Q: I just graduated and am nervous about interviewing because I don’t have any real work experience to talk about.
A: It’s understandable that you don’t have work experience if you’ve been in school until now. However, you probably have accumulated experiences and developed skills that you can discuss in an interview. For example, the experiences you may have gained from part-time or unpaid jobs, internships or work study or extracurricular projects can be valuable and pertinent. The skills, work ethic and interests you’ve developed over the years are also very relevant. It’s up to you to hone those experiences in a way that puts your strengths and skills in the best light possible – especially if your competition for the job includes candidates who’ve been in the workforce already.
I suggest you consider:
- Ways to demonstrate your motivation and interest in the position – what excites you about the job and why? What did you do to position yourself favorably when you heard about the opening, i.e. did you network to find personal connections at the company?
- The activities you’ve participated in– academic, extracurricular, athletic and/or social – that demonstrate your skills relevant to the open position. For instance, have you participated in any fundraising efforts (demonstrate sales skills) or have you held any leadership positions (what were the responsibilities/challenges you faced)?
- Internships – why did you seek out the internship(s) that you did? What did you learn from the internships?
- Part-time jobs – even if the jobs you held weren’t related to the career you’re interested in pursuing, they count as work experience and are examples of your work ethic.
If you’re having a hard time listing your qualifications and strengths, ask a friend for help. Ask someone who knows you well what he or she would say your strengths are. Sometimes, you will hear some ideas that you would not have thought about otherwise.
After considering all of the non-job related experiences and skills you have to talk about, try to focus on those that are most relevant to the job interview. Eliminate any interests that may seem controversial. Referring to political views or other controversial topics could make a potential employer uncomfortable during an interview.
About the Recruiter
Jessica Salerno Incerto has 10+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees career placement, client consultation and management and training. Jessica is also a member of NEHRA’s Diversity Committee.