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Avoid Interview Blunders by Doing This
Recruiters think millennials are unprepared in many ways, according to Bentley University’s PreparedU study. The job interview, however, shouldn’t be one of them. When it comes to getting ready for a face-to-face meeting, we got the inside scoop on what really works — straight from corporate recruiters at a Bentley Career Fair, with some psychological advice on the side.
Do your homework.
- Kimberly Patterson, manager, financial leadership program, United Technologies Corporation: “Research the company before you sit across the table from us. You could be a fantastic candidate and communicate well, have a great GPA and experience, but if you know nothing about the job or the company, we’ll know you haven’t made an effort.”
- Jacqui Gilbert, campus recruiter, talent acquisition, Deloitte LLP: “Have insight into the industry and key trends. It’s helpful to research hot topics so you can sustain educated conversation with the interviewer and impress them with your knowledge.”
- Veronica Thomas, vice president, talent acquisition project manager, Citizens Commercial Bank: “Ask in advance who your interviewers are by name and title. LinkedIn will give you all the information you need; you might find that your interviewer had the same alma mater or some other common ground.”
- Sattia Stephens ’14, recruiting coordinator, State Street Corporation: “Go beyond the obvious. Twitter is a great tool; you can learn a lot about a company by following them. It gives you interesting information to bring up during the interview.”
- KP: “This is a job interview. We want you to come professionally dressed. Posture, eye contact and your handshake matter. They’re basic, but they’re things millennials are neglecting.”
- Rocio Martinez ’13, university relations junior recruiter, State Street Corporation: “Be aware of everything you do. Simple things like pushing the chair back in to the table when you leave, or not sitting down unless you’re asked say a lot about you.”
Ask questions, but stay on track.
- Lauren Forest, senior onDemand representative, Lionbridge: “A lot of times people come in and want to hear us talk, but that’s not what we want. Ask questions about the company, the position, the culture and the environment.”
- VT: “Don’t hijack the interview with your questions; save them until the end. If you ask the interviewer how they got started in the industry, for example, it could take over the conversation and you run the risk of derailing your interview.”
Practice, practice, practice.
- Karin Gilmartin, talent acquisition manager, McGladrey LLP: “Take advantage of your school’s career services, especially mock interviews and career events. The more opportunities you have to shake hands and have conversations with employers, the better you will present when it comes time to interview.”
- KP: “Practice responding to common questions: Where do you see yourself in five years? What are three strengths and three weaknesses? Talk in front of a mirror to see how you look as you respond. If you have confidence in what you’re saying — not cockiness — it’s going to come off really well.”
Bring a cheat sheet.
- KG: “You’re going to be nervous in an interview and that’s normal. Jot down some notes or questions beforehand and bring a cheat sheet that you can lean on to help you focus.”
Present the facts.
- KP: “Be cautious about qualifying the level of your experience. For example, if someone asks about your Excel experience, don’t qualify that you’re excellent or that you don’t know very much about it. Be factual in what you do know, and let the interviewer decide if you have enough knowledge for the job.”
Show your good side.
- RM: “Be the person who everyone wants to work with. Find a way to show you’re flexible, friendly, easy going and respectful. You can be trained on the job to learn skills, but your personality and traits are things people can’t teach you.”
Act like you want the job.
- KG: “You may have all the right skills and background, but don’t forget to tell the interviewer that this company or job is what you’re looking for. We need to know that we’re giving the job to the person who wants it most.”
- LF: “Don’t ask about other positions or say you want to move to a different department after a year. We want to know that you’ll be devoted to the particular group we’re hiring for.”
Mind your manners.
- KP: “If people take the time to write a thank you card, it goes on my desk. Email is fine too, but don’t send it two seconds after you walk out the door. Take time to absorb and make it thoughtful. Interviewers compare thank you notes, so tailor letters to each individual by including something that you identified with that particular person.”
- RM: “Let us know you appreciate the time we spent with you. If there’s something you learned from the interview that you think was useful, it’s nice to recognize it and let us know.”
Advice aside, there’s no doubt that nerves will be on end with a looming job interview.
Psychotherapist and executive coach Jonathan Alpert advises to keep your thoughts and emotions in check. His Huffington Post blog “10 Tips to Ace Your Job Interview” includes putting a kibosh on negative thinking and using imagery to imagine yourself sailing through the interview with flying colors. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy is a firm believer that “power posing” in a posture of confidence — even for just two minutes a day — can dramatically change the way you feel about yourself and the way others see you. And up your chances for success.
“We make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language, and those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, who we ask out on a date,” Cuddy said in the TED Talk presentation “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” which has received more than 20 million views.
She claims that tiny tweaks can lead to big changes, and that advice is easy for any generation to follow. Have you got a couple minutes to spare?
Kristen Walsh is a freelance writer.
Learn more about Bentley’s PreparedU Project, which examines challenges facing millennial workers, the companies that employ them and the colleges and universities that prepare them.
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