designed to see how you would react in certain situations related to the job duties. When answering these types of questions, it’s best to use the STAR method: describe the Situation or Task at hand, detail the Actions you took, and discuss the Results of those actions. This question format will help structure your answer so that it paints a clear picture of how exactly you would handle yourself on the job.
Be Honest About Your Experience
When asked about your experience, be honest about what you have—and haven't—done. Owning your experience or lack thereof is key to properly answering the job interview questions.
If you don't have direct experience to answer the question at hand, say that. But, try to draw a parallel to similar experiences that you have gained through your master's program or other work experiences. This honesty will be appreciated by the interviewer and help to convey your fit for the role.
No one is perfect, but focusing on the positive aspects of your experience will help you to stand out. And, if that particular type of experience is required for the job, then the position isn't a good fit for you and it is better to know that sooner rather than later so you can focus on the jobs that are a good fit for you.
Highlight Your Accomplishments
In addition to discussing your transferable skills, be sure to highlight any accomplishments from your master's program, volunteering, or other experiences to ensure you stand out.
For example, if you're applying for a research-based position, mention any papers or presentations that you gave as part of your degree program. If possible, include quantifiable results to demonstrate the impact of your work (e.g., "I increased web traffic by X%").
If you don't have any direct experience, look to other types of experiences where you excelled. Perhaps you were captain of a sports team or led a project in your previous job. Whatever the accomplishment is, make sure it is relevant to the job at hand.
When interviewers ask about your experience, they are really trying to get to know two things:
1) What relevant skills and knowledge do you have that will help you excel in the role? and
2) How have those skills and knowledge been applied in the real world?
To answer these questions effectively, it is important, to be honest about your experience and accomplishments. This will also show how you communicate, that you understand the question asked, and enable the interviewer to understand how you may or may not fit the needs of the position.
Have Questions Ready
At the end of every job interview, the interviewer will ask if there's anything else you'd like to know about the company or role. This is your opportunity to ask questions that will not only show that you're interested in the position but also help you determine if it's really the right fit for you. Prepare a few questions ahead of time so that you don't find yourself caught off guard when it's time to ask them.
Some good questions to ask include:
- "What can the person selected expect in their first 90 or 120 days in the role?"
- "Why do you like working here?"
- "What do you wish you knew when you were interviewing to work at the company?"
- "What qualities do successful employees in this role possess?"
- "What are the typical career paths for someone in this role?"
- "What opportunities would the person selected have to progress or to otherwise work across the business?"
Answering these types of questions during an interview can be daunting – especially if your only experience comes from your academic program and not from actual work experience. However, by preparing ahead of time and using tactics like behavioral interview questions, you can set yourself up for success.
Preparing for your interviews the right way as a new master's graduate makes a huge difference. Start by doing your research and review the job description so you can target your responses to the common questions asked in that particular field. Finally, have questions ready to ask the interviewer and be honest during the process. Landing a great job starts with putting your best foot forward in an interview.
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