Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Interviews: Make a Positive Impression

Nearly every year someone conducts a survey among employers about memorable interviewing blunders.  I laugh.  How ridiculous! No one would “attempt to secretly record the interview” or “check Facebook during the interview.”  But, indeed, these were two of fifteen most memorable interview mistakes that surfaced in a recent online survey conducted by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.

Surely none of “our” students would pull such a stunt.

And yet, I am convinced that more often than not interviewees are not aware of the less-than-stellar impressions they make on employers. For example, half of the employers responding to this survey reported these top five common interview mistakes:

  • Appearing disinterested – 55 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately – 53 percent
  • Appearing arrogant – 53 percent
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers – 50 percent
  • Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview – 49 percent

And, how about these top two body language mistakes?

  • Failure to make eye contact – 70 percent
  • Failure to smile – 44 percent

Generally it only takes a few seconds to make an impression. You may know that, but you may underestimate how quickly interviewers determine if you are a good fit and match for their organization.  I assure you it does not take the entire length of the interview.  Therefore, know what employers want and deliver.

A great place to start would be to take a look at this Press Room post (1.16.2014) on Careerbuilder.com and determine what communication skills, body language, and etiquette you need to improve upon. Then, concentrate on telling your story of successes and accomplishments that speak to the needs and mission of the employer with whom you are interviewing.  And by all means, don’t forget to prepare thoughtful questions that demonstrate you have researched the organization and want to be part of their team.

Here are a few other action steps you can take to ensure you will make a good impression and have the attention of an employer throughout your interview.

Knowing the basics is important.  And, practice makes you better.

Sharon Givler, director, career services

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture

 

If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

On-Line Video Interviewing

In this technology-rich era, it’s no surprise that many companies are incorporating it into their hiring practices through the use of on-line video interviewing.  On-line video interviewing may take the place of telephone screening, or could be used throughout the first round(s) of interviewing. Why?  Because it is convenient and can save the company time and money if initial interviews are conducted on-line versus bringing candidates on site.

On-line video interviews may be through SKYPE or other similar applications, in which candidates and interviewers are both “live,” or company’s may use technology that allows an interviewer to pre-record questions that candidates may respond to within a designated time period.  Either way, video interviewing requires preparation and practice if you want to present yourself as well as you would in person.

The CareerSpots video – On-Line Video Interviews – suggests the following tips:

  • Do a test call with friends or family.
  • Check for technical problems ahead of time
  • Dress as though you are conducting a face-to-face interview
  • Make sure your space is tidy and clutter free with nothing distracting in the background
  • Eliminate interruptions by informing others that you will be conducting an interview
  • Plug your computer in so your battery doesn’t die during the interview
  • Check lighting to ensure interviewers will see you clearly
  • Frame your shot – make sure the camera focuses on your face
  • Look directly into the camera lens – it’s the same as making eye contact
  • Be enthusiastic!

Most importantly, practice, practice, practice!

Researching Companies – the most important activity of job searching

Spring often means that many students are engaged in an active search for jobs or internships.  Identifying companies of interest is certainly the first step, but what comes next?  Your resume, along with your cover letter or presence/conversation at a career fair, is your opportunity to illustrate how you would be a good fit for a position or organization.  That means that you should be purposefully highlighting skills, abilities, and attributes that are relevant to the employer.

Figuring out what is relevant is the behind-the-scenes preparation before your resume is created, your cover letter is drafted, and your interview responses are practiced.  By researching the organization and industry of interest, you will be able to tailor your job search materials and create a strong personal brand that advocates for why you should be considered as a candidate.

According to the Digital Job Choices Magazine, available through the Career Services website, “Researching employers is perhaps the single-most important activity you will undertake in your job search.  The information you uncover can help you:

  • Discover organizations that are a good match for you,
  • Identify the organization’s goals and needs,
  • Tailor your resume and cover letters to highlight your skills and experiences that match the employer’s needs,
  • Know what questions to ask employers,
  • Demonstrate your interest in and enthusiasm for the organization,
  • Answer interview questions with confidence, and
  • Make an informed employment decision.”

Click HERE for this 4 page article that advises where to begin, offers research resources, information you should be looking for, and websites to delve into specific industries.  Don’t skip this step!  The more effort you put in, the more confident you will feel when making a positive impression on potential employers.

Behavioral Based Interviewing

Generally speaking, you are not likely to have made it to the interviewing process of your job search if the organization meeting with you didn’t believe you could do their job.  They still want to hear you speak about your skills and job knowledge, but if they didn’t think you had the basics, you wouldn’t even be there.

Although this is reassuring in some ways, it also puts the pressure on you to perform well during that interview by articulating your strengths, offering examples of your past behaviors, and providing relevant information that reinforces your fit with that company.  Many employers utilize the Behavioral Based method of interviewing, meaning they ask questions that require you to tell stories (give examples) about how you responded in past experiences in order to gain an understanding about how you might behave in future work situations.  The CareerSpots video – Behavioral Interviewing – gives an excellent introduction to this interview technique as well as examples of questions, good responses, and attributes they’re listening for.

How prepared do you think you are for a behavioral interview situation?

Time and again, we hear that communication is one of the top skills that employers and graduate schools seek.  You may truly be the perfect fit, but if you can’t articulate your strengths and experiences well, you may be passed over.  Good communication takes reflection, practice, and an understanding of what employers/schools are seeking.

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!

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.