Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Top 10 Interview Mistakes

answering your phone during the interview…”
“having a tongue ring…”
“not knowing what job you’re applying for…”
“don’t come into the interview eating…”
“don’t show your tattoos…”
“don’t say ummm…”
“probably shouldn’t wear anything with cleavage”

These are first responses from students in the CareerSpots video – Top 10 Interview Mistakes.  Take a look at the video for the employer perspective on the Top 10 mistakes candidates can make!

Although it’s important to know what you shouldn’t do, it’s more important to identify and understand things you should do.  Granted, you could assume that it’s correct for you to do the opposite of what’s on the top 10 list of mistakes, but hopefully you would already know not to answer your phone or arrive finishing off your breakfast.

Instead, spend ample time preparing so that you are ready with relevant examples and illustrations of the skills and abilities you will contribute to the organization.  Know the job description inside and out and research the company and industry so that you can ‘talk the talk.’  Draw from your work experience, classroom projects, campus or community involvement, athletics, study abroad, or any other venue in which you’ve developed skills.

Remember, it is not so much the activity that matters to the employer, but what you gained from that activity.  Of equal importance is the ability to articulate those experiences and highlight your accomplishments in a way that is relevant to the employer!  Make use of all of the electronic and people resources available to you as you practice your interviewing techniques.  The last thing you want to do is provide examples for next year’s Top 10 List of Mistakes!

Rules for Writing Cover Letters

According to the CareerSpots Video The Cover Letter, there are 5 rules to keep in mind when writing a letter that will accompany your resume in the job/internship process.

  • Rule 1 – Always send one!  Even if it’s not specifically requested, it is an excellent piece that enhances your application packet.
  • Rule 2 – Get personal.  Cover Letters must be tailored to each specific job for which you are applying.  It’s a good idea to learn the name of the individual who will be reading it.  This may require you to call the organization and ask who you should address your cover letter to – although it takes additional work it is worth the effort!
  • Rule 3 – One page only.  Your letter should follow professional business format.  Be concise!
  • Rule 4 – No typos.  If your submit a one page document with errors, employers will question your ability to communicate effectively in other work assignments.
  • Rule 5 – Use a professional email address.  Whether your letter is sent via email or includes your contact information within the letter, choose an email address that is professional and won’t distract employers from the letter’s intent. Creating an address such as your is the safest bet.
  • Additional writing tips: Describe how you are the best fit within the organization and for that specific job.  Don’t simply reiterate your resume in paragraph form; tell them how your past experiences have prepared you for their role.  Be sincere in expressing your interest!

Career Services offers additional help in writing cover letters online or by meeting with us for individual assistance.  Keep in mind that cover letters take time to write; utilize the resources available to you and take the time necessary to ensure you make a positive first impression through your written communication!

Following Up with Employers

Recruitment season means many students are likely writing and sending out numerous resumes and cover letters in hopes of being selected for interviews and, ultimately, internships or full time opportunities.  Tailored application materials are much more likely to get you noticed than generic ones, but there is still fierce competition in the job market.  So what do you do after you’ve submitted an application?  And how do you stay on an employer’s radar after an interview? By following up!

Following up with employers is essential in the job search.  However, there’s an important distinction between touching base and being a pest.  The CareerSpots video, Follow up with Employers, offers guidelines from an employer perspective to help you know when to call or email after submitting your application and what to do after an interview.

Although all employers are different, one thing remains certain – you MUST make time to follow up!  Doing so will help you stand out and demonstrate genuine interest while remaining actively engaged in your job search.

Researching a Company

When preparing for a career fair, an interview, or a networking event in which you will be interacting with employers of interest, preparing ahead of time will help you to make a strong first impression.  We frequently receive feedback from events that employers wish students would spend more time researching their organizations beforehand; doing so will help you to prepare good questions and have a more targeted conversation.

CareerSpots has recorded a 4 minute video offering employer suggestions on how to begin Researching Companies.  A few specific points offered in their corresponding Quick Tips sheet are as follows:

  • Start with the company website.  You will find all the basics: information on the company’s products or services, mission statement, history, press releases, locations, job openings and much more.  Read the company’s annual report.  Look through company personnel profiles and, if possible, find information on the person who you ill interview with.
  • Get an industry view of the company.  Check out trade journals at the university or public library to see what other people are writing about the company.  This gives you a broader sense of the industry as a whole and how the company fits into the larger picture.  You can also find out who are the company’s top competitors.
  • Check out company blogs…

Informational interviews are also an excellent way to learn more about a company, industry, or profession.  Refer to last week’s blog on Informational Interviewing to learn what they are, their value, and how to conduct one!

Don’t underestimate the value of being prepared!  Spend the time researching companies ahead of time; it will be noticed by employers and will help you to stand out and move farther in the job search process!

Informational Interviewing

What are they? Why do them? What do you ask? What’s next?

To start, watch two students prepare and receive feedback in in this CareerSpots video: Informational Interviewing.

Conducting an informational interview does not have the same objective as a job interview.  While the latter is part of a hiring process to land a job, the former is about networking, learning, and practicing.  From informational interviews, you can gain a first-hand perspective about a company, a specific job, or an industry.

Informational interviews are extremely valuable for anyone looking to gather information.  When done professionally, they can open doors and help you make decisions about your own career planning.  So, how do you conduct one professionally?  Figure out who you would like to talk with and make the connection; prepare in advance and ask thoughtful questions; and follow up to express your appreciation and keep the conversation going.

Like job interviews, informational interviews should be taken very seriously from start to finish.  Your first step is to think about your purpose for conducting an informational interview – what are your interests, plans, etc?  Taking the time to articulate your reasons will help you to target the type of individual you might like to contact.

Second, determine who to connect with!  Think about your personal connections, explore the Career Connections alumni mentoring database, or initiate contact with someone from a company of interest.  Then, introduce yourself (usually through email or letter for the first contact) and ask for a half hour of their time.  Let them know your purpose for contacting them and give them an idea of what you’d like to discuss.  Don’t forget that professionals are busy – you may need to follow up!

Once a connection is made and an informational interview is scheduled – they can be conducted over the phone, in person, via email communication, or Skype – be sure to research the company/industry/profession and prepare questions that will direct the conversation.  You want to approach an informational interview with a plan; but you should always be prepared to improvise.  This should be a conversation, not a rapid-fire question/answer session!

If you are meeting them, be sure to dress as professionally as you would for a job interview.  Take your resume with you just in case (don’t forget, this is not a job interview, but you never know where it will lead!) and your notes with questions.  Your goal is the leave the interviewee impressed with your efforts!  Follow up with a thank you note afterword expressing your interest in continuing the conversation.  Congratulations – you are well on your way to building your professional network!

Although networking might be a daunting thought, informational interviewing is absolutely worth the effort.  Gain valuable information that you would have difficulty learning otherwise, and meet professionals who can be helpful to career path.  The more you practice, the easier it will be when participating in real job interviews and the more you will be familiar with the professional world.

The Art of Saying Thank You

You’ve worked up the courage to contact someone for networking reasons or to further your job or internship search.  You’ve attended career fairs and events to interact with people in your industry of interest.  The preparation involved with all of these activities may seem like the most difficult part, right? So once the initial meeting is over, how do you keep the conversation going?

The immediate step is to send a note of appreciation!  Saying “thank you” allows you to remind the individual of your previous conversation by expressing gratitude for their time, reiterating your interest and skills, and conveying enthusiasm for continued communication.  Whether you send it through snail mail or email, make sure your note is timely, genuine, and professional.  Don’t mistake this as an optional step – sending thank you notes should be a priority within 24-48 hours after your meeting!

For employer advice of what to include, check out The Art of Saying Thank You CareerSpots video.

The Elevator Pitch

You find yourself in the presence of a representative from a company you’re interested in working for – what do you say?

Whether it’s an accidental meeting, a networking event, or a career fair, you have a very short amount of time to make a positive impression.  Often called an elevator speech or a 30 second commercial, these short introductions are your first chance to tell someone about yourself and convince them that they want to know more.  It can be extremely difficult to offer valuable information that is going to help you stand out and make an impact on the person with whom you are speaking.  Practice, practice, practice!

Don’t get too caught up in trying to memorize an elevator speech – you need to be able to adapt quickly and discuss key points that are relevant to the organization or person in front of you.  However, it can help to keep the following tips in mind to give you a framework of what to say and help you practice:

  • Who are you? Give the basics!  (name, major, class standing….)
  • Why are you interested?  What’s your purpose in talking with them?
  • Why are you qualified? What can you do for them?
  • What makes you stand out from your competition? What’s your hook?

Prepare responses ahead of time and practice saying them concisely and confidently.  Practicing out loud is a must – preferably in front of someone so that you can hear how your speech flows and so they can provide you with feedback.  Take a look at The Elevator Pitch video from CareerSpots for some real-life examples of students giving their elevator speech to a recruiter who then offers feedback on what stood out to her and what could be improved.  The article Fantastic Formulas for Composing Elevator Speeches also offers great advice from the experts for ways to outline your introduction.

Make your Resume POP

One Page ………………. (in length)
15-20 Seconds ……… (amount of time you have to make a great first impression)
Multiple drafts……….. (before you have a polished document)

These are important considerations to remember when putting together your resume.  Whether you are applying to a summer position, an internship, full time work, or graduate school, your resume is often your first means of introducing yourself.  Be sure it represents you well!

Your resume, like your finger print, should be one of a kind. The activities that you’ve been involved in, your accomplishments and successes, as well as qualities you’d like to highlight, will be different from anyone else’s.  Although your resume is meant to be a snapshot, meaning it won’t include every detail of your life, it should include the information that will be the most impactful and demonstrative of the skills you have to offer.  This takes time and thoughtful preparation!

Check out the CareerSpots video Make Your Resume POP for advice and a quick-tips sheet.  Career Services also has plenty of resources to help strengthen your Communication for the Job SearchRemember, your goal should be to produce an impressive document that represents your strengths and accomplishments.  Anything less will make it that much more difficult to get noticed!

First Impressions

Welcome to the 2012-2013 academic year at Lebanon Valley College!  I trust you had a relaxing summer and are ready to hit the ground running for this fall semester.

The first week of school is all about first impressions, whether it’s your first year or you are a returning student.  What you wear, when you arrive, how much effort you put into your participation and engagement – these are all things that make up how you are perceived throughout your first few days.  As you well know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Entering into the professional arena is no different.  You are expected to present yourself well on paper – through resumes, cover letters, graduate school applications, online applications, etc – as well as in person during networking events and interviews.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing it’s too early in the year to begin thinking about this – professionalism is developed, just as any other skill.

This semester, the Career Services’ Blog will touch on professional, career related topics and advice, highlighting resources that can benefit you and showcasing a weekly CareerSpots video.  This week, check out this 90 second clip on First Impressions to help get the year started on the right foot.