As if going on the first round of professional interviews in your lifetime weren’t stressful enough, the news media is constantly preaching that they sky is falling. So how do recent (and soon-to-be recent) graduates compete for jobs in this tough environment? Here are some tips to help you stand out in a positive way:

Be Presentable:

It may have been fun to get your tongue pierced, your favorite band’s logo tattooed on your arms and dress for class like you just rolled out of bed (okay, so you did roll right out of bed right before class). But now it’s time to buckle down and get the world to take you seriously.

The first thing you need to do is get yourself good interview wear. Sandals, cutoffs and other casual clothing are not appropriate for job interviews in most industries (unless you’re interviewing to be a lifeguard). It’s great to express yourself, but job interviews are not the best places to show off you’re uniqueness. So tidy up your hair (including facial hair for guys), remove your piercings and get yourself some appropriate interview clothes.

Act Professional:

Be respectful to the people you meet and show them that you’re mature. Younger people have this stigma of being crude, immature and disrespectful whether it’s deserved or not. By going against common beliefs and expectations (again, in a positive way) you’ll stand out.

Have Real Work Experience:

Yes, McDonalds counts as a real job. Employers want to know that you’re used to being accountable. So demonstrating that you held a job (even if it’s not a prestigious one) shows that you understand the concepts of showing up to work when you’re supposed to, doing the tasks expected of you and getting along with people other than your drinking buddies.

Do Your Homework:

Research the job, company and industry you’re interviewing in so you have some familiarity with it. If your school offers a course in job interviewing, take it so you know what to expect in the interview — if they don’t, have your career services department contact me and I’ll be glad to host one. If you have the chance to do a mock or practice interview, take it. Interviews are some of the most stressful business situations — especially if you’re not used to them.

Demonstrate Leadership:

Employers want people that they can grow to become future leaders so it’s a huge plus if you can demonstrate that you’re a doer, not a watcher. If you’re not already, get involved with at least one student club or organization. If you’re a recent grad, volunteer to be part of an alumni club. Show that you’re involved and passionate about what you do.

Stay Positive & Focused:

Keep your goal in mind and don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t pan out right away. There’s nothing worse than walking into an interview feeling like you’ve got no shot just because you had some past failures. You’re at the beginning of your career so you just need that first success to build your career upon.

While the job market appears to be very tough right now, there’s always opportunities for those who want them bad enough. Don’t give up, keep working towards you goal and before you know it, you’ll have that job.

Interview Tips for College Students in a Tough Economy
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