By Pamela Eyring

(Reuters) - Employers plan to hire 8.3 percent more new college graduates from the Class of 2015 for their U.S. operations than they did from the Class of 2014, according to a recent jobs outlook report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

With this statistic and other positive employment projections in the news, the job market for new college graduates appears to be the best it’s been since the start of the Great Recession.

But even with this increase in potential jobs, how do new college graduates ensure they are properly prepared for their first big interview? Here we offer some practical tips for new graduates to help them enter the workforce by being polished, professional and ready to outclass the competition.

Refining your interpersonal skills:

Two of the most important communications skills to help make a lasting first impression are also the easiest -- eye contact and firm handshakes. Because of the constant need to stay in touch, a majority of younger people grew up continuously monitoring their mobile devices. Even in formal settings, it’s amazing to watch so many people looking at their phones instead of having face-to-face conversations.

But not being able to make solid eye contact with a potential employer sends a message that can be interpreted as boredom, disinterest and a lack of trust on behalf of a potential candidate. The same is true of a limp handshake.

Conversely, a firm handshake implies confidence, collaboration and a willingness to get down to work. In every interview, college graduates should master these basic interpersonal skills that say you are the right man or woman for the job.

Digital footprint:

With more employers routinely checking out the online presence of a potential job candidate, a digital footprint can come back to haunt someone more than ever. That’s why serious graduates need to think twice before posting that picture of winning a beer pong championship on social media.

Whether it’s removing any potential image challenging pictures and inflammatory posts or whether it’s simply changing your account settings to private, college graduates need to think of themselves as a brand and always present the best image on all social platforms.

The social interview:

More and more companies are conducting interviews at lunches, dinners or in other off-site locales. But be aware that these seemingly less formal interviews are often used as a barometer to observe how a job candidate handles his or herself in a social setting.

This is where elbows should never meet white tablecloths, where closed mouth chewing will be noted, and where a mobile phone should never be seen or heard. Also, make sure you never make this most common dining faux pas -- snagging the roll of a dining partner. Always remember BMW -- your BREAD is on the left, your MEAL is in the middle and your WATER is on the right.

Personalized correspondence:

Recently a colleague told a story of a job prospect sending an interview query about an open position. The candidate noted how, after exhaustive research into their company, he realized he was the perfect fit for them. The only problem? The query letter was addressed to one of the prospect's main competitors, indicating a multiple cut and paste approach in creating a “personal” cover letter.

Graduates, be warned. Take the time to tailor your correspondence to the company where you truly feel you’d like to be employed. And ensure your correspondence is grammatically correct and properly proofed.

Thank you cards:

Whether you are thanking your grandmother for the graduation check or sending a note of gratitude to a potential employer for a recent job interview, take the time to say thanks in a handwritten and timely card. It will impress!

(Pamela Eyring is the owner and president of The Protocol School of Washington®, the global leader in international protocol, business etiquette and cross-cultural awareness training. With offices in Washington, D.C. and Dubai, the school was founded in 1988 and is the only U.S. educational institution of its kind accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training ( For more information, visit

(Editing by Michael Roddy)