It’s that time of year again… Graduation season. Was it only two short years ago that I was donning my robe, gathering with my classmates at Durham Cathedral, and shaking Bill Bryson’s hand?

For the past month, my social feeds have been flooded with blogposts, penned by employers, aimed at graduates. I would assume they’re supposed to be offering friendly, helpful advice that will be encouraging to this year’s new workforce. Sadly, it rarely actually comes across that way.

durham graduation

“Eleven Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You”, a marvellously prejudiced article by Mark O’Toole, states that, although the author knows that many graduates, regardless of intellect, enthusiasm or aptitude, regularly fail to prepare properly for interviews, he will never overlook these superficial shortcomings to deign to hire someone who doesn’t know his personal pet peeves.

Here is a message to all of the employers: when you hire a graduate, you are NOT hiring experience. You simply can’t expect them to have a comparable amount of experience to your 30 year old candidates, even if they’ve worked the odd summer before graduation. And this includes interview experience.

I’ve been in the wider world of work for two years now, and I’ve only recently started understanding what this means. It was drummed into me all along – research the company before your interview. So I tried. But to a student, company pages often look very similar. USPs don’t seem that unique, especially if it’s something regarding “the customer experience”: our students don’t have much, if any, experience with customers! And I prepared questions – usually three or four – but invariably they were all answered before the end of the interview. I ended up looking unprepared, foolish, and inexperienced.

Of my friends who have managed to get jobs since their graduation (which is by no means all of them), the great majority were accepted onto graduate schemes, where presumably the rules of interviewing actually focus on the candidate’s personal qualities, rather than their deficit in the experience department.

job interview

Put yourself in their shoes. Fresh out of university and nervous as anything, wearing a new shirt that’s too tight around their neck and smart shoes that rub. You go to a strange office, full of people who have been doing this kind of thing for years. You have to answer questions about yourself, intelligently, calmly, while coming up with benefits to counteract the seemingly overwhelming shortcoming of “lack of experience”. You have to ask insightful questions, when really you have no idea what this working world is like, so what counts as insightful? You have to get everything right, and if you don’t, it’s rejection (if you’re lucky enough to get a letter telling you), and even if you do, you’ll most likely be passed over for someone “with more experience”.

What you are hiring, in a graduate, is potential. These people are resilient enough to stick out a three or four year course. They are diverse enough to participate heavily in student societies. And they are enthusiastic. Walking into any campus bar will tell you that. These rooms are full of people living life to the full. If you give them a chance, they’re far more likely to put their all into it.

I’ve never actually passed an interview, as such. For my Vines BMW internship, I gave a project presentation. And if Vines hadn’t seen the potential in me, I have no idea where I’d be – probably living at home, working a job I don’t want, if I can get a job at all.

And if you don’t want tomorrow’s best and brightest to be slumming it on Jobseeker’s Allowance until those with more experience retire, you should be looking for that potential in an interview instead.

Note: this blog post originally featured on

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