New College Graduates—What Employers Are REALLY Looking For

What’s the one thing that many college graduates fail to consider when preparing for a job interview?

Overcoming stereotypes!

Everyone to a certain extent faces unspoken biases during an interview—or what I often refer to as a second conversation or subtext during an interview that is not voiced by the interviewer. For millennial job candidates, biases can include being entitled, requiring constant supervision and positive reinforcement, lacking solid communication skills, and overall possessing a less than stellar work ethic.

The key for college graduates, thus, on any job interview is to quickly demonstrate that they don’t fit the stereotype. To get the interviewer to see past their biases to you, the person, follow these suggestions:


1.    Convey your respect for the interviewer and the organization by showing your enthusiasm and excitement at having this interview. Approach the interview not as a job opportunity but as a career opportunity, telling them specifically why you are really interested in working there ―at their company.

2.   Demonstrate you are personally accountable. Nothing will raise eyebrows faster than a job candidate who has a hint of being a whiner. Blaming and bad mouthing others always shows a lack of maturity and class. No boss wants to deal with a potential prima donna, or one with a helicopter parent hovering over-head.

3.   Weave in examples that are indicative of a strong work ethic, a can-do attitude, common sense, and show that you are someone who can be counted on not only to get work in on time but to go the extra mile when needed.

4.   Show your likeability. Don’t forget that people hire people they like so friendliness, humor, empathy, and authenticity are essential. Greet others with a smile, extend a firm hand, establish direct eye contact if in person or online. Make sure to include examples of working well with others and being a team player.

5.    Highlight that you can handle responsibility by providing an example from a previous job. If you have a limited employment history, draw on situations such as volunteering, leading a team, or doing an internship while attending school full time.

6.    Ask yourself: What have I done that demonstrates my problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities? For instance, one graduate who had little work experience used an example of addressing a security problem on campus by getting involved with student government and organizing a “night owl” patrol program. This showed her future employer her commitment to community in addition to her ingenuity, accountability and ability to problem-solve.

7.    Listen carefully and don’t interrupt.

8.    Show that you are capable of engaging in conversation. Do not read directly from your resume during a job interview―thus imitating a robot―but rather speak conversationally about your accomplishments just as you would with a friend. If you need help, complete this Take 12 Questionnaire especially for college graduates. Make sure to leave out the “likes” and “you knows,” slang, and curse words!

It may seem like a lot of work, but if you don’t convince the interviewer that you are not the stereotype, you won’t get a second interview.